There comes a time in most middle aged men's lives where they look at their boss and think to themselves "I can do better than that." Well, if you're as full of yourself as I am you've had that thought since you were about ten.
I took a management role a little over a year ago, and while I like to think that I am better than most of the managers I've had over the years, it's honestly often a really close race. I have a technical background and try and stay up to speed on what has changed in the last year and a half. So I've got that going for me at least.
My challenges tend not to be managing down, although let me state for the case that I do have challenges there. My challenges tend to be managing sideways, and writing without running out of commas. How do you manage your peers as a manager? And a bit higher on the difficulty scale, how do you manage your non-technical peers?
Non-Technical != Idiot
Remember just because one of your peers has no clue about the technical area you manage, it doesn't mean they're an idiot. It's just stuff they don't know. There's a ton of things they know that you don't know. Do your best to help them understand the things they actually need to know, and get them to return the favor. Do try and confine yourself to the things they need to know though. Avoid the trap of spreading the gospel of empowerment via your favorite technology.
You Don't Communicate Nearly as Well as You Think You Do
This is probably my biggest failing personally. Take the extra time and insure that you communicate your plans, intent and decisions clearly. If you work in a highly collaborative environment, this is doubly important. If you don't communicate well, then people will often see what you've done and completely misunderstand the intent or strategy. Communicate your plans and decisions to your peers before you start implementing. That will give you a chance to address their concerns before things are in motion, and it gives you a chance to change your mind when your peers point out the gaping flaw in your strategy and saves you from looking like an idiot to the rest of your organization.
Don't Let Your Buttons Get Pressed
There are a few people who have the natural ability to press my buttons, and I still fall for it every darned time. Once you've identified someone who has that ability, remind yourself that they know how to press your buttons and keep it from happening. It will save you an apology later.
Answer the Questions That Aren't Being Asked
When someone asks me a question I have a tendency to answer the question at face value and keep driving on like a bull in a china shop.
"Do you think stopping the TPS report all at once without a replacement is a good idea?"
"Yep! (Crash, crash, break)"
When someone asks you a question take a half a second and ask yourself what question they are really asking, or what comment they are really making, and address that instead of blundering forward. Feel free to respond with your own question. "What do you think of stopping the TPS report?"
Conduct a Post Mortem for Your Own Screwups
When something goes poorly, after the dust has settled, stop and ask yourself "How could I have acted differently and avoided that situation?" When you're done, write a blog post about it and maybe you'll remember next time.