Training for Management?

Subject: Training for Management?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l List <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, SB <sylvia -dot- braunstein -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 06 Jun 2008 11:27:04 -0400

Sylvia wondered: <<I need to know how to manage the people and the
documentation so we can meet the deadlines and so that the work gets

In my experience, most people learn management on the job, with
absolutely no training. If you're very lucky, you'll have a skilled
manager willing to mentor you; if nobody has stepped forward, look
around and try to find one. I learned management under fire, with no
prep and no support, when my boss abruptly quit, and it was <ahem> an
educational experience. I survived, as did my relationships with my
colleagues, but it was a very near thing. Unfortunately, like most of
us, I learn better from my mistakes than from theorizing, and I did
an awful lot of learning that first year.

Two relevant resources that may prove useful: (about my time
as a successful STC chapter president)
Also look up the book "Leading Geeks" by Paul Glen; it's about
managing software developers and engineers, but you'd be amazed at
how well it works for techwhirlers; the parallels are quite amazing.
It's also an easy and pleasant read, with lots of "aha!" moments.

<<I know how to manage myself because I know that I can rely on
myself but managing other people is different.>>

I got out of the managing business when I realized I already had two
children at home, and didn't want four more at the office. <g> That's
a bit more cynical a sense than I'd like to convey, but there are
some unpleasant parallels that make the metaphor worthwhile: you must
expect to spend a lot of time wiping snotty noses, holding hands,
soothing wounds, and occasionally having to spank someone, and I was
always more interested in actually doing the work.

That being said, you'll need to keep a few key things in mind:
- Always ask your staff to paraphrase what you asked them to do.
You'd be amazed how many misunderstandings this avoids. Then put it
in writing so you don't have to rely on faulty human memory. Avoids a
great many arguments.
- Negotiate clear deadlines. You can _impose_ deadlines, and
sometimes have no choice, but if you're not intimately familiar with
a person's workload, you'll never know whether those deadlines are
realistic. Unrealistic deadlines create animosity surprisingly fast,
and you can often do something to make them more realistic (e.g.,
defer another less important deadline); realistic deadlines build a
sense that you really care about making the person's life easier.
People who trust you and believe that their opinions are considered
are more likely to cooperate.
- Provide immediate feedback rather than letting problems fester.
Correct a problem as soon as you detect it, and it won't continue to
irritate you and compromise the employee's performance. It also
avoids nasty surprises a year later at the annual performance
appraisal. (Related thoughts:
- Remember that they're not your friends. Real friendship requires
equality, and when you get to order someone what to do and have
authority to fire or spank them, you're not a real friend. That's not
to say you shouldn't be friendly, but always remember that in the
end, it's your butt on the firing line, and they need to do what you
tell them or look elsewhere for a job. Manage well and you'll almost
never have to exert that authority, but particularly early in the
relationship, when they may be testing you to see what they can get
away with, you may need to make your authority clear.
- Don't micromanage. Set clear goals and deadlines, and only monitor
their performance at certain checkpoints (perhaps weekly for long
projects with many deliverables) or at the end (for short projects).
Nobody likes managers who look over their shoulder and are constantly
second-guessing them. So strike a compromise between monitoring
appropriately and being a PITA.
- Do stay informed. Make a point of seeing how things are going at
least weekly. Monday morning is a great time for the: "How are things
going? On track? Anything I need to do to remove obstacles for you
this week?"
- Do remain available. People need to complain, and part of the job
is listening to those complaints. Sometimes you need to take action,
and sometimes all you need to do is listen sympathetically and let
them vent.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Training for Management: From: SB

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