Re. Moving up to manager

Subject: Re. Moving up to manager
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 1995 10:28:19 LCL

Jim Witkin asked about the biggest change in becoming
manager of a group after moving up from the ranks. First,
the bad news: Jim, the biggest thing to be aware of is that
you may have just become the proud parent of a group of
small children, with all the frustration and responsibility
that entails. (That's an exaggeration, but not a misleading
one in many cases.) All the petty squabbles that you used
to avoid, all the situations in which you provided sympathy
and advice, all the problems of making sure everyone's
ready in time for school... well, now you're the one who
has to solve things. You're the one who has to crack the
whip, schedule everything, obtain resources, detect and
head off conflicts, arbitrate, impose discipline, etc. You
also have to be the parent who protects the group from the
nasty outside world (i.e, defend them against attacks from
unreasonable clients, protect them from budget cuts and
downsizing, etc.) and pass on the bad news from "above".
Sometimes you end up on everyone's shit list through no
fault of your own; sometimes you honestly earn their ire.
Beware of the perception of taking sides, even when the
temptation to stop being neutral is almost unbearable.

Now the good: (Sorry if the preceding sounds cynical...
I've been there before, and developed a distaste for the
work.) The flip side is that you can develop an effective,
productive team and lead people to cooperate and help each
other out; just like a parent, there are many rewards for
helping your "children" (to continue the analogy) grow up
and succeed in their efforts. You get to take pride in
their accomplishments, reward them for the things they do
right, help them advance their own careers, and you can
earn their respect if you do all this yet still respond
gently and firmly to crises.

One big caution: You're now responsible for everyone else's
mistakes, so there's a temptation to micromanage everyone's
work. Don't do it. Try to put systems in place to catch
mistakes (e.g., peer review, peer assistance), but don't
become the KGB. Stay on top of things ("management by
walking around"?) so that you know what problems your
people are having, and can provide assistance before the
problem gets out of hand. On the whole, I prefer being one
of the rank and file, but if you've got the right
temperment, management is a fascinating challenge.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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