10 Things I Learnt From My First Manager

You know the cliché that first impression is the last impression. But you have been thinking this adage only in a single direction — by keeping yourself at the receiving end, and acting accordingly. If you think it the other way round; your first project is your first impression of “work” or what it is meant to be in a professional environment. And this project in turn is highly influenced by one person- The Project Manager.

As and how I got imbibed to the technical nitty-gritties of my new project, I also started to realize how Project Managers are important to keep the team bind together and achieve their project goals in time. Most importantly, the team does it without cribbing about it. I quickly realized the learning opportunity and started to gather whatever I could, and learn from my them.  I was lucky to work in an account with a sensible, no nonsense politics higher management with values and clear set goals.

1. Know your employees personally and value their opinions

This is common sense but very few people pay attention while dealing with their subordinates. People working in your team are not mere “resources”. Treat them as human beings. It is good to know how many siblings does your subordinate has or compliment a team member’s beautiful daughter. Although that may sound redundant information for you, it is immensely helpful when building personal relationships and trust – the most important things that drive a team .

Take initiatives to know your people, keep your ego aside and participate into team bonding sessions. People feel good to know that their manager is a human too.

2. Appraisals are not meant to avenge your subordinates

Appraisals are a way to provide employees feedback in a detailed manner so that they get points to improve on during their next half of the year. At the same time do not spoon feed too much of information and drill down to specifics. That hinders independent thinking and new ideas. Set your own way of conducting sincere and genuine appraisals and not the infamous ways for which appraisals are condemned throughout the industry.

Do not keep your employees in the haunting of mid annual appraisals in order to derive work from them

3. Pay attention towards the big picture, make your subordinates see it as well

Many of the managers keep the goal constrained to themselves and instruct the team only the short steps they are supposed to take to achieve that goal. But this approach is deteriorating once the team members start wondering why their work is important and where does the piece they are working on, fits the big picture puzzle as a whole. It makes them appreciate their work.

The answer to why I am doing gives more confidence to complete to what I am doing.

4. Don’t settle for a bozo in your team just because you are running short of time

The Resource Management Teams in any company have their targets and send in candidates to projects without analyzing the job profile. These candidates are already selected by the company procedures that are at times too lousy. Filter out the slag during the selection procedure itself. Just because you are running out of time doesn’t mean that you hire inutile people in your team. This might cost you time during the hiring process, but saves a lot of training hours and rework caused as a result of plain gaucheries that new team members do.

Secondly, assess how a person learns and how knowledge hungry he is rather than just assessing how much he has learnt. Assess clarity of concepts rather than for word to word book definitions.

5. Learn and make your team learn

“In order for you to climb up the corporate ladder, you must first help your subordinates up to your level”. The main thing is to bring everyone in your team to align with your thought process so that they can be delegated the power of some decisions at some point of time.

Whenever there are new questions or decisions to be made, gather everyone around, answer the question and most importantly, explain your rationale behind the decision. After that, ask someone to document it down. This way, you shed most of the trivial decisions off from yourself and save much more time for learning something new.

In short, make yourself unnecessary to the running of your team. This way, you shed off your position, get new one and acquire new heights.

Now that your team is “running” by themselves, you can focus on “improvement” – both for your team as well as yourself.

Make your team learn and continue learning be successful as a leader

6. Listen carefully,

Team members come to you in order to solve problems related to anything and everything non-technical. Do not reach a conclusion immediately after hearing the problem from a single person. If multiple people are involved, listen to each person’s version of the problem statement before you take a decision.

When having a disagreement with someone, don’t use rational arguments. Instead, ask them to explain their position.

7. Don’t panic.

As a manager, your team is likely to take part in issues that need to be solved within no time. IT emergencies scare the hell out of a sane manager. The key point here is to not be all over the place, rather maintain your sang-froid and start analyzing the problem with tools such as 5W1H to get to its root. After that, directly attack the root in order to scrape out the problem completely.

8. Be ready to get your hands dirty in emergencies.

Your team is in trouble if you are a manager by profession but developer by mind. This happens in a number of IT industries –  Developers climb up to leadership roles and become managers, but still cannot do away thinking like developers. However, it is also important that you stay technically updated and keep abreast with the technical ongoing of your project. By doing so, you can effectively communicate the exact timeline of any emergency technical fix to your stakeholders, or even jump into the debugging process and get your hands dirty.

Developers think in 0’s and 1’s. Managers have to think in all perspectives and analyze each of them.

9. Never micromanage

Don’t overdo Point 9. Following up each hour with your employee on their progress – micromanagement as it is called, is like a rope that strangles your team members. Give them a bit of freedom. Follow up, but do it casually in order to get genuine answers. Firing mails asking about the progress would only get you terse answers with the progress. Getting information casually would get you the progress, as well as genuine problems that the team is facing that is restraining the progress.

10. Learn from your manager

Last but not the least thing that I learnt from my manager. Learn from your managers. Yes, this applies to managers too. Have discussions with them, seek the philosophy behind their decisions, propose alternatives. Keep open to alternate leadership styles and strategy making skills, switch between styles according to situations.

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