The Cohort: Helping junior colleagues lead can help you grow as a manager. Here's how to do it.

The Cohort is a Poynter newsletter about women kicking ass in digital media.

One of the joys of my role at the Wall Street Journal is working closely with our audience and analytics team.

Over the past couple of months, I noticed a slight change. Junior members of the audience and analytics team started coming to and presenting at meetings. This was intentional. 

Director of audience analytics Amanda Lilly and audience development manager Vivyan Tran oversee four staffers who have been with the company for almost a year. Once the new staffers got settled, Lilly and Tran wanted to make sure things weren’t getting boring, so they looked for a path to have them engage with editors more. 

“I wanted them to get recognition and face time from editors to see their work is important and going somewhere,” Lilly said. She took a management class offered through WSJ’s training program and then asked her direct reports about their motivations. Both told her they wanted to see the impact of their work. 

Lilly, a first-time manager, added presenting to editors as part of her staffers’ yearly goals. This was important to her because she wanted the staffers to have the opportunity to present their own work since they are often the ones crunching the numbers behind the scenes.

Pie: We rise by lifting others
Credit: mariesaba on Instagram

In meetings, I see her, Tran and their manager Carla Zanoni unafraid to signal when a junior member of the team is the best person to answer a question. Lilly said she learned a lot about elevating her team from Zanoni.

“It helped me grow a lot, and it’s a clear path for how I can help others grow,” Lilly said. 

This practice has helped create connections between these newer employees and others around the newsroom. 

“Everyone knows the one female VP or the women in the C-Suite, but it’s often harder to get visibility into entry-level workers,” said Caroline Cotto. Cotto formerly worked on female inclusion programming at HubSpot, a marketing and sales software company. 

One of Cotto’s top tips for elevating junior members of a team is writing recommendations. While at HubSpot, she hosted several LinkedIn recommendation writing nights where she trained employees on how to write an effective recommendation. 

“Women are trying to get into management roles, but they don’t always have people in their corner telling people they are great and here’s why,” Cotto said, adding that there’s often negative feedback when women brag about themselves

Recommendations should highlight the skills for the roles they want to move into and give examples of how they’ve gone above and beyond. This is particularly important to do for departing interns. You can also draft a quick recommendation-style email to a superior to brag about a colleague who has impressed you, even if they aren’t up for a promotion. 

If you’re involved in professional organizations, recommend less well-known women as speakers on conference panels or to serve on committees. Nominate them for awards. Reiterate their points in meetings, like the women in Barack Obama’s administration.

Wise words to live by: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without so many people helping me, and I love to pass it on. Being willing to go out of your way to help people when you can is a powerful thing,” Kathryn Minshew, founder of the career advice site Muse, told Quartz.


Things worth reading

How to rebound from a work mistake. The best way to pitch yourself for a job. The Financial Times is doing a lot of great thinking around engaging more female readers. Poynter’s Kristen Hare on what we need to be talking about when we talk about local newsrooms. Young women are convinced motherhood is going to suck. How to use your investments to help other women. NAHJ is offering a free one-year dues renewal for members who have been laid off. “That’s the absolute best thing about getting older: You start to know yourself more fully with every passing year.” On aging bodies and expensive skincare. 

Do your homework

“Breeeaaaathe.” — A very helpful text I got last week when I was having trouble being patient while waiting to hear back from someone. Reading her text, over and over, made me believe in it. If you find yourself getting anxious about something you can’t control, put a note by your desk that reminds you to breathe. It’s going to be okay. (Probably.)

Focus on the work

When Tasha Stewart was promoted to senior manager of engagement and next-generation content in the WCPO newsroom a few weeks ago, she got involved in a cool project where an illustrator was hired to illustrate tough-to-visualize immigration issues. She wrote up a plan for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, including audience segment targeting, and she drafted some potential questions readers might have, along with prepared answers for people in the newsroom to respond.

“I’m proud because although the project had been in the works for months, and I came into the process late, I think I was able to help expand the audience for the project and provide some context for users regarding the reporting process that went into it,” Stewart said. Poynter wrote more about the project here.


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