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Geeks in Management? 763

Posted by Cliff
from the still-wearing-jeans-in-spirit dept.
The Other Side of the Coin asks: "I've been doing a relatively interesting job until now, but they've pushed me into management recently. Although the new position is pretty boring (I manage normals), I do still have time for all the geeky stuff I used to do before. My problem is: I have no formal (or any other, for that matter) management training. Sure, I'll read a lot about it (and take some education), but what are your experiences as geeks in management? For example, I naturally started to use Borgish management methods, and this wasn't received well by people, to say the least. What are the most difficult hurdles for a manager geek to jump, and can our personality be used as an advantage in management?"
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Geeks in Management?

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  • Pretty Ironic... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shant3030 (414048) * on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:06PM (#11471416)
    I was just offered a management position yesterday. Being an engineer who will be going into management, I am also curious to what the responses will be.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:17PM (#11471602)
      "Pretty Ironic ... I was just offered a management position yesterday."
      • The offer wasn't, by-chance, to replace the guy that submitted this story, was it?
    • What Helped Me (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bds01 (853220) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:19PM (#11471643)
      I was a geek 6 years ago than became a manager. I would say the most important thing to do is understand the difference between being a manager and a leader. The key difference is a manager will tell you to do something. You will only do the action if it is in your best interest. A leader will convince you to do something that isn't necessarily in your best interest and you will do it. I haven't read any management books and I wouldn't recommend any. Just treat your people with respect and remember that they are always watching you .
      • Re:What Helped Me (Score:3, Informative)

        by UNIX_Meister (461634)
        I tend to agree with the above post: "do as I say, not as I do" is a big mistake of managers. Also, it is an apt description of the difference between a manager and a leader. But as I have just finished my Masters from University of Phoenix (MS-CIS, and not all that helpful, btw) there was one book that we read that was helpful.

        Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, 2nd Ed. [amazon.com]

        It is a little centered towards a development crew, but I think all of the ideas work well for any kind of IT management. I h
      • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:51PM (#11472077) Journal
        1) Know your peoples capabilities and never ask them to do anything they are incapable of.

        Its OK to challenge them a little, but never give them more than they can chew. You will be confronted with this when senior management gives you tasks that your team are incapable of meeting. The easy thing to do is simply delegate the tasks and put your head in the sand, but this will lead to unhappy workers, the job won't get done, you'll discipline your workers for their failure and kill morale, and you'll look like a failure to your superiors. The harder thing to do is tell your senior management upfront that you can't do it. But that's what gets you respect. If your senior management won't listen to reason, tell your team frankly what the situation is, tell them you don't expect them to be able to achieve the impossible, but that you've got to do your job, so can they do the best they can and let you make the excuses later.

        2) Know what is going on.

        Your manager is going to ask you things like "How long will this take" and you're going to go and ask your people the same question to enable yourself to answer. Don't make the mistake of giving people questions that they cannot answer and expecting them to do so. I don't know how many times in the past I've had a dumb manager ask me how long this task will take, and refuse to accept "I don't have enough information to answer that and here is why" as an answer. Work with your people to get the real facts, and instead of presenting a number pulled out of your teams respective asses, present a break down of knowns, unknowns, mitigating factors, etc so that you're not promising something you don't know if you can deliver.

        3) Manage your planning.

        You don't want to micromanage, but you do need to juggle a whole bunch of different peoples estimates and manage to coordinate peoples working together. Typically managers will either make the initial plan then let things go and remain in the dark, or they will have way too many meetings to ensure that they are up to speed. If you have too many meetings, only the few will have something to add, and it will be irrelevant to most present, with the result that everyones time is wasted and people percieve meetings as a waste of time. Not a good perception to engender in them. Instead, help each person involved understand what the red flags are that you need to be notified of and make them feel safe and welcome bringing them to you. That way you don't need to micromanage but you will always know what is going on and will know where to reallocate resources before its too late.

        I'm sure I can think of more things than this, but I'd say these are the most important points.

        Oh, and I don't have any formal management training whatsoever, so I don't know how this holds up with conventional wisdom. I just know it seems to have worked for me.

        BTW: Don't read those books on Making Friends and Influencing People. You're not there to make friends, you're there to make shit happen. Try looking for How To Make Enemies And Infuriate People instead. Much more useful.
        • From my own experiences: 1. Always explain to everybody what the rules are. 2. Reprimand them IN PRIVATE afterward if the broke the rules in 1. 3. Congratulate them in public for good task done. 4. Be logical, you can't win every time but if you back your team and get them to see the result, you'll be a lot more successful than the next PHB. 5. Have fun, which will save you from ulcers... Good luck.
        • by gmletzkojr (768460) <gmletzkojr@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:45PM (#11472781) Homepage Journal
          I certainly agree with this. I was in charge of a group (about 5) of developers on a project.

          Some of them were simply not capable of performing 'higher level' tasks, so those are the ones you honestly cannot push - and they don't want to be pushed. They are good at mundane tasks, and enjoy those tasks. Give the higher risk - higher reward tasks to those that want to do it.

          As far as 'knowing what is going on' with each person and 'manage your planning', I found it beneficial and useful to have a meeting with each person individually. This allowed me to help them work through any problems they were having, as well as get an idea of the progress they were making. If there was something that affected the entire group, then I called a 'real' meeting. But, otherwise, the one-on-one meetings worked out better for me. (Yes, unless of course they are pair programming - but you get the idea).

          Ideally, as a manager, one of your main tasks is to remove obstacles to progress for those working underneath you. Sometimes that means re-arranging furniture. Sometimes it means talking extensively to the customer. It rarely means working 18 hours a day to correct one of your workers poor results. As it has been said elsewhere, your overall picture is to make sure the job/project gets done. Late night heroics usually don't get the job done - but a manager that can tell when a task is falling behind and can at least do something to change it has a much better chance of getting it done.

          BTW, I also have no formal management training - but I have worked for really stupid people, and really smart people. Choose what works, discard the rest.
      • Re:What Helped Me (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rutledjw (447990) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:03PM (#11472271) Homepage
        I agree here, but there has to be a level of authority. Note: I work at a large, soulless corp with lot's of politics, but here's what I've noticed/would recommend:
        • You are NO LONGER a peer. Do not act as such, it will undermine your ability to manage
        • Protect your people. I try to take the PM view I learned at IBM. I try to shield them from BS so they can focus. _I_ am the "bad cop" to outsiders who are out of line. I NEVER ask my folks to take that role.
        • Listen to your folks, discipline is ALWAYS a secondary (or later) tactic for addressing issues. I have listened to a lot of screaming from my team. If they're pissed, they barge in my office and let loose. They're not disrespectful, they're frustrated, angry, and want someone to listen and help. After they're done, we figure something out. I'd rather they yell in my office than at some jackass outside the group.
        • Honesty. Whether it's reviews, promotions, good, bad, whatever - be honest. Even if it's - I can't say right now.
        • Your tech skills will be gone soon. You'll have exposure, but at a high level. I finally had to give up on the hands-on tech stuff. It's not easy, but it's the way it is
        • Have a spine with upper mgmt. This doesn't mean shoot your mouth off, but be ready and able to say "no" in a firm but calm manner and help them "make better decisions" when appropriate. Holding my ground and remaining calm has helped me a LOT. You will be granted precieved authority beyond your title which can make life easier.
        • Look long term and don't get shaken my short term events. Your team will react in a similar manner to your reaction to news (merger, layoffs, uppermgmt change, etc).
        • ALWAYS remember - Karma is easier lost than gained.
        • Listen to older SUCCESSFUL managers who offer advice
        That being said, I'm not totally certian I like this role, but I'm getting used to it.

        It's better than unemployment. Bonuses are better

    • Re:Pretty Ironic... (Score:4, Informative)

      by smackjer (697558) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:20PM (#11471663) Homepage
      Coincidence != Irony.
    • by fnorky (16067) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:40PM (#11471933) Homepage
      I moved up into management a few years ago and have found 2 basic rules to follow. 1) Take care of your people. 2) Get the job done. If you don't take care of your people, you will NEVER be able to get the job done. -Doug
    • Re:Pretty Ironic... (Score:5, Informative)

      by frenetic3 (166950) <houstonNO@SPAMalum.mit.edu> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:22PM (#11472506) Homepage Journal
      I've read a bunch of management books, of which I highly suggest a few:

      Peopleware : Productive Projects and Teams, 2nd Ed. [amazon.com] by Lister and DeMarco -- probably THE book you want to get

      First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently [amazon.com] by Buckingham -- based on extensive surveys of what makes employees happy with their jobs and bosses, and what they need to do their job effectively

      and I've heard good things about Becoming a Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-Solving Approach [amazon.com] by G. Weinberg and How To Win Friends And Influence People [amazon.com] (seen both cited by numerous successful entrepreneurs) but haven't been able to read them yet.

      (BTW, those are all non-referrer links, I'm not link-whoring.)

      I suggest reading a bunch; you'll start seeing overlap and will understand the basics after the first few. Good luck!

      -fren
  • Easy thing to do- (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:07PM (#11471422) Homepage Journal
    Treat your "normals" as you would like to be treated if the positions were reversed.

    Will solve a lot of problems that way.
    • This can be problematic. I would like to be offered a coffee and lots of sympathy when the train has been delayed, and I turn up to work 20mins later than I should have been, having just ran for the last half mile.. But instead, being in tune with reality, I expect the PHB to make noises, and I've seen what can happen when manglement are a little too laissez-faire - people start taking the ****.
    • Re:Easy thing to do- (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chris_mahan (256577)
      It wont work. He's a geek.

      To the guy who asked slashdot: Normals need to be treated firmly and unequivocally.
      No playing games, no friendliness, no nothing. Just do it by the book. Tell them what's expected of them, recognize their achievements, punish their lack thereof. They need a firm structure, and they strive. They are climbing the corporate ladder. Remove the ladder and they're lost and confused. Get a book on military leadership, NCO level.

      Ask management in no uncertain terms why they thought you w
      • by jonTu (839883) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:20PM (#11473170)
        I just wrapped up a year-long project as the creative (ie. non-technical or "normal") lead under a programmer-turned-project manager, who happened to also be an Army NCO. If you wanted a dictionary definition of how to f*ck up a project and piss off your subordinates, this guy's handling would make a great case study, and he pulled it off by doing EXACTLY what the parent post suggests: treating his subordinate "normals" firmly and unequivalently with a sense of military discipline.

        Military leadership and overstucturing is COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE for the vast majority of jobs. Consider it. Military leadership techniques are designed to allow people to perform a finite range of tasks with zero chance of screw up, redundancy when necesary, and replacability. If you treat an employee like a soldier, you get minimal efficiency because you're discouraging creative thinking and self-direction. Perhaps more importantly, soldiers have something that employees lack: absolute dedication. If a solider hates the job he toughts it out, that's why they call it "service." You can shoot him if he flips and decides to leave. If an employee hates it, she will quit, or at least do the absolute minimum excepted and bitch about it. And you sure as hell can't cap her for it. "Normals" aren't really that different from geeks, they like to be treated with respect too, and work harder for bosses who "get it" and respect them (or at least seem to).

        The parent does make one good point: ask why you were selected. Because if you're such a far-gone geek that you belive that all "normals" need "a firm structure," then clearly your bosses just f*cked up in a big way promoting you. You're a geek, that means you have great technical skills and perhaps a unusual point of view. That menas you have some skills to apply to management, but it doesn't mean you're some sort of Neitzchian ubermenche entitled to treat everyone like idiots.

        Sorry to pounce all over that post, but my god did I have a bad experince with a manager who may as well have taken that exact same advice.

        • by budgenator (254554) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @07:38PM (#11474729) Journal
          If a solider hates the job he toughts it out, that's why they call it "service." You can shoot him if he flips and decides to leave.
          What your forgetting is your Army NCO is one man with a rifle and two grenades, they, are seven men with five men armed with rifles and ten grenades, one with a rifle and a grenade launcher and one with a machine gun; they also have a few anti-tank rockets to boot. I'm sure you under-estimate how easy it is to catch one in the back, or to be left out to dry. Sure there are a few assholes in the Military, but overall they are people who are trained to accomplish too much, with too little resources, and their tasks generaly have a high cost of failure.
    • by rackhamh (217889) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:18PM (#11471621)
      Except that proper functioning of a business is often directly at odds with making everybody absolutely comfortable in their jobs.

      Anybody who's worked in the IT department for a company with a hiring freeze knows what I'm talking about.
    • Re:Easy thing to do- (Score:4, Interesting)

      by l4m3z0r (799504) <kevin@uTWAINberstyle.net minus author> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:25PM (#11471735)
      So in otherwords, give out free beer and never require them to do any work?
    • by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp@NOsPAM.freeshell.org> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:39PM (#11471931) Homepage Journal
      No way. First thing, stop calling them "normals." It brings their hopes up and offends management. Call them peons, grunts, minions, or human resources, all of which are suitably devaluing. In addition, you should refrain from calling your minions by names. Make them all get numbers tatooed to their foreheads and refer to them by those.

      Replace coffee with electric shocks as a wake up.
      Reward failure with ever increasing voltage electric shocks, administered through the seat of the minions whenever you see fit.
      Reward success by allowing a minion to skip their morning electric shock.

      Use the shocks, verbal abuse, and threats of layoff to convince your minions that you are superior in all ways. The ones who have become convinced can then be given tazers of their own in order to opress the rest of the office. This will lead to your eventual rise to become the SHOEO of the company (supreme high overlord executive officer).

      At this point you can then install all the latest accompaniments afforded to the average SHOEO: the harem, the trap door into the pirhana pit, and, of course, the evil talisman of layoff (I know, most non-SHOEOs don't know about that - essentially, it magically steals job security from others to make it's user virtually impossible to fire, while simultaneously eliminating those pesky do-gooders).

      Of course, as a geek, you can add your own embellishments. To go with my PC, I have a Beowulf Cluster of Pain, and USB Flash of lightning generator. Oh, all the cameras and devices - including the lights are hooked directly to my cluster via X10 technology so that I can make sure that nobody exceeds their light or enjoyment ration.

      It's a good job if you do it right.
    • by Alien54 (180860) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:40PM (#11471934) Journal
      Various things:
      1. Some folks will be on your side, others will have other agendas. get rid of the ones (transfer out, etc) whose agenda is to "get you" or "sabotage so they become the hero" or "plain and simple sabotage" (and other varieties of evil genius plotting against you)

        These are folks who refuse to get on board unless they are the whip master in their fuedal world.

        also be awake for the super polite nay-sayers, who drive everyone else batty.

      2. If folks have other agendas, and these agendas are not hostile to you, you need to get them in harmony with your team goals.
      3. Complete uniformity of mind is not desirable. However, those who keep discovering problems for you to panic about need to be looked at closely, and with suspicion. Are they someone's patsy, or what?
      4. typical project management stuff: mapping out goals, sub goals, final products, etc in a clear, consistent fashion.

        Be aware: goals have their dependencies as well.

      5. Accurate estimation of effort, and allow for Murphy's law X2
      6. Under Promise, Over Deliver, but don't get caught in a trap of management compensating for this.
      7. Dealing with Management is a PR Job.

        Example: PHB thinks project is almost done because the GUI is finished. Reality is that gui was done first because it's the easiest to do, now all the rest of the work has to be done.

        Solution: implement a series of graphics so that the gui reflects the state of completeness. example: use color and 3d effects only for 100% done, greyscale everything else. 3d effects only on things 75% done, etc.

      8. The Human Intereface Protocol is remarkably similar to Modem Communication and Handshaking Protocols, and serves for a model for basic geek manners.

        Example: Always send an appropriate ack to the person you are talking with to indicate you got what they were saying. An appropriate ack could be head shake, grunt, verbal, back pat, etc. Key word is appropriate.

        Example: Implementing error correction at the verbal level, recheck to verify that data was received correctly on both side of a conversation. You would be surprised how badly this can go off the rails.

      9. Choose a workable version of the Golden Rule.
      10. Much of the above will help avoid becoming a MicroManager
    • by demachina (71715) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:01PM (#11472242)
      "as you would like to be treated if the positions were reversed."

      Well that would be the naive geeks answer especially coming from a worker that would like their to sucker new managers in to treat them that way.

      First here is a little ditty you should memorize:

      Work is like a tree full of monkeys.
      If you are on top you look down and see nothing but smiling faces.
      If you are on the bottom you look up and see nothing but assholes about to shit on you.
      If you are on the top and things go bad you have a golden parachute so the landing is positively pleasant.
      If you are on the bottom when the monkey above you knocks you out of the free you break your fucking ass.

      In the real world....here are some more realistic tips.

      Your objective as a manager is to exploit the people that work for you to the maximum extent possible. You want to get the most, and best quality work you can, for the least amount of money. The more you exploit out of them the more there is for you and your manager friends in ridiculous salaries, bonuses, lavish trips, perks, secretaries with special skills, expense accounts and options.

      Needless to say exploitation is a fine art. You need to exploit them just up to that invisible line where they will stop doing good work or quit. Though if they are expendable to you its OK if you push them until they quit so those people you can totally exploit. Fortunately most geeks are dumb and you can push them reaaalllllly far before they get pissed off and do something about it.

      If the job market is tight you can ratchet up the exploitation.

      If you value the employee you need to throw them just enough bones to make them think they are getting something. For example:

      - When you work them 80 hour week death marches give them a small fraction of the uncompensated overtime off after you ship and before you start the next death march. Don't give them all of it back because then you have a gigantic hole in your next schedule and you look weak and like a chump to the managers above you.

      - Give them a 1000 stock options, though this doesn't work as well as it used to when stock options were free candy. Make sure the options are priced at a point where there will have to be a major surge in the stock price for them to be worth anything. Also don't tell them that they are probably going to get laid off before they vest. Don't tell them all the managers get 100 times more options priced at pennies on the dollar and they will be worth buckets of money even if the managers tank the company and the stock price.

      - Make out like what a great favor you are doing for even giving them the measly health plan and the IRA.

      - If your company is tanking a quarter don't give any of your employees any raises or bonuses, in fact claw back any benefits you can. Have an all hands and give them a speech about the need for sacrifice. Don't tell them that the managers are in fact giving back nothing and are in fact still making out like bandits on bonuses, options and perks. If some employee, fed up with your sweatshop, challenges you on the subject, lie and then lay that employee off. That will encourage everyone else to shut up.

      Might have a few more later.
    • by aphor (99965) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:43PM (#11473443) Journal

      If you're looking for a protocol specification, then start with:

      1. Be lenient in what you require; be strict in what you provide.
  • Must Read (Score:5, Informative)

    by k96822 (838564) * on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:07PM (#11471426) Journal
    It is absolutely crucial to read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. That will turn anyone into a good manager. Best manager I had was an analytical type like us back at GE. He read lots of books and practiced what they preached. The Carnegie book is the most important!
    • Re:Must Read (Score:5, Informative)

      by 680x0 (467210) <vicky@ste[ ].com ['eds' in gap]> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:10PM (#11471490) Journal
      Reading is a good start. Another book I have to recommend is Peopleware by Lister and DeMarco.
      • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        Peopleware (out of print last time I looked, but you may be lucky) is a superb book, and very readable. I particularly like the story about the Bell-o-phone, which sums up my attitude to telephones perfectly. It's not just about management, it's about working productively. If more managers read this book, I would consider going back to the real world (until I remembered the whole thing about mornings).
    • Re:Must Read (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sentry21 (8183) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:35PM (#11471880) Journal
      I'd like to second this.

      The power of this book is not that it reveals some hidden truths that turn you into Mr Personality, but rather, it is a list of examples and a collection of reminders. Reading the book frequently to keep the suggestions in your mind, you will more easily remember to do things that you know you should probably do anyway.

      For example, one chapter is dedicated to smiling. You should smile often, because it makes you seem happier, more approachable, and a nicer person in general. Our mothers always tell us we should smile more, but most people don't really think about it (I look for smiling people on the Metro when I go to and from work - people never smile who are there alone, and rarely if they are with someone).

      Consider it a book of reminders that will keep your personality friendly and brighten your day and the days of those around you, and make your managerial job a hundred times easier. Highly recommended for anyone who ever has to deal with people in any fasion - which is everyone. And at $10 CDN, it's a steal.
      • Re:Must Read (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Vellmont (569020)

        For example, one chapter is dedicated to smiling. You should smile often, because it makes you seem happier, more approachable, and a nicer person in general.

        God.. smiling more? Think about what you're turning yourself into by smiling all the time. Plastic. We aren't all idiots that can't see through someone that's just smiling because they read it in a book somewhere.

        Rather than just putting on a nice mask, maybe you should figure out why you're not happy? If you are happy, hey great, find a way t
        • Re:Must Read (Score:4, Informative)

          by swv3752 (187722) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .2573vws.> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:20PM (#11472483) Homepage Journal
          Evaluate your mood. Smile for ten minutes. reevaluate your mood. Amazing that you feel better, huh?

          Noone is saying smile when you are at your grandma's funeral, but for everyday stuff it wouldn't hurt to smile more.
      • Barbi Implants? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:24PM (#11472529) Homepage Journal
        For example, one chapter is dedicated to smiling. You should smile often, because it makes you seem happier, more approachable, and a nicer person in general.

        Okay, we know the "why", but what about the "how"? I never was good at faking smiles for photo sessions. How does one learn how to fake a smile over long stretches? It is really tough to be happy around people who you would zoom away from at warp speed given a choice.
    • by Phoe6 (705194) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:29PM (#11472593) Homepage Journal
      First off, I'd suggest buying "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People", and NOT read it. Burn it, it's a great symbolic gesture. (*) This document does so not so much by answering the question, but by making it painfully obvious to the questioner that we don't have a clue to what the answer is. -Linus Benedict Torvalds [lwn.net]
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:07PM (#11471429) Homepage
    Employee hammocks!

  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:07PM (#11471435) Homepage Journal
    I naturally started to use Borgish management methods... What are the most difficult hurdles for a manager geek to jump, and can our personality be used as an advantage in management?
    Well, one of the most difficult challenges you face is stop using Star Trek references in every day speech. If you do that, and stop referring to your cell phone as a Communicator, you'll probably do just fine.
  • by EvilStein (414640) <spam@@@pbp...net> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:08PM (#11471442) Homepage
    if you can do the job of the people you're managing, you have an advantage. I cannot count time times where I've been in a job and the pinhead that was hired to be manager was just that - a manager... a manager that had absolutely no idea how to do the job I was doing. They were just a buzzword spouting talking head.

    • by Wudbaer (48473) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:28PM (#11471794) Homepage
      It is an advantage to understand what the people you are managing are supposed to do, but remember one thing:

      EVEN IF YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THE JOB, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LEAVE YOUR TEAM ALONE.

      The worst thing is the engineer-turned-manager who constantly has to have his hands in everyone and the dog's work because he thinks he is still hot and knows better than those kids how to do stuff. Even if this is the case: If you find out your team is staffed with total idiots rather fire them and get better ones than try to do their work for them. Just won't work out.

      You still can give a demonstration of your geek-god-like skills from time to time at chosen occasions to show them that they cannot tell you an X for an U, and you can give them good advice IF THEY ASK YOU FOR IT, but otherwise just manage them and don't do their work. Been there, done that, and it just didn't work out, neither for them nor for me.

    • by SSpade (549608) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:41PM (#11471962) Homepage

      An advantage, yes, but not a huge one.

      What you want as your manager is a good manager. If they're a good manager then whether they're good at $YOUR_JOB is almost irrelevant. If they're a bad manager then they're a bad manager regardless of their level of knowledge of $YOUR_JOB.

      Good managers know which of their staff to trust the opinions of, and which not too. They ask their staff for recomendations, and take that into account in their decision making. They know enough of the field and the language to understand those recomendations, even if they don't have the specific skills to do the job themselves (for instance, as a software developer some of the best managers I've had could code circles around me, some of them hadn't programmed in years, some of them didn't have a background in development at all).

      Good managers protect their staff from the crap going on in the rest of the company, but make sure they know what they need to about what all else is going on. They make sure that their staff get the resources and training they need. They know what all their staff, and ideally staff in related groups are doing on a general level, and do a lot of "Hey, you should talk to $OTHER_PERSON, as the stuff they're doing is similar to what you're looking for." - making sure that people actually get the benefits of working together.

      Good managers are like gold. When you find one, do your best to keep them. Becoming one is tricky and takes a lot of work and experience. Strive for it. Meanwhile, don't call meetings for your whole group more than once a week, keep 'em short and bring donuts. Your staff will cut you a lot of slack for donuts.

    • Completely wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bluGill (862) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:43PM (#11471981)

      You couldn't be more completely wrong. The best manager I ever had, had no idea how to do my job. He didn't need to know that, there were senior engineers who did know how to do the job that he turned me to when I needed technical leadership. However he did an excellent job of running interference for me so that I could work. I didn't have to worry about went on over my head because he did all the political fighting, and reported back to me what happened. He was smart enough to find out what would be an issue in the future, and start the political process to solve them now, before they became a big deal.

      While working under him I was under some of the worst upper management I've ever seen, but my day to day job was a pleasure because I was only vaguely aware of how bad things were.

      Management's job is not to get things done, it is to get others to get the job done. Sometimes management must jump in and hands on get things done, but even then the manager must never forget that the first duty is to get the others to do the work.

  • Don't micromanage! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Undefined Tag (750722) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:09PM (#11471458) Homepage
    For me, the toughest part of getting "bumped up" was giving up control. Let people do their jobs. Let them make their mistakes. Yes, as management, you are responsible. But you are also building a team for the long term. Encourage and correct, don't micromanage.
    • by servognome (738846) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:28PM (#11471781)
      Giving up control is definately the hardest part. Do not try to solve everybody's problems, it is doubtful you'll have a new off-the-cuff solution that works. What you need to do is just make sure they are working to solve the problem and understand the direction they are going and what help, if any, is needed (ie more resources, new lab equipment, etc.).

      What typically happens with a micromanaging boss:
      Sir we have this proble...
      Well have you tried X?
      Yes, it didn't work
      How about Y?
      That wasn't workable under our conditions
      What about Z?
      It failed too
      Hmmm, I'll try to think of something
      A good manager will ask, "okay so what are your plans for a solution?" Then evaluate what the plans are and acts as a fresh set of eyes to double-check that they make sense, give technical input, ensures it fits budget, and timelines.
  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:09PM (#11471462) Homepage

    My problem is: I have no formal (or any other, for that matter) management training.

    Everything I ever needed to know about management, I learned from Dilbert.

    Now, granted, I don't actually have a job. . . .

  • Is this a joke? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fnkmaster (89084) * on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:10PM (#11471476)
    You are likely to be better at something if you enjoy it. If you feel like you were "pushed" into management and don't want to be doing it, then find a role as a technical lead, architect or similar where your primary responsibilities are still deeply technical, not managerial.

    Nobody wants to be managed by somebody who doesn't want to and doesn't know how to be a manager or a leader. You don't need formal training, unless you want to advance to higher ranks, then it might help. But for most purposes, you just need a willingness to listen and to talk and to think about things from a non-technology-driven perspective at times.

    I am not sure what "Borgish" management methods are (you must be a graduate of Starfleet Academy's MBA program?), but it certainly sounds like something that nobody would enjoy being subjected to. Not everybody is as smart as you, but if you go around treating people like they are a different species ("normals" from your own post) don't expect to develop a good working relationship with them. If this is what you mean by your "personality", then no, that won't be an advantage in a management role, period.

    I think of myself as a "geek" in certain ways, I enjoy understanding and creating technology, I like to take things apart and hack on them, and I can spend hours focused on a task intently. But I realize that when I'm operating in a management role, decisions are driven by the best long term interests of the business and the team, not by technology in isolation. And you reap what you sow with the people who work for you. If your team respects your intelligence AND likes you, there is nothing they won't do for you. That's a strong, loyal team. If they think you are a smart geeky asshole and they shit on you regularly behind your back, don't expect them to achieve very good results for you, and don't be surprised when *your* manager realizes how ineffective you are and gives you the boot.
  • Respect (Score:4, Insightful)

    by govtcheez (524087) <govtcheez03@hotmail.com> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:10PM (#11471489) Homepage
    How about you stop calling them "normals"?
  • by elzbal (520537) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (labzle)> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:11PM (#11471496) Homepage
    Think about what you like most in the managers you've had over the years. You probably did your best work under those who didn't "manage" you at all, who just tried to help you to remove hurdles.

    Try to emulate that.
  • Managing Complexity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Comatose51 (687974) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:11PM (#11471501) Homepage
    I asked the same question to a former manager of mine and his reply was that managing a business or people is a lot like managing complexity in software design. Of course you can't treat people like objects(pun intended) but principles of modularization, etc. still applies. Just as you don't put all your logic in one method, function, or object, you shouldn't do everything yourself. Delegate stuff out and have some people concentrate on certain things. The old *nix philosophy of doing one thing and doing it really well still applies. Trust your employees to do the right thing without you micro-managing it. In the end, you become the thing that brings all these pieces together.

    Good programming practices/philosophy goes beyond CS. It's all managing complexity after all.
  • by jptechnical (644454) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:11PM (#11471503) Homepage
    That will affirm your dominant position and noone will question your authority.
  • by jxyama (821091) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:12PM (#11471518)
    >I do still have time for all the geeky stuff I used to do before.

    i see, like posting on /. :)

  • Don't be a geek (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OG (15008) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:15PM (#11471556)
    For starters, I'd get rid of the geeks vs. normals mentality. Look at the individual characteristics of the people you're managing. Figure out what parts of the job they like and what parts they don't like. Figure out what they like to do outside of work, as that will give some insight into what makes them tick. Think about what you have in common with them. Basically, just treat them like people.
  • by Badgerman (19207) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:15PM (#11471580)
    I've moved into Project Managment myself, voluntarily. What I've found is this:

    1) Remember all those things that managers did that you hated? Be open to the discovery that some of them actually made perfect sense but you didn't see it. Your Geek perspective may have been more limiting than your realize.
    2) After you get through #1, take the things that still don't make sense and don't do them. Your Geek perspective can also be liberating.
    3) People skills, people skills, people skills. If you can schmooze, talk, flatter, cajole, comfort, query, and chat - and get results, good. If not, start working on your people skills. You will need them.
    4) Business perspective. Stay informed of business issues, policies, plans, and news. If you did previously, good.
    5) Your Geek past is a great building block. You have an area of strength, start with what you learned in that.

    You will have to change, but coming at a job from a different perspective is also a great advantage.

    A fantatic technique I was taught - go to people you respect and ask them to list
    1) Your two best traits.
    2) Your two worst traits.
    3) The two best traits of a manager.
    4) The two worst traits of a manager.

    You need to query at least 4-5 people, but it'll give you a perspective on yourself, on management, and what you need to do to do it well.

    Will you get widely differing answers? Yes. But reconciling those answers is part of the learning process.

    Good luck.
  • by micromuncher (171881) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:16PM (#11471598) Homepage
    And you may hate yourself.

    After being part of the "mobile work force" for more years than I can remember, the biggest problem encountered in larger companies are people that have been promoted to management based on seniority as opposed to training or skill.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't want to start a flame war, because I've worked for some people that have no training that were great, and conversely I've worked from BComms where I wanted to go postal.

    Managers who are technical sometimes have the tendency to still poke their fingers in where they can. DO NOT POKE. Delegate. Otherwise you are discounting your minions and taking on more than you can chew.

    The best manager is the one that recognizes accomplishment, delegates, and rewards. Micromanagement is a trap many fall into - so remember what it is all about: facilitating people who work under you to feel empowered, and be empowered to do the work. The day you complain some guy is always 5 minutes late, when he is twice as productive as the guy next to him, is the day you need a smack upside the head.

    I've worked for so many clueless managers that either have sales backgrounds or technical backgrounds... the sales guys always promise more and the client, not the worker, is their priority. The technical guys usually have stale skillsets and think they can do everything better with PowerBuilder.

    Remember - work your people skills. Some people shouldn't be management. Some belong in the trenches.
  • by The Fun Guy (21791) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:17PM (#11471605) Homepage Journal
    We've all seen it, or borne the brunt of it. A very skilled coder/plumber/accountant/scientist gets promoted into a management position and turns out to be a lousy manager, who makes life difficult for his underlings with his incompetence. Why does this happen?

    Because, even though you were (and still are) a great coder/plumber/accountant/scientist, a high level of competence with code/pipes/money/mesons does not automatically give you the competence in the skills of budget and/or personnel management, like motivation, encouragement, discipline, conflict resolution, appropriately rewarding the good and punishing the bad, etc.

    Go take a class like Introduction to Supervision, Conflict Resolution in the Workplace, Budget Process 101, etc. It sounds like PHB-type stuff, but guess what? You're a suit now. If you flail around trying to figure it out on your own, you'll end up a lousy supervisor, and you'll just make your own job harder.
  • by Edunikki (677354) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:18PM (#11471630)
    I am lucky in that I have capable and self motivating staff. And you would be amazed how rare that actually is . . . Communicate, don't dictate. Talk to people about where they are and what problems they are having. Stress that there is no blame for problems and that you want to catch them quickly to correct them. Reassure and praise where appropriate. From dealings with other companies and departments I am aware that competency is not necessarily the minimum level that you can accept. Tell people when they do things right. Praise them when they do them well. Understand and appreciate what your staff have to do and what their job likely entails. Being able to do their jobs is actually a bonus as it means you can train them if necessary, and dive in if their workload is too much and needs redistributing.
  • by your_mother_sews_soc (528221) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:20PM (#11471664)
    It's kind of funny, but our personalities do, generally, suck! I have finally given up fighting it, though, and realize that by becoming a decent manager I can actually improve my people skills and better my life in general.

    If your company is behind you and realize you are a geek but have intelligence, they'll help you. See if they can give you a psychological profile. It sounds worse than it is, and you need to be open to it. they'll tell you what you are like (although you should already know) and what is desireable in a manager/leader. But most importantly, they'll tell you what to do to go from here to there.

    I also reccommend reading the books by Geald M. Weinberg, such as "Becoming a Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-Solving Approach" and "The Psychology of Computer Programming: Silver Anniversary Edition." Good luck, you'll appreciate the effort and so will your boss.
  • better than you. Ask them for input. People generally are interested in making themselves more productive, and almost always know better than management what is holding them back in their job, or where they can improve their efficiency. If you think you know best how they can do their job (and therefore, don't listen to their suggestions), you will most likely end up hurting the company.

    Oh, and also, watch Office Space.
  • by flinxmeister (601654) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:22PM (#11471693) Homepage
    "Surround yourself with the best people and you will succeed as a manager."

    And here are some other principles I learned while managing and being managed:

    As a manager, you cannot succeed without your employees succeeding. Any of their major accomplishments are shared with you inherently...broadcast these accomplishments and sing their praises to the masses. Recognition is a great incentive, and when your employees get credit for something, YOU get credit as a good manager.

    When they do something wrong, defend them to the hilt...even if it was something stupid. Then behind closed doors let them have it and make it clear that you put your butt on the line for them. Be willing to take a personal hit on their behalf...NEVER sell them out.

    Realize that to be first, you must be last. You are there to facilitate their performance as someone who works for them.

    For cryin' out loud...never micromanage anything. All employees are different, but for the most part you can measure them by results and not stupid timeclock things, etc.

    And I stress that all people are motivated by different things. Money, recognition, who and what they work with....learn and listen. If you reverse engineer their motivation you have very important information in your hands.

    Be very careful of minority groups--and no I don't mean the legal minority groups--whoever the smallest group is in your team be they white male or indian female. The smallest subgroup tends to fight amongst themselves, or unite to destroy the rest of the group. Watch those situations carefully.
    • by pnuema (523776) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:57PM (#11472182)
      The parent post sounds quite a bit like my philosophy of management. I believe in a social contract between management and employees. As an employee, it is my primary job to make my boss look good. As a manager, it is my primary job to get my employees what they want - be it more money, a different position, whatever. Find out what your employees want and help them make it happen.

      When both sides understand and adhere to this social contract, everyone wins. You end up looking good, and your people are happy, because they actively see you fighting for them. People are much more willing to go to the wall for you if they believe that you care about them.

      • I have heard before that my job is to make my manager look good. The manager who said this interpreted it in the following ways:

        taking the blame for his mistakes.
        doing parts of his job he does not like doing.
        not showing initiative, because it maked him look lazy by comparison.

        Now, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you're not like that. However, what consists of making my boss look good that does not consist of doing my job to the best of my abilities? I wasn't hired to pat someone's belly, I wa
    • As a manager, you cannot succeed without your employees succeeding....You are there to facilitate their performance as someone who works for them.

      This get's really close to an issue that seems to me to be a defining difference between a good manager and a bad manager. (In my experience, anyway)

      A bad manager tends to see himself as the real actor in the business. What I mean by that is, he thinks it's he who is doing the job, and his subordinates are merely "tools" that allow him to complete his tasks. M

  • by 3770 (560838) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:25PM (#11471737) Homepage
    1) be secure enough in yourself that you aren't threatened by your underlings. It is perfectly fine that people under you are right or know more than you. Accept it and treat them with respect.

    I was a teacher at a University and I was also a student in the 4th year. I taught first year students. They never challenged me and I was a great teacher (or so I like to think). I also taught 3rd year students. These students challenged me in every way they could. They tried to ask me questions to show that they knew more than me. In this scenario I was a terrible teacher (until I realised what I was doing) because I would either, if I knew the answer, react by putting them down or if I didn't know the answer, I reacted defensively.

    2) Don't base your self esteem on knowing more than everyone else about technology. You have to accept that you now are expected to be good on something else.

    I am a geek and was promoted to a manager. And I really love the technical side. I was secure in myself but after a while there were inevitably situations where people knew more about the parts of the system that we were building, and the technology we used. I started loosing the platform from where I had previously gotten my self esteem. This can be a bit painful.

    3) Don't be a detail fascist, unless you really have to. You'll have people under you which are good. Don't lean over their shoulder and tell them how to do things. You should however oversee that interfaces between people work well (unless you have a guy that is responsible for that).

    If you are a fascist about details, then you will have to be one forever. Noone else will step up and take responsibility for good designs.

    4) Management by walking around.

    There are different ways of managing people. I don't know which one is best, but I know what I prefer, both to use as a manager, and for my manager to use. Make a habit of walking around and have little informal talks with people. Talk about the NY Yankees or some interesting problem, or an actual management issue that you need to discuss with this person. The upshot with this is that you'll always stay very aware what is going on and if someone is brooding over something they will let you know before it becomes a big issue.

    Well, that's what I can think of straight off the bat. Good luck. And if I had to summarize all of the above and give you one advice, then don't let your insecurity lead you to react defensively.
  • by EraserMouseMan (847479) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:29PM (#11471798)
    The best boss I ever had focused on results. I was the project manager for a team of 5 smart young developers. I did the project management stuff to keep my developers working on what they want to do -> programming not meetings. We showed up for work at 2pm and worked till 12am. It was pretty crazy but we were all night owls. Somebody approched my boss about our weird schedules. My boss went to the CIO about it. The CIO basically said, "What he is doing is working. I'm not going to ask him to change a thing." During my 2+ years there my team finished several large enterprise-wide web apps (using Java & DB2).
    The CIO was praised. Why? Because he and I focused on the important stuff. Don't worry about your guys coming in a little late. Don't pester them for /.ing too much. Tell them that you completely trust them. If you can't, why not? Address that problem on a person-by-person basis (don't revoke everybody's freedom because of one lazy bum). Have clear goals that you expect them to accomplish.

    You get paid to produce results and so do your "normals". Focus on getting those results and not all the other crap that makes employment such a game. Your employees will love your flexibility and will know that you appreciate them when they meet their development schedules. Your bosses will love you because you make them look good (by getting stuff done).
  • by airrage (514164) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:37PM (#11471912) Homepage Journal
    I started as a self-taught programmer (probably ended as a bad one), but I have always wanted to move to management. Here is a story my Dad related to me about being a camp counselor at a summer camp:

    Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a land far, far away there lived a King. He was a benevolent King. His subjects were well cared for, and for his time, he was extremely flexible in administrating the laws of his Kingdom.

    The King noticed something however: what had at first started as a few simply "exceptions" placed upon his magnimity had become a torrent of complaints. The court was nearly overwhelmed. One discourse went something like this:

    "Oh majesty, because you deeded, in your infinite wisdom to allow Serf Brown to allow his cow to pasture on Sunday mid-morn (in contrary to your previous rulings), his cow has eaten all the new shoots and will definitely fetch a better price than my scrawny heifer!"

    On and on it went. Until finally the King decided to do some research. He had his most trusted aids "go forth unto the kingdom to determine the mood of realm". After sometime the aids reported back. The findings were not good. They reported that the king is jested in every ale-house and out-house. The subjects barely fulfill their duties to his farms and their taxes are woefully past due. Furthermore, one sherrif has become so arrogant as to simply ignore your edicts all together as simply too tiring.

    The king was enraged. He called in his knights and scribes and began. He wrote new laws, he demanded the back taxes, he demanded the serfs work one hour longer. He revoked all his flexibility: things would change. He would get his respect.

    History would show it was the quickest and most decisive battle ever. The peasants enraged at the curtailment of their freedoms had stormed the castle, pitchforks in had, and had beheaded the king.

    The realm was governorless for sometime and it fell into disrepair. The people asked for a new King. The King was ascended to the throne was a long distant cousin of the newly deposed King. The King quickly restored order, took back lands, got the back taxes, got serfs to work. Further, he ruled that anyone who didn't pull his weight would feel the consequences and quickly. The people rejoiced, they had a strong King and the land was quickly restored to bounty.

    The moral of the story is if you are strict at first and become flexible where approrpriate people will love you. If you are a push-over at first and become strict, people will revolt.

    Lesser minds will say be an arse-hole to start and ease up. This, of course, is not the answer. People are bizzare. You can take all the management books, (I have a degree in Management), your Franklin planner, and your otherworthless Management ideas and forget them.

    The only thing you can never get back is your direction. It is set on day one.

    Good luck and welcome to the club.

  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:39PM (#11471927) Homepage
    Management is like playing an RTS game, but without the pretty interface.

    It's all about resource generation, allocation, deployment, etc.

    If you're not already good at thinking about a situation from multiple points of view, develop this skill. Make sure you take into account not just what you know and what you're good at, but what you might not know and what others might need, both internal and external to your team/organization.

    Good communication is essential, both listening and talking.

    Respecting your team members is critical.

    You should have a political awareness of your group and the others around it, learn who's dependent on what, etc.

    Figure out what your mission is, what your objectives are, what problem is your group there to solve, and concentrate on identifying and reaching goals.

    Document your practices and procedures and policies and use the information to generate performance metrics which you can use to justify your teams worth to the organization.

    All of this is more than one person can reasonably accomplish, so be sure to delegate intelligently. You're going to do much less doing and much more delegating if you want to be successful as a manager. Your job isn't to do, it's to make sure it gets done. Coordinate and make decisions. Leave it to your team members to tackle the implementation.
  • Floggings (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ranger (1783) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:00PM (#11472225) Homepage
    I have no formal (or any other, for that matter) management training.

    I think you should hang motivational posters [despair.com] everywhere and put a big sign above your desk that reads "The floggings will continue unitl morale improves!"

    Also talk behind peoples backs. Say one thing and do another. Promote paranoia and backstabbing. Fire people who make you look bad. And start asking people "Did you get the memo? It's just that we've started using these new cover sheets for our TPS reports."
  • by pcguru19 (33878) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:07PM (#11472337)
    Some advice...

    1. You will loose some of your technical skills over time. You're spending less of your day on that sort of skill. Knowing this, identify what you cherish the most and what will make you a valued staff member at another company and keep those up-to-date.

    2. Recognize that when you take manager as your title, you've walked away from some mobility opportunities. Managers aren't keen to hire former managers to staff positions and there are less manager jobs around.

    3. Recognize that not everyone is as productive, smart, or responsive as you are. You'll have to set a standard of performance for the positions you manage and judge your staff by that standard and not you. Keep it in perspective, if they were as good as you; you'd be doing their job.

    4. Make the workplace fun. Carnation used to put on their milk "Content Cows Give More Milk". In other words, happy people are more productive.

    5. Learn to let the little things go. Just because someone brings an issue to your attention doesn't mean you have to follow through on every one. Learn to establish a split between when people see you to vent and when people see you for action.
  • by Titusdot Groan (468949) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @04:35PM (#11472674) Journal
    The biggest advantage you have is you are a geek, so use it! Use technology and tools to make yourself and your team better.

    For instance, I have a web site that tracks my team progress against deadlines, lists what they are working on, major risks, etc. Set it up according to the suggestions in the Software Project Survival Guide [stevemcconnell.com] but it applies to any kind of management.

    Read, and follow the suggestions of, the One Minute Manager [amazon.com]. Be sincere, I ignore a lot of the touch feely stuff, but the delegation, goal setting etc. is key and easy with this method. Use advanced management techniques later.

  • Bizarre (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @05:24PM (#11473213)
    how in the USA is management is considered more important (i.e. a promotion) than an engineer.

    Engineering and management are two totally different skillsets. Its like taking a good carpenter and 'promoting' him into bricklaying.

    I'm a good engineer, got promoted into management then moved myself back to being an engineer, and am more happy than ever. I suggest you should do the same.

    If you decide to stay in management, here's what you need to do. Change the way you think about being a boss: start to think of yourself as a facilitator, not a controller. Be there to provide the resources to the engineers that they can't get for themselves. Stuff like involving them with (or at least informing them of) management decisions is a good.

    Stop micromanaging. Give them deadlines then trust them to deliver on time. You can ask for progress updates every now and again to check there's not a problem coming up, but don't tell them how to do their job unless they ask you for help.

    Most of all, remember when you were an engineer and what you wished your boss would be more like.
  • by alhaz (11039) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @06:30PM (#11474002) Homepage
    May as well.

    I've got no management experience, but I've worked for enough people, good (rarely) and bad (mostly) that i've identified what i like.

    The superhero of middle management is my former boss, Ron, at a now-utterly-defunct embedded linux vendor.

    Ron was Not A Programmer. He wasn't even technically speaking a geek, except in the strict jargon file definition. He was an old HAM operator and a former QA manager for various semiconductor fabrication facilities. He was managing a bunch of software QA people, me among them.

    So, this was the basis of his attitude:

    "As your manager, I am a man who is not competent to do your job, someone who, in fact, has only a cursory understanding of how you do your job.

    What i need from you is for you to get your work done. How i intend to make that happen is by making sure:

    a: You know what your job is
    b: You know what your priorities are
    c: You have everything you need to get the job done
    d: Nobody will get in the way of your doing it, even if i have to jump in front of the bullet for you."

    It was great. If people from other departments interfered with my work, Ron got on their case for it and hasseled their supervisor about it - so people from other departments rarely hassled me.

    I knew exactly what my #1, #2, and #3 projects were, when they were due, and what was expected from them.

    This rocked. If you've ever caught flack for not delivering something that you were never given any sense of urgency about, you can appreciate this.

    If i needed anything - a particular cable, a memory module of a certain type, more clarification from marketing or engineering exactly what they wanted from me, an OK to take the rest of the day off if i was getting nowhere fast, heck, a sandwitch, Ron was on it.

    I probably could have asked to take his daughter out to dinner and he wouldn't have said no right away.

    Ron wouldn't make me work late unless he was working late too. Often this meant that he was in the office doing nothing important, so he'd fetch dinner and send flowers to the significant others. I'm serious.

    If Ron was cutting out early before a holiday, he'd send me home first.

    So, it was like this. I was certain - absolutely certain - that Ron would do whatever it took to make sure i could do a good job at what he'd asked me to do.

    And, lets face it, that's what job satisfaction is all about.

    I was entirely sure that Ron wouldn't ask me to do something unless it honestly needed to be done. That he would never bullshit me or sell me out.

    I had no doubts about the fact that if upper management asked him to have us do something that he felt was unreasonable, he'd do whatever he could to talk them out of it.

    So, whatever Ron wanted, Ron got. He treated us like princes and in return we exaulted him as our king. I'd work for him again in a heartbeat.

    I'm not sure I'd even ask what the job was.

  • by real gumby (11516) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @06:55PM (#11474293)

    The best sound-bite description I've heard of the responsibility of a manager is: "Eliminate uncertainty." A lot of the advice given here falls into this (clear goals, "run interference", "select good people" etc). It runs both ways: make things clear and unambiguous for your staff and ensure you provide consistent results for the company.

    Don't "manage" -- "accomplish." I believe John Walker said that managers do just that: they manage a problem in perpetuity rather than make it go away which is what an engineer would. Don't fulfil his stereotype.

    Don't try to be the friend of the people reporting to you. Respect them, of course. Be friendly, by all means. But you are not their friend, and if they have a problem you can't cut them slack you wouldn't cut anyone else (and likewise when they're awesome, don't take them for granted but let them know you know).

    Keep your perspective. I once worked for a CFO who referred to all the developers as the "direct contributors." Her biz-school point was they were the ones whose work our customers wanted. The rest of us (except for the sales guys) were overhead.

    I've been told in the past I was a great manager and I also know that at times I was a dreadful manager. It's a skill like any other and has its own disciplines, problems and rewards. As long as you don't crash the plane along the way you can get better at it. Good luck.

  • by Mazem (789015) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @10:00PM (#11475963)
    Take management lessons from Captain Picard. Seriously!

    -Picard understood the strengths and weaknesses of all of his team members, and delegated tasks appropriately.

    Engineering difficulties? Have Geordi take care of it. Ship morale low? Get counselor Troi on it. Unknown problem affecting ships computers? Have Data try to figure it out.

    -Picard knew enough about everything on his ship (science, engineering, etc) to understand reports and make solid decisions, but he didn't try to do everything himself.

    -Picard does his homework.

    When the Enterprise is scheduled to cross through alien space, he reads up on their laws, customs, and politics so that he has a basis for making good command decisions and getting the most out of negotiations.

    -Picard asks for suggestions and input from his team members, but isn't afraid stick to his guns when necessary (even if most of the crew disagrees with him).

    -Picard stands up for his team members.

    Paranoid starfleet admirals interrogating crewmembers without cause? Aliens trying to execute Wesley? Starfleet scientist trying to disassemble Data? Hell no! Picard won't stand for it.

    If only more managers took lessons from Captain Picard...
  • Be Unorthodox (Score:3, Informative)

    by tekunokurato (531385) <jackphelps@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 26, 2005 @01:04AM (#11477266) Homepage
    Get personal with your employees and think of crazy, personalized incentives to keep them going. Do work with them, and ask them for input and feedback as you give the same to them. Solicit suggestions for and hold discussions about process improvements. Don't forget the tiny things that need your attention as much as the big things--keeping on top of those helps you be prepared when the big things come along. Teach your employees how to do something new rather than just do it yourself--it'll strengthen your team and reduce the burden on you.

    Good luck!

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