As a manager, you will sometimes find yourself being judged in your line of work and are very likely to be held accountable for what your team does. You may even start feeling like your managerial skills are becoming less and less relevant over time.
You are constantly engaged in all kinds of meetings, one-to-ones or simply keeping an eye on your staff to make sure they’re on track and doing well. There’s simply no time for you to sharpen your own skills and get back on the right track. You might start feeling like an impostor and notice that you are often unproductive and drifting between tasks that previously would not have been an issue at all.
Define your own self-worth
How can you get back on track? Isn’t people management exactly how managers earn their pay? It’s very easy to see how productive individual contributors such as coders, designers and so on are. They have a job to do and the measure of their productivity is whether the job got done and to what standard! The product of their work can be measured and valued in an objective way.
Managing tech teams is a bit more complex and its value should not be viewed or measured in the same manner as individual contributors. Be careful though, judging your own productivity based on the group’s output is a fast track to frustration or even a burnout as the manager is not the “group”, strictly speaking. This dichotomy can be overwhelming if your own self worth has not been clearly defined.
What you’re here for
You’re probably here for some guidance, some advice on how to be a good manager and to recognize the value of your input to the company. Below, I have listed some of the most overlooked (yet obvious) indicators of being on top of things and doing your job right as a manager.
It’s also important to note that growing as a manager does not happen without growing as a person; these developments go hand-in-hand. In order to examine yourself as a manager you will also have to examine yourself as a person. This can lead to some self-realizations into your own flaws and behaviors and it’s good to prepare for this. Embrace it as this is where personal breakthrough happens.
1. Knowing where to start and what to do next – Locate and prioritize what has to be done to meet your expectations. Organize yourself so that you have a full understanding of the tasks. Being able to pull the right threads in the right order is the foundation of a manager’s work.
- Check: Do you have a clear vision or a roadmap of what has to be done in the following days or weeks? Do you know who’s doing what and are you comfortable with delegating work?
2. Delivering value for the company – It might be hard to believe but many leaders are not actually sure what success looks like for either them or their business. Having that “perfect” scenario in your mind will set the general direction of the business. Your first job as a manager is to get to the core of that and understand the value that you are supposed to be generating on the way to collective success.
- Check: Can you explain all the “whys and wherefores”? You must know why your team exists and be able to explain what the ideal, successful outcome looks like.
3. Assign tasks to people involved in the project – All hands on deck. Nobody in your team should be without clearly assigned tasks or goals, they should all know exactly what is expected of them. In addition, make sure that your team is not only aware of what their own job is, but also what the rest of the company is focusing on too. If your team doesn’t get into alignment with each other then you won’t be able to empower your people and you will end up with individuals working towards different goals instead of a cohesive team working towards a common goal.
- Check: Can your team members explain all the “whys and wherefores”? They should know why the team exists and be able to explain its importance for the process as a whole.
4. Create an environment for decision-making – As the manager, you can make those “last resort” decisions but where possible, you should defer to those in your team who carry out the work. In the perfect scenario, the manager makes no actual decisions at all but acts only as a guide. Sound a bit far-fetched? This is absolutely possible if the team is well-aligned and aware of every aspect of the process.
- Check: How many decisions come to you that shouldn’t? How much time do you spend debating things versus doing them? Do people work against decisions or commit to them?
5. Be the “go-to person” – People value leaders who are good listeners and proactively solve issues as they occur. Teams look up to their leaders and their respect lies in terms of whether managers trust them to do their jobs and if they are free to make their own decisions concerning what the appropriate course of action looks like. As the manager, if you take shortcuts in your own approach then it empowers your staff to do the same.
- Check: Do team members come to you to talk about work-related issues? Do they inform you if they are uncomfortable with a course of action or situation? Do you trust people to do the right thing?
6. Coaching and feedback – If your team isn’t moving forward then it’s staying behind. As it evolves, it will perform better which will result in the team achieving more. Make your feedback loops meaningful and make sure they are actionable. Don’t forget to actually listen to your team’s feedback too, it works both ways!
- Check: Do you know in which areas people can grow? Are you aware of where you can grow based on the feedback you’re getting?
7. Create an inclusive environment – People leave jobs because of various reasons. While this is often unavoidable, attracting “the right” people doesn’t happen without trying and it’s important for managers to work on this. As a company, you need to be involved in building proper work ethics and employer branding. Every employee is a living testimony of, and for, the company. By rewarding your team you can also set an example for people within your company who’ve outgrown their current teams to work in a positive and supportive manner.
- Check: Do you have enough people to deliver the value you are accountable for? Do you interview candidates? What are you doing to make sure the onboarding goes smoothly and the new staff feel comfortable within the team?
8. Celebrate success – Appreciation is a necessity, not a luxury. Success breeds success, positivity generates morale. If you’re working flat out and there are no breaks at all to celebrate your achievements then work becomes a drag. Recognizing good work helps to empower the individual and should be the cultural norm within a company.
- Check: Can you name three positive things that happened last week? Did you take the time to appreciate them verbally? A celebration can be an uplifting aspect of the feedback loop.
9. Turn Mistakes into Learning – At LEOCODE we try to document our setbacks and turn them into valuable lessons. Fail fast, fail better is one of our mottos. Your job as a manager is to turn issues into progress and create an environment where people are not afraid of saying “I don’t know” and admitting that they’ve made a mistake. Celebrate recovery from failure so that it’s seen as a valuable use of their time.
- Check: Does your team repeat the same mistakes? Are people afraid of admitting to making mistakes? Do you celebrate learning from previous mistakes?
It’s a wrap
The manager’s journey is rewarding far beyond the position itself. So far I’ve learned skills that have made me both a better, more valuable manager and a kinder, more understanding human being.
Some of the most valuable lessons I learned have come from outside my professional life (for example my beloved family is one of my biggest sources of inspiration). It takes awareness and purpose to not turn into an individual contributor or withdraw into a routine. My best advice is to do the opposite and enjoy being part of collective success.
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