I've been managing people on and off for 15 years now, but the last couple of years has been the first job where I've managed managers.
Being a manager is very different from being an individual contributor, but managing managers is just as different.
When you're a first-level manager, you're generally delegating the work but not the responsibility to get the work done.
It's still a cognitive burden on you, it's just (hopefully) not taking up as much of your time or physical effort (that's what you're delegating for).
But when you manage managers, you're not just delegating the work, but the first level of responsibility for getting it done.
You're not delegating the work to the manager who works for you (because that's what they're delegating), you're actually delegating the cognitive burden itself. You're trusting they'll take on the cognitive burden, delegating the actual work as necessary.
Managing managers requires even more trust than managing individual workers.
One of the lessons I learnt from the work of Eliayu Goldratt is that you can't optimize a business by just optimizing its parts individually.
One of the first real challenges I had as a CEO is: if you charge someone with responsibility for a particular area of the business and want to reward them for the success of that part of the business, how do you stop them doing things that are only in the interest of that part of the business and not the business as a whole?
Is the solution to never tie compensation to anything but the overall success of the business?
And yet measuring what they are directly responsible for seem like a good idea.
The main job of a startup CEO is:
The first thing to learn as a manager: the people that work for you aren't the same as you.
The second thing to learn as a manager: they aren't the same as each other, either.
The biggest challenge with managing engineers is they often hide that fact they're behind in the hope they'll make it up without anyone noticing.
I think the best way to fight that is to build a culture that makes it okay to admit you're behind.
Pixar's approach of showing work-in-progress early, even if it's crap (rather than hide it until it's perfect) seems related.
First-level managers are usually brought problems by their staff rather than solutions. The ratio of problems to solutions should reduce as you go up the management chain. By the time you get to the executive team, the CEO should only be brought solutions, not problems.
This seems related to Steve Jobs's Difference Between the Janitor and the Vice President.
2 jobs: Your job as a manager is to shield your employees from useless shit. Your job as a manager is to rain opportunity on your staff.— Tim Prendergast (@Auxome) July 9, 2014
I don't like the use of the word "deadline" and now I like it even less.
Deadline? Um... it's just a project, nobody is going to die!
Turns out it's actually a threat. According to Merriam Webster, a deadline is "a line drawn within or around a prison that a prisoner passes at the risk of being shot".
Translating that to the business world, we could say that a deadline is a line in time that someone passes at the risk of... what? I'd like to think nobody is threatening with shooting people, but it sure is a threat.
Small words, but powerful. If we want to collaborate and produce great results together, it's my opinion that threatening is far from ideal. Rather, let's understand why we're doing what we are doing and make sure that we have good reasons to do it properly and on time.
No threats in my office, please!