How strongly do I recommend Engineering Management for the Rest of Us?
6 / 10
Engineering Management for the Rest of Us covers many of the basic things you need to do as a new engineering manager. Seasoned managers won’t get much out of this book. Most of the advice in this book is not specific to engineering and as a result, I would probably recommend The Making of a Manager over this book for most new managers.
Top Ideas in This Book
Building trust takes time and deliberate effort. Conversely, losing trust happens quickly and often by mistakes of omission.
As a leader you are always on stage, signally what behaviors are celebrated and tolerated. Your team members will not demonstrate vulnerability until you demonstrate it first.
In my experience, teams that demonstrate vulnerability are also the most creative teams. People feel the emotional safety necessary to have “how might we” and “what if” conversations that lead to better (and often simpler) solutions.
Team culture will grow organically but is best fostered through intentionality. As a manager, creating a healthy culture is part of your job. You are responsible for team morale.
Debugging team morale issues is complex but here are some steps I normally follow.
People feel most demoralized at work when they feel underpaid, under-recognized, and/or without hope for a brighter future. As a manager you need to address head-on any misalignment around compensation and title expectations.
Here’s the mistake to avoid: trying to control the reaction of the other person when discussing title, compensation, and opportunity conversations with employees. Just tell the truth, objectively as you see it. Don’t stress about softening the blow because you will probably damage the trust you’ve built with that person by providing them what is perceived as a non-answer.
You need to have a 1:1 with each direct report. In the case of higher level managers, I also find it valuable to have skip-level 1:1s.
Your 1:1 meetings are particularly useful for:
Engineering management is interruption-driven. Some individual contributors turned managers struggle with the reality that they can be interrupted at any moment and in response they start blocking off big chunks of their schedule for deep work. This is an attempt to optimize their own schedule at the expense of their team.
As a result of blocking off their schedule, they become unavailable to their team. But their team members won’t directly surface this as an issue because that would go against their bosses wishes, so team performance and morale slowly dies.