Jason Fried wrote a post a while back on being a bad manager. His observations are delivered in a stream of consciousness and cover a number of topics, some, like the need to practice, really resonated with me. Yet, there was no final answer nor fully coherent thesis, which, coming from a voice that’s never been shy about expressing opinions on how people should work, shows how difficult this topic is.
There is clearly a large disconnect between the importance of managers (especially those not in the executive layer) and their perception. Managers account for 70% of the variance in individuals engagement, according to a Gallup Study. However, when asked to picture a “middle manager” many of my generation will respond with “Bill Lumbergh,” the antagonist in “Office Space.” Lumbergh is a caricature of the bad manager, but one that is also clearly oblivious to how awful he is. Which sets out a sad reality suggested by Fried’s article: managers are important, but the default state is to be a bad one. Which seems to be doubly true if what you were before being a manager was a really good individual contributor.
The question then is how do I avoid being a bad manager? It’s a question that I’ve asked myself as I’ve transitioned from being an individual contributor to a team lead to a manager with HR responsibilities. I don’t think I have all the answers, but I feel the first step towards being a better manager is to understand the differences between being an individual contributor and a manager. In this multi-part series, I’ll explore the following topics:
- Managers have to self-evaluate success differently
- Managers have more stakeholders
- Managers need to enable, IC’s do
- Managers need to promote the team and themselves
- Managers “level up” differently than individual contributors
The first post in the series will be about one of the hardest parts of being a new manager, how to evaluate your own progress when the job is to lead instead of do. This can be especially tricky when the manager retains some responsibilities as an individual contributor.
Check back in shortly for the next installment.
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Another new Manager Challenge: Managers Have a More Stakeholders
Bad managers never shift from the mindset of an individual contributor. Great managers broaden the number of stakeholders when making decisions.
Self-Evaluating Success as a Manager
In the first part of my series on understanding the difference between management and contribution, I focus on the challenges of evaluating success.