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Tips for Managing Other Managers

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As you grow as a leader, a day will come when your organization has enough structure to have other managers that report to you. Instead of just being responsible for a group of individual contributors, you are now responsible for other managers, and indirectly responsible for every individual!

There are some key differences between managing individuals and managing other managers. To lay out those differences, consider the following framework of 4 questions to ask:

  1. What do you look for when hiring?
  2. How to do you assign tasks?
  3. What updates do you expect?
  4. How do you measure success?

The answer to each question explains the difference between managing individuals vs. other managers. Let’s answer each one:

Managing Individuals:

  • When you hire, you look for technical expertise and ability to learn
  • When you assign tasks, you define details of what needs to get done
  • When you get updates, you expect status of their own projects and issues
  • When you measure success, you are focused on individual results

Managing Managers:

  • When you hire, you look for excellent communication and coaching ability
  • When you assign tasks, the manager suggests “what” and “how”
  • When you get updates, you expect a summary of the team’s results
  • When you measure success, you weigh the performance of their entire team

Most importantly, overseeing a team of managers requires a more strategic approach. You are likely providing less tactical input, and instead being a sounding board to discuss issues, help with people problems and clarify objectives.

To be effective in managing both individuals and other managers, consider the following:

1. Set clear expectations up front

Expectations for timeline and results need to be defined up front. Other managers might have more flexibility to adapt that timeline for their team. Individuals should certainly also have input but you may define a more precise process for them to follow with less opportunity to adapt it, depending on the capabilities of the individual. Ultimately, both sides benefit from clear expectations.

2. Give continuous feedback

Both managers and individuals need feedback on their effectiveness. For individuals, your feedback may be focused on specific tactics and details of how they are doing a project to help them grow. For other managers, they may come to you seeking advice on how to deal with a problem on their team, or if their approach to a project is reasonable. Your feedback for other managers will likely be more strategic rather than tactical, if that manager is capable.

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