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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

No One Said Management Is an Easy Job

No One Said Management Is an Easy Job post image

I’m always surprised when I meet people who moved to management roles and they pretty much expect it will be reasonably easy position. I shouldn’t be probably. We naturally expect our lives won’t be more difficult than it is absolutely needed.

However, when we’re promoted to a management role we are expected to take responsibility for the team and not only for ourselves, as it was before. And yes, it often means running an extra mile.

Of course one thing is being with the team. If, for whatever reason, they stay late you shouldn’t check out on 5 pm sharp leaving all the work stuff behind. But it’s more than that.

As a manager not only are you a leader of your people but also a representative of a company. This means that you should build best possible environment for your team, but it also means you should be an advocate of the organization whenever needed.

And this is the point where you likely have contradicting goals.

In dream work environments there are no deadlines. People can play with new technologies whenever they want. There is no maintenance work as it is boring. Also there are many additional perks of all sorts from foosball tables everywhere to medical care.

Well, I may be exaggerating a bit but hey, I haven’t made it up – this is what I hear talking with people.

Unfortunately there’s another perspective as well. A manager is a representative of a company. This means they usually should take care of costs and keep productivity possibly high. This means fewer foosball tables and more boring, but well-paid, work. On the top of that the manager should also sell company decisions to the team, even if these decisions aren’t something people would instantly love.

I can give you rather an obvious example: consider you are free to give your people as many raises as you wish and they can be as big as you want. Now the question: should you?

Yes, management job is about trying to cope with goals which are contradicting and sometimes even mutually exclusive. As long as you always choose to do what is possibly best for your people you’re probably failing as a manager. As hard as it sounds you weren’t hired to please them. Take care of them – yes, but not at all cost.

So the next time before you start criticizing a decision or complaining about the imperfect situation, think about both sides. Maybe, just maybe, it is your darn job to support the decision and explain the situation to the team.

And now, that you asked, yes I do expect from you more than from average team member. You are a manager after all, remember?

in: communication, team management

3 comments… add one

  • jfbauer June 27, 2011, 9:44 am

    Pawel, I enjoyed your characterization of the challenge between supporting the people on your team versus supporting the company senior management decisions. I find that can be a difficult balancing act. I know some managers would argue you have to communicate the senior management decisions verbatim without much discussion. I prefer to openly communicate as such, but then follow-up in more of a 1:1 session with each report and share additional details as I’ve come to know how they each best absorb change/information. Some need additional context and perspective to help understand the broader issues at play. Some don’t want to hear all the PC wording and just want to know if/how it affects them directly in their day to day job.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  • Le Do Hoang Long June 27, 2011, 11:17 pm

    Very interesting perspective. Finding a way in which both sides get benefits is not an easy challenge.

  • Pawel Brodzinski June 28, 2011, 6:49 am

    @jfbauer – You’re right – some people don’t give a damn about decisions up there as long as they don’t really affect them. However, first, there are more who care and second, they would still hear about the decision anyway but most likely in a form of gossips. So actually this way or another (and I don’t want to start discussion about the form now) you should communicate such decisions.

    And this is exactly where the issue starts, because if you control the communication channel you also control what people would hear. I don’t only mean the exact words you say but the form of the message as well.

    I can perfectly tell you about new strategy of our company but make you thinking that it’s either a good thing or a bad one.

    Finally, as a company owner or CEO I expect that managers would go with the former, not with the latter. After all I pay them for that.

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