I have had a wide range of managers – from the inspiring rock star “I want to be you some day” to the demoralizing ogre “I’d rather run into the woods than to report to you”. The latter, combined with my strong value for freedom, made me ask myself:
“What if I was my own boss?”
Well, now I work as a freelance coach and trainer and I am my own boss. I can do pretty much whatever I like, whenever I like and most importantly, if I like. I get to be “right” all the time. My idea is always the one that “wins”. And that’s precisely what is so hard about being a solopreneur. Having a manager is one of the things I miss about my corporate job at P&G. Here’s why:
I miss having my thinking challenged
At P&G, I would spend hours crafting 1-pagers (I use the official term, although we all know these were either 2 pages or font six) for my ideas. Despite the diligent details, a barrage of questions inevitably followed:
“Have you considered the latest competitor launch? Did you get input from the sales team? How about looking at this another way….?”
It’s natural to resent having to justify every point during such “interrogations”. Not to mention the ensuing load of re-work that would delay the project and slowly eat away at my passion.
Now that I am my own manager, there is no one to “interrogate” me and I actually miss it. Challenging my thinking drives me to take my ideas to the next level. It bulletproofs my plans before I spend months executing them – and in a way, saves me from avoidable disappointments. It helps me to position my ideas to appeal to a wider audience, including those who don’t share my perspective. Sure, it’s slower, but the tortoise eventually beats the hare.
I miss being forced to face reality, right now
One of the most tedious things about working in a hierarchical organization was updating my manager about project status. No amount of creativity on my colorful scorecards could stop this from feeling like a repetition of facts that took time away from real work.
Now that I have no one to update, I also have no one to discuss my challenges with. I can choose to avoid a problem for months, reassuring myself that it’s not a priority or it’s not that bad. But this doesn’t make it disappear. Instead, I keep mulling it over and I feel guilty for doing nothing about it. In moments like this, I wish I had a manager who I had to report my challenge to. Simply vocalizing the problem gives it parameters, makes it more concrete and less scary – and the solution often flows out of this clarity.
I miss getting external recognition
Having a manager wasn’t just about being criticized or driven to improve. It was also about being recognized for my progress. Having someone by my side meant they could appreciate my struggles and be the first to say “well done, I know that wasn’t easy”. (Of course, getting compliments from a bad manger is rare, but not as rare as compliments from a non-existent one).
Now I have no manager and no one to cheer me on. And whilst I can appreciate my own efforts, I still crave external recognition, a signal that my work is meaningful to others, not just to me.
I miss the pressure of “artificial” deadlines
It frustrated me when my manager asked for a full market analysis by tomorrow – just because he wanted to “check something” on a whim. I could not understand why my slides had to be printed two weeks before the presentation or why new TV adverts always had to start airing on the 1st of the month.
Where did these deadlines come from? And what would happen if I didn’t meet them?
I didn’t miss many deadlines (yes, I was a goody two shoes), so I don’t know. But what I do know, is that without these small artificial deadlines, projects now seem eternal and it’s really hard to gauge how far along I’ve come. This can be disheartening and disorientating, and it often means they take twice as long as they should.
Overall, being my own boss has allowed me great flexibility and the freedom to to do the work I’m passionate about. At the same time, I feel that “being managed” has developed a disproportionately negative connotation recently, especially amongst millennials. If you need or want to be managed, then there must be something wrong with you – you are not down with the new “independent age”. I invite you to flip this perspective:
How can you leverage your manager to help you achieve things you are afraid to dream of today?
Need help with your manager? Coaching can help you rebuild and get the most out of this important relationship. For a free consultation, message me on email@example.com.
About the author:
Desi Jagger is a co-active coach, passionate trainer and marketer with seven years experience at Procter & Gamble, the world’s #1 FMCG company. In 2015 she left her corporate job to follow her passion for developing people and now works as a freelance coach and trainer.
Follow Desi Jagger on LinkedIn (click “FOLLOW” at the top right of this page) for upcoming posts:
• The things I don’t miss about my corporate job
• What I got out of my sabbatical – and why you should take one
• How I learnt to let go – the effervescent lightness of being free
Photo credit: Thomas Shahan