Moving from an army of one to a team of many

It a hard transition to go from doing it all to breaking up responsibilities and relying on others to do things at the caliber you expect but it is necessary to be a successful leader or team member.

Thinking back about my transition over the last few years from being a person deep in the trenches to being a leader of a team has been a trying challenge; though one I have grown from immensely.

My background can be best explained as jack of all trades, I have been the army of one for almost all my career. If you fall into that category I highly recommend you check out Higher Ed Solo. It is a site that is near and dear to my heart since I lived that life for so many years. Having come from this role is part what makes to difficult to let go of things that you had to do in the past with no help from anyone.

Making a new job role for yourself

I tell people I feel like every year since I have started my new position I have created a new job for myself. I started my team from scratch and so when I first started I went to my wheel house and comfort zone of design and strategy. It was what I was used to and where I felt I could do the most “damage” in a good way. However, as our team grew I hired designers. At first I would micro manage and oversee the code but after a few months or so I realized I had to let go.

Year two I had to transition into the role of a manager or really more of a project manager, we had various projects across campus that our multi functional team had to carry out and it was my job to oversee them and their delivery. I then hired a web team assistant whole helped move forward a lot of the day-to-day functions. After some time the assistant grew into the role of a project manager. This PM handles almost all of the day-to-day project work with some minimal oversight and mentoring by me.

So it was yet again time for me to grow into a new role for year three. This was probably the most difficult transition for me, since it was the role I really had the least experience in. However, I have had more growth and more reward from this transition that probably any other in my professional career. From here and since this point I have become more than anything a strategist and a leader. I spend probably 50% of my time leading, 30% managing and 20% doing. This will shift from week to week but I find that is more or less my balance now a days. I tend to focus on things like policies, campus wide governance, web standards, serving on committees and developing new products to fill gaps on campus.

To continue my growth I have taken various approaches including: an on campus multi month leadership course, I did the HighEdWeb Leadership Academy (which I highly recommend if you are new or senior in your role as a campus web leader) and last but not least I have read lots of leadership books (these start to get a little repetitive with each authors spins after a while, if I had to read just one I would recommend The Contrarians Guide to Leadership. hat tip @markgr) I now look for any opportunities to provide leadership across campus whether or not directly under my purview or even related to web. In the end your just need to remain agile and open to change which will bring about the most personal success.

Find your faithful soldiers

In order to be successful as a leader or team member you have to trust others. You have to put faith in people that they will come through for you. When on a team you will be more successful when you make those around you more successful  So it is beneficial to help your team member do their best whether that means removing barriers or providing opportunities which challenge and engage people on the team.

From the role of a leader  you have to find your go-to people. The ones that you know, no matter what the issue or the challenge they will step up and deliver. The flip side of that is to work with and mentor the others to become that person. This is one of the big differences between a manager vs a leader. A leader motivates people where as a manager manages people. You also need to surround yourself with people smarter than yourself in areas that you are deficient. Some people can’t get over themselves, they can’t let people who work for them shine. I suggest you check out RebelPhD from Karlyn Borysenko if you are into the idea of deficient leaders and how people handle this.  An example for me, I am not a developer, I wish I had that background, I can BS and I know enough to hold a relevant and logical conversation but I cant do it myself. So I surround myself with talented developers who I will bring with me when I am unsure on things and trust their judgement.

In the end I have learned and grown more over the last few year that any other in my life. To many I might seem far more under the radar than I was previously in my professional career but I am doing this growth for myself. I suggest you look at those around you and look at how you can make them successful. Then, similar to karma it will pay you back.

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