Most of us get presented with the opportunity at some point in our career to take on people management responsibilities aka Manager. In the IT/software industry I have sensed a hesitation or sometimes even aversion to becoming a people manager. Often engineers look down upon managers as folks who are not technical and this is tends to be exacerbated by the fact that technology industry is probably one of the worst when it comes to having non-technical people managers.
However, I firmly believe there are several benefits for your personal & professional development that can be gained with the experience of being a people manager. Here are 6 key benefits I realized in my career that I outline below:
- Learning to let go: When we transition from an engineer to a manager. It is as if we are graduating from driving a car into the passenger seat and giving directions on where we should be headed, giving feedback to the driver if he is not driving carefully. We will have to learn to let go of the details and trust our people to handle things for us. We have focus on where we can deliver value to the team e.g., helping prioritize, buffering them from interruptions, taking responsibility of the decision of the team etc.
- Dealing with people : Being a people manager you will need to deal with your people, people issues day in and out. This means you will learn to give the bad news, the good news and deliver critical feedback. You will learn how to maintain amicable relationships yet not get too friendly. Learning to deal with people who wont work or deliver. As well as learning how to inspire & motivate people who are high performers and high potentials.
- Getting the big picture: Most often you need to understand the big picture of all the projects you team is working on, understand how you fit in and how it adds value to the company. This enables you to get from the details to what matters and how everything fits in.
- Getting to the stuff that matters: When you manage several people, you probably will get overwhelmed with lot of details and information. Whether its a list of issue, problem or challenges. You will need to help prioritize and get the team and management to focus on the stuff that matters so that projects can move along. This forces you to learn the critical skill of identifying and getting to the stuff that matters.
- Developing empathy: You cannot effectively manage people without empathy. For some it comes natural to the way we are. But, for others we can learn this trait. This enables us to see and feel what the people you manage are going through and deal with it before thing become a major people problem.
- Learning to delegate: This is a corollary to the above but is worth mentioning. When we transition from a engineer to a manager we tend to do a lot of stuff ourselves as we may not be comfortable with others in our team doing it for us. This is not scalable or productive. We need to learn to let go and delegate things to our team and trust them. When you give they your trust they give their trust to you.
Have you made a similar transition? Are there other key benefits that you have learned in your career? Feel free to leave a comment below as I would love to hear and learn from you.