As of today, I’ve gone over 12,000 days without being punched in the face.
Being the shortest boy in school I learned how to lay low, deflect attention, and avoid aggressors. I was luckier than other awkward kids since I could draw a little, had a decent throwing arm, and owned four Metallica tapes.
I managed to stay invisible until I could make a few friends outside my weight class. Keeping allies throughout grade school had its price. I drew caricatures of classmates, pretended to enjoy football, and huffed gas from lawn mowers.
After 25 years, I realize now that I was manipulating all of them.
Managing creative people can feel… murky. They can come off as marginal and mysterious people who are deeply loyal to their values. Trying to manipulate them will get you noticed and resented very quickly.
Managing people is not about getting them to do what you want. Instead, it is about enabling them to make decisions on your behalf. The consequence is yours, but not the control.
For some, management is about getting levers pulled. Downward. With two hands. In 14 seconds. (Like this!)
Soft skills mean roping off the right environment for your team. By consigning them to pull levers just so, you have given up managing anything. You have removed nuance and discovery from those best suited to bring success to your project. If, from the outset, work has to get done in a specific way by a certain time you are creating an assembly system where constraints might suffocate creativity.
Words and deeds matter
People read their own context into everything. We have our own filters and feelers. Soft skills are most recognizeable through the words we use and how we wield them.
Managing people is not about getting them to do what you want. Instead, it is about enabling them to make their best decisions on the team’s behalf. The consequence is yours, but not the control.
Communicate what you know; ask about the things you don’t. Be polite. Be honest. Remember that managers are not the pinnacle of a team’s structure. You are bringing order and distraction. You are the rodeo clown.
Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll avoid a bloody nose.