Tech Leader Chats: How to succeed as a new manager with Bear Douglas

Title of talk with photo of speaker

Whether you’re a new manager or are a manager of managers who’s helping new managers step up to the role, this talk is for you!

Engineering leaders are tasked with improving performance and retaining team members, but as every manager will say: “code is easy, people are hard!” We also know that a manager has a big impact on the team – as one example, Google’s Project Oxygen research showed that managers are one of the biggest influences on team performance.

Particularly in engineering, there’s a big jump from being an individual contributor – where the indicators of success are more clear – to becoming a people manager.

Of course, it only gets more complicated from there! If you’re someone managing other managers, you now need to understand how to share your own managerial experience and guide the managers you’re supporting to find their own style.

In this talk, we’ll cover key lessons to help both first-time managers of individual contributors and managers of managers, including strategies to:

  • Step away from the code and not just “do it yourself”
  • Create and manage a workplan for the team, puzzling through dependencies
  • Give enough of a challenge to help someone grow but not overwhelm them
  • Effectively channel and represent the company’s mission, values, goals while staying true to your own managerial style
  • Champion your team and support their growth within the broader organization

About the speaker
Bear Douglas has over a decade of experience in developer advocacy and developer relations at Slack, Twitter, and Facebook. As a Director at Slack, nearly every manager on her team was a first-time manager, so she has a wealth of experience in being a good coach and helping managers succeed.

How to succeed as a new manager

See below for:

  • Key takeaways from the talk
  • The recording and slides
  • Resources noted in the talk
  • A transcript of the talk
Key takeaways

3 ideas to succeed as a new manager

Put the team's needs first

Create a vision for the team

Remember that managers have an outsized impact

Recording and slides

You can view the slides from the talk here - and see below for the full recording

  • See below for Bear's list

Bear kindly typed up answers to many of the questions that were sent in but that weren't covered during the actual #TechLeaderChat. We've included them below!

Strategies to deal with negative team members who stem the team culture constantly with negativity

  • First step is always to talk to them- is there something else going on? Are they generally down and unhappy with the organization? Get at the root of why they might be constantly upset and if it’s something that’s in your scope to fix. For example, if this person feels negative because they think their work is meaningless to the company, or thinks that your team is doing the wrong work, that’s something that you can work through with goal setting, credit giving and sharing, broadcasting their work, and so on. If this person is constantly negative because they have something going on personally that they’re having a hard time compartmentalizing, that’s something you can coach through by talking about the impact on their team.
  • If it’s not fixable/a reaction to something with a clear cause, do know that constant negativity is a performance issue. If they’re good at their IC work but they’re constantly bringing the team down, it’s a legitimate thing to have a conversation about as a matter of how they are performing at work and its broader impact. Constructive criticism and disagreement is a skill, and lacking it can absolutely be a reason you are not considered to be performing at level.

What advice do you have for new managers that have to look after the career development of older, more experienced people?

  • I have had this happen multiple times! The first thing is to let go of the idea that you need to help them get better at doing their job. Your role for your seniors (assuming they are doing well) is to be their resource acquirer, noise canceler, and credit megaphone.
  • Your really senior/staff folks will be coming up with great ideas all the time to improve the organization and your work. Your help for them is to hone the ideas` that are worth doing, help them figure out how to hand off ones they can’t do themselves, and be an effective coach to juniors on the team to get things done.
  • Then you need to help them socialize the ideas. Really senior people will be coming up with projects that need cross-team collaboration, and they may need your public backing to get something accomplished/roadmapped/resourced.
  • People probably come to them all the time for help or with ideas they would like worked on. Sometimes it’s helpful for you to be the person who says no for them so they can focus.
  • Early in my management career, I managed someone with 15+ years experience in the role, and the thing I was proudest of as their manager was helping them have the time and permission to take on a passion project that wasn’t strictly in the scope of his role. Previous managers had said no to him spending time on it because of that, but I gave him an official blessing and the air cover he needed to do it- he was proud of it, and it ended up being an excellent use of time because it turned into a press piece and a conference talk. Did I show him how to do any of it? Absolutely not. That wasn’t what he needed from me.

What are the tools, blogs, resources you suggest for new managers?

What are your thoughts to the future of working norms as a manager?

  • I wish we’d had time to talk about this more! It’s going to be industry and company specific- many companies were already working remotely before the pandemic, some made the shift, and others are trying as hard as they can to go back to in person ASAP now. I think more than ever, norms are going to need to be stated and made explicit at hiring time and as you onboard new people. You won’t be able to take things for granted, e.g. availability for meetings from 9-5, or whether or not physical presence is required for a given customer meeting, in the way you once might have. I think this is a good thing– more norm busting behavior means there will need to be clear opportunities to build and decide on the norms you want.

Best advice for manager of an eng team with no eng background

  • Know your limitations and find a person who can help support your team with the growth they need. For juniors on the team, it may be trusted seniors. For seniors, you might want to find a peer of yours or someone even more senior who does have an engineering background to provide them with mentorship. You should definitely have an official tech lead if you aren’t able to act in that capacity yourself.


Transcribed by software, please forgive minor errors.

Vivek Katial  0:02  
Go. Just want to introduce everyone to Bear. They have decades of experience in developer relations, managing engineering teams or managing managers of engineering teams, some really large organizations, Slack, but a Facebook. I think one thing that I found really interesting was when you were at Slack, almost all of your managers were a first time manager. And so can't really imagine someone better to speak on this topic on how, how to succeed as a new manager. And I'm really keen to dive into some of those practical tips that you have. And I think the community is really excited for that too. And yeah, there's also running a coaching, coaching freelancing business as well. And so feel free to reach out after this, I'll be sharing some of that detail, and the follow up to the whole community as well. So yeah, without further ado, I'll hand it over to you, then it's really excited to dive into the details of what you've got to share.

Bear Douglas  1:07  
Yeah, and I'm really excited to talk to you all to thank you for making it quite early in the morning for some of you. Before I get started, I do have this talk divided into advice for first time managers. And then later, first time managers of managers, can we do a quick poll in the chat to let me know if which half you're more interested in because I can divide my time either way. And I know a handful of questions came in that were mostly oriented toward first time manager. So I just want to gut check there before we get started. Otherwise, we can, we can get started. So as all of the as all those responses roll in, okay, lots of, okay, we've got, we've got both both coming in? Well, whatever it is for you. Congratulations, moving into your first management role, or your first time managing managers is both exciting and pretty scary. Because in both these transitions, you have to change the nature of the work you do, both from moving from an IC where your output is measured in the deliverables that you ship, you can maybe point to pieces of content or pieces of code, things that you've published as your output of work to management where everything gets a little more fuzzy, you can measure the success of your team, but your day to day is going to look like a lot of coaching. And then once you get into being a manager of managers, you have yet another level of abstraction of what is it that I do every day in order to set the organization up for success. And while it might feel when you're going from managing to managing managers, that oh, you know, it's just more management, it is a pretty distinct shift in how you need to spend your time to set up your organization for success. So it's, it's a weird shift. And it's great that you've got this peer group here in this meetup and also in the community slack because being able to bounce ideas off of other managers is an incredibly useful thing as you're making the transition. So for the first section, we're going to talk about some of the three things that I found very helpful retrospectively and moving into being a manager for the first time thinking about how to move your your work away from IC work into management work in a responsible fashion. Typically, if you're moving into a manager role, you are doing great as an individual contributor, nobody looks and says, you know, this person's skill set doesn't seem quite matched to the work that they do every day. But I bet they do a really great job leading the team. So chances are you have a certain amount of pride in your output in a way that you would have done things and giving that work away can feel scary. So there are some ways that you can do that responsibly. The next thing is about thinking of setting your team up for success within the context of your company. And also with the team that you have, what does success actually look like, especially when you're stepping in for the first time. And then the last piece is about fitting your team in within the broader organization and making sure that you as a manager are representing them well, internally and across to other teams. So to kick off on transitioning from I see, it's it's a strange time, especially if you're working in a smaller team where there is a period of time when you're what they call sometimes a player coach, it's not clear what responsibilities are still yours and what you're expected to hand off. If you're managing a very small team, like if you have one direct report, or only two direct reports, those are the most awkward times of managing any team when you only have one or two people who report to you. But it's creating a team report with three people or even with just one person can can feel very strange. So just know that that is a is a strange transition period. And it will get easier as you have more people and more relationships to define a sense of team. But one of the things that is going to be most helpful in this time period is having good contact with your own manager to figure out what deliverables or responsibilities are meant to stay on your plate. So for example, when I was the team's director at Slack, and I was where came with the partnerships team, there were certain partnerships that I was still the primary point of contact on for for technical work, because that was just the nature of the importance of the relationship you needed, you needed the title to say, like, look, this, this particular partner gets to be paired with somebody with a fancy title, so that they feel taken care of. And that's a very, I probably shouldn't put it so bluntly, but we're just being honest with each other that that is something that was important. So figuring out what work really needs to stay with you. And what you shouldn't give away is a good first conversation to have with your manager, that can also get you more comfortable in figuring out what your manager expects your measurable output to be. Because, like I said before, as you're getting a team together, and as they're starting to gel content that you might be writing might be something like a team charter, or it might be something like, you know, putting together your OKRs. And if I put together my OKRs, and that was my output for the week, something that feels awkward to you, it might, especially in the early days, so making sure that your manager is clear about what they expect from you in that whole transition will be will be very helpful. And by the way, as I'm talking, I'm very interruptible. So feel free to ping questions in the chat as you want to move forward. Since we're also talking as a group, potentially, of engineering leaders, frequently in engineering teams, you'll have a division of responsibility between an engineering manager and a tech lead. And if you're lucky enough to be in an organization that has both and you're not being expected to be both, it's a great time to sit down with your tech lead and figure out which of you is going to be responsible for which things and make sure you're on the same page about that. And also create a consistent escalation path. So if, for example, somebody on your team goes to the tech lead with something that is a people problem, that should really be going to you as an engineering manager, they know how to route that to you and encourage your team to bring that to you. And vice versa. You as an engineering manager may have to be very, very intentional about not creating technical guidance that goes against what your tech lead is trying to do or is just not strictly in lockstep, and being deferential towards what they're trying to do. helps you work better as a team. So have that meeting early. And often. It's not something that you that you set once and forget, it's you should have a regular cadence with your tech lead, not just in the meetings that you have in groups, but but one on one with them as well. And when you think about how you can make the mental shift between thinking of your output, before and after, sometimes if it helps you to think about categories of output, putting down the time you spent coaching, the time you spent communicating upward, outward and round, and the scaffolding to set your team up for success as your output. So what is scaffolding scaffolding might be things like creating your OKRs, it might be something like publishing a roadmap, communication would then be taking that roadmap and socializing it to other teams, it would be making sure you're synthesizing information that you're hearing from your manager and your managers manager, and making sure that it trickles down to your team so that everybody stays on the same page. It's a lot of that metalwork of making sure that left hand and right hand, no upper, whatever one is doing. And while you're making this transition, it is going to be really tempting to keep on doing some of the work that you're doing, especially if you took pride in the work that you do on a regular basis. So when you're thinking about how to hand off the work that really should no longer be yours. Some questions that you can ask yourself that are helpful are first, who do I have? Who's on my team? Are they Junior? Or the senior? What where are they looking to grow? And what coaching would I need to give them in order to hand this work to them, maybe you're very lucky, and you have a team of seniors and staff and you can just kind of mark off different pieces of your work to to each of them. And if that is your situation, amazing. That also means that you might have capacity to start hiring some junior folks who then the seniors have an opportunity to mentor. Similarly, if you only have say, one senior person or no senior people, and you have to figure out how you're going to hand off your work, you really have to think about your total capacity to coach the people who are going to need to do it over for you. And whether you need to, in fact, make a hiring plan where you can fill in some of those gaps. Because it's not sustainable for you as a new manager, or even a seasoned manager to have a slate of entirely Junior hires, who are going to need your coaching and help on every single task. You need to be able to have people at multiple levels throughout the team to be successful.

That said, while you're handing off some of this work, and you're thinking about what does coaching look like for a junior team member who who might be interested in taking on this work. It's really helpful to take a step back and think of the project in terms of what you is a successful outcome, and what would failure really look like, so that you can let go of the precise way that you would have done it, and make room for new people with new ideas, to try out ways that they might have done a task. And that can be really hard, especially if you're in the middle of a project, and you really want it to be completed in the way that you had planned, somebody else is going to take it and leave their mark on it. And so the best advice that I have for how not to micromanage in that situation and take a deep breath and, and step back, is to figure out what what is what is the result of a failure here is it you know, the product launch gets delayed by three days, isn't that straight up a feature doesn't work is it that you know, you make architectural choices that are going to land you in deep tech debt later, those are different stakes results that you can organize around differently. So for example, if you think that one of the people that you're handing off work to is going to make what you are considering a mistake that is going to land you deep in tech debt for years, if you don't fix it, that's something that you jump in and fix. That's something that you coach, that's something that you really want to avoid letting happen. And that is your role as manager. And other things, if you think it's stylistic, and you just don't like their choices. Or if you think well, there's just going to be a little bit of a slower way to do things, that's a good time to step back. And let people have scope to try things out. Because if you think about your own career, and the times when you've learned the most, it's probably through a certain amount of failure. And failure to a certain degree is good for personal learning. But at the same time when you have customers. And when you have an organization and a team that are depending on you, you want to limit the scope of the of the impact of failure. So in every case, as you're handing your work off, think about what it means for somebody to do something differently from you and to where you really need to swoop in and where you can afford to step back and let them figure things out. Particularly as you're stepping in for the first time as a manager, the team is going to be really gelling around you finding their footing, figuring out what they like to do and what they can do best. So give people room to figure it out. But also find your boundaries of where your responsibility that's to the team and to the organization lie to backstop people so that they don't feel too hard, just a little bit. So when it comes to setting people up for success in that, you want to make sure that you're matching the people on your team with the size of the challenge that they're really ready for. One of the things that I find new managers do a lot, and it's very tempting is when you're new manager, you want to be the kind of manager that you've always wanted. And that may or may not be the manager, the individuals on your team meet. And in fact, you might need to be a different manager for different people on the team. And so one person's micromanagement is another person's adequate support in taking on a task. So when you're thinking about handing work over to people, and how to challenge them, and how to grow them, start with where they are right now, what are they good at? And what do you think will actually be a challenge for them? What, what is going to grow them both in terms of their own career goals. And it can be really useful if your company is at the stage where it has a formal career path or career ladder, to reference that and see the places where an individual could grow. So that you have guidance and thoughts about what will get them to the next level. And so after you've had that conversation with them, figuring out where do they want to grow? What are the things that they really need to level up? And then it's time to take a second and assess yourself? Are you personally equipped to support them in this challenge area? One of the great questions that we got ahead of this talk was how somebody as a non technical or not engineering experienced a leader can adequately support an engineering team. And so in the case, for example of leveling up somebody who is a junior engineer into a more senior position, you may need to realize, I am not equipped to give this person the technical feedback that they need to grow. And so you need to find somebody else who can team up with you and partner with you to support them in that way. And you don't need to think at any point that you as the manager of this team need to be the sole leader, the sole source of guidance, or there's all sorts of ideas. In fact, the sooner you let go of that being true, the more likely you are to both let your team grow and keep people happy. Good ideas can come from everywhere and support can come from everywhere too. In that vein, I also and this is potentially a controversial opinion people don't talk about it all the time. When it comes to people's skills and where they need to level up. I think it's perfectly okay not to be well rounded. If you are excellent at communication and you are are just really good at gathering people to do something together as a project manager, and you are an absolutely terrible public speaker, who cares? It's totally fine. Just focus on your strengths and really hone in on those. And it's it's good to be a specialist. Some people don't have the career goal of being a specialist. They want to be generalists and get good at being all rounders. But it's always good to clarify with people, if that's the direction that they want to go, because growth can happen in continued specialization and a skill growth can happen in terms of being organizationally senior, like, how good are you at influencing people? How good are you at bringing people along with you, things like that. And it doesn't have to be one size fits all. So spending time with your reports to figure out what right sizing looks like is a very good investment of your time. Especially as you've got a brand new team, sitting down and finding a shared purpose is going to be key for keeping people invested. And what do I mean by that, you can start with your team's specific contribution to the organization. And we're thinking about what your team's contribution is. See if you can get to a definition that can't be shared by any other team. Because where it gets sticky. And where it gets a little bit murky is if you say, well, we're the team that communicates with our technical customers and helps them be successful. That's too general, you probably have five or six different teams that can claim that that is what they do. You might have like your technical account managers, and your customer support and your developer relations team, what have you. So the more you can get hyper specific about what your team is there to solve as a problem, and how you partner with other teams, the more comfortable it can be to maintain those boundaries, and help people understand what it is, what is the reason that they have been grouped together to work. Visually exercises can feel really trite. And you don't need to keep on referencing your team vision ever again after you do it. But the conversation and the the course of bringing everybody's ideas together to talk about what matters to you. And also how you want to work can make everybody much more comfortable. So here's an example. If you're working with an open source focus team, and everyone on the team sort of agrees that your responsibility is to your open source community first and the company second. And people have stated that out loud to each other. That's something that creates a different level of trust among the teammates than if you think that there's somebody who's like, Well, I mean, we still work for a company, right? So we have to pay attention to the company's goals. And maybe that's not going to sit well with our customers. And that's that's my take both of those equally valid takes, by the way, but just the motion of having the conversation so that everyone understands where their coworkers stand, and whether there are ways that you as a group would prefer to serve your customers would prefer to resolve conflict would prefer to do work with other teams within the organization that can really help people get comfortable with one another and build trust that people are going to do things in a way that everyone agrees is the right way.

When when you're working also in a company that has published OKRs, or goals and metrics that every team ladders up to some teams are not always going to have the top five sexy project of the year as part of the things that they do. And their work is not necessarily any less critical to the organization success, and finding a way to honor that, especially if you're doing something like you know, daily maintenance of, of databases and cleaning and making sure that all of your pipelines are flowing smoothly. That is absolutely critical work that is not brand new product work. And it might not have, you know, what are we shipping this year attached to it, and you have to wet find a way then as a manager of that team to make sure that people on the team understand that it's valued, that it's honored, and how it still fits into the company goals. Because it can be kind of demoralizing if you're doing work every day that you don't really know if it matters matters anyone else. And you as manager are in a position to make sure that they really start to see that quick note on hiring. It always takes longer than you think. And so start sourcing. As soon as you become a new manager, even if you don't have headcount, start seeing who exactly you might want to hire in the future. Take a look at your team, see where they are. Now think about where they're going to be in two or three years. Some people might turn your juniors are going to level up, your seniors are going to also level up and anyone on your team may turn at any given time. So think about what you're planning for to create a well rounded team. individuals don't need to be well rounded but a team it is very helpful to to invest in making that that well roundedness and I'll also say that Doing a diverse pipeline takes time. So if that is something that's important to you and to your organization, the longer that you have, if you don't have to make a snap hire in two weeks, the more likely you are to be able to do a proper slate of interviews and make sure that you've, you've really looked at a variety of candidates. Quickly, socially good, healthy team and a healthy organization. There are a lot of things you need to do as manager that are not just about managing down to your team, that's kind of what we've talked about so far is making sure that your team has their goals, you've given away your work, you're thinking about whether or not they have a clear vision of what they're doing every day. But a lot of what your work as a manager is going to be is advocating for your team. And that can mean things like making sure everybody understands what your team does. defending your team's time, if people are asking them to do things that don't actually fall in your wheelhouse to or shouldn't be something that map for your team. And also scouting for opportunities. You as a manager in talking to other managers and being in a different set of meetings will have a different picture of what is going on at the company at large. And what that means that you can do is help your team look up and out to figure out what the opportunities are. I've had conversations with multiple people who are at the senior level and looking to become staff engineers. And one of the things that is rough about that transition, is that the definition of being a staff engineering, at least in the places where I've written a career ladder, this might be something further down the line or at a different level that other companies is that you are able to look up and out, scan for things that the organization needs, define a project and go execute on the project. And so when somebody's looking to get to that level of seniority, you can't hand them a project and say, This is your promotion project. Because definitionally, they need to be able to look and see it. And so as a manager, if you're trying to level up really senior folks, one of the things that you might need to teach them as a skill is how to skin for opportunities, and how to contextualize what the company is trying to do in the industry and, and help them spot opportunities that they have. And somebody in the chat said a big anti pattern is to have staff engineers working in a squad on features. That's absolutely true. Thinking about the balance of people on any given team is super important. It's not healthy to have a lot of juniors working together with no guidance. And similarly, it's not great to have all your staff focused in, in one feature area. So as you are, are thinking about how you're doing all this beyond the team, spending time with your peers is really helpful to start building up the ways that you can collaborate, it is great if you have a senior slate below you who you trust to, to interact with one another and start bringing those opportunities and do that without your help. That said, it's one of the things that you as manager really should bring to the table? Is that that constant scanning for what's next? And how can we continue to work together better. So from here, I'm going to take a pause and shift into a moment where new start managing managers, it's a strange time, because the shift between being a manager and being an SVP is huge. And in this mushy middle, depending on your organization size, depending on expectations, you're going to have to need to start doing more of the vision setting of the large scale hiring plans, all the things that make an organization function. But just like in the player, coach scenario of the first time manager who's still doing IC work, you probably do also need to spend time managing down managing your team and making sure that that's healthy. So as middle management, you are kind of in this push pull as a first time manager of managers. And here's some things that I think can be helpful as you're making that transition. So when you are working for the first time, as a manager of managers, some of them might be new, and some of them might be experienced, but still might fall prey to some of these common new manager struggles that I think are useful to watch for, as you're trying to build a healthy team, the stakes become higher, because if you have anyone on your team who as a manager is failing, and that can mean either they're not motivating their team, they're actively being detrimental to progress. They're micromanaging, that the blast radius of somebody being a bad manager is much higher than the blast radius of somebody being a negative person on a given team. So it's really useful to get tight with both your managers and your skill levels and watch for some of these struggles. The first one which we touched on a little bit before as being mentored that they always wanted rather than the one that the team needs. And that's it's not fatal. It's very, it's very straightforward to just have that conversation and say, think about who is on your team. And what it is that that person needs from you. And in order to have that conversation with the managers of the team, you need to know enough about the ICS on your team to help them start to see those patterns. This doesn't have to be something that you maintain forever. This is generally very helpful though, if you have a new manager. Letting not letting go of I see work is something that is both not helpful for them and their own burnout, and might also go hand in hand with you hearing from the ICS on their team, that they're being micromanaged. Because if somebody has a fixed idea of how they wanted to do a task, and they're helping their team constantly, it can lead to a feeling of really being micromanaged. New managers frequently also are just very free afraid of conflict. I think some of us are just by nature, they're definitely people who are conflict prone and absolutely fearless about it. And there are people who are conflict confident, I would say that's what that's where we're all aiming to be conflict confident. But frequently, interpersonal issues can fester for a long time, performance managers and issues can fester for a long time because having those conversations is scary, and making sure that your new managers feel supported and trying that out, whether that's doing a roleplay with them to help help go through the various scenarios that they want to fix. Or really just holding them accountable to having to deal with the conflict is going to be one of the things that you should definitely watch for. And that's also true, even for for not new managers. As people transition, especially if they were previously ICS on the team, and they became a manager of a team, they may or may not be struggling with the change in power and authority with the people who used to be their peers. And in thinking about the ways that you can help that a mistake that I made in the past was not crowning somebody with authority and saying, Look, you have to learn how to influence people based on the merit of your ideas and the relationships that you have with them. And that really undermined that person. Because they the onus was too much on them to try and convince people who were like, Wait, who the hell are you? And why do you think that you have the authority right now to tell me what to do. So taking some time to think about how you can set people up for success, whether that same person over here is the one in charge, that can be more helpful than you know. It can be things like making introductions to people who are your peers, or people who might not realize that they are your new managers peers, and saying this is the person in charge of Aix, they're the person that you should communicate to. And always people try to come to you bouncing back down to the person who should have the authority. That is one of the things that you really need to do to bolster and back your team as they're finding their footing of being able to direct a team.

And then again, as people are becoming managers for the first time, they might not know about things like how your promo process really works. And those are the things that can count against you. As a new manager, I definitely made a mistake early in my career, not putting somebody up for promotion, because they didn't meet a cut off date by like two weeks. And instead of saying, oh, that's silly, two weeks is two weeks, we should put this person up for promo, I let it sit. And they were very upset, understandably. And between not knowing about how the process worked, and not knowing about my own power to advocate for bending the rules they suffered. And so making sure that your managers are equipped with understanding of company resources can be very helpful for their own success. And as you're as you're warming up, and this doesn't have to be the case forever. Having skip level meetings will really help you keep perspective on how things are going and what could be better. And it also means that if you are managing a growing organization, like let's say you're taking the team from 10, to 30, over the course of two or three years, you're probably going to need to reorg at some point in there, maybe not maybe you've got a perfect organizational design that that lasts for multiple years. And that's amazing. But the more you know who is on your team and how things can be merged and fixed and changed, the more you can, you can make sure that people are matched with the skills and the work that they that they want to do and scout for opportunities to grow and retain them. Now, this obviously reaches a breaking point at some point, you can't have frequent skip levels with everybody when you run an 100 person organization or 100 person organization is just not necessarily that possible. So the value of office hours is great. You want to still keep in touch with people. And at that point too. It's helpful to identify your truth tellers in the organization. One of the weird things about becoming a manager of managers is that that extra layer of removal from individual contributors means that sometimes people are scared to tell you the truth, and that it will happen regardless of how friendly you are or how scary you are. There will be people who want to present things in a certain way. People will call that managing up, you will be managed up as a manager and as a manager of managers. And sometimes you might not have a great sense of what's on the ground, not because your intentions aren't good, but because people are managing impressions. And so spending time with people will help you both level set and check. How are things really going and how do different people on the team perceive our success and our operations. And it's, it can be illuminating. So keep your hand in as much as you can. But one of the things you're gonna have to do is figure out where you spend your time, which we'll talk about in a second. For your managers, one of the things that is really critical for first time managers is to have a peer community. Many of them were coming at it for the first time or who are just new to your organization may not have other people that they can talk to about challenges with performance management, about challenges with how do you write a good set of goals? And how do you think about socializing, socializing information across up, there was one time at Slack when I realized that my direct, we're not having one on ones with each other. And that's a bad sign. Because if you are organised, organized in a single team, and people feel like they don't have anything to talk to each other about that's, that's a bad sign. And you want to make sure that they are talking to each other and thinking about ways that they can collaborate. So the last piece of advice that I have for managers of managers is to think about what you can carry in any given time, and what how you should be allocating your time, in a given moment, there's no perfect framework saying, you know, 30% of your time should be spent managing down and with your directs 40% of your time should be with your peers, and then the remaining 30% of your time should be with your, with your leadership. And that's, that's inflexible, and it doesn't consider the fact that you might have either a very senior team that enables you to look up and out more, that you might have a huge recruiting challenge, where you need to be the one going out and helping attract more people to a small company. It might be that you need to spend a lot of time doing downward coaching. So think about who do I have right now? What do they need from me? And how can I be most effective with my communication time in terms of spreading information up and out to the organization and out and down? So I have run at the mouth a little bit too long. And so I want to pause here. I don't know what they have we have we went through q&a time. And do you want to do a little break here? stop sharing my screen?

Vivek Katial  32:39  
Yeah. Now we can do like a few quick questions. So feel free for anyone who wants to ask some questions to come off mute, or just throw them in the chat. But thank you so much for that chat there. And I'm just amazed at how much content you got through and on amount of time, I was like radically taking notes. And I really found just like, especially the right at the start where you spoke around, not kind of the balance of your team is actually really important. So if you have a really high performing team of all seniors, that's probably an indicator that you want to hire some juniors to create and have that continuity as well. So yeah, just some amazing content. We do have some questions coming through. So Amelia, Amelia Anna, asked, Do you have any thoughts on the right balance of when to use coaching versus feedback versus mentoring? And is it any different between manage manager of ICF? Or manager of managers?

Bear Douglas  33:34  
Yeah. So can you clarify a little bit more about what you think the difference are between coaching and feedback? And mentoring? I just want to make sure I'm graphic.

Speaker 3  33:48  
Yeah, that's, first of all, thanks a lot for that presentation. It was great there. There's also something that I learned recently, we talk about coaching the solace culture of your asking questions, mainly, and just helping the other person figure it out by themselves. It's a bit of a psychologist work that you do. When you're providing feedback, you're basically presenting a person with a scenario that happened, you discussed together. And in mentoring, I guess that you're you're teaching by based on your own experience. So So you tell them look in the opposition. When I was in the opposition, this is what I've done. So smart about, you know, so, three, when you look at it that way, it's you know, three different ways. Yeah, I just thought, does it change when you move from, you know, coaching, mentoring or giving feedback to individual contributors? And when you're when you're doing it with managers, like, should you try with with managers to make them find their own solutions instead of giving, giving your way first. So that's, that's where the question was going.

Bear Douglas  34:49  
Yeah, and thank you, I get it. Now. I think that it is just like when you're working with ICS you want to be able to give people the scope to have their own style. But you want to have an honest assessment of when you think it will blow up for anyone on their team. So for example, if I am a very conflict avoidant person who wants to spend a lot of time socializing an idea that I have and building consensus around it, and somebody who's much more comfortable with conflict likes to sit everybody down in the room and say, Hey, you think this, you think that we want to sort this out in 30 minutes, let's have at it. And let's set some boundaries on how we feel this is safe and go from there. Those are stylistic within within reason were there, they could both be good for getting to a positive outcome where people agree on a solution to a problem. But if, for example, you know, that the person who wants to put everybody in a room as an IC on their team, who is going to just be completely railroaded by somebody on their team who is brash, you might want to coach that manager to not use their default style, because you know that the result in the context of their team is going to be messy. So that's kind of a long winded way of saying, give people room to figure out what their own style is, and it might not be your style. And that is absolutely okay. But you do want to try and see where stylistic differences are different from differences that could lead to bad outcomes. And the way that you would have done it in the past or have done in the past may not be the best. But if there's something for example that you knew blew up in your face, and you want to let them know, hey, it looks like you're going down this path. I did that too. Here's how it turned out. That is always really helpful, especially in the context of management. Does that answer your

Unknown Speaker  36:43  
desk? Thank you very much. Thanks.

Bear Douglas  36:46  
I'll put together a list for first time managers just because that's a very easy one to send a written response to. And similarly, there was a question that came in before about doo doo doo good resources for learning how to manage conflict, Crucial Conversations I found very helpful. I took it like 10 years ago. And it's a book and you can also consume it as a course. And it is helpful for figuring out how to not set yourself up for blow up conflict, but also not shy away from it. And let me know if you want to, oh,

Vivek Katial  37:23  
there's one question. What resources do you recommend for first time managers and any books or blogs and we can always share more of these in the follow up recap as well. But if you want to share maybe your top one or to share that and then we'll go into the breakout room exercise.

Bear Douglas  37:41  
Okay, great. Yeah, that's the number one one that comes to mind is just called Ask a manager. It's an advice column. And she's just very good at across various industries, giving very sound advice about how to handle conflict. And I will find links for that and we can we can circulate that after as well.

Vivek Katial  38:02  
Right. Awesome. I'm gonna share my screen. So I'll turn off the recording now. And like we do so the next

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James Dong
James Dong
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