Be A Better Boss [Than The One You Had]

A few weeks ago, a very important function in my website broke down when my assistant updated it. It was a critical component and we discovered it at a critical time. It wasn’t a good situation. We shored it up as best we could in the short term but I knew we needed to have a conversation about quality control.

Yet throughout the process, I noticed how much the experience sent me back emotionally. As we worked to solve the problem, I found myself looking back to the early days of of my first job out of college as an admin assistant at an architecture firm.

And wow, I have such memories of that job.

One memory that’s still crystal clear is of me frantically printing, cutting down and spraymounting an awards submission poster while the FedEx guy stood over me waiting impatiently for the package to be ready. I knew that with the finicky printer and the last-minute, wrinkle-ridden spraymounting I would be critiqued as not “detail-oriented”.  It wasn’t how I wanted to do the project in the first place — I was in this situation because my bosses didn’t make a decision about which layout to go with until the very last minute. Still, I  knew I would face criticism about the finished product.

What I remember most about this project isn’t the critique, but rather the spirit in which it was delivered.

In that job criticism wasn’t solution-oriented or forward-looking. Shame and blame was the name of the game.

We didn’t talk about process improvements or the skills I could uplevel. My bosses definitely weren’t interested in changing their decision-making processes, even though implementing changes would have made work easier for me and the entire firm.

As much as that job triggered me to learn about design, in that moment, even at age 22, I was tucking away lessons in “how not to manage” for the future.

And today, years later, I choose a different path.

After the situation, I initiated a conversation with my assistant to talk about the breakdown. I showed up ready to be honest about what happened and solution-oriented. She showed up with the same attitude which heartened me, taught me about what I might do differently next time, and made my confidence in our working relationship even deeper.

We build the things we create in the world–the things we make, the designs we oversee, the films we make, the strategies we craft.

But we also build the cultures we create and participate in.

No matter how we’re building these cultures — whether it’s in formulating our business practices, setting the tone with how we welcome someone new to our team, or how we handle it when something goes wrong on our project — creating a dialogue of authenticity and accountability is crucial to a thriving workplace.

I coach and teach women because I believe in getting women into positions in which they can change the game. And when we feel good there, when we’re tapped into our sense of purpose and our unique abilities, when we have time for our health and our life outside of work, we can lead from a place of confidence and compassion.

Which makes the world around us better. No matter where we’re leading from.

I am not my 22-year old self’s boss. I may not [yet] be running a giant company, but I’m going to be baking in the right values from the start.

What do you stand for at work or in your industry? How do you show it? Comment below to share your own strategies.

Hi I'm Maya

Mia Scharphie , career coach, headshot

I’m a career coach and strategist with a secret power (I mean, past career) as a designer. I love road trips, graphic novels and helping people like you design the career you love on your own terms.