How to survive the shift from developer to manager
Brian Thompson currently runs the Web Team at the Mindgrub Technologies digital agency. He’s been working with WordPress since he was a sysadmin managing WordPress website servers in 2011. He then moved to WordPress development in 2012 before he grew into his current management role. This developer to manager shift happened to Brian. And he came to WCUS to share valuable tools and tips on how to effectively lead a development team.
– Manager responsibilities in both good and bad times
– Building team relationships and soliciting good feedback
– Balancing technical development with team collaboration
– Delivering constructive feedback
– Saying “no”
For many developers, being promoted into a managerial role requires a drastic shift in mindset. While many programming paradigms do carry over to being a manager, there are plenty of other skills that most developers just need to “figure out.” – Brian Thompson
Managing developers is like white water rafting
Just like white water rafting, when taking on a lead engineer role, you need to use the proper equipment. Suddenly tasks and responsibilities start coming at you in all directions. From project managers to developers. You will need something like a task tracker to help organize it all.
Brian even admitted to using spreadsheets to collect all his employees information because he is a people manager now. He even created an escalation playbook which personally helps him decipher when and how to get involved when there’s an issue.
Going with the flow can be dangerous
While still on the rafting metaphor, before getting in the water, you will be told to go faster or slower than the water but not at the same speed as the water. This goes for management as well. You need to go faster than your projects or your people. Otherwise, if you’re just sitting back and letting the questions come to you – you are not leading, you are following.
As a manager you need to get used to not always being pointed forward and in the right direction. Sometimes it’s not smooth, you don;t always know where you’re going and may bump into things on occasion. Brian says he walks into situations with a plan or some knowledge, and at least the direction he wants to go in. Even if many things are unclear.
Don’t be afraid of bumps in the road
Sometimes you need to lean into the hazard to deal with it. As a manager, you need to give your team direction. Many times, not everyone needs to be on a project. A few people need to work harder than others. Sometimes it’s OK to allow some team members to have a breather.
You need to deal with adversity because things won’t always go well. You’re going to have bad days, but it’s always important to bounce back up. Every bad experience is a learning opportunity and you can always do better.
As a manager, say no is painful, but there are ways to make it easier. It helps to always give a reason. It helps your team understand. Don’t apologize for saying no, because saying sorry just diminishes your answer. It’s your decision to make, and they may not always agree or like it, but it’s not something to be sorry for if you deem it to be correct at the time.
Understandably this can be tricky and can range from rejecting requests on workflows and processes to salary raises. Sometimes you have to say no to a salary increase because performance is lacking. However you can always give a reason and maybe plan to help them get there.
Mentor vs Manager
Being a mentor to somebody should happen outside of management. Both parties needs to want mentorship. You can try dividing your team into those who need more of your guidance, for whatever reason, and those who may need less. Maybe they work more independently or are on a project which does not need any further involvement. You need to be realistic with how much time you can spend giving individual attention, especially if your team is larger.
Brian’s ultimate advice is to also have fun with it. Even if things aren’t always going your way, there is a lot of reward in leading a great web development team. Whether you’re new to management or simply want to improve your team’s performance, these tips are for you. Empower yourself to become the leader that your team needs and can count on.
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