management

The Project Owner Role

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You work on a dev team that owns a slice of a product at Unicorn Ltd 🦄. Your Product Manager / Owner has reviewed the latest batch of user research and she found out that a statistically significant amount of customers would be very interested in feature X. How do you go about it? Chances are you need a project.

Managing Managers

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Managing managers is a common step in any Engineering Manager’s career path. As a mid-level manager, your main focus has probably been to execute through others. Once you get to a senior level, you are expected to lead through others. I have been reading about this topic lately, so here is a recap of what I learned.

Managing Steady Performers

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I wrote about managing high and low performers in the past. But there is another important group, often forgotten yet so key that they deserve their own post. That is the steady performers.

A steady performer is an employee who meets the expectations for their role consistently, doing a good job, but lacks the ambition and aspirations of the rock star performers. As a result, they often get fewer promotion opportunities and their work is taken for granted.

Measure all things blindly and fail, or else?

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If you want to improve, you need to measure how you are doing. You need data. This is typically one of those things organisations get wrong from the get go, meaning:

  • not enough data is being captured,
  • the data available is useless,
  • or worse, the data available is harmful.

Dear Engineering Manager, you don't look like me

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As an Engineering Manager, I am accountable for the delivery of my team as well as the growth and wellbeing of each of my reports. Throughout the years, however, my day to day hasn’t always been the same. This is mainly due to the fact that the expectations for the EM role differ greatly between organisations.

In this post I want to recap my experience so far, for those new managers trying to understand their role and anyone interested. If you want to learn more about the most common EM archetypes, please check Pat Kua’s excellent post here. I will use it as a reference for my reflection.

What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

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A few weeks ago, as part of my regular 121s with the team, I decided to ask them the question “What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself trying to get to where you are today in half the time?”. Now, this is typically a question that I would ask a mentor of mine, not that my mentor would ask me. However, I decided to try this question as a self-reflecting question for a change, and the results were pretty amazing as you will see.

A Pragmatic Approach to Roadmapping

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Creating a roadmap can be a challenging task. I can’t really say I am an expert on the matter, but have done it a couple of times. The most recent one, I put together a workshop that got fairly positive feedback and so I’m sharing it for the benefit of anyone interested.

One Remote, All Remote

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This post was originally intended as a compilation of suggestions to promote a “one remote, all remote” approach to meetings. That is, instead of using room equipment that can make the experience less than ideal for remote attendees, if one person joins remotely, everyone does.

During COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve confirmed with my team that all of these apply to a full remote setup as well.

Also, as we start going back to “normality”, some people will return to the office from day one, while others will stay home for a bit longer. As a result, hybrid team configurations, like the one this post was originally intended to address, will be very common for a while. Now more than ever, these tips might be relevant to you too.

Continuous Performance Assessment

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Have you ever struggled evaluating the performance of your direct reports? Or have you been surprised in your performance evaluation meeting with your manager? In this post I’ll explain a different approach and will give you some tips and guidelines to implement it yourself.

Managing High Performers

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Following up from the last article about managing low performers, this time I will talk about the other side of the coin, high performers. But first, we need to understand what they are.

Managing Low Performers

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It’s annual performance review time, and even though for most people this is a smooth and straightforward process, from time to time managers need to deal with some not so pleasant situations. Managing low performers is all but straightforward, so keep reading for some tips on how to deal with it and start the year off on the right foot.

Improving Your Conversational Skills

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At work, great communicators have an advantage. They know how to have great conversations. Personality helps, but this is a skill that anyone can learn. Here I explore a few tips to improve your conversational skills.

Providing Purpose

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A job pays the bills. But if that is all it means to you, it will be hard to feel inspired. It is not unreasonable to expect a job to excite you and provide you with a higher sense of purpose.

Purpose is feeling that your time is being well spent and your work is adding value to something that matters. For some people it is easier to feel purpose, and also some vocations are simply more likely to help you feel purpose e.g. teachers and healthcare professionals are frequently included in this category.

But most people are not wired to feel purpose that easily and most jobs are not clearly fulfilling in that sense. You, as a manager, have to effectively lead those people. What can you do?

Avoiding Burnout at Work

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Even people that work in great high-performing teams can sometimes experience excessive stress and burnout. Burnout is about mental and physical exhaustion, caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

As you look at your team, check whether you have seen any of these signs.

My 7 Management Principles

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As a manager I like to follow what I call “my 7 management principles” when I work with my team. Sometimes we find ourselves overwhelmed and under pressure. Having a set of clear principles that are easy to remember can help us, managers, get back on track quickly. Mine are based on my own experience and have helped me in the past in numerous occasions.

The 7 principles are the following.