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The "Ask a Manager: Handling Change Management" Lesson is part of the full, Enterprise Engineering Management 102 course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Ryan and Jem discuss their experiences and advice on dealing with change management. Jem brings up addressing the difficulties due to his lack of experience and the numerous changes he had to navigate, such as layoffs, reorganizations, and hiring new leaders. Jem emphasizes the importance of getting context from his manager, being transparent and open with his team, and documenting his experiences to reflect and learn from them. This discussion also highlights the value of having a supportive network of experienced managers and peers to lean on during challenging times.

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Transcript from the "Ask a Manager: Handling Change Management" Lesson

[00:00:00]
>> All right, let's jump into our final Ask a manager, where I will be asking Jem Young his great advice on how he's had to deal with change management. Especially as a newer leader, I would love to hear your perspective. We're gonna do one last Ask a manager, I really wanna hear Jem's perspectives.

[00:00:20] He's a newer manager, and dealing with change of management is hard. I still struggle with it, and so I'm really curious, Jem, how you've dealt with it, and so I have some questions for you, and yeah, I'd love to hear your thoughts. So, what have you found most difficult dealing with change management?

[00:00:38]
>> The change?
>> [LAUGH]
>> Largely, I'd say one of the most difficult things has been my lack of experience in doing it. I became a manager in 2021, which was the year when a lot of things changed. I've had to navigate, kind of Netflix first time ever doing layoffs in maybe ten, 15 years, and I'm like, I don't know.

[00:01:01] I just became a manager a few months before. I navigated bringing in new VP of Engineering, letting go that VP of Engineering, hiring a new CTO for the first time. I've been through three reorgs in, I think a year. Actually a little bit less than that, probably like six months or so.

[00:01:21] Adding on new members of my team, my team changing, my manager changing, all within a very short period of time. So in all that, I think the navigating and trying to figure out what I should be doing with things I've never experienced before has been probably the most difficult part.

[00:01:40]
>> And that's a lot, I'm just gonna say. That is definitely a lot to deal with all at once, especially as a new manager. I feel like I'm exhausted just thinking about all that as even having more years of experience to deal with some of those, and kind of pattern matching on how to deal with it.

[00:01:55] But yeah, those are definitely difficult ones. Maybe just you got thrown in the deep end, and you're just, this is the way it is.
>> It's my baseline now, so that's where the positive looking back. I'm like, yeah, been through those things before, it'll happen again, but I'm not gonna be scared.

[00:02:12] I'm not used to a steady ship, I'm used to an unsteady ship, and I found my balance for me and the team. So it's a positive in the long run, but when you're in the thick of it, it's very difficult to navigate.
>> It's exhausting, too. Okay, I truly feel like it's a tough one.

[00:02:27] But I do like, yeah, having that experience now, you'll be able to pull from and have that, so that's one takeaway from it. What have you found is helpful when approaching the changes with your team?
>> I'm trying to get context from my manager, whoever can provide that context as much as possible, and then distilling that down for my team is helpful.

[00:02:48] A lot of times that doesn't happen, so like you said earlier in your slides, taking a minute to kind of think about it myself and not being purely reactive. And there's times when I have been reactive and I disagreed with things, and I don't have that with my team, I have it with my manager, cuz that's what my manager's job is, to listen to that.

[00:03:05] So it's been helpful to calm down, take a step back, get context, take it to the team, and be open and honest with my team. I am very candid with my team about things I'm struggling with, or things that I don't really know fully, or even things I disagree with, too.

[00:03:21] But I sort of get it, but I don't really agree with it, but we'll figure this out together. And I think they found that helpful, rather than me just putting on a front of I'm a rock who knows everything, and don't worry about, it's all gonna be good, cuz maybe it won't be good, but we'll figure it out together.

[00:03:38] And then you had a really good point on hearing your team's concerns, and taking those, writing them down, and sharing them with your manager. Cuz maybe other people have the same concern, and maybe my manager's managers can help address that, or maybe it's a theme for the entire organization.

[00:03:53] Which has happened so many times, where that email they sent out about some change was missing some critical information that maybe VPs knew, or directors knew, and everybody else didn't know. But putting that together and rather than just complaining internally and doing something about it, trying to get more information has been really helpful.

[00:04:10]
>> Now, I love that. It's like, yeah, definitely approaching it too. It's being transparent on your feelings too. You're showing your own vulnerability too. It's like, yeah, you don't have all the answers, you're not going to, and that's okay. Rather than trying to have all the answers, which ends up backfiring.

[00:04:29]
>> One more of a manager tip I found really useful is writing down what happened, like things I've navigated. Cuz a year from now, I don't remember these crises, the infires that I've had to put out, and things I've dealt with. So I keep a separate doc of Q1 2022, here's what happened, and here's how I dealt with it, here's what happened, here's how I dealt with it, so that I can reflect later on, yeah, I have grown, I have experienced this before.

[00:04:56] But even when you're looking for another job in the future, which you're always kind of looking around, you can say, yeah, I have overcome a lot personally, and here's how I navigated these challenges. Cuz people are gonna ask you that.
>> Yeah, in interviews they always ask, tell me about a time when you've had to deal with a hard conversation, tell me at a time when you've dealt with conflict.

[00:05:18] And I love that, I'm totally stealing that from you as just documenting and reflecting better, that's awesome. I think it also reminds you on how to deal with some of those situations better, and even reflecting on what mistakes you made. Cuz you probably could have done something better, in how you messaged it, and just reflecting on that is great.

[00:05:40] What's something that maybe would have helped you maybe prepare a little bit more? You kinda got thrown in the deep end on this change management job, but what are some things that maybe would have helped you to prepare for it?
>> I think, recognizing that it's normal. Change is the constant that we live with.

[00:05:58] We've been fortunate in having a really strong market in tech, salaries kept going up, jobs were plentiful, and then that changed really, really quickly. And then we had COVID with remote work, and a drastic change to tech, and that's kind of why I joined in. And I think someone just come in and be, this is normal, it's happened.

[00:06:22] Listening to more experienced managers like yourself and others who've like, yeah, I've been through this. People have been through this in the 90s when tech crashed again, know that, yeah, we've done this before there's no reason to panic. And I think all that would have been helpful going into changed management, having someone there kind of listen to my concerns, and not back them away and like, I hear you.

[00:06:45] Yeah, it's really tough, especially your first time around, but here's some tips that I found. But fortunately, I had a good manager during that time who was super calm, super steady, talked about their time in the 90s, and their time at Microsoft. And other times, when they're like, I've been through this before, here's some things I've found helpful.

[00:07:04] So yeah, again, having that network and knowing this is all normal, change is normal, I think there's things I really wish I knew ahead of time.
>> Yeah, and I like what you said, too, about not only having someone who's been through it to leverage, definitely an amazing way to do it.

[00:07:22] But I think even just talking with your peers, like other managers, even if they're brand-new managers, how are you dealing with it? And maybe you can't vent as much with your team, I like that you said, I can vent with my manager, that's good. But even with your peers, you can kinda talk through those things, and how you're all feeling about it.

[00:07:39] You need those conversations as a manager. It's like I know in Engineering Management 101, Jem, you called out, like management is lonely. It is, it absolutely is. You have to show up a little bit differently than sub for your team, but you still need to have areas to be able to vent, or not be happy with some change.

[00:08:00] And that's okay, but you just need to know how you can vent on those. Awesome, well, thank you, Jem, that was definitely some great insights. I'm taking away some of your reflection material, so that's a really helpful tip.
>> Thanks, Ryan.