This is my final day squatting in a management job. As I reflected on the past six weeks, I realized that everything I learned could have been gleaned from my daughter’s favorite TV show.
If a preschooler doesn’t dominate your remote control, you may not have heard about this hip little series starring five creatures that look like they were designed by someone on meth. I can’t decide who’s trippier—Muno, the cyclops with serious acne, or DJ Lance, the skinny disco dude in the orange jumpsuit. (You can read more about the show and its creators in a piece by my colleague Carolyn Sayre in TIME this week.)
In every episode, the bizarro creatures sing about everyday values and lessons that, upon reflection, apply to office behavior. Following, a management guide to Yo Gabba Gabba songs:
• Try it; you’ll like it. I have commented on more than many occasions that I want a management job like I want a bullet in my foot. In many ways, the experience did resemble getting shot. Yes, my e-mail quadrupled; my meeting schedule quadrupled; my agita quadrupled, too, as the buck for every mistake stopped with me. But there were aspects I discovered I liked—and, moreover, that I wasn’t so bad at. I liked finding solutions to problems. I liked working with my colleagues, who are to a man dedicated and talented. I liked having a say at meetings I don’t usually bother to attend.
• Take some baby steps. When my bosses asked me to fill in temporarily for a retiring editor, I dreaded the stint with the whole of my gut. But what helped was to assess the tasks day by day, hour by hour. I started out making lists—of assignments, of story ideas, of who was working on what. I took one baby step, then another, and before I knew it, we had wrapped up an issue, then another, then another.
• Don’t, don’t, don’t bite your friends. Managers say some alarming things. As a pretend-manager for a few weeks, I was privy to some pretty biting comments made by my colleagues about other colleagues. Some of them got pretty personal. My workplace isn’t exactly lauded for great communication, so you can bet these comments don’t make it back to the subject, at least in a direct—and thereby possibly useful—manner. If I were a real manager, I think I’d try really hard not to bite my friends this way. I’d save the trash-talking for my blog.
• Keep trying. Don’t give up. If a manager does her job well, she makes her staff look good. At my workplace, that means getting their stories in the magazine. My stint in this job confirmed what I have always suspected—that there are many reasons stories get bumped from the lineup, but there are times the article’s editor needs to man up and bulldog the story in. That’s a lesson I can take back to my real job as a writer. Talent counts, but persistence pays off.