Engineering managers as strong peer-team

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Sergej Brazdeikis
Sergej Brazdeikis

Solo manager

One mistake I'm doing over and over again as the manager is:

Me as, Engineering manager, need to spend at least 50% on the effort within the engineering managers team, not my team I'm the manager in.

When I'm hyper-focused in the team I'm a manager in; then I'm losing the context of the technical department. It is not clear any more what is most important. And when everybody is doing the same, then we are working in separate mini-worlds, our teams, and missing out on making the impact as a team of managers.

The idea of first-team mindset

First team focused. Leaders who are strong team players understand the people who report to them are not their first team. Instead, their first team is their peer across the company. This first-team focus helps the make decisions that consider the needs of the company as a whole before focusing on the needs of their team.

Camille Fournier" Manager's Path. A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth & Change" p.120

If My team first team is managers team, then I understand and work on the most crucial tech company topics. Every other peer manager and I spend the majority of the effort on that. And I can engage my team on these items and get some serious department wide results with that.

Expectation to be a team player

When I'm hiring, I'm looking for the team players. If an engineer is selfish, do not cooperate with others, and do not raise problems when they occur, I'm not hiring. Then taking this to another scale - the example of engineering managers, and seeing them as solo players, it looks wrong. If we expect engineers to behave as a team player, let's behave ourselves as team players in engineering managers team

Here Director of the engineering as the manager of the engineering managers needs to work on building the team. Director sets the expectations and orchestrates the working environment.

My impact as a manager

I have to say it is a significant mindset shift, and it is not easy to do. To help myself and my department, I'm spreading the idea and discussing it with others. A good start is the kick-off activities described next. Then we as a managers team understand current expectations for our teamwork and set the north star.

Since every team is different, and the way of working on the topic diverges.

Transformational activities

1. Allocation of resources

Ask everyone in the group to rate how they currently divide their attention between join/strategic issues and issues relating to their area of responsibility, based on on a ten-point scale. The ask them to rate what would be APPROPRIATE/DESIRABLE.

Focus on joint issues
Focus on own issues

Eva Norman Brant "Taking the lead. Practical and mental Strategies for New Managers" p.218

2. Allocating time

Ask members of the group of individually rate the following areas on a scale of ten: information, joint development work, decision-making. Assign both NOW status and an APPROPRIATE/DESIRABLE status. Ask them to share their results with each other. Is there reason to consider planning the work better or to change the focus of the discussion when meeting? How do we use our time in the management group?

Development work, jointly and on corporate issues

Eva Norman Brant "Taking the lead. Practical and mental Strategies for New Managers" p.218

These are small, kick-off style, exercises to facilitate the change. The team members need to spend lots of continuous effort for the change.

Last words

In my short carrier of four years, I did not see this model yet live, and I talked to managers who were working in this environment. The main difference I understood, their peer-team collaborates way more than mine; The team applies changes quicker and in a more fluid way.

This blog post is an effort to share the idea with you all. Hopefully, this is one of the little things, which leads to more significant beautiful changes.

Thank you for reading,