Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Helping your boss transition from being a manager to a leader...

In a culture of outsourcing work to suboptimal countries such as India, American developers need to do a better job of helping their managers become leaders...

Many developers bitch and complain that their managers don't understand what the team is doing, don't provide the necessary resources, and have unrealistic demands or expectations. Here is yet another scenario where perception over reality thinking should be shot. Most managers are neither stupid nor malicious and are honestly trying to do their jobs well. You can help your manager to be more effective by following a few simple rules. Making your manager effective and happy is an excellent way to advance your career. Following these rules makes the manager and team more effective, which is good for everybody.

Here are some things to noodle:
  • Managers are required to be offensive: There is a distinction between being offensive and being insulting. One thing that offends many is when managers ask tough questions. It's their job to do this so don't get it twisted and take it personal. Most managers don't enjoy humiliating folks and aren't looking for an excuse to fire you. Reality says that they would rather see you successful than to spend all their remaining free time writing tons of documentation for human resources to can you.

  • Managers have lots of issues that developers don't nor have visibility into. This should translate into a simple understanding that their priorities may seem twisted but in reality they may be more aligned than you think. Folks need to get better at assuming good faith and not think everything is about throwing daggers

  • A manager's job is to allocate resources, to track progress, and to manage risk. You can help the manager do that job by presenting information in that context.

  • Present multiple alternatives. Don't just tell managers that there are problems, and wait for them to tell you how to fix them. That's not a manager's job.

  • If you think your managers are making unreasonable requests, then talk to them about it. They often do not realize they are being unreasonable. Managers want to know the truth, and most managers are very willing to change their minds. Good managers want people to correct them. Some managers like to Push people until they push back

  • It's better to be credible than to be agreeable. Managers will defer to your judgment if they believe that you know what you are talking about. If you get too defensive, or if you are too willing to agree with them, they will lose confidence in your abilities.

  • The pointy haired boss at the end of a day is a human. Managers make mistakes. Managers get tired. Managers sometimes collapse under pressure. Managers sometimes get irritable or angry without good reason. Managers sometimes get distracted by personal problems. Don't hold managers to an incredibly high standard just because they make more money, have an impressive title, or have the authority to fire you. They are just people, trying to do their jobs the best they can, learning by trial-and-error, hoping to make their house payments and raise their kids and have a little fun once in a while.

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