For the past year and a half, I’ve been working as a content manager for a tech start-up.

The industry isn’t the most exciting, but the diverse tasks of creating, coordinating and delegating keep me afloat.

I thrive in versatility, so the content manager life chose me.

Yet, making the switch from being a content writer to a content manager was no easy feat.

When you’re a writer, you fly solo and only need to worry about yourself.

Gone are the days of focusing only on meeting your own deadlines, suddenly you’re accountable for others as well.

On top of that, no one prepares you on how to work well with others.

You know, people skills. #introvert

After making the switch from flying solo to managing others, here’s what I learned navigating the content manager world:

1.Stop Feeding People Compliment Sandwiches, Try Constructive Feedback Instead.

As a writer, I’ve eaten my fair share of compliment sandwiches.

Now that I’m on the serving end of it, I’ve realized just how ineffective this overused tactic is.

For those that aren’t aware of it, the compliment sandwich involves starting with a bit of praise, then giving a bit of criticism, and finishing with a bit more praise.

By doing so, the person on the receiving end won’t get as “offended” by your feedback.

On paper, it sounds great, but in practice not so much.

Whether we like to believe it or not, the truth is criticism sticks.

You can wrap it up in a pretty bun otherwise known as the “compliment sandwich” but that middle layer comes with an aftertaste.

From personal experience, it’s the equivalent of saying “no offence” and following up with an offensive remark.

After being on both ends of this tactic, I realized that people can see through the BS.

For example, I once got told that an article I wrote was very good, but my excessive use of quotations was abusive and needed to stop, but otherwise, everything was good!

Guess which part stuck the most?

You guessed it: the abusive “quotation” bit.

As someone who used to spend my day's cold pitching and getting rejected, a little negative feedback doesn’t hurt.

What bothered me was the lack of constructive feedback.

You know the kind that offers an actionable solution.

Instead of burying important feedback with positive words, a more effective approach would be offering constructive feedback as a standalone instead.

Rather than saying:

“Great article! But you need to stop abusing your use of quotation marks, it makes us look like we’re endorsing a site ;)”

Try instead:

“You’re using quotation marks a little too much throughout the text, I’d like you to underline the source instead, it’ll look cleaner.”

One criticizes and attempts to “soften the blow” with an emoji and positive words while the other provides context to the problem and offers a solution.

A compliment loses values when it’s wrapped up in negative and unconstructive feedback.

For this reason, whenever I provide feedback to a team member, I try to avoid the compliment sandwich and provide context right away.

That way they know where they need to improve and most importantly, HOW to go about it.

It also shows I care enough to want them to learn from their mistake(s).

After all, proper feedback provides a learning opportunity and room to grow.

Whereas unclear or fluffed up feedback, just leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

2. The Key to Teamwork Is Understanding Each Other’s Work Styles.

Working as a content writer, I never had to worry about managing other people.

Let alone work with a sales team on delivering video content and creating deadlines for them.

The only tasks I had were writing quality articles and getting them in on time.

Meeting deadlines was never an issue for me.

On the contrary, being a content manager I have to ensure other team members meet their deadlines.

Which always gets sent too early or too late. Never on time.

Working with a sales team, I’ve come to notice how “on the go” they are.

Their top priority is sales. Jumping on leads and acquiring demos are what they do best.

Anything outside of that is put on low priority or on the backburner.

In the beginning, I took it personally.

Yet the more I understood my team, the more I realized it had less to do with me and more to do with their overall work style.

Which turns out was a lot more fluid than mine.

According to Fast Company, there are 4 work styles: guardian, drivers, integrators, pioneers.

Each come with their own set of strengths and weaknesses.

As a “detail and idea-oriented” person, my style is a cross between guardian and driver.

In other words: I thrive on structure. To-do lists and meeting deadlines are my jam.

Whereas the majority of my team are pioneers that are more spontaneous and free-flowing.

Since I’m not their boss, I don’t have the agency to demand they meet their deadlines and don’t want to appear as a nagging mother either.

In order to work well together and receive tasks at a reasonable time, I learned to adapt to their working style by giving them the flexibility they need while also establishing expectations.

For example, since the sales team works on the fly, one team member would take the opportunity to work on her video during the weekend and submit it by Sunday.

Additionally, I lead with empathy and make honesty my best policy.

I knew they weren’t crazy about making videos and they weren’t always easy to make.

Just like writing, getting in the “flow” can take several edits.

Empathizing with them and having an open conversation with how I’m not out to be their boss made room for honesty to grow.

Secondly, stepping away from my managerial role helped reshape their perspective of me as some Gestapo but rather a person who just wants to be able to depend on her teammates.

Learning how to work with teammates with opposing work styles is no easy feat but cultivating honesty and leading with empathy helped create a stronger working relationship in the long run.

3. When Working With Designers: Speak Their Language

As a writer, it’s easy to assume words are the only form of communication.

After all, emails are constantly filled with them.

After coordinating image requests with a handful of graphic designers and going through a painful back/forth email exchange I realized that something had to change.

Not only was communication a total sh*tshow but the final images always came back missing something.

As easy as it was to blame the designer, I realized graphic designers are a lot like writers in that they need direction to know where they’re going.

Designers aren’t wizards. They can only wave their wand and work their magic once you give them clear directives.

With writers, articulation and content briefs work best.

With designers, words aren’t always enough to describe an ambiguous vision your boss may have.

Visual references are key. In other words: speak their language.

Once I started providing visual examples, the back/forth email exchange drastically reduced and the final images came out great.

Understanding that people communicate differently was a gamechanger that saved a lot of time and headaches in the long run.

4. Never Assume Anything.

I’ll never forget my first day on the job as a social media coordinator.

My manager messaged me on Skype throwing acronyms my way that made me feel like I was in an episode of Star Trek.

From “ETA” to “LMK and “EOD”, I had no idea what they meant and was embarrassed to ask.

My boss didn’t know any better and assumed I understood this lingo.

It was uncharted territory but thankfully Google paved the way for me.

Similarly, she also assumed that because I happened to fall sick twice on a Friday, I was pulling a Ferris Bueller and ditching work.

When in reality, it was anything but the case.

“When we make an assumption, we swear they are true, when our assumptions, most likely, are not true.”Jessica Lynn, Medium writer

Needless to say, she was a micro-manager who assumed the worst.

A big source of it stemmed from a lack of trust and a need for control.

This is why working as a content manager, I try not to assume anything and trust my teammates.

We’re human after all and given the current situation we’re living in; life can get in the way.

I’m also mindful of patterns and know when someone is taking advantage of a situation.

But for the most part, I don’t let assumptions override my judgment.

If someone doesn’t respond promptly, I won’t assume they’re slacking off, but become curious and give them an opportunity to explain themselves.

Most of the time, they’re apologetic and have a valid reason.

For example, if there’s someone new to the team, I won’t assume they know all the office lingo or are familiar with using Hubspot or WordPress, I’ll ask them instead.

Asking opens the door for communication, assumptions close it and make the other person feel inferior.

When you assume, you’re casting judgement but when you care, you’re showing interest.

Conclusion

Making the switch from being a content writer to a content manager is a different ballgame.

You’re no longer flying solo 24/7 but are steering a ship with others on board and are responsible for navigating it the right way.

Levelling up your communication skills by ditching the compliment sandwich, understanding your team’s work style, speaking their language and never assuming are some of the many ways you can prevent your ship from sinking.

Take it from someone who made the switch, there’s always more to learn, but if there’s smooth sailing, you can still fly solo from time to time.

All it takes is open-mindedness, some degree of empathy and most importantly: a willingness to adapt.