Becoming the hybrid between manager & maker usually happens when you are either a one-person company or when you try to scale up.
Most companies start with one or two founders. Maybe even a hobbyist or a one-man (or woman) show who’s looking to grow.
In the beginning, everyone starts off as makers – they are the ones doing everything. But then, you have to become a manager as well.
If you’re a content marketing company, you were writing the content. If you’re a SaaS company, you were writing the code yourself, etc.
As you start growing your business, you find yourself in a situation where you now have to keep “making” things (writing code, text, etc.) but now you also need to manage your new team/co-workers.
While it sounds like a natural evolution of your role as a business founder – the transition phase between the two is a pitfall a lot of small businesses tend to fall into.
After the topic had come up with various business owners (some are startups, some come from other industries), I’ve decided to share my story/struggle and how I solved it.
Becoming the Maker/Manager hybrid
Over the last 18 months, I’ve been living a double work-life.
I’ve been working on a new venture, and I found myself in a whole new role. I went from being a pure maker into a maker-manager hybrid.
I come from the day-to-day grind of growth and content.
I’m used to writing all the content for my clients, connecting the API’s, creating the automation, running the tests, planning the strategies.
From the overall view down to every detail in the headline or pixel implemented.
I was focused on getting better and better at my craft – like any maker does.
About 18 months ago I started experimenting and scaling my work by building a team.
I found myself going from 100% maker into a part-time manager. I was now a 50% maker and 50% manager.
A Maker and a Manager have different needs
The issue with balancing the Maker-Manager mindset is that they have different needs and you need to appreciate and give each of them what they need.
They both take expensive resources such as Time, Energy and Attention.
They fight over those very limited resources – draining from each other and especially from you.
If you are right now in a similar transition phase, you’d probably recognize it by how much less you’re able to get done during the day.
Suddenly three meetings and two tasks can completely block your day.
If you just wrote a 2,500-word blog post, it’s very hard to go straight back into the “meeting-with-client” mindset, or interviewing a new potential employee.
You can physically do it, but at the moment, you’re in your best performance. Your brain is just not there yet.
If you just went through a 3-hour kick-off meeting with your team, planning your next action items, it will be very hard for you to go back to your desk and do some copywriting for your new website.
Regaining focus when switching from one task to another takes time. Switching between mindsets takes even longer.
5 Actionable tips to balance the Maker VS. Manager mindset
The first step in living a good Manager-Maker balance is understanding that they have different needs – structure your days around that.
Managerial time can be broken into smaller segments of 20 minutes.
Maker time, on the other hand, needs big chunks of uninterrupted time because any attention breakers can slow down your work by requiring up to an additional 20% from your time and effort.
So how do you balance both? This is what’s been working for me:
1. Pre-schedule time for each mindset
When scheduling your week, make a list of what tasks need your managerial attention and what tasks need your maker attention and block time accordingly.
If you’re an early riser like me, I schedule 2 hours (between 08:00-10:00) for “Maker Time” before stepping into the office or opening my inbox.
That’s how I can guarantee my mind won’t get distracted by any email I read. The emails will get answered at 10:00.
If this doesn’t work for you, I would recommend starting your day with 30 minutes of managerial time and then block 2 hours for Maker Time (depends on your task).
Another option is setting between 1 or 2 days a week in which you can start with 20 minutes of “Manager Time” in the morning (to make sure everything is running) and then block the rest of the day for Maker Time.
Again, depends on your capacity and your needs.
2. When being a maker – remove yourself from the space you are managing.
If you’re sitting with your team, they would want your attention. It’s just how it is.
If they don’t ask for it, you will still be distracted by your urge to manage what is around you.
The best way to guarantee you won’t get distracted – is to remove yourself from the scenery.
I’m not talking about a different room; I’m talking about leaving the office.
This is where I’m writing this post:
3. Predefined tasks for your time blocks
Don’t wait for the scheduled time to figure out what are you going to do in it.
If you’ve blocked 30 minutes for the managerial mindset, don’t start your 30 minutes by thinking “what should I do now.”
Plan ahead! – “This 30 minutes are for emails and cleaning my inbox”.
Same goes for maker’s mindset – it’s hard to get into the zone. If you’re blocking 3 hours of your work day, don’t waste time by wandering off on your to-do list.
Also, creating those mini deadlines (in 3 hours I will have X ready) will help you get it done. It’s called the rule.
4. Plan your tasks at the beginning of the week
How much time do you need to spend this week as a maker and how much time as a manager?
Once you know the critical tasks for the week/month, you’ll be able to efficiently save time for each.
Be flexible based on what you see is needed and would be more beneficial for your business.
5. Plan for one of them to eventually go away
Don’t forget – your goal is to become either a great manager or a great maker eventually.
In the long run, the 50%-50% situation is not productive for you or your business. So start working on eliminating one of the two.
Some makers would like to stay makers forever, and they can hire managers (yes, even someone to manage your company as you remain as the primary shareholder and a maker).
Or you’d rather complete your transition from maker to manager and then you’ll have to make sure you bring amazing people to work with you and train them properly.
Quick note for the romantic makers out there:
It’s important to notice that there is a difference between becoming a 100% manager and stop being a maker altogether.
For example – as we’re building a new company, when it comes to marketing, content, and growth, I am hands on (maker mindset) as well a the CEO (manager mindset).
Why? Because I think that in what I do, it’s important to always to keep your hands in the dirt to maintain congruency.
Also, I started this company because I love doing what I do and don’t want to stop doing it – and this is why I’m writing this blog post.
I do it for our company, but my team is doing the hands-on for our clients.
Still, my official role is mostly managerial and strategic, even if I still do some of the hands-on tasks myself now and then.
Now to you
The biggest problem people face with the manager vs. maker duality is not acknowledging it for what it is and the differences they hold.
If you don’t appreciate the different needs in each mindset, you’ll be stuck in juggling both unproductively which will eventually lead to frustration and your business being stuck.
I found that by understanding the differences between the two, you can optimize your approach and find the right balance.
Now to you – how do you manage this conflict? Let me know in the comments.