Advice for a first-time manager?
May 17, 2006 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Advice for a first-time manager? (more inside)

I've been a grunt engineer for almost twenty years, but now find myself considering a move into management. This is a whole new world for me, and I don't want to get in over my head. What new skills do I need to learn? What books should I read? Is it really an easier transition than I'm making it out to be?
posted by rocket88 to Work & Money (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The One Minute Manager
posted by caddis at 6:57 PM on May 17, 2006

I can't recommend the Manager Tools podcast highly enough.
posted by sudama at 7:01 PM on May 17, 2006

When I made the transition to manager I paid very close attention to what I liked about my managers and what I didn't. I really tried to work those things that I loved about my managers into my management style, and was very sensitive to avoiding things that I hated.

In general, be a manager that looks to support his or her workers, make them look good, make sure that they aren't just bogged down with work they hate (take on some of the horrible work too, don't just pass that down), actively look out for them in the organization and defend their interests, communicate with them outside of work related task assignment, let them know what they could do better, and groom them to advance.

Start making a list of the things you love and hate now, and once you're a manager you'll be a great one.
posted by visual mechanic at 8:56 PM on May 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

On the first day of you new job, sit down with every one of your direct reports and clearly tell them that you're the supervisor, and your job isn't to make widgets. It's supervising and directing other people while THEY make the widgets, so that in the end, more widgets are created. Your fundamental relationship with your job has changed. Respect that first, and the rest is easy.
posted by frogan at 9:12 PM on May 17, 2006

If you're a working manager, you'll now have to plan the work as well as do the work, but if you are just a manager, you'll have to just plan the work and monitor it.

Best advice I have is to remember that your job changed to working for your employees. They are not some pile of serfs placed there for your improvement, but you are definitely working for them, now. How can you clear obstacles for them? How can you get them the resources they need to do their jobs? How can you help them improve their skill set so they move on to bigger and better problems? How can you adjust their workload to make the schedules and budgets you have to meet? How can you protect them from your manager's unrealistic expectations?

Mostly, if you focus on them, they'll make you look good and you'll all prosper.

One other thing... never yell downward, only upward. You can make or break their attitudes and once broken, it can be nearly impossible to repair.

Since you are an engineer, you already passed a big test for being smart, IMO. Just make the study of low level management as important as any other problem you encounter and I'll bet you'll excel. Good luck.
posted by FauxScot at 5:03 AM on May 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Joel Spolsky (the Microsoft veteran, small-business owner, tech commentator) said that managers at Microsoft view their jobs as just getting the chairs out of their reports' way. I'm also just a lowly engineer, but that philosophy really rings true.

So: do the work that is not in your reports' job descriptions. Is their computer bust? Get onto the IT dudes and get them to mend it. Does your report need a third party to something? Liaise with the third party and get the ball rolling. One of the most demoralising parts of an engineer's life is having to deal with random tasks instead of doing their job. Help them by taking on the random tasks.
posted by pollystark at 8:10 AM on May 18, 2006

i suggest you take management, leadership, team building, and project management classes and seminars 3-4 times a year. it looks good on your resume, and i find them to be a kind of 'pep talk' when the weight of management gets me down. yes, sometimes i don't agree with everything being said, but i take the good parts and advice and leave the rest. the classes will also be a great place to hear about books and books on tape.

everyone here has given you some good points to think about. yay metafiler!

i think you should definitely get some great books to read. go find some great positive thinking and organizational books. make yourself a better person first, and then lead by example. do you want your department to be positive, organized, team players, multi taskers? do it and be it yourself, and people will emulate you, because you are the boss.

the art of possibility
magic words at work
posted by saragoodman3 at 9:53 AM on May 18, 2006

Seconding Joel Spolsky. There are some real gems in his Management Training Program Reading List.

So far, Slack is the best management book I've read.
posted by Could it be, El Guapo ... at 4:46 PM on May 18, 2006

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