9 ingredients of an excellent engineering manager
What makes individuals, managers, and leaders stand out from the crowd? What separates the best of the best from the masses? What are the behaviors worth modeling regardless of role and level? This is not a comprehensive list, but here are a few things I’ve found or seen make a difference.
Care deeply 💗
With a profound sense of caring comes a strong sense of responsibility, thoughtfulness, drive, and the 10 percent extra you need when facing hardship, and perseverance is the only way.
Caring deeply also means putting the time and effort into understanding yourself, your team, your peers, and the company. Take the time to identify intention, direction, and aspiration and how to shape change and turn the right pieces into momentum and reality.
It means actively listening, showing empathy, telling hard truths, and fighting for the greater good rather than self-interest. It means putting others and the company before yourself. After all, your job is to help the company win.
Relentlessly prioritize the user & product experience✨
Nothing is more paramount to a company’s well-being than the experience we provide. Customers vote with their wallets. If we do our job well, they’ll pay us. If we don’t, they won’t.
This does not mean fixing all the bugs, yesterday. It means fixing the right bugs. Affect the right change, build cohesion, and craft experiences exceptionally well. Understand the trade-offs, not shipping mediocre work just because it’s already built. Make the hard choices and never be afraid to walk the extra mile for customers. Without them, things often aren’t worth much. Being there for the customers means getting on the phone with a frustrated customer. This shows you care and listen.
Every time I’ve been on a call with a customer, I’ve always come back with a profound sense of the responsibility from the trust, faith, and the relationship. Don’t ever take that for granted. Trust is a hard-earned currency that goes away magnitudes faster than it’s earned.
Implement over intent 🛠
The smallest implementation is worth more than the grandest intention. Some minds are never quiet with ideas and for some list of intentions are getting longer by the hour. Harnessing this energy and creativity can be hard, and you’re likely experiencing the paradox of choice or analysis paralysis.
Your intention is worth nothing without implementation. It’s better to say no 99 times out of 100 and deliver one thing over saying yes to 20 things but never finding the time to deliver anything.
Focus, deliver, and repeat.
Serve humbly 💁🏼♀️
Anyone can be a critic, but it takes bravery and heart to be an encourager. Be a steward. Understand your peers and those you might be responsible for and make it your mission to help others succeed. This requires empathy, kindness, and hardest of all — active listening. Get rid of your own agenda and listen wholeheartedly. Understand who someone is. Understand their aspirations, goals, desires, dreams and figure out how to make those more attainable for them and expect nothing in return.
Elevate others ☀️
All peak performance athletes have extraordinary coaches. Make it your goal to be that coach.
This requires kindness, caring, pushing, and the guts to tell people hard truths. Funnily enough, the best engineers and managers know they’re pretty good at what they do, and everyone appreciates a pat on the back. Usually, though, a pat on the back lasts just a day or two.
What lasts forever is being told the truths needed to help elevate their performance to new heights. To hear what you need to hear to become better.
Be the coach who elevates.
Leaders eat last ⛑
I once heard Simon Sinek say Leaders eat last. And that phrase stuck with me at a very, very fundamental level. I’ve seen far too many put their own comfort, ego, desire, and agenda ahead of others. True leaders “eat last.” If there’s nothing left for you to eat, it doesn’t matter as long as those who you lead are all right. If someone has to jump on the grenade, make sure it’s you.
Be ready to fight your amygdala ⚔️
Your brain resists change. Growth is change. This happens as your amygdala fears the unknown — this includes you improving and growing (changing) your mindset. Know that in response to growth your amygdala will push you in the direction of seduction. It will tell you it’s better to live an easy, comfortable, and unchanging life.
To achieve growth and change, you need to be steadfast in fighting your amygdala. You need to fight and push through the emotional resistance and WHEN you do, you will find your brain changes and recalibrates. What was once uncomfortable or seemingly impossible is all of a sudden within reach or something you do.
To regularly do what is hard but important and feels most uncomfortable, is how true warriors are born. — Robin Sharma, The 5AM Club.
Compound your time with consistency and grit 🚀
Most great results require grit (perseverance, resilience, level of commitment, discipline) to achieve. If you do 1 percent better every single day, the change might not seem like a lot in the short-term, but over a longer period, the change will be huge.
Just think about this. If I gave you $1,000, and you focused on growing the amount by 1 percent every day, you’d end up with a whopping $37,000 after a year. Take that and apply it to the things you’d like to improve in your life. It adds up.
Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture 🧭
Go above yourself to see things objectively and manage those things to drive the best possible change. In the process, ask others who are strong in areas where you are weak to help.
Listen to the subject matter experts and make their vote carry a heavier weight than those who have opinions but little or no track record.
When faced with a multitude of solutions don’t just think about the immediate result. Think about the second and third order of consequences to the outcome, and soon your strategic sense and execution will rise to a whole new level. Often all this starts with asking why? and understanding the answer.
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