Training your manager

Disclaimer: This is not about my current workplace. This is about all workplaces.

Whether you are a team lead, software architect, PM or a junior developer, you count on your team for stuff. Maybe if you are a one-man-team, you do this to a lesser-degree, but you still would have to count on yourself to fill those roles.

Each of the roles on a team, are there because they have a function in the process of writing software. Everybody has a job to do. If every job is done well, the whole thing works like a charm.

Believe it or not, management also has a job to do. I’ve met people who honestly thought the job of management was simply to watch you work and badger you. I’ve known others who thought the job of management was to set up snares to catch you when you made a mistake and then make you pay for it. I’m inclined to think that those people just didn’t have a realistic understanding of things. Maybe they were pessimistic or obtuse, or maybe just downright paranoid.

The really good managers are always there to help and you can see the value they contribute. For example, a good manager will do the following:

  • Ask if you need anything to do your job. If you need something, they acquire it for you or help you acquire it. (within reason)
  • Attend meetings for you and handle issues, so you can focus on your work.
  • They keep you informed, so you understand the big picture and see how you are contributing to the success of your organization.
  • They plan ahead. Short term plans are very detailed. Long term plans are more vague, but become more detailed as they approach.
  • They work with you to determine solutions and estimates, and technologies.
  • They do more asking than telling.
  • They encourage you to think about how you can grow your organization and yourself.
  • They get you the recognition you deserve.

Of course, not all managers are good managers. The career goal of a manager is to make other management believe he is doing a good job. That is how you get advancement. However, this is easily confused with the higher goal, of making management believe his people are doing a good job. Note the difference “I am doing a good job (regardless of my people)” vs “My people are doing a good job (therefore, I must be doing a good job)”.

Not all managers are born with the innate ability to recognize this higher goal, but that is no reason to distress. If you find yourself in the hands of a manager who is not taking care of you, you just need to work on that person, like you work on any of your other skills. Managers can be trained, they just need to see the carrot.

If your manager has some room-for-improvement, try asking him do to the stuff that you need him to do. Help him understand how this helps you and moreover, helps him.

  • If he is not giving you recognition, try showing him how this is done. Write a weekly document that highlights a few things
    • Accomplishments for the week
    • Plans for next week
    • Roadblocks or resources that you need
  • If you deliver something really valuable (like a weekly document highlighting accomplishments) and the manager says you don’t need to do this. Tell him that you like to do this and you know of other managers who ask for this kind of thing. Therefore, you feel obliged to do this yourself. Then mention how it must make his job easier, because his manager must need this kind of info from him. He can just copy it out of your status report and send it upward.
  • Do your own monthly evaluations and invite your manager to participate. After a few of them, the manager will see the pattern and join-in.
  • Find out what other kinds of paperwork a manager should be doing. Do it for him and give it to him. He will see that it is not that hard (since you were able to do it). Also, modifying an existing document is much easier than starting from scratch.
  • Make the time to talk about progress. Don’t just talk about the current problems, talk about small solutions to the current problems. Build momentum and a “can do” attitude. Turn it into a habit.

If you’ve never done this for a manager, you might be thinking that I must be kidding. It sounds like I’m suggesting that you do your manager’s work and he will get all of the credit for it. Well, you are half right.

This kind of paperwork does of course benefit you too. Visibility is rarely a bad thing for you (unless you have something to hide). Plus, some day, you might take a vacation day/week. That is a great time to pass the baton.

Training a manager might be something you’ve never tried, but like anything, you can learn to do it well, and reap the benefits.


About Tim Golisch

I'm a geek. I do geeky things.
This entry was posted in Career, IT Psychology, Lessons Learned, Professionalism, Team and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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