What I learned managing Nikki for a year

A call for “management-versaries” as a point of self-reflection

This week marks one year of managing @NikkiKoutoulas, my first hire @Twitter. Nikki has been instrumental not only to me, but to my whole Learning + Org Development team, and it’s amazing to think about the impact she’s had in just one year on the team and at the company. (Seriously, I could go on and on).

In our 1:1 this week, this milestone sparked a conversation reflecting on what she’s learned and how she’s grown in her role. I started by asking Nikki to think about the following:

  • What was the most important thing you learned this year?
  • What was the biggest surprise? Hardest thing?
  • What do you want do to more of? Less of?
  • What do you need more/less of from me as your manager?
After our 1:1, I started thinking, wow, Nikki’s “twitterversary” is not only a milestone for her, but a milestone for me.

This week also represents my 1 year anniversary managing her. What did I learn this past year about my own management and leadership style? How have I grown in my role?

Because I work in Learning + Org Development, I thought to myself…

How cool would it be if we used manager anniversaries to pause and reflect on what we learned about ourselves?

The context could be less about specific org changes and who you managed when (an HR systems nightmare!), and more about your collective, year long development exploring how you shifted as your team grew or evolved, how your scope of responsibilities changed, and most importantly, what you learned about yourself in the process.

I came up with a few questions to help put some structure around my self-retrospective. Here’s what I asked myself:

  • I’ve been managing @Twitter for 1 year. What’s the biggest change going from an Individual Contributor to a Manager? [insert your career shift here]
  • How have I helped my team get stronger? What more can I be doing to improve team dynamics?
  • What’s the most valuable thing I’ve learned?
  • What’s a current management challenge I face today? That I see peeking around the corner?
  • What do I want to focus on developing next?

Beyond sharing the idea of management-versaries (is that a thing now?!), I’ll share my answers to the questions I’ve posed in hopes that you’ll also take time to think about what you’ve learned about yourself and where you want to continue to grow as a manager and leader.

  • The biggest shift from Individual Contributor to Manager… stepping away from “doing” and stepping into “setting direction,” letting go of the details and focusing more on planning and organizing what’s next.
  • I’ve helped my team get stronger by… I asked Nikki for her thoughts on how we’ve improved our team’s dynamic. She shared that we’ve struck a healthy balance of a personal and a professional relationship that she feels personally invested in; she feels like I am invested in her growth as a human being vs. someone who delivers outcomes at work. This relationship has also helped us build trust in one another.
  • The most valuable thing I’ve learned… I don’t have to have all the answers (I had heard that before, but I needed to learn it for myself). I need to be able to ask good questions and trust my team to find great answers.
  • A current management challenge I face today… finding exciting opportunities to expose Nikki to new challenges and projects, and figuring out where I want to make my next impact @Twitter.
  • Where I want to develop next… beyond specific project work that excites me, I want to get closer to the business and be more focused on my customers (HRBPs, Twitter managers, intact teams) to design solutions that address their real time challenges.

Whether you’re a Manager or an Individual Contributor, what did you learn over the past year? Where do you want to grow this year?

Tweet me @NikiLustig with the hashtag #lrndaily.