The horse girl and the office manager

The horse girl and the office manager

01 January


Last year I decided to take horseback riding lessons. I could already see it in my mind: me and the horse galloping through a beautiful landscape.
I would be 1 with the horse. 1 with nature. Maybe even lose some weight. It was going to be great.

Unfortunately, reality was a little bit different.
On TV you see people jump in one go on the horse that is willingly waiting for them. I had a little staircase. And even with those steps I still had trouble getting on that horse. I almost fell off the other side. And once I was properly in the saddle, it was a bit scary, so high.

The instructor had explained it so well: gently squeezing your knees means “walk”. Gently pulling on the reins means “stop”. And everyone in my group could walk, except me. No matter what I did, that horse would not move. I felt a bit silly because everyone was already able to keep up. Some even went for a trot.

The 2nd lesson I brought a carrot for my horse. That carrot went in quickly, but that's about it. I thought I'm being nice to you now, now I hope you listen to me too. Nothing could be further from the truth. We had to take our horse out of the stable, put a halter on, then take it to a communal area and brush our horse. When I got to the stable and took out the halter, my horse quickly threw his head the other way when I went to put it on. That went on for about 5 minutes until I got really angry. I raised my voice and only then my horse listened. I arrived last at that communal place. Everyone was almost done brushing and I still had to start.
Well, to keep the story short: me galloping in the countryside with my horse, wind in my hair, it didn't happen.

Nice story, you might think, but what does that have to do with the secretariat?

When I had my first management position as an office manager, I was very happy. I was so ready for this promotion. Me and my team; it was going to be fantastic. My manager and team members would be happy with me. And just like with that first riding lesson; it was going to be great. Of course I also found it a bit scary.

And here too the reality was a bit different
I gave one of the team members an assignment and her answer was: you can also do that yourself. And just like that horse, she didn't move either. It was quite a struggle to get her to the point that when I gave an assignment, she would do it. A lot of energy wasted; for what? For a childish power struggle.

Of course, I didn't bring any carrots to the office the next day. But I did try to be very nice to everyone. In the hope that they would also be nice to me 'in return'.
For example, if we had made an agreement that everyone would stick to it. The agreement was a clean desk policy. But before I got everyone to clear their desks before leaving. It has generated a lot of discussion and an angry manager. Another illusion poorer.

The planning of the summer holidays had to be discussed. And surprise (!): everyone wanted to go on holiday at the same time.
One only wanted to take a holiday during a certain period, because she had children.
One wanted to take a trip with her husband and her husband had already been given time off during the same period. So she wanted her holiday in that period too. And so everyone had a very special reason why they wanted to go on holiday in that particular period.

The holiday planning. I could already see my manager getting angry with me. Normally I would try to reason with everyone. But I was so tired of it. I said: there must be at least 2 people present every day during the holiday period. Figure it out. And believe it or not, they discussed it together, and suddenly there was a holiday planning.

That managerial position: I was so much looking forward to it. I was so ready for it. So why was it so difficult? Why did everything have to end in a tiresome argument?

What I learned from that first managerial role, and what I hope will be useful to you.
I've learned that not everything is great from day 1.
You will be challenged. Your role and authority may be questioned. You have team members who do not want to do your assignments, or only half. In short; they're trying to figure out how far they can go with you.

That is why I advise my clients to always be completely clear with your team. Everyone needs clarity. And being clear doesn't mean you have to snap. Clarity is just clarity. Period.

You have to learn leadership, just like horseback riding lessons.
I'm always amazed at how people are treated when they enter a leadership position for the first time. A company spends a lot of money and energy recruiting someone, but once a choice has been made, the job is completed. You will receive a desk and chair from Monday. Maybe a course via intranet. Some introductory meetings if you come from outside the company. And that’s it. But then it only just begins. You must develop your own leadership style that you feel comfortable with. You don't learn that in 1 day.

So, give yourself some time
Let go of perfectionism a bit
And remember, you were hired for that position for a reason.

So come on! You can do it!

Deel je ervaringen en lees die van anderen!