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ALM #056: Building Trust as an Engineering Manager: What Not to Do
Improving Communication and Trust within Your Team
📖 Read Time: 3:30 minutes
Week in and week out, I share different ways for you to become a better Engineering Manager.
Today, I highlight some behaviours that lead to one simple outcome: managers losing their teams.
Before we dive into this list, a word of warning.
Every one of us will identify with what is written below.
This doesn't mean we're bad managers, only that we have room for improvement.
So yes, here comes the buzzword: It's time for a big dose of Growth Mindset!
Face this list with an open mind, thinking about your reality and trying to identify where you need to improve.
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.
Every manager wants to work with a high-performing, motivated and engaged team.
But as their team fails to deliver, the first reaction of managers is often to blame the team:
Didn't raise every edge case
They were slacking
Even if you haven't verbalized it, this has crossed your mind.
I challenge you to dig deeper and find if there is something deeper that is affecting how motivated and aligned with the end goal your team is.
Often, the team is not aware of their mission or vision.
Ask yourself, do they really know why they're there?
More often than not, teams roam directionless, focusing on toil and BAU (business-as-usual) tasks.
It's up to you to make a change, motivate and share the vision with the team:
Clearly define your vision. You're the first one that needs a clear perspective.
Work with the team to find your common vision.
Set clear, SMART goals aligned with what you want to achieve.
Define how each team member contributes to achieving that vision.
You'll end up with a team that knows what they're trying to achieve. That's step number one to a high-performing team.
One of the worst things a manager can do is not have the right sense of timing when sharing information and pressure with their team.
You have two possible ways of mishandling this:
You hold all the information and share nothing with the team:
All the pressure is on you
The team won't feel like you trust them
The team won't understand the reasoning behind certain decisions
You share every piece of information as it arrives with the team:
The team is in a constant state of stress
They can't understand the priorities
They won't trust you because you keep drowning them in information and problems.
As a manager, you'll get a lot of information and requests. You need to mentally assess what the teams need and how fast they need it. Use something like the Eisenhower Matrix for it:
Critical and Time Sensitive? Create a call and share now. It’s a top priority; stop everything you’re doing type of thing. This is to be used very rarely!
Critical but not Time Sensitive? Wait for tomorrow's daily or the next iteration.
Not Critical but Time Sensitive? If the date permits, wait for the next iteration. If the date doesn't permit, send them a message now.
Not Critical and Not Time Sensitive? Go to the backlog of things to discuss with the team.
Find your balance.
Practising transparency is important, but it’s all about timing. Don’t drown your team with requests, still-developing information, etc. Before sharing, always consider the consequences.
A team is not static.
It's an evolving ecosystem with some members thriving and others struggling, and it's your job as a manager to find the right balance and ensure that everyone evolves and grows.
You'll find a lot of Personal Development Plans in large tech companies. In small and medium companies, you'll see… none.
I find developers going into these companies and:
Not having any learning plan
Forced to work every day with legacy tech
No light at the end of the tunnel: there's no interest in evolving.
These are people that are going to leave the company as the first opportunity arises.
Managers are responsible for ensuring that their team is allowed to develop and improve.
You might hear someone say that as developers get more certifications and training, the more likely it is for recruiters to come for them. But look at the other way, do you only want to keep the average developers?
There are a lot of vectors that will keep your team working with you, not just one.
So make sure your team is on track:
Review/Create their training plan
Provide clear guidance on their career track
Create a culture of learning and development
If you want a different perspective on how you can improve as a manager before adding more new frameworks, or ways of doing things, start by reviewing what is happening right now.
Clear Vision and Goals
Correct Levels of Information
Path to Grow and Evolve
These are three items that are important for you to revisit, but there are many more. The trick, as always, is to identify and understand why the behaviour is happening and then slowly but surely adjust your ways.
These ideas will be an important step to achieving a high-performing team when executed perfectly.
See you next week!
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Have an incredible week! 💪🏼
Parada 👊🏼 A Leader's Mindset