3 Leadership Tips I Wish I Knew Before I Became A Manager, According to a Former Deputy Mayor

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Trie Angeleva321
Dream-Job Career Coach
May 27, 2024 at 1:12AM UTC

My dad had two distinct careers: one in corporate America and one as a business school professor. He enjoyed both, but absolutely loved teaching because he treasured sharing decades of stories, strategies and tips he’d gained from managing people in his rise from mail boy to vice president in his 42-year career with the Bell System. 

Like his students, I also got an amazing education from my dad. From my teen years on, we’d enjoy long and frequent conversations about all kinds of work topics. Our conversations got more specific as I navigated my way twice through graduate school and assistantships; launched a marketing communications business; managed a mayoral campaign; and as I took on a leadership role in local government, as the deputy mayor of a mid-sized city. 

The role of deputy mayor, at least in the organization I worked for, is like a COO, involving strategy, budgeting, problem-solving and communication with all types of individuals, from residents and business leaders to staff and media. I brought some management tools I’d acquired plus the insights I’d gained from my dad, but there were three tips, in particular, I wish I knew better before I began the job.

1. Momentum matters.

When I was four, my kindergarten teacher told my mom I was “very careful” with my work — a kind way to say I was a budding workaholic who was ultra-detailed and overly thorough with things. That may be fine when you’re working alone, but not when you’re working with a team and leading others. 

As deputy mayor, this meant that while my studied approach seemed right and timely to me, it could be frustrating to others. They needed more updates regarding project status and a more traditional and fluid project flow. Without the necessary momentum, sometimes staff grew frustrated and their attention waned. 

2. Change has to be delicate.

Change is challenging for most of us, even if we think we’re above the discomfort it often showers on humanity. In the case of sharing what I thought would be a fun, positive change, I underestimated how staff would react. 

A few departments had grown and a couple had reconfigured — which already marked unpleasant shifts for many — so that meant some staff had to change office space. I thought getting to see a new view or having a different desk would be welcome. It was not. 

 It was stressful, confusing and annoying to many staff. I tried softening the moves by having greater staff involvement in decision-making specifics. However, I wish I’d realized people experience a range of reactions, and I wish I’d had a plan for how to introduce change from the start — so the process would have been less jarring and smoother.

3. Communication needs to be understood.

Communication is everything, and you need to make triply sure the person or team you’re communicating with understands exactly what you mean. 

For example, I thought I was being completely clear when I’d communicate with staff about a project the mayor wanted to see happen. I’d explain it, and share its purpose and deadline. I’d always ask if there were any questions.

However, where I fell short was not having the lead staffer explain back to me, in their own words, precisely what they took from the conversation. As a result, there were times when I’d check on a project’s progress and the project would be different than I’d described or the staffer would say, “Oh we haven’t started that yet because I didn’t really get what we were supposed to do.” It surprised and disappointed me they hadn’t sought clarification, but thankfully it taught me a powerful lesson.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Trie Angeleva, M.A., M.A., has a Certificate in Executive Leadership from Cornell University. She is a Career Transformation Strategist who owns Reimagine Monday and helps professionals learn how to lead themselves and others mindfully, and love the work they do. Connect with her on Instagram, and if you’re considering a career change, grab her free resource: “Your Exceptional Career Transformation Checklist” featuring the exact 7 steps you need to take to find work that’s the right fit for your goals, strengths, purpose and intention.

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