Thursday, April 9, 2015

How To: Develop Good Managers

"people don’t quit companies—they quit managers" - Chris Loux
In my anecdotal experience, the above is often true.

Technically, I want the freedom to determine the best solution to a problem, even the freedom to figure out what the problem actually is. But career-wise, I want a manager who cares about my development and helps me identify and achieve my goals. If those aren't happening? I'm probably going to have a wandering eye, looking for better opportunities.

It's long been a quest of mine to figure out what a great manager looks like. I don't know if I want to be a manager yet, but I have pretty strong feelings about how I want people who manage me to behave.

While on that quest, I recently (re-)discovered a 2013 report by HBR on how Google researched and analyzed management to make Google a place top notch engineers want to work. I think the key takeaways are their top 8 behaviors of good managers:
A good manager:
1. Is a good coach
2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage
3. Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being
4. Is productive and results-oriented
5. Is a good communicator—listens and shares information
6. Helps with career development
7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team
8. Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team
The other key takeaway is that in order to make sure managers knew what they needed to improve on they instituted a regular "Upward Feedback Survey" that would allow reports to provide numeric feedback about their managers in those 8 key areas. That feedback was then aggregated and reported back to each manager, so that they could improve.

Plus, this feedback loop was outside of the normal performance reviews. It was confidential and allowed managers to improve themselves. It's a development tool, not a performance metric.

Then on top of that Google provided optional management training courses, for managers to improve in the areas their feedback suggested.

It's really that simple.
  1. Create a feedback loop
  2. Analyze and report the metrics
  3. Allow people to improve on personal areas of weakness without threat to their job
People want to improve. If they don't, you hired the wrong people.