Throughout my career (spanning more than a decade) I’ve been exposed to some really awesome managers and some really less than awesome managers. Through it all, I was absorbing and learning what is it that I would do and what is it that I wouldn’t and have come to the following conclusions:
- You do not need to be a subject matter expert (SME) but you need to know enough to not only talk the talk but walk the talk. Far too often I’ve seen managers who used buzzwords only to be called on them resulting in a blush and silence. You don’t want to be in that position.
- You have to be liked. Sure, if your presence is associated with a big whip you will get results but you will get no support and when you fall (and fall you will), you’ll be let to fall.
- It helps (though not necessary) if you were in the skin of the people you manage. I used to / still do manage developers (amongst other people) and I can say I do a good job (or so my boss tells me) because I was a developer at some point in time in the past.
- You have to be able to communicate. If you are not comfortable having a beer with the VP or CEO of the company (no matter how large the company) as if you were to have a beer with a CSR than you should probably learn how to do that or move towards an SME position in a field rather than deal with people. As a manger you are the focal point to whom everyone goes to.
- You have to be political. I do not mean back-stabbing. I mean political – answer in the grey but when required to clarify recognize that you must move from the grey into the black-on-white, clarifying without beating around the bush.
- At the end of the day – deliver. Sure, there are project plans, statements of work, estimates and a whole bunch of other papers that need to be filled out – but do not hide behind them. Ultimately you will be held accountable for the project you failed to deliver not for the fact you didn’t provide document XYZ under requirement III section a) paragraph 3.
- And least but not last – be humble. You are not the superstar – your team is.