Website Development: Going From Designer to Manager

It’s a catch-22 for creative people in all areas of marketing communications. The better a creative productive you produce, the sooner you’ll be asked to stop creating and start managing; something your probably not in the slightest bit trained for. Managing the transition from creative person–be it designer, programmer or writer–can be a sticky and difficult situation. One day you’re one of the team and the next day you’re the boss. There are ways to bridge the gap and the trust of your co-workers.

Website Development: Going From Designer to Manager

There’s a natural progression that occurs in the career of almost every talented Web designer. It’s when your competency with coding and your creative flair coupled with your problem-solving abilities lands you in the position of manager. Sure you’ve trained in HTML and CSS. You may even have a graphics design background. And, of course, you’ve developed many excellent solutions for difficult online problems. But does any of that qualify you to lead others? Many otherwise extremely gifted and skilled Web designers wrestle with this conundrum. So how exactly does someone who’s used to “doing the work” become someone who “manages” the work?

Let Go and Lead

Let’s face it: It’s just plain instinct for creative people such as Web designers to dig in and solve the problem themselves but that’s exactly the opposite of what’s needed in your new role. You need to learn to step back and help guide others down the path so that they can come up with the right solution themselves. This is easier said than done. After all, you’ve been rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty for years. So how do you go from being a “doer” to being a guide? Put plainly, you stop doing. Instead, focus on providing the people you supervise with the information and the tools they need to solve it themselves. They may fail at first. And the solution they create may not be the one you would have come up with. But that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. You need to learn to open your mind to ways of thinking other than your own.

Get Your People Involved

I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who bounds out of bed excited by the prospect of the weekly staff meeting. However, as much as you and others may dislike meetings, they are a necessary evil in running a business. One hand needs to know what the other is doing. Without that knowledge, chaos ensues along with a lot of wasted hours. As a new manager, you can make meetings work harder for you by getting your team more involved. Resist the urge to dominate the conversation; this makes what should be a weekly or bi-weekly update on various projects a lecture series. Consider having your teams present their progress on a given project. Encourage comments and suggestions from everyone. Other ways to involve and engage people is to ask team members to present a site they were impressed by or summarize an article they recently read, perhaps even share the processes of other companies they’ve worked at. Getting everyone involved not only stimulates new and better ideas, but also fosters a sense of teamwork.

Improve Your Listening Skills

When you’re the one doing the work you listen to input and almost instantly begin formulating ways to execute that input. As a manager, you need more information than that to make the best decisions for the client, the project and the company. Be prepared to hear points of view that vary wildly with your instincts. Don’t feel pressured to make instantaneous rulings; that will come with time as you become more comfortable in your new role. And remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: “…you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Making business decisions that may not be popular is part of being a manager and something else you will get used to as time goes on.