your people, but also in managing your
team’s work and objectives.
You need to know where you are going—again, you are looking at a two- to
three-year time horizon—and then it’s
your job to set up systems that will allow you to get there. When you manage
so many teams, you need to find ways to
make it easy to know what is going on:
˲ What metrics do you need to measure and pay attention to? Why?
˲ How do you set up structures for visibility into progress?
This can be done in a variety of ways,
from having skip-level meetings (those
that involve managers and employees
more than one level apart in the chain
of command) to setting up reporting
systems that automatically filter key
data points up to you. Don’t rely on just
one method. Be creative, and make sure
you are not getting a one-sided view.
Finally, how do you communicate
those key metrics to your leadership?
How will you communicate about success and failure?
Your success as a manager is now
even harder to define, because what you
do all day probably just looks like going
to lots of meetings. There is almost no
immediate, concrete output. It becomes
even more critical that you get clarity
from your leadership on what successful
outcomes will look like for you and your
team, and that you do the hard work today for big-picture results tomorrow.
Here is an overview of the transitions involved in becoming a manager
˲ Continue learning to let go of control
and allow people to make mistakes. Balance the importance of getting your way
with the risk of undermining your people. Focus on the calls that really matter.
˲ People management is still about
mentoring, but there is a new level of
transparency with your direct reports
about the rewards of their work.
˲ Your job is to think into the future.
How do all of your teams fit together?
How do changes in priorities affect the
way people and resources are distributed? It is always better to be the person
who can do more with less.
˲ Succession planning comes into
play. Make sure you have a solid plan
to grow your leadership bench and
maintain successors (or a plan) for all
˲ You are responsible for progress and
and experience under your belt. This
means a less shocking transition than
the one from IC to manager, but there
are still plenty of changes to adapt to.
For example, you should be well
practiced at letting go of micromanag-ing and instead trusting the people on
your team to do good work (that is, delegation). As a manager of managers,
however, the stakes of the work your
direct reports are doing increase.
Trusting your leaders. Now, instead
of your reports writing code that could
be fixed in a day or two, they are making hiring decisions, managing performance, and driving strategy. A mistake
here could have long-range and costly
consequences, so you must learn how
to balance trusting your team with
avoiding a disaster. If you override
your leads, it can erode trust in your
team—and you quickly become a mi-cromanager rather than a boss who
empowers the team.
This ultimately comes down to knowing what calls really matter. Where do
you need to be right, and where can you
trust that your reports will make the
right call or be able to course-correct
from a bad call? Overriding your direct
reports can erode their trust in you.
Knowing what calls matter comes
from understanding what is most important, and how these decisions influence the overall strategy. To put things in
perspective, zoom out two to three years
into the future and ask yourself the following questions:
˲ How do all of your teams fit together?
˲ How should resources be distributed?
˲ Which projects and people are
critical to the organization’s most important goals?
˲ What lessons do you need your
managers to learn?
˲ Where can you allow them to take
control and make mistakes?
˲ What areas cannot fail and therefore need your oversight?
Once you have criteria for what matters, the key is implementing the right
checks and balances so you can feel confident in the decisions being made (and
have enough time to make adjustments
when things go astray).
Your most important job becomes
picking your leads. As the manager
of one team, it’s still possible to keep
tabs on every single person. Not only
do you know their names, but you
probably have at least a semi-clear
idea of what they are spending their
time on day to day.
As a manager of managers, you have
not only your direct reports but also
their teams under you. That is a lot to
keep track of. In fact, it is more than you
can keep track of.
This is why it becomes critically
important to get the right people into
a few key roles. In engineering teams,
culture can be established at the man-ager/product level, but it can also come
in the functional unit. As such, having
a few really good senior people (
technologists, project managers, product managers and UX leads) can help
you maintain quality, excellence, and
progress. Connect with those people
and make sure they know how important they are.
The way you manage people will
also change. The people you are managing in these roles have been working for a while; they know how the
game is played. They are there for performance ratings, promotions, and
compensation. As a result, you can be
more transparent in your discussions
That does not mean you can completely forget about coaching and mentoring, though. As a manager, it is still
your job to help your direct reports
achieve their career objectives.
Planning for the future. As you move
up through the ranks at your organization, so do the people underneath you. If
you are an entry-level manager who loses
an engineer, that won’t sink the ship. As
the people who report to you take on
increasingly important and hard-to-re-place roles, however, you have to prepare
˲ What will you do if your best [fill-in-the-blank] leaves?
˲ What can you do to help make your
best people want to stay with your team?
˲ Which resources do you need today,
and what will you need a year from now?
˲ Who is on your team right now who
could move up in the future?
˲ Which jobs don’t exist today that
you will need filled in the future?
˲ Have any team members outgrown
their roles, or have any of the roles
changed enough that they are no longer
filled by the right people?
You need to be continually looking
into the future—not only in managing