For many young professionals who are working on advancing their careers, becoming a manager feels like a very notable step on the stairway to success. Oftentimes, this level of promotion acknowledges that you have mastered the day-to-day tasks of your role, you show promise on looking ahead and building readiness plans, and you understand the value of creating collective buy-in on an idea.
After managing a team for five years, a portion of which was saturated with drastic organizational change and turmoil, I determined that I no longer felt effective leading my team. The challenging part of this realization, for me, was that when I walked away from managing my team, I began to question whether I was losing my ability to be a “team player” – an attribute I hold as one of my highest values.
After I started working for myself, I noticed that I was still responsible for a lot of my manager-like duties. I was developing strategies, outlining tactical plans, organizing projects, doing monthly invoicing, and balancing budgets (my own!). And yet, I was missing the most rewarding part of being a manager – building a team! I decided there must still be a way to support the growth of others without hiring staff, so I committed to taking or making coffee dates with past colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. This small effort has helped me feel like a mentor again while cultivating my ability to provide objective advice and ask questions which generate more conversation and discussion around critical decision points. It’s also been really rewarding to have these conversations with past direct reports, because they seek out opinions on topics that I’m not sure we could have or would have discussed when we were in a formal management structure.
If you are a solopreneur, I highly encourage you to identify what is missing from your independent work and determine ways to fill those “workplace voids”. By doing so, I think you’ll be happier in your work and continue building valuable skills should you decide to head back into a traditional management structure.
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