So you want to be a manager?

This is a new category that I will be musing about, Management, about my experience and journey to be a good manager.

I have only been an engineering manager for two years. It’s not until recently that I really looked closely at my management skills and see what I can improve on. I talked with some attendees at the SD Best Practice 2006, some people might think they want to be a manager, unfortunately some for the wrong reasons. Here are some crucial things that you should consider before becoming a manager, let alone a successful one.

The one central element, above all else, that you must value and have, is the willingness and will, to help people succeed in life, not just work. Sincerely, without hidden agenda. Without this, you are one of the managers that are made fun of in corporate comics like Dilbert. I differentiated between will and willingness because, even if you are willing to do it (willingness), doesn’t mean you have the will to go through with it.

Here are some of the crucial elements expanded from the central concept:

  • You must be willing to invest time into your employee’s future.
  • You must be willing to groom your employees such that even if they leave the company, they will be well-off.
  • You must have a geniune concern about their well-being as a person, even if that means moving the person to another department or going to another job.
  • You must be brutally honest.
  • You must be concerned about where they are going in life! Because often where they want to be in life directly influence where they want to be in career.
  • You must be more interested in solving people and process problems over tangile and technical problems.
  • Above all else, you must have faith in people, that they want to do a good job inherently, and believe that people have good intentions.

Management is often compared to parenthood. It’s a great analogy. This is not meant to scare anyone wanting to be a manager off, but rather, I sincerely wish that more managers will keep these in mind. With these as priorities, I find it much easier to deal with your employees, then to have projects before them. Because if you do the above, you build great rapport with your employees, that you really care about them, as people. With that, your employees will return your gift of care by producing great work.

Some might think that’s naive and stupid, but I wholeheartedly believe that your chance at having successful employees is much higher than someone who doesn’t understand those qualities I mentioned.