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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

managing people

As I slightly progress in my career and further develop my identity as an "adult," it seems that the inevitable has become a reality - I must learn to manage people, not just relationships. I originally intended this blog post to discuss what this means professionally, as anyone in almost any occupational track learns to do, but after being too immersed into work these days, I've decided to take a more generalized approach to this discussion. For those looking for a corporate discussion on managing others, I'm sure there's some Ted talk out there on how to do it without micro-managing and getting good reviews from those under you. My one-liner here would be that when you're still stuck in the mindset of "I could do it better myself," you're probably not at the level of seniority where you should manage others. It's something I'm extensively learning to do at my current company and a skill that I'll need for the rest of my career. It's also one that I didn't realize required experience, especially for someone like myself who's always been recognized as someone "good with people." It's now apparent that being good with dealing with human beings and understanding them at a glance is different from managing them, more specifically their actions and expectations.


I think this goes hand in hand with maturity and becoming an adult in the sense that when you're younger, people management is actually relatively easy. People are still being "formed," there's only so much variance in where one comes from especially if you remain in a certain neighborhood, and therefore a certain socio economic class, and in many ways your peers are malleable in their expectations and actions. Things are far simpler in the early days of childhood and even well into adolescence - good grades or looks or a combination of both gets you to a certain level within the social hierarchy (I guess we can add online social media clout here now too), which then enables you to "manage" others based on where you stand in that pyramid. Of course, this isn't some active effort nor am I trying to classify the actions of 6 years olds the same way that I view modern day adult society. What I'm trying to say is that the younger you are, there's less aspects of people to think about, and thus manage.


In any organization, social or professional, management is fundamental. Otherwise, the structure of that organization will inevitably crumble (this is actually part of the reason why I don't really believe in DAOs, but that's for another time). To contrast my description of childhood / early adolescence, once you're managing others as an adult, you're at a cross section of all they have built until you started managing them (personally or professionally) along with the various commitments and other outside forces and managers they are dealing with in addition to your management. In fact, professional management could be in some ways the easiest of this bunch, as it's within an isolated scope of a relatively defined vacuum (that we call a team or company) and a contractual and financial obligation to listen to what you have to say. You could ultimately be a poor manager, but there's always a default fall back of "they have to listen to you otherwise you're fired" that prevents a complete failure to compromise. In essence, there's always an insurance associated with professional management that encourages self-management as a failsafe to a manager's shortcomings. Personal or social people management doesn't have this insurance, outside of the "I will no longer be friends with you," which the managed party may not think of very significantly. That could bring out the question of whether or not this person is worth managing, but I find that to be beyond the scope of this discussion.


The simplest exemplification of this is the maintenance of a group post-college, where a once schedule / geography / club / major restricted organization now only has a group text message to depend on as a structural glue to stay united. It is in the hands of the members of that group, or typically a specific member, to continue to manage itself and maintain if not fortify the established relationships. More likely than not, especially as they continue to focus on oneself in this highly individualistic era of society, this friend group will fall apart without proper management. This requires active efforts of meeting up, continuing the conversation, including each other in their current lives, etc. While a lot of this could be done passively and without a set plan (especially if all parties have a mutual desire to stay connected), I also firmly believe that some level of effort on an effective people manager could continue to sustain the organization.


On a more personal note, I think I've relatively mastered this on a one to one level - I'm beyond confident in my ability to maintain if not strengthen my 1 to 1 relationships even if we're geographically or stage-of-life restricted. I've proven myself again and again in this realm. But I have recognized that there's limitations to what people can achieve in pairs, even for fun, and coordinating a group is multiples more difficult than the former. It's something I have newly set as a near term goal to be good at, specifically scaling it beyond those younger than me. Perhaps it's something I'm just naturally not fit to do, outside of the "mood setter" or "conversation specialist" role that I typically take in groups, but I'm excited to see what comes ahead as a result of my efforts.

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