You’re a brand new leader within your current gig and you have tons of things to do before you leave today. You need to approve that estimate from your team lead, check eight job applications for a vacancy, attend a sprint demo, have three 1–1s with your directs and that is even before lunch (if you even have time for one).
You look around; all the other leaders seem to be copying the same set of frantic movements as you. You take a sigh of relief, look at that shiny new job title on your email signature and tell yourself to suck it up.
This is management.
This is what I wanted.
Then it hits you.
The team don’t work for you, you work for them.
Take a look at your current org chart. It’s pretty great near the top of that A3 piece of paper isn’t it? Turn the paper 180 degrees… now it’s realistic.
All those humans above you need fed, they need watered and shown the way forward.
I will now try and pull you back from the initial shock of the above revelation. Let me describe why that is a fantastically positive thing for you, your team and your organisation as a whole as you embrace this way of thinking.
Not all managers can or need to wear capes. It’s well documented by now that new leaders feel the need to try and do everything they can to make themselves to get the buzz of their old position… but to survive you need to adapt.
All of the humans above you in that brand-new chart have expectations that you know exactly what you are doing and can steer them in the right direction when they come to seek help from you. You and I know that expectation is complete nonsense for most leaders. Most are just getting through their daily 9–5 by the skin of their teeth. Why?
So here is a list that might help you give as much to the team as possible and save yourself from being overly critical of your own thoughts. These are the four key points which help with the ever-growing pressure on your shoulders, as you try to feed all the humans above you to make them grow.
These are the reverse organisational manoeuvres.
- You are outnumbered
This relationship is 1:m, but there are some benefits to being the boss. There are also some free tricks which help you share joy even when on the way to the coffee shop:
Know everyone’s name
Smile and say hello
You are under-estimating the positive impact that a smile from your mouth can bring to someone three levels down the chain.
- Do. Delegate. Delete. Delay.
As a new leader with lots of humans watching you, focus on the first two in particular. The team will be watching you (remember the expectation bit) and they will also be testing you to make sure you are keeping up with them.
It’s a tricky balance to stay technically relevant while studying the (dys)functions of a team, but it’s do-able. So by putting in the work, they will watch you, stand by you and know you aren’t scared of getting your hands dirty.
Delegation? Delegate at least once a day, at a minimum. Especially delegate the work that excites you most because if it excites you, it will surely make someone in your team jump for joy.
- Speed > Perfection
Building things for other humans to use, is a very weird and strange practice. Not only do we mainly use project management methods from another era but we are also guilty of attempting to build the perfect thing.
In software, perfection doesn’t exist.
You shouldn’t be sad because you can’t ship perfect things; you need to realise that in today’s world, you can ship a thing and fix over time. This hurts… but it’s the way of the world.
It’s your job to make sure that hurt is limited by the ever-growing vision that products get better over time.
- Context is King
Claire works in your Database team and she cares a lot about backups. She cares about backups because last Christmas Eve, the SQL servers went down and she had to pull backups from tape because everyone else had finished for the holidays.
So, when someone mentions to her that backups are now in the Cloud and everything is awesome; she worries. She worries that the next time a disaster strikes she won’t know what to do. She worries that the service will go down for days on end. She worries that we will lose contracts.
She worries but you can easily stop her from doing so.
Overshare and provide context for everything that is going on at your current workplace because somewhere someone cares a lot about something that you never thought of.
These four important little things might just help with the overbearing reality that you may just have more responsibility at your current gig than you think. Apply these principles and realise that they help you share power, put the needs of others first and help people develop and perform to the highest standards possible.
Remember; this is leadership.
This is what you wanted.
You work for the team, they don’t work for you.