How to become a manager

Collected from various resources to help me become a better manager.

  1. Know your peoples capabilities and never ask them to do anything they are incapable of.

    Its OK to challenge them a little, but never give them more than they can chew. You will be confronted with this when senior management gives you tasks that your team are incapable of meeting. The easy thing to do is simply delegate the tasks and put your head in the sand, but this will lead to unhappy workers, the job won’t get done, you’ll discipline your workers for their failure and kill morale, and you’ll look like a failure to your superiors. The harder thing to do is tell your senior management upfront that you can’t do it. But that’s what gets you respect. If your senior management won’t listen to reason, tell your team frankly what the situation is, tell them you don’t expect them to be able to achieve the impossible, but that you’ve got to do your job, so can they do the best they can and let you make the excuses later.

  2. Know what is going on.

    Your manager is going to ask you things like ”How long will this take” and you’re going to go and ask your people the same question to enable yourself to answer. Don’t make the mistake of giving people questions that they cannot answer and expecting them to do so. I don’t know how many times in the past I’ve had a dumb manager ask me how long this task will take, and refuse to accept ”I don’t have enough information to answer that and here is why” as an answer. Work with your people to get the real facts, and instead of presenting a number pulled out of your teams respective asses, present a break down of knowns, unknowns, mitigating factors, etc so that you’re not promising something you don’t know if you can deliver.

  3. Manage your planning.

    You don’t want to micromanage, but you do need to juggle a whole bunch of different peoples estimates and manage to coordinate peoples working together. Typically managers will either make the initial plan then let things go and remain in the dark, or they will have way too many meetings to ensure that they are up to speed. If you have too many meetings, only the few will have something to add, and it will be irrelevant to most present, with the result that everyones time is wasted and people percieve meetings as a waste of time. Not a good perception to engender in them. Instead, help each person involved understand what the red flags are that you need to be notified of and make them feel safe and welcome bringing them to you. That way you don’t need to micromanage but you will always know what is going on and will know where to reallocate resources before its too late.

I’m sure I can think of more things than this, but I’d say these are the most important points.

Oh, and I don’t have any formal management training whatsoever, so I don’t know how this holds up with conventional wisdom. I just know it seems to have worked for me.

BTW: Don’t read those books on Making Friends and Influencing People. You’re not there to make friends, you’re there to make shit happen. Try looking for How To Make Enemies And Infuriate People instead. Much more useful.

I certainly agree with this. I was in charge of a group (about 5) of developers on a project.

Some of them were simply not capable of performing ’higher level’ tasks, so those are the ones you honestly cannot push – and they don’t want to be pushed. They are good at mundane tasks, and enjoy those tasks. Give the higher risk – higher reward tasks to those that want to do it.

As far as ’knowing what is going on’ with each person and ’manage your planning’, I found it beneficial and useful to have a meeting with each person individually. This allowed me to help them work through any problems they were having, as well as get an idea of the progress they were making. If there was something that affected the entire group, then I called a ’real’ meeting. But, otherwise, the one-on-one meetings worked out better for me. (Yes, unless of course they are pair programming – but you get the idea).

Ideally, as a manager, one of your main tasks is to remove obstacles to progress for those working underneath you. Sometimes that means re-arranging furniture. Sometimes it means talking extensively to the customer. It rarely means working 18 hours a day to correct one of your workers poor results. As it has been said elsewhere, your overall picture is to make sure the job/project gets done. Late night heroics usually don’t get the job done – but a manager that can tell when a task is falling behind and can at least do something to change it has a much better chance of getting it done.

BTW, I also have no formal management training – but I have worked for really stupid people, and really smart people. Choose what works, discard the rest.

I agree here, but there has to be a level of authority. Note: I work at a large, soulless corp with lot’s of politics, but here’s what I’ve noticed/would recommend:

  • You are NO LONGER a peer. Do not act as such, it will undermine your ability to manage
  • Protect your people. I try to take the PM view I learned at IBM. I try to shield them from BS so they can focus. _I_ am the ”bad cop” to outsiders who are out of line. I NEVER ask my folks to take that role.
  • Listen to your folks, discipline is ALWAYS a secondary (or later) tactic for addressing issues. I have listened to a lot of screaming from my team. If they’re pissed, they barge in my office and let loose. They’re not disrespectful, they’re frustrated, angry, and want someone to listen and help. After they’re done, we figure something out. I’d rather they yell in my office than at some jackass outside the group.
  • Honesty. Whether it’s reviews, promotions, good, bad, whatever – be honest. Even if it’s – I can’t say right now.
  • Your tech skills will be gone soon. You’ll have exposure, but at a high level. I finally had to give up on the hands-on tech stuff. It’s not easy, but it’s the way it is.
  • Have a spine with upper mgmt. This doesn’t mean shoot your mouth off, but be ready and able to say ”no” in a firm but calm manner and help them ”make better decisions” when appropriate. Holding my ground and remaining calm has helped me a LOT. You will be granted precieved authority beyond your title which can make life easier.
  • Look long term and don’t get shaken my short term events. Your team will react in a similar manner to your reaction to news (merger, layoffs, uppermgmt change, etc).
  • ALWAYS remember – Karma is easier lost than gained.
  • Listen to older SUCCESSFUL managers who offer advice

That being said, I’m not totally certian I like this role, but I’m getting used to it.

Honestly the best managers are those that SERVE their employees. and that truthfully is your job.

you are not to reign over them, you are to serve them so that they can be more productive and in return generate more money for the company.

managers that rule with an iron fist and micromanage are those that DO NOT know how to be a manager.

Step 1 – if your employees are having trouble meeting their goals, it is your fault as a manager.

Step 2 – you employees are the experts of what they do, not you. Do you listen to them on how their job can be improved?

Managers NEVER know the best way to do something they hired a specalist for. you only hinder their job by butting your nose in, steering is acceptable as well as getting updates, telling them exactly what to do is highly unacceptable in all cases except for fresh recruits.

Oh, NONE of this can be learned in a classroom. Leaders are born not made.