I have been lucky to work under a lot of good managers in my career. Here are some of the things I have learned from them.
The best managers have a growth mindset. Learning never stops for them. My first Tech Lead taught me what it meant to be passionate about your job. I was a fresher out of college, and ownership was a term I had only read about on Online blogs. If I messed up my code, I would go home and sleep without a worry. But my Lead on the other hand would never give up without finding a working solution. He was someone who had more than a decade of experience in Tech and was still hungry to learn every day; take ownership of his work.
Good managers teach you to never settle. They know that there are always better ways to do something. While I was a Product Manager at CouponDunia we were running Facebook Marketing Campaigns at 10 INR CPI. I was on heaven. I knew the marketing costs of other startups in India and that companies were spending anything between 50 to 200 INR for the same kind of installs.
What was my boss Sameer’s response? “Are you sure this is the best number you can hit? Are you trying enough. Did you try all possible copies for the Ad sets and images?” I felt he was being unreasonable. I was perfectly happy running a profitable business and never bothered to push myself or anyone in my team to their limits.
Funny story: After I left, my friend who continued running Facebook campaigns at CouponDunia hit the 7 INR CPI mark. Crazy right? Nope. I later met someone who was running campaigns at 2 INR CPI.
Having empathy for your fellow workers is important and the best Managers are emphatic. Good managers know that you are a human being and not treat you like a ‘resource’. I had worked under 2 different managers at a previous company; One who once asked how my girl friend was doing when I left work early one day to take care of her; and another who did not even bother asking how I was when I had taken sick leave for multiple days. Needless to ask who I enjoyed working with more.
Good Managers know micromanagement does not scale. Good managers know that they can’t do everything and give you autonomy, more responsibilities. I was just 1 year out of college when Sameer (my CEO) let me run CashBoss, a new business unit at CouponDunia. Soon I was handling growth for Coupondunia and was given additional responsibility of the Desktop site too. I worked with an amazing team and learned something which will hopefully stay with me for life: As a product owner you can either go broad or deep. When you start out in Product as a junior PM you are most likely in charge of a single feature. You have the liberty to spend weeks perfecting your spec, ironing out minor interactions with your Designer. You have the chance to go deep. But as you start leading multiple products, working on bigger projects you don’t have that luxury anymore. You can’t analyse every micro interaction. You can’t argue with your engineers on the most scalable approach. You have to start trusting people to do their job while you focus on the bigger picture. You go broad instead of going deep. This is the major problem with companies which scale fast and the CEO keeps doing code reviews.
Good managers praise publicly; but give feedback in private. They shield their subordinates from Office politics, praise them when things go right and share the blame when someone screws up.
A HBR study says that if your boss could do your job, you’re more likely to be happy at work. The best managers I have worked with have been good individual contributors apart from having strong people management skills. I never looked up to them because they were responsible for my appraisals. I liked them because I aspired to be like them. When I was an engineer I always aspired to be as good a coder as my Technical Lead. I have always gone to my managers whenever I needed any help and they never dissapointed. Good managers have influence and do not care about authority.
Good managers are always willing to hear you out. They will have one-on-ones regularly. Best managers make you feel like your opinion is important.
Good managers want you to become the best version of yourself. It is funny how many times my ex boss Sameer asked me to master Excel. But I kept procrastinating. I felt I knew a bunch of tools already. Here at Directi I was again reluctant working with raw data until Madhur, my current manager made me spend hours on Excel. Now I just can’t stop making Pivot tables!
Good managers have zenlike calmness. They never lose their cool. They don’t panic. Nor quickly blame others when things go wrong. This is something I am learning to be better at: maintaining my calm. I am lucky that I have had managers who have been patient with me.
Good managers are not busy for the sake of being busy. They know how to prioritise their time and respect other people’s calendars. They always arrive on time for meetings and never cancel on you unless it is an emergency. Bad managers expect you to make time for them based on their availability and mood