Mistakes Every Engineering Manager Should Avoid (or not)
A Journey Through the Significant Mistakes I Made in my Career as an Engineering Manager.
In previous newsletter issues, we have extensively delved into how to transition into an engineering manager role, and we have also explored all the challenges related to this change. It goes without saying that, even though these guidelines are useful to inspire you and indicate a path through your journey, mistakes are inevitable and always around the corner.
For this reason, in today's essay, I have decided to focus on mistakes that I have personally made throughout my career, and sometimes I still make. Despite the catchy title, the purpose of this essay is not to provide you with a recipe to avoid these mistakes altogether, but rather to help you recognize them, mitigate them, and give them some weight.
Keep in mind that mistakes serve as valuable learning opportunities, so don't hesitate to make errors. Just admit them to yourself, think about what went wrong, and find ways to do better and not repeat them next time.
For your convenience, I have divided the mistakes into five main categories:
🌱 Personal Growth
While all of these behaviors are equally wrong, I've assigned them a severity rank to illustrate where you should focus your attention and identify actions that could potentially put you at greater risk in your engineering manager position.
So, let's get started!
Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful engineering management. However, it's easy to run into challenges that disrupt the smooth flow of information and understanding. Let's explore the major threats in this area.
1) Skipping One on Ones
One on One meetings might seem like a time-consuming ritual, but they are invaluable. They provide a private space for your team members to express their concerns, discuss blockers or issues, and share their aspirations. Skipping these meetings can not only lead to a disconnect between you and your team but also put your team member retention in danger.
🌟 SEVERITY: 5/5 🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴
Schedule and prioritize one on ones to ensure consistent communication.
Eventually frequency cadence, but don’t skip them.
Foster a safe space where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
Avoid progress updates and focus more on people’s satisfaction or other meaningful conversations.
2) Poorly Communicating Your Actions
As an engineering manager, your actions have a significant impact on your team. However, especially when you transition from an Individual Contributor to an Engineering Manager role, your actions may not be visible to everyone.
A big part of a manager's job is about working with people, which happens in the background, like coaching individuals, building relationships, and collaborating with stakeholders. For this reason it's crucial to over-communicate what you're doing. If you don't, your team might feel like they don't know what's going on, and they might start wondering if you're leading them properly. I've been through this, and it doesn't feel good when someone on your team says they don't get what you're doing or if you're doing anything at all.
🌟 SEVERITY: 4/5 🔴🔴🔴🔴⚪️
Provide context for your actions to avoid confusion.
Schedule regular meetings to align with your team.
Share any achievement, also smaller ones
3) Lack of Transparency
Transparency builds trust. Without it, team members might start guessing why certain decisions are made, which can create uncertainty.
🌟 SEVERITY: 4/5 🔴🔴🔴🔴⚪️
Regularly share company goals and challenges with your team.
Provide insights into the decision-making process to build trust.
Encourage open dialogue to address any concerns about transparency.
4) Neglecting to Celebrate Success
When you're busy with deadlines and problem-solving, you might forget to celebrate wins. However, recognizing successes, whether they're major or minor, lifts the team's spirits and reminds everyone that effort leads to results.
🌟 SEVERITY: 3/5 🟡🟡🟡⚪️⚪️
Recognize and acknowledge achievements, no matter how minor.
Use this brilliant way of celebrating by my friend Luca, called "appreciate in absence".
Use successes as an opportunity to highlight the team's impact on the company.
5) Not Building Relationships with Stakeholders
Managing a team doesn't happen in isolation. Building strong relationships with cross-functional teams, product managers, and other stakeholders is crucial. Failing to do so might result in misunderstandings, misaligned goals, and slow progress.
🌟 SEVERITY: 3/5 🟡🟡🟡⚪️⚪️