I sat with a good friend in a bar during one of his visits. He’s a very technical guy and knows his craft better than anyone I know. I told him about some of the work I do with first-line managers to help develop the skills they need to become outstanding.
His face twitched weirdly. “I don’t have time for any of your training. I’m too busy as it is. Manager’s training is a waste of my time.” I didn’t expect this response, my ego prepared a marvelous counter speech on how we can truly transform technical management, but instead, I chose to be curious and explore why he felt like this. “Can you tell me what makes you feel this way?” I asked. “Management is a tax. Instead of doing my job, I have to sit in meetings all day long, prepare employee assessments and write reports. You know how tight schedule is! Instead of wasting my time in training, I can do my work and make real progress. ”
I was surprised at how different we grasp management. While I see management as a force of multiplication and increased impact, he sees it as a tax! How is this possible?
It’s all about perception
It’s the way we perceive things. There are many reasons why we don’t enjoy our work. Here are three that I caught during our conversation.
We believe management is a tax.
It prevents us from investing in our technical part of our job where we believe we give the most value. Technical leads who become first-line managers often rely on their technical skills to succeed, but it can only get them so far. I agree it’s important, but I think investing in your team can boost your career.
Let’s use some basic math to explain. As a technical manager, you accomplish 2 units of works. You manage 10 people who are relative juniors and can accomplish 0.5 units of work each. Total of 7 units of work. How will the output of the team increase if over a year you will invest in increasing your output by 25%? You will now produce 2.5 units of work and a total of 7.5 units of work. What if instead, you grow the efficiency of your team by 25%? They will now produce 6.25 units and a total of 8.25 which is, of course, better than 7.5.
Investing in your team first provides you with the power of multiplication. The more you grow them, the better the output. Guess who is will get the credit for that?
We’re attending too many meetings.
No one likes when our time is wasted on pointless meetings. The real problem is that some of our meetings are far from being effective. Be proactive and make them effective. Ask for agenda before the meeting and don’t show up if there is none. If the agenda has no potential to create movement and progress in your project, talk with the organizer and discuss that. If someone derails the discussion, put him on the spot and get back to what’s effective and to the meeting goals. If it’s just a status meeting, ask for it on email. Here is a thumb rule – if we don’t make progress in a meeting, we shouldn’t have it.
Reports and assessments are a waste of time.
I have to admit; I hate writing a monthly report. I’d rather do the work and let someone else write it. But reports have a more important role than to report what you did. They create trust and increase confidence.
We once had a critical bug in one of the tools we released to our users which prevented them from making progress. We worked like crazy on fixing it. Our customers were checking on us daily and escalated the issue to our management. My manager then told me “I know you are doing the best you can to solve the issue. I know we are learning how not to repeat it in the future. Why not send a status report to SHOW what you are doing?” I sent a progress report daily and what happened next surprised me – all customer complaints and escalations stopped. Why? Because the status report helped them feel that the problem is our top priority, that someone is taking care of it. They didn’t have to escalate because we are already doing our best!
Reports are not just to report what you did. They are a great source of information and a tool to build trust and to show responsibility. Because I dislike reports, I ask the help of my team members to write their reports in a way that I can copy paste them to my report.
Management is a multiplication force for you and your career. Invest in your people and watch how your output multiplies. Become efficient so you can also do the things you love to do at work. Look at the things you must do as a manager and ask yourself if it can help you instead of waste your time.
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Thank you for reading this.
Nir Megnazi – Leadership Coach