Maker vs. Manager

by jennifermshoop

One of the biggest adjustments between my previous position as director of a non-profit open courseware initiative and my current position as Chief Innovation Officer at Moneythink has been the tremendous mindshift between operating on manager’s time vs. maker’s time.  In the past, I derived inspiration from Sheryl Sandberg, striving for efficiency and a tightly-packed schedule organized around specific agendas.  I leaned on extensive calendar-driven to-do lists in order to measure and chart my progress and I strained for efficiency and punctuality in my day-to-day.

At Moneythink, I need to spend a lot of my time tinkering, brainstorming, observing, and commenting.  I need to block out large expanses of unstructured “maker’s time” during which I read, take copious notes, and — largely — write to know what I think.  Recognizing this “maker’s time” as equal to but materially different from “manager’s time” has required some mental gymnastics.   I’ve trained myself to be so output-oriented that living in the creative process has (at least in my first few weeks) occasionally left me feeling unproductive.  That being said, when I turn a big corner and find myself piecing together a more formal or robust representation of my thinking, I feel as though I’ve seriously accomplished something.  Perhaps part of living on maker’s time is recognizing that there may be latency in this system–I might need to adapt to a new cadence of achievement, but the scale of each achievement will be much more satisfying.

The other transition implicit in this shift is a move from managing people to creating things.  I have a lot of thoughts on management, but the high-level ones to note here are (1) that good managers are made, not born, and (2) that managing people well is incredibly difficult, full-stop. When I was initially promoted to a managerial position, I advanced because I was good at what I did — not because I had any business supervising the work of others.  And I would easily say that I failed far more times at managing my staff than I have in attempting to do anything else.  Management is a serious business and when you fail, you are impacting the experience, the emotions, and — in the worst of situations — the livelihood of those you manage.

While there are many things I valued about the opportunity of being a manager, it felt remote from the action.  I wanted to be in the weeds, doing the actual building and tinkering myself.  I’m right at home in my new role, though the shift back into the details has been more dramatic than I’d estimated.  Looking forward to sharing what I’ve been creating the last few weeks soon…