4 Lessons For Managers From Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay is #careergoals.

Most people know her from directing Selma, a film about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. Along with that, DuVernay became the first Black woman to win the Best Director prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. She was also the first Black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe award for directing the film Selma. Just this year in 2017, DuVernay became the first black woman nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for her film 13th.

As you can see, DuVernay is definitely someone that we can all learn from. Recently, DuVernay shared on Twitter an email that she once sent to a new filmmaker seeking her advice.

Here’s how we can apply DuVernay’s advice to our own careers, and succeed as managers.

Utilize your team

“Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer. You don’t have to know all the answers to everything. More than half of people’s job is to help you find the answers.”

Fear of looking weak to my team was my biggest worry when I first started as a manager. I always wanted to be the manager that was “all-knowing” and that was a guru at everything. However, the reality was that I didn’t know everything and that there were plenty of people on my team that was smarter than I in certain areas. I soon came to the realization that it’s okay to not know it all, and that it’s okay to lean on your team for help (that’s what they are there for). By leaning onto them, they felt more empowered and valued in the end.

Take care of yourself

“Hydrate throughout the day.”

As a manager, you want to be on top of everything and in every place at every moment. You pride yourself on being a selfless leader and making sure that every member on your team are always happy and satisfied. If you are like me, you’ll sometimes forget about your own well-being and needs. As the saying goes, “you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first.” Make sure you are taking time out to take care of you, your basic needs, and for some self-care.

It’s okay to have fun

“Laugh and keep a warm atmosphere. We’re making movies not splitting the atom.”

Sometimes as a manager you can easily get caught up in work, and the seriousness of your projects that you forget to have fun. When this happens, you forget to keep the happy spirit alive within your team, and make work enjoyable. We have to remember that all work and no play can make your team (and you) go cray cray. As managers, it’s critical for us to get things done, but to have fun while doing it.

When shit gets rough, don’t forget why you started

“Remind yourself why you’re telling this story every morning on the way to set. Why it’s important to you.”

Work will not always be perfect; you will experience failures and hardships, and sometimes your team will drive you up a wall. When this happens, remember that bad experiences don’t last forever, and that whatever is going on is not the end to your story. Get up each morning with your goals in mind and your mission behind what you do each morning. Intentionally set time apart each day to remind yourself about your “why” and never let hardships get the best of you. By keeping a positive attitude and seeing the sunshine even during the hard times, this energy will bleed over to your team and will positively impact them.