It’s been ~12 months since I started managing an engineering team, and I’ve learned so much from them. Here are 9 things I wished my previous managers did (or didn’t do).
No scheduled 1-on-1’s
Make it clear that you don’t have to wait until a recurring touchpoint to bring up issues. Always be available for chats; enabling them is your primary job. Also, translates to: don’t be so busy it deters people from reaching out. Having them think, “He’s probably not busy; I can give him a call,” is a good thing.
Please don’t ask them to translate company goals into personal goals: that’s your job. Put their development first: if they do well, the company does well. If you put them first, they start looking after the company as a result. Also, don’t define goals on a set period; let them evolve and breathe as you go.
Always increase due dates by 50-75%. Software development is always unpredictable, and quality takes time. Build in room to think. If a project is surprisingly quick, don’t move up other things; let the engineer fill their time. Multiple times, this ‘off time’ resulted in innovations and 10x optimizations of existing systems.
Write open briefings on big decisions affecting others, documenting your thought process. That way, you have a paper trail for people to understand your why. It’ll also invite comments and feedback. I use Notion for this, which is a 100 in collaborative writing.
Keep communications in business hours
Schedule your communications (email, slack) if you work outside regular hours. It’s your choice to work at night, don’t imply they have to as well. Even if you tell them they don’t have to reply, most of us see the emails at night and almost have a Pavlov reaction to respond.
There’s no room for hidden agendas, even if you think you’re sparing them from reality: they’ll find out anyway, which is worse for morale than if you’re upfront.
Jump in if needed, but let them do their thing and get out of the way. Be a sounding board and sparring partner, but don’t make a decision when asked for an opinion. They’ll get there on their own and feel way better about it.
This one won’t work for everyone, but: no meetings with 4 or more people. At all. We do everything asynchronously: write proposals and designs with continuous feedback a few weeks before a project starts, including all viewpoints into a project before it starts. Again, all done in Notion. Async might warrant its own thread. 😉