7 Rules of the Good Manager
Even though I’m still young (trying to repeat this more and more recently, a bit of couéism never hurts), I’ve been working with several managers through various projects. I’ve met the good, the bad and the ugly. Optimistics say you learn from hard situations. I’ve learnt a lot.
I’ve seen many posts here and there about “alpha programmers” or “super hackers”: how to find the geek who’s going to save both your life and your project. Does he know Python? Does he have a retirement plan? Having good developers is important, now what about good managers? Let’s bring some developer perspective into this.
However management bashing is far too easy and I leave this for the cynicals, always looking for defenseless victims. Trying to keep a positive state of mind I’m going to try to describe the top 10 qualities managers should have to escape mediocrity. Gosh it’s so hard to be positive sometimes…
- Thou shalt be a good communicator. I’ve had a manager who wasn’t even looking at you when saying hi in the morning. On the brink of autism. So just try to be the normal nice guy, naturally interested in people. I’m not saying you should harass them about what they ate the last evening, just try to know what they’re interested in. Get to know them a bit.
- Thou shalt help, not blame. I found out that was a rare quality. The most harmful thing for a project is a manager always looking for victims and not for solutions. People start spending more time accusing than actually working. Or just stop working so they don’t get accused. Don’t get into the blame game.
- Thou shalt not scheme in the darkness. Let your team know what’s happening. If you plan to promote someone, just let everybody know. If the project is going bad (or good), tell them. Don’t bring politics within a team.
- Thou shalt trust. Trusting people is hard. However as a manager you should always trust your people. Especially the ones you just hired. This has 2 positive consequences. First people naturally don’t want to disappoint you, they always do their best and feel in charge of their work. Second, trust fosters creativity. But that doesn’t mean being blind, don’t hesitate to be hard with people betraying this trust repeatedly.
- Thou shalt have strong nerves. Many projects come with high pressure. And as a manager you’re first in raw. However, even if this is really hard, you shouldn’t transmit this pressure to the developers working for you. A developer need a clear head and some can’t work well under stress. I’ve endured more than one sweaty manager, staring at my screen behind me even if he couldn’t understand any line of code. Just trying to calm his nerves by seeing others working.
- Thou shalt know that people make mistakes (including you). This has a lot to do with rule #2 and #4. Hope for the best but expect the worse and plan for it.
- Thou shalt not try to understand. Dealing with managers who are under the impression that they understand the details of programming is a pain in the ass. They want to know about every nitty gritty detail, get most of it wrong (after all it’s not their job) and you end up with endless misunderstandings and idle discussions. See #4 again.
Before leaving you, one more thing. One-size-fits-all generalizations are mostly stupid. I’ve also had a very good manager who was constantly breaking rule #7. But he was smart enough to be aware of it and knew when to end it. Last rule for me.