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What's a Good Manager Expand / Collapse
Posted Tuesday, January 16, 2007 2:37 PM
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Excellent observations!

My value add? ... Good managers DO NOT need to be past technical experts! Some of my best managers (in my technical life) have been non-tech backgrounds. They knew how to mange and lead. Emphasis here is on both MANAGE and LEAD. Technical attributes are a 'nice to have'.

Over the years, I too have worked for a broad range of managers, and like most others, walked ASAP if things were bad and did not improve. Many companies and departments do not have the mechanisms in place to notice these sort of trends as they only care about short term results, and not notice how they got them. It is not intentional, it is just the way their management practices are set up.

My one note of value here is that the best places I have worked at, invested and supported leadership training. The places that did not, well I have a fovourite comment from a co-worker many years ago that these places "are like cess pools, where all the $#!& floats to the top" unchecked.

Good management characteristics? Honesty, positive cameraderie, integrity, and professionalism.

Post #337326
Posted Wednesday, January 17, 2007 3:43 AM


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Management is parenting people you don't love, who are frequently older than you are.

It's not easy.
Post #337402
Posted Wednesday, January 17, 2007 9:24 AM


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just remember that you too will be "old" one day, although in the case of some mangers this may come from luck rahter than anything else < grin >

The GrumpyOldDBA
Post #337524
Posted Wednesday, January 17, 2007 9:54 AM
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I believe the good manager is the person who can understand what is your capibility, but not your past project experience. He listen your feedback and complient but does not really need to do any reaction. He doesn't need to know much about the technical detail, as long as he knows how to put his resource (people) in right position.

I once had such excellent manager.

Post #337537
Posted Wednesday, January 17, 2007 11:24 AM
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The article ends with a note about trust and respect, which are essential for companies that want to move forward.

A good summary of this idea is found in the book 'Heroic Environment'.

I'm not sure how many developers work for companies that hold these values highly, but would be interested to know if they exist...

Post #337564
Posted Thursday, January 18, 2007 6:29 PM
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Great article - I've just moved into a management position myself after being outsourced in my company for over a year as a senior developer/analyst.

Totally respect the piece about being responsible for someones career. The team I've come back to manage have been working on the same application for several years, averaging around 5. The application hasnt been updated to any new technology or processes - the team just plod along while the rest of the company move through to new and "exciting" pieces. Needless to say I'm quite appalled at this and have undertaken an initative to develop their skills through in-house throw-away projects (now funded under training!) during any quiet time, just to be able to learn the new technology and applying it to something rather than exercises from a book. Also during team meetings we get a chance to develop our soft skills - like presentations (about anything), open discussions, time management and so on.

Careers are too short and life is even shorter to let it tick away.
Post #338029
Posted Tuesday, May 1, 2007 2:25 PM
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Spudmasher,  I'm a bit of a student of managing people.  Having gone to the US Naval Academy, I received excellent leadership training (which does not imply that I'm an excellent fact, I prefer the tech side of the business because management is 'hard' .  Having spent over 15 years in the tech industry, I have observed corporate management in many different environments.  I would submit that being an exceptional manager in the corporate world requires two vary disparate skill sets.  I've met many managers that have a natural ability in one or the other, but very few people are good at both.

Administration is an important part of management.  The ability to 'move the machine' is a big part of the job, whether you are removing obstacles, arguing for part of the merit pool to reward your people or merely ordering equipment and other resources.  I've had good administrative managers who made sure I had what I needed to get the job done & made sure that my team was fully supported by the company.  Often, they were so busy with the administrative tasks that they spent little time building a relationship with their team.  Employees were committed to the company & to their own efforts, but were not particularly invested in their manager or the team.

Leadership is a different animal.  The ability to inspire your employees to be passionate about what they do, the ability to encourage them in growing their skills and the ability to create an environment that is high energy & 'fun' does not ensure that you are good at administration.  I've worked on teams that had good 'leaders', including a few that the team would 'walk through fire' for.  One in particular was proud of our accomplishments and we were extremely loyal to the manager, often putting in extra effort to support him & the team.  We often joked that our job was to 'make him look good' (which I actually believe is every employees make their manager/team/company 'look good' to the best of their ability).  Unfortunately, many team members were not very happy with the company.  The team tended to have an 'us against the world' attitude due to decisions made by the company that were not supportive of our team.  Our manager was not particularly adept at administration and therefore, was not taken seriously by upper management.  I often wish I could have taken this manager with me when I left.

I recently worked for a manager who was good at removing obstacles & getting whatever support the team needed.  He was also committed to generating enthusiasm and worked hard at developing a high energy, 'fun' atmosphere.  He hired for 'team fit' and energy/commitment, assuming that you could 'teach' software development, but team chemistry was an art.  My only complaint about him is that he had '6 years of sw development experience' in one discipline and felt that all sw problems were essentially the same & could be solved the same way, with the same toolset.  His insistence on estimating every project as if it had the same technical challenges, the same set of development skills available & the same burn rate regardless of the number of developers (& their corresponding skill levels) assigned created a lot of expectations that were impossible to meet.  It was one of the most enjoyable/frustrating experiences of my career.

I agree that someone with a technical background will tend to do a better job managing technical teams (though not always).  I believe that both administrative & leadership skills can be taught/developed.  As a new manager, I would encourage you to assess your skills and determine which skill set you currently favor & focus on training/developing the other set of skills...(here comes the hard part)...without neglecting your areas of strength.  I would also encourage you to realize that managers are just people and we all have our good days & bad days.  Good managers can have bad days or make bad decisions & occassionally, much as it might pain us to admit it, bad managers can actually 'get it right' sometimes.   Don't be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes, especially if you happen to get flack from above when you make them.  I'm pulling for you to become one of the 'good managers'!   I would love to believe that someday there will be an opportunity to work for another manager who is committed to both skill sets...especially when most companies favor the administrative skills, because they tend to have a greater short term impact.  Best of luck on your new adventure!

Post #362430
Posted Thursday, December 20, 2007 4:42 AM

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I think you nailed it on the head when you added the phrase "for the long term". Not too many people work based upon long term goals (5 years +) which affects a person's management approach and investment in developing their staff.

In this day and age it is very hard to think long term when you have the potential of being laid-off at any time. This definately affects one's investment in their company/staff and sets one on the self-preservation mode.
Post #435140
Posted Thursday, December 20, 2007 7:05 AM

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An excellent article. I liked the points about trust and respect, as being the cornerstones to a good relationship between manager and employee. I also think that humility is a good character trait for managers. When a manager thinks that he or she has to be infallible to present the right image, it causes trouble. A good manager should realize that they might not always be the ones with the right answers, and listen to differing opinions from their employees, which leads back to trust and respect...
Post #435189
Posted Thursday, December 20, 2007 1:00 PM

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I think the biggest issue is the IT culture in general. I come from a military background, and there was tremendous emphasis on developing your subordinates for 3 reasons:
1. You knew many of them would be in the military with you for many years to come. Even if they were not with you in that assignment for long you would likely encounter them again, so their ability to do their job would impact you for a long time to come.
2. Developing your subordinates was a major part of your evaluation because the military assumed that it would have that soldier for years if not decades.
3. You knew their performance could directly affect whether you came back in one piece.

But in most civilian jobs none of those are true. Especially in the ecosystem where I work in IT, it is very common for good employees to leave after one or two years, this makes the ROI for training much lower from the corporate standpoint and the standpoint of the individual manager. If employees could be expected to stay longer the company would see more benefit in developing individual employees rather than just replacing them with someone else who already had the experience. If the company emphasized that and it impacted IT managers salaries/bonuses/promotion potential then you would see a lot more managers paying attention to development.

As it is now, a smart person in the IT field would learn to learn on their own regardless of how much or how little management support there was for it.

Timothy A Wiseman
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