Manager Monday: Passing the Torch to Next Year’s Managers

Publisher’s assistants are responsible for handling a wide variety of tasks. We’ve already written about our efforts to impliment Ooligan Press’s the Green Press Initiative, how we manage mailing so very many books, and what it’s like to represent our publishing house at a trade show. But as managers, it’s easy to forget about one of our most important responsibilities: training our replacements. One of the biggest challenges we face at Ooligan is our high turnover rate—the natural result of sending so many successful graduate students out into the world is that our teaching press must constantly adapt to new leadership. So how do we build better institutional memory, train new talent, and smooth the transition as new managers rotate in each year?
One of the ways operations is paving the way for next year’s new publisher’s assistants is by creating a new and improved Operations Manual as a resource guide for all things related to keeping the press running smoothly. We’ll teach our PA protégés how to file for copyright, how to update CoreSource, how to track our inventory, and how to show off our books at trade shows and conferences—among many other responsibilities. But what about the other managers? We asked around, and this is what fellow outgoing and incoming managers had to say about their experience:

A Who’s Who of Manager Wisdom

What has been the most memorable aspect (good or bad) of being a manager this past year?

“The most memorable aspect of being a manager for me is seeing a project completed from start to finish. Seeing Write to Publish 2016 transform from ideas (and many, many spreadsheets) on the computer screen to a full-fledged writing conference was lovely!”

“One of the hardest parts of being a manager for me was toning down my own helicopter parenting over the project. I think there was something very isolating at first, with a team that was almost entirely new and a project that was very unpredictable, and I was very conservative in my delegation of work. I had to work really hard to be less of a busybody and share the weight of the project—and it was such a great feeling to watch my team take that weight and run with it. Watching them grow in confidence and skill, coming up with such cool ideas and then making them happen—while always supporting and encouraging one another—that was the best. We could be in the middle of a giant messy catastrophe, and my team would be over here publishing books like it’s no big deal.”

“I’ve loved the buy-in of being a manager—that there isn’t anything to be gained except for exactly what you put into it. That means you put your heart and soul into the projects that matter to you, and you get to really see them play out in real time.”

What is one thing that you wish the previous manager of your department/project had trained you to do?

“My hardest lesson this year has been about project delegation. I assumed that members of my team would speak up about which kinds of tasks they wanted to take on, but I realized most people in their first few terms don’t know where their strengths are yet. I had to learn on my own how to get to know more about the personalities and work styles of my group members and how to assign tasks that gave each person enough hours of work in a diversity of departments—while still making 70 percent of the work fall within or around their comfort zones.”

“Staying organized with all of the google docs and spreadsheets and files was really hard. Once I started to realize that things were getting disorganized, it was basically too late to go back. Seriously, the amount of spreadsheets and various files W2P managers need to keep track of is absolute insanity. So I wish the previous managers had shown us what worked or didn’t work for them in their own file management.”

And finally, what is the one thing you hope your replacement(s) will take away from your training?

“I hope our replacements take away the long view to our department’s place in the press that we’ve tried to cultivate. We really think about Ooligan’s list and market potential when we develop pitches, and our weekly lessons are designed to get students more familiarity with publishing early in the program before they’ve taken a lot of classes.”

“It’s easy to be hard on ourselves, but forgiveness and compassion toward our own mistakes is a challenge worth striving toward. (Is this just an editor thing? We tend to beat ourselves up over the tiniest details—a typo or two is a fraction of a percent of an entire book, but it’s enough to ruin an editor’s entire month.)”

“I hope that my replacement ends spring term with a solid set of actionable goals for the summer and a good idea of what she wants to accomplish in that time. I think summer term is a really useful period for testing the water and growing into the production schedule, and I hope that I can leave her with enough direction, tools, and strategy to support the team through the summer while they all figure out their new team dynamic and assess where to go from there.”

“I hope, more than anything else, that Sophie will understand that the tools needed to be a great leader and a great project manager are already skills she has. There is no catching up to do and no people she needs to convince of her competence. If there are questions along the way, we know she will creatively and effectively use her resources to find solutions. That’s why she got hired!”

Can you match our managers with their answer? We want to thank all our outgoing managers for their dedicated service and wish everyone the best of luck as we launch a new generation of leaders at Ooligan!