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Transitioning from individual contributor to manager

When you switch from an IC role to an engineering manager role, your technical competency is one of the biggest strengths. However, you don’t want to solve everything for them. When it comes to a technical discussion with your team, you need to adjust your communication style.

  • Ask questions instead of suggesting solutions
  • Talk less, listen more
  • Guide them with your questions in the right direction
  • Give them freedom and they will surprise you

Influencing without Authority

influencing-without-authority

When you are working with a group of people who trust you and respect you for your technical competence, it is easy to influence and get their buy-in.

When you are put in a circle of people who don’t know you well, you can’t assume people will recognize your competency just because of your background or title. You need to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise through discussions and by asking the right questions. That’s when people start respecting you. Once you earn their respect, you need to invest in building a relationship with them.

Earning respect for your expertise and building relationships are the two fundamental building blocks of influencing without authority.

How to start delegating to develop people on your team

As a manager, when you delegate work, it can’t be just a discussion of productivity and quantity of work. You need to tie that in with an aspect of professional growth. That’s when they get excited about the new project.

Once you get them excited about the project, you need to support them. Help them create a plan, review their work through periodic check-ins, and set up a mechanism to make them successful.

A simple technique to delegate effectively – Task Relevant Maturity

When you have managers and technical leaders reporting to you, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is when to step in and when to stay hands-off.

If you have an experienced manager reporting to you, the natural tendency is to keep delegating more and more with minimal direction. If you have a new manager reporting to you, the natural tendency is to delegate with a lot of hand-holding. This approach doesn’t work well. This is where the concept of Task Relevant Maturity (TRM) comes in. A term coined by Andy Grove in his book High Output Management.

If there is a type of project that your direct report has never dealt with before, you need to dive deeper and collaborate with them closely irrespective of their general experience level as a manager because their TRM level for a given task is low.

An experienced manager might have a high TRM when it comes to people management but low TRM when it comes to helping the team with the right technical choices. The opposite might be true for new managers. You need to change your management style based on the situation.

You’ll create the biggest managerial leverage if you focus on increasing TRM of your direct reports.

Truth about receiving feedback as a manager

Manager blind spots!

More often than you might assume, managers are unaware of what their people really feel about their leadership.

As a manager, you need a few folks in your staff who can provide you candid feedback, challenge you, and uncover the blind spots for you. 

Keep your manager in the loop by communicating up

As a leader, while you want to demonstrate that you can operate independently and run your own show, it is important to keep your manager in the loop about the progress you are making and hurdles you are overcoming. 

Don’t wait for them to ask for an update. Most managers will appreciate an update even if they haven’t asked for it. 

Frequent concise updates are a lot more useful than infrequent lengthy updates.

The simple formula to uncover your blind spots as a manager

When the intent of your action doesn’t match the impact, many times the underlying reason is your blind spots. Proactively ask for feedback from your peers, direct reports, and manager. A simple question – “Do you have any feedback for me?” – goes a long way in uncovering these unknown unknowns.

An easy way to know your team better

Beyond project status and deadlines, it is important to connect with your direct reports, know them as a person, connect to their story. When you know something is happening in their life outside of work, talk about it rather than sidestepping it. Let them know that you care.