execution. It’s your job to make systems
that work, track the right metrics, and
share those results with your leadership.
Manager of Managers
to Organization Leader
When moving into a role that is several
layers above the engineers, your role
changes again. Now you are managing organizations consisting of unique
teams that may each have their own
culture, process, priorities, and mode
You have to decide where the teams
should have similarities and what most
benefits the organization as a whole.
Each structure is different, so it helps to
understand the principles that hold everything together: Is it about an aligned
strategy, decision making, sharing resources, or something else?
Moving from manager to executive is
a huge shift in your career. Probably the
biggest change you will deal with is this:
Your job is no longer the “what.” Your job is
now the “how.”
This shift will define almost every-
thing you do in this leadership role.
When you manage hundreds of people,
you become too far removed from the
people doing the “what.” Instead, the
way you add value is by defining and
streamlining the “how.”
Your job is to make an entire organi-
zation successful. Here are some of the
strategies that have worked well for me
Establishing your team culture. Give
up now on the idea that you will be able
to stay aware of everything going on
within the teams you manage. If you try
to make that part of your job, you will become the thing that holds back the talented people you have in place—which
is no way to retain top talent.
Instead, it is your job to establish a
culture for your organization. Once you
have the right people in the right places,
you need to step back and let them do
What does it mean to establish a
culture and values? Ask yourself these
˲ What does it mean to be in [team
˲ What do you stand for?
˲ How should decisions be made?
˲ How should issues be escalated?
˲ What are the principles used to
make tough calls?
Start by defining the values that you
feel are most important to your organization. This will inform everything
else. You want to start at the heart of
the matter—what does it mean to be
on this team and what do we stand
for?—and that will inform the rest of
For example, an Amazon manager
told me he never does pre-reads for the
meetings he runs. Instead, he sets aside
the first few minutes of every meeting
for all participants to read whatever document is being discussed in this meeting. In his view, very few people pre-read,
and this ensures the remaining meeting
time is effective.
This might seem like a small detail,
but it is indicative of someone who has
a clear understanding of his own values
and how he translates those values to
his team. It is one small way that he executes his vision for his team culture.
You will find that a large part of your
role is creating and maintaining a structure for work to be done within and communicated about. Which meetings need
to happen every week? Which happen
monthly, quarterly, and so on? How often do you meet with the entire organization? How do you share the roadmap,
and how often?
It is also critical to identify the cul-ture-keepers in your organization. Are
they the managers? Your senior engineers? Make sure you know who they
are, but also that they know who they are.
Show them you understand their value.
Help them see themselves as leaders
Every decision you make at this level
must be deliberate and reflect your organizational values. Once you make a decision, be open to reviewing it. If it’s not
working, iterate until it does.
Growth, mentoring, and people
management. How do you connect
with your team when there are too
many people to count?
The answer is, you try different things
until you see what works best. And then
you keep trying new things to avoid falling into a rut.
Here are a few ways to make yourself
available to connect with the people who
report to you:
˲ Office hours
˲ Group lunches with different teams,
randomly selected groups, and so on
˲ Sporadic one-on-ones
you move up
as a leader
you go through
a set of changes.
One of the biggest
when you first move
from an individual
into a management