Retreating Inwards


A few weeks ago, I had the good luck of going on a retreat with a group of fellow managers at work. Initially I was hesitant to get together with a bunch of different people managers from around the company, whom I mostly didn’t know, to talk about our different situations as managers.

The hesitation arose not only around my lack of knowing them, but also around feeling like I wasn’t going to be “productive” for my team while I was away at this retreat (which is something I always think about when travelling for work). I kept thinking about how my time here would help make my team better, and avoid thoughts of it feeling like a selfish gesture to go on this trip.

However, at the end of this retreat I came out with a new group of peers to grow and learn with. Knowing that we have similar challenges, and that we all want what’s best for our teams.

The Scene

The rolling hills of Los Altos, California.

The location was beautiful. A retreat center nestled into the hills of Los Altos which very much allowed us all to shrug off our regular thinking and open up to each other about the problems we all face as managers.

There were about 15 of us, all different kinds of managers from all around the company. Design managers, Data Science managers, Product Managers, etc. Having a variety of folks there was nice in that we can all compare and contrast our different experiences and teams to see the issues we all have, and maybe some new ones that we should be conscious of that we didn’t know about.

I could tell some people, like me, went into this entire thing a bit unsure if they would get anything out of it. Over the next couple days I could see us all opening up more, trusting each other, and forming a bit more of a bond.

Some people had just become managers, some people were new to the company, and others had been there for a much, much longer time! All of us were in the same boat though as we’ve never been in the same room together.

The top of a palm tree showing the fronds from underneath

So Now What?

Through this retreat, and bonding with fellow managers, it has re-shown me the importance of investing in yourself and your career. Whether you’ve been doing management a while, or are new to it, the potential to “lone wolf” situations you are in is very high. This is even more so if you’re either distributed or the only one in your position at your company.

As managers, we learn through experiencing new situations. Sometimes we make the wrong decisions; we still learn, but it can be painful. Finding a peer group is literally getting to draw on everyone’s shared experiences to ensure, if nothing else, that you have the most information you could have when making a decision. These folks can advise you, and you can advise them. You can share stories, and ask for feedback that folks in your direct management chain may be unable to provide.

Finding that peer group isn’t always easy. If you work somewhere where there are other managers you should try to talk to them. The odds of you both having very similar problems might be very high, or maybe they’ve already experienced this issue and can provide guidance. If you don’t work somewhere that has peers in the same situation as you, I’d recommend joining a management community like The Watercooler (paid subscription required) or The Engineering Managers Slack Group (free) to join a group of folks that share similar sets of problems.

Lastly, if none of those work for you, or if you just want to chat about management feel free to DM me on Twitter @brianmichel, and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you might have.

A parking sign that reads 'Thou Shalt not Park here'.


tags #management