I spent about four years as a manager at one stage in my career and it’s one of those things that I’m very glad I’ve done, as it was very rewarding in the end, but I’m even more glad that I don’t do now because it was probably the hardest, or at least the most stressful thing I ever had to do.
In my case (as I recall at least) – I generally scored average on internal managerial skills reviews. For a couple of years I tried to modify my behavior in response to my manager’s feedback in order to improve those reviews. That helped a bit (my manager was happier at any rate) but the improvements were small. I had pretty much accepted that I was an average manager and I’m not happy with average so I decided to go back to being an engineer, something I knew I could be great at. In the six months my transition back to being an engineer took I gave up on looking after my manager (and his manager and so on, hierarchy is a bitch) and decided to focus on working for my team. My final managerial skills reviews just before I left showed a dramatic improvement. That will be no surprise to any good managers out there, I’m sure.
Anyway the key thing in all this was that I learned a useful managerial trick that year – I spent my time looking after my team not (just) my boss, we all got a ton of really great stuff done, morale was way better and everyone (including my manager and the company) was better off. I also learned (finally) that you can actually learn to be a better manager, although I still think that really great managers need traits that can’t be taught.
This has all been a roundabout way to lead in to a great article I came across today that makes this very point and provides a very succinct set of guidelines on how to be a good manager. Truly great managers probably can’t be made from total muppet starting material but for the most part anyone having to “manage” people in anyway can become very good at it by following the advice here. For everyone else you should start demanding that your managers follow advice like this – life will be better for everyone if they did and a lot more stuff will get done.
That reminded me of an earlier link I found. It’s basically an over the top call to create a culture of adventurous achievement by doing one simple thing – get stuff done rather than fucking about. It flies in the face of bureaucracy, “process”, safety and stability but bloody hell the world would be a much more interesting place if we adopted its basic idea – get stuff done. Wouldn’t it be great to work in a place where this was the “mission”?