What, Me Manager?

posted in: School 7
"Pure Diversity" by Mirta Toledo, 1993. Mixed media on cotton paper
“Pure Diversity” by Mirta Toledo, 1993. Mixed media on cotton paper. Image: Wikipedia.


Last summer, when I joined the staff of the student newspaper at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), I knew I had scored a cool gig.

What I didn’t know was just how crucial F Newsmagazine would turn out to be in the story of my graduate education. The moment I became an editor there I was given a second, equally-incredible education entirely apart from the one I (literally) signed up for. Also cool is that instead of paying for this auxiliary “mini” education, they’re paying me. Well, barely. But it’s not costing me.

And one of the most surprising gifts I’ve received in the job is getting experience managing a staff. Guess what? Managing people is really hard. It’s exciting, sure. It’s fascinating. And it’s hard.

Someone told me once that in terms of motivations in business, people are ultimately motivated by money or power. That sounds draconian, but I think there’s some truth to it. Ask yourself: Would you like to be in charge at the end of the day — or do you really just want to get your check and head home? Do you feel rewarded being a decision-maker? Or do you essentially want to do a good job and not have to care so much about all the other stuff that in-charge people have to deal with? Obviously, there is overlap and obviously, if you care about power it doesn’t mean you’re a monster. And if you’re a “money” person, it doesn’t mean you’re greedy. This is a broad-stroke thing to mull over, nothing more.

Anyway, I’m a money person. While I very much want to be in charge of myself, in general I don’t need to direct people, lead people, rally people around a common goal. I’m more satisfied with “doing me” and paying my bills and drooling over coats.

But I’m learning how good it feels when you are in charge of doing things in the service of the group, in the service of a staff, however small and rowdy. It’s really cool when people ask me how to do this or that, or what I think about X or Y or Z and then, miracle of miracles, they like, do it? A gal can really feel a different kind of satisfaction when she’s leading the charge — though it’s imperative to remind you that I share the managing editor position with the ethereally-beautiful and embarrassingly smart Irena. If I’m leading any kind of charge I’m charging with this dear friend and colleague of mine, thank the Good Lord.

So thank you, F Newsmagazine Powers That Be, for giving me the opportunity to like, make a meeting agenda. To review processes. To gently remind. To be willing to schedule an important meeting and run it. Thanks for putting me in a position where I can attempt to advise, to correct, to lead, even. I’m not great at it, but I’m getting better.

The stress of making the newspaper on a continual basis is real. There are things I would really like to see change in our process and, if being editor of the paper was my full-time job, I’d change directions in a few key areas. But — and I realize this is going to sound like Cheese City — the job I have at the paper isn’t about me. It’s about the group, and it’s so interesting to practice being a leader.

7 Responses

  1. Lucile Lapin
    | Reply

    Congrats Mary, you can do anything and I love following your milestones.

  2. Corinne
    | Reply

    I know how you feel , as I was in a similar position for awhile. I strongly rccomend that you to keep going and seek the rewards of leadership.

  3. Barbara
    | Reply

    You sound so happy about this position Mary, and I’m so happy for you. You’ll do great because you are a good and caring person.

  4. Gayle
    | Reply

    I believe that good managers have to be creative people. To see a complete vision in their mind and, piece by tiny, (sometimes obstinate) piece, bring it to a satisfying set of conclusions is learning by doing, gathering information, being flexible, and arranging various elements of differing sizes, shapes, and colors into a pleasing and successful whole. Much like, oh, making a quilt? I’ll bet you are a wonderful manager.

  5. Lindsey
    | Reply

    I’ve enjoyed my jobs while there at work, but really enjoyed not having to take them home with me. When I walked out the door at the end of the day I could turn to everything else going on in my life with no job worries riding along in the passenger seat.

  6. Jeanann
    | Reply

    Congratulations! Years ago I made the decision that I did not want to have a leadership position, i.e., English department head. Others -basically my father and mother – questioned me about this, but I felt secure in refusing it. Now by default I am consulted weekly as a leader in my church. Who knew what was in store for me in my elder years!

  7. Pat Hicks
    | Reply

    Glad you are getting the experience. Having been in both positions, I liked being a leader best not for power, but f or opportunity to share knowledge, work ethic, having successful outcomes. First time I had to deal with bad employee my insides were a mess. Doing correcting and sometimes firing when done with the right intent helps you be stronger and achieve the common goal. Now that I’m retired the hardest part was turning over my group to a newbie.

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