🗞️ Issue #6: Getting Over My People Manager Phobia

And how I was allowed to change my mind about myself

Hola friends! 👋

Finding time to write these days has been really difficult in between my day job, coaching, and enjoying the outside world now that it’s Summer again. But not writing also means there’s an unticked off task in my to-do list that’s been there since March. To be honest, I’m not sure what’s worse: not writing OR a checkbox left unchecked. 😰

I started a new role at work. I’m temporarily heading up the Product organization for our tribe while our current one is away until end of the year.

One would think that since I coach Product Managers and train Product teams, taking on an organisation and managing several Product Managers would be a piece of cake for me.

But when I first agreed to do this, I was absolutely terrified. I spent a good chunk of my onboarding freaking out and worrying about the many things I might suck at.

Until recently, I’ve pretty much convinced myself that I will not take on a people management role in any organization again. I told myself that when it comes to my corporate job, I would prefer to stick to building complex products, defining domain strategies, and just keep on the individual contributor track until I reach the highest possible level for it. If I want to help Product Managers be great at their work, I can do that with my coaching instead.

At the back of my head, I’ve always felt like I’ve been holding out on my own career progression. But somehow I’d rather keep on missing out on great opportunities rather than fuck up at being a people manager ever again. 😰

6 years ago was the first time I was a people manager. I managed 3 people.

Before that, my inspiration for people managers were:

  1. The kind who used fear and loud shouting to get what they wanted

  2. The kind who used their seniority to guilt trip me for having a different opinion

  3. The kind who did not hide their favoritism and unabashedly favoured some people over others

  4. The kind who created and nurtured a big gap between themselves and their people and made themselves unapproachable

  5. The kind who did not care for boundaries and expected work to be done late at nights and messages to be responded to even on weekend

With those as my references, my first experience as a people manager ended up with somebody in tears, a really bad feedback, and a whole lot of shame.

I never wanted to get back into the business of people management since then.

Until recently, that is. When one of the PMs at my day job told me that I would be great as a people manager. 😱

That single feedback made me challenge the self limiting beliefs that I’ve been carrying with me for the last 6 years. It made me realize that I actually no longer believed that I would really suck as a people manager.

And it made me remember that I was no longer the same person I was 6 years ago. In the last few years, I’ve also started making an extra living in helping people and their teams from other organizations be better at their jobs. So why can’t I seem to think that I can do that in my own day job???

Since then, I’ve also had better references for People Managers. The kind who don’t shout, fire people on a whim, nor send threatening emails on Saturday nights. 😅

Last week, I was still freaking out on a call with my own coach.

The she asked me, “Do you believe you’re going to do a good job at being a people manager?”

I said, “Absolutely. I’m just letting my feelings run its course.”

“Here’s an idea. Why not just skip the freaking out part and go straight to the part of doing a good job as a people manager? Go and save yourself some time.”

So now here we are. And I’ve been enjoying it every day.

So dear reader, if you’re still holding on to some of your own self limiting beliefs - I hope this letter gives you the permission to chuck that out the window and change your mind about what you think you can or cannot do.

Got questions, feedback, violent reactions? Or other tips for people managers freaking out over their new roles? Leave them in the comments below👇

💙 Kax

p.s. My first managees actually left me good recommendation on Linkedin and we’re all still friends. I guess I was not THAT terrible after all.

I work with Product Managers who want to learn how to successfully build products that provide value, create a collaborative team culture, and have trustful relationships with their stakeholders.

If you're curious to know more about how I might be able to support you in navigating this crazy beautiful world of Product Management, you're welcome to book a call with me. And let's do some discovery, shall we?

You can also write me at hello@kaxuson.com 👋

* * *

If you found this story valuable, how about passing it on to a friend?
Or how about subscribing to my newsletter if you haven’t already?