A 15-year learning path! During which time, I’ve grown up from software engineer to tech leader then manager. First, as an operational manager and then as an executive manager. Moving from the tech path to the management one is not a natural way even if it was like a norm or like the only way to evolve for a lot of companies in the past (and even today…). The set of skills is not the same. Management is not, and should not be, the only way for tech leaders to evolve. I’ve gone to the management path by choice. I love tech and having my hands in it. But I feel even better designing the organization flows and taking care of collaborators.
I’ve learned (/discovered) a lot during this path and I wanted to summarize what became my key principles as a manager. You may disagree with some of them or find them obvious. This is not a source of truth, just the ones I try to use with my teams.
# Define the vision, spread it again and again
There is no magic recipe for involving people. But one point I truly believe is you won’t succeed until you have clearly defined where you want to take them. What they are working for. This is especially true when you are building a distributed organization. One of the main pillars in this case is autonomy. And to let your teammates being able to take this autonomy, they should know where they need to go. Only once is not enough. The vision should be spread as often as possible to keep the teams focus on what matters.
# Give trust, autonomy and ownership
Talking about autonomy implies trust and ownership. We may even prefer the notion of accountability which engage people on results. This is not an easy part at first for all the managers. Letting ownership & accountability may appear as a loss of power. But here, our main focus should be to remove all the roadblocks to let the teams deliver values in a sustainable way. Just keep in mind that autonomy comes with trust and accountability.
# Hire the right people, not only the best. Teams cohesion is key
This may seem like an obvious concept. But it’s not an easy part to build a team with the right mindset. Making the trade-off during the interview process between the technical and the soft skills. It’s not just about hiring the most skilled people. We do not speak about individuals, but about a system. You have to create a system which performs well. And for that, the cohesion and the adherence to the company’s values must worth your attention.
# If I have a doubt, I have no doubt
Thanks to the CEO of Platform.sh. This sentence tends to become one of my main mottos. It can be linked to the previous principle in the idea that it’s preferable to miss a hiring due to a doubt than doing a bad recruitment. And when I did not follow this motto (mainly in HR), there were often disappointments.
# Help your team managing the priorities
As team’s delivery is one of our main objective, this topic is essential. No prioritization, or even worse a bad prioritization, is clearly a productivity killer. The fact is the teams are dealing with several stakeholders, each with differents priorities. And/or several teams are focused on different priorities without being aligned. It’s our job to put the right framework to help the teams manage that.
# Stop starting Start finishing
Help manage the priorities by getting things done. It’s easy to keep the last tasks for later and start on the new priority. End a project need some efforts that worth being done as it clears your backlog and free your focus.
# What does not exist, does not exist
When you have dependencies, do not base your roadmap on other teams roadmap. If you need something that does not exist yet, do not expect to have it on time and make your backlog with this consideration in mind. Or even better, setup an inner-source culture where each team can help their dependencies by implementing what they need.
# Decisions should be made! And made with data & analysis
This may seem obvious, but it is one of our main activities: Making decisions! A well-known expression summarizes in itself what is it: 1/2 decision = mess^2.
Of course, feeling is important for this decision, but arguing with data and being able to measure impacts is a success factor that can help doing the right choices.
# Bring solutions on the table, not only the problem
Train the teams to bring solutions when they expose an issue (taking care to not create a fear atmosphere when they do not have solutions, that would lead to a shadow issue management). That will make them more involve and more responsible for what is happening. It’s a good mechanism to evolve from a passive behavior to an active behavior, and delegate the control (not the responsibility) to the team.
# Increase the level of requirement
And finally, maybe one of the most valuable principle I’ve learned these past 2 years. Being challenged is one of the ingredient for all of us to remain fully engaged and motivated. Take care of people, but stay result oriented. As a manager, increasing the level of requirement is a good way to achieve continuous improvement in your organization.
An essential point to perform these principles is to define an efficient way of communication. It could be different for each person, try to find a common language with your teammates. For me, the following behaviors have changed the game over the years:
- Be transparent
- Communicate easily and frequently
- Be concise
- Go straight to the point
- Do not act as an intermediate, bring to the table the right people for the right subject