How not to be a poor manager - my top 5 hints.

I've worked for lots of managers in my career. Some have been fabulous, others not so. These are my top 5 hints on how not to be a poor manager.

How not to be a poor manager - my top 5 hints.

There's an old saying that says "people don't leave a company, they leave a manager". It's so true. I've had some great managers, and some not so great managers. They've all been a learning experience so I can lead my teams in a way that means people won't leave me!

#1 Be present and engaged.

My first 1-1 with a new manager was a masterclass in how not to do it. Over a video call, I was hoping to get to know my new manager, find out about them, and their expectations of working together moving forward. Instead, they were obviously working on something, with their eyes zipping between other monitors, never once giving me eye contact or any of their concentration.

How do you think that made me feel on our first meeting?

Surely the wise thing to do would be to cancel the meeting and just be honest. Say you're too busy or something has come up. Don't turn up physically but not be there mentally.

#2 Empowerment

Years ago me & my team were quite heavily micromanaged. People were told off for arriving at their desk a minute late, despite everyone being expected to work lots of free overtime. That didn’t go down well. Terrible for employee enagement. There was always a bitter feeling. There was no give or take.

So what if someone arrives to the office a little late. Its not about the 9-5, it's about results and outcomes. Yes, if they take advantage of the team then it's a problem but generally empower people to make their own descisions.

Empower them to self-organise, take initiative, choose tools, choose architectures. When you empower people to make chocies, there will be mistakes, which leads me to;

#3 Mistakes are good (mostly). Learn from them.

If you empower your team to make their own choices, create experiments and innovate, then sometimes things will go wrong. That's not a problem. Mistakes are the the best way to learn. If you're not making mistakes then you're not moving forward. The only caveat is that you don't want mistakes to bust up your production systems!  If they do get fast and recover. Always have a plan for this situation, maybe you could leverage canary releases or blue green releases . Or play it safe and let all the mistakes and experimentation happen before they get to production! Whatever you do, don't have a culture of blame. Have a culture of experiementation and fun...and plan for the time when mistakes happen.

#4 Be fair

There's nothing more frustrating than moving goalposts. If expectations are set with your reports, they should only change in extreme circumstances. If you tell them one thing, then a little later you chnage the rules, that will just go down like a lead balloon. Of course there are times when circumstances change. If this is the case, be open and honest why things are changing. People will understand, just don't bullshit them. Communication & honesty are key.

#5 Be supportive

Years ago I worked with someone who clearly didn't know what they were doing.  The team carried this person, and in my naïvety I didn't understand why. It was a while later I realised they literally didn't knoiw what they were doing. They were programming in a language they didn't know and had no support to give them a suitable ramp-up time. They were thrown in at the deep end.  They might've been someone who could pick up the skills on the job, but not everyone can. Everyone is different and learns in different ways.  It's your job as a people manager to know your team. If they need support, provide it. Don't let your lack of support to one person hold back the whole team. It's demotivating and blocks progress.