Thu 13 Mar 2014
I have been a manager within the A*Team for 6 months now and I wanted to share what I have learnt in that time. The main thing that I have learnt is being a manager is hard work.
Why has it been hard?
Well, being a manager is requires a certain amount of personal skills. So being able to speak to people and check they are doing the tasks they are supposed to is trivial. You can be a "good" manager on this but being a great manager is knowing how to fix problems when members of your team aren't doing the things that you expect.
It's all about the people
As an engineer you learn how to break down hardware and software problems and solve them. Unfortunately breaking down problems with people in your team are nowhere near the same. Engineering skills can be taught, even if the person struggles at first, but people skills can't be taught in the same way.
Working at Mozilla I get to work with a very diverse group of people literally from all different parts of the world. This means that when speaking to people, what you say and how you say things can be taken in the wrong way. It can be the simplest of things that can go wrong.
Being a manager means that you are there to help shape peoples careers. Do a great job of it and the people that you manage will go far, do a bad job of it and you will stifle their careers and possibly make them leave the company. The team that I am in is highly skilled and highly sought after in the tech world so losing them isn't really an option.
Part of growing people's careers is asking for feedback and then acting upon that feedback. At Mozilla we have a process of setting goals and then measuring the impact of those goals on others. The others part is quite broad, from team mates to fellow paid contributors to unpaid contributors and the wider community. As a manager I need to give feedback on how I think they are doing. Personally I reach out to people who might be interacting with people I manage and get their thoughts.
But I don't stop at asking for feedback for the people I manage, I also ask for feedback about how I am doing from the people I manage. If you are a manager and never done this I highly recommend doing it. What you can learn about yourself in a 360 review is quite eye opening. You need to set ground rules like the feedback is private and confidential AND MUST NOT influence how you interact with that person in the future. Criticism is hard to receive but a manager is expected to be the adult in the room and if you don't act that way you head to the realm of a bad manager, a place you don't want to be.
So... do I still want to be a manager?
Definitely! Being a manager is hard work, let's not kid ourselves but seeing your team succeed and the joy on people's faces when they succeed is amazing.