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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Being a Good Manager

Being a good manager is not only about getting your job done, but more importantly, earning the respect of your team. Some thoughts, based on personal experience:
  • Stop thinking of youself as a 'Boss' - whether you are the manager or not, you are first and foremost a part of the team. Don't alienate yourself by sitting in a high chair. Nobody likes a windbag.
  • Lead by example - I always think that to be a good manager, you need to understand what your team is doing. Even if you are not 'hands-on', you need to earn the respect of the team and make them believe that you have an overall guiding vision of what the team is working on. If not, you will end up, at best, being a resource manager.
  • Learn to Delegate - one of the hardest things for new managers is to delegate to and trust other team members. Typically, when a good engineer steps into the shoes of a manager, he still wants to do everything on his own - don't fall into this trap. If you do not delegate responsibility to your team, your team members will feel stifled and will not be able to grow. And guess what, delegation is one of the hardest things a good manager needs to learn to do well. It involves trust and the ability to succeed without micro managing
  • As a corollary to the above, never micromanage. No one likes being micro-managed. One of the things you will learn, as a new manager, is that when people are given a responsibility, most of them rise to the challenge. Give them a chance. Step back, keep a track of the overall goal but don't walk up to your team members every half hour asking what is going on
  • Be careful of overprotection - As a manager, it is critical for you to 'take care' of your team, which includes shielding them from harsh criticisms from others in the organization. However, be very careful of over protection. A good manager will always balance protection with positive criticism to ensure that while his team is motivated and happy, they also know their shortcomings so that they can improve. It is your responsibility to make sure that your team is on the path to constant personal improvement. The worst thing you can do is keep them under the impression that they are the 'best' and have them ignore areas of improvement.
  • Plan milestones for your team members well in advance (typically a year at least) - so that you can track their progress concretely through the year. Your team deserves to know how they performed objectively
  • Take performance reviews seriously - In a typical corporation, the rise of your team largely depends on the reviews that you propagate to the upper management. A review should be timely and as objective as possible. If you have a problem with a teammember, step back and think if its a problem with the team member or with you. If it is the former, before you put it in the review, consider if it is one-off, due to special circumstances or a repeatable problem that needs to be corrected.
  • Give an opportunity for your team to give you input on what they think of you. Most importantly, act on their feedback. Being a manage does not always make your right. Don't let your ego get into the way - learning is a 2 way process, from you to the team and from the team to you. Self improvement is key for you to improve as a manager and into a leader.
  • All work and no play... - Don't get too tied in with 'deliverables' and 'schedule'. Make some time to take your team out for a lunch or a party.
  • Challenge your team - once in a while push your team to achieve more than they think they are comfortable doing. Sometimes, team members need an extra nudge to innovative beyond their perceived limitations.
  • Recognize individuals and teamwork - I personally believe both are critical. Team recognition bolsters the team morale and person recognition provides a lot of individual motivation as well as urges others to rise to the challenge
  • Be ready to objectively explain individual recognition (or the lack of it) - As I mentioned above, I am of the personal opinion that individual recognition is key in addition to collective recognition. However, remember that it is the right of other team members to challenge/question you on why they were not recognized. As a good manager, you should be able to give concrete responses on lacking milestones due to which they were not recognized while others were. If your responses are objective and non-confrontational, it would usually be accepted and taken as an input for self-improvement.
  • 'Before declaring a bad apple, consider if its another fruit' - Remember that not everyone excels at every job. If you have assigned a person to be responsible in a particular area and for some reason, that person is failing in his work, don't just declare he is not "worthy" to be in your team. Often, a simple re-assignment to a different responsibility can change things drastically
  • Be there in times of need. There will be a time for everyone when they face personal/family problems. Those who genuinely help during these times of need are those who form long lasting friendships. Do as much as possible to help your team get over hard times, should they seek your assistance. Remember this - jobs come and go, teams form and break but friendships last for ever. When you genuinely help a person in time of need, this is never forgotten and this is how loyalty builds.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome article. I have it posted in the breakroom for my associates to review. Personally it inspires me and I learned alot form it!