As a manager you're not above everyone else!
As someone who has experienced both sides (being a manager as well having been managed myself) I see some behaviors popping up again and again that I very much oppose and clearly identify as actively hurting the productivity of any team.
During my career I was very fortunate in that almost all of my managers were people that I enjoyed working with and more than once looked up to. But all good things eventually come to an end and not that long ago I encountered the exact opposite of what I consider a good manager.
Our existing team was working together extremely well and wasn’t used to any kind of political games. But a series of people in major roles (myself included) had announced their departure and the company leadership brought in a new manager - let’s call him Bob - from the outside to rebuild the team.
Immediately, Bob started to play the hierarchy card: “I’m up here, you’re down there. That is the order of things”.
To this day I don’t believe that he was even aware of the damage he caused to the team.
At one time Bob set up a meeting with a couple of guys from our team. One or two days later he approached me with an unusual request. Apparently one of the developers - let’s call him Jim - hadn’t accepted the invite. I was told by Bob “Get in contact with Jim and ask him why he hasn’t accepted the invite yet. Tell him that it’s very import that he attends!”.
Let’s analyze why I think behavior like this is a total waste of time - for everyone involved.
I contacted Jim and relayed the massage (not wanting to make a big issue out of it). The response what as predictable as it was correct: “Why doesn’t he tell me that himself?!”. The impression clearly was “I’m just too far down the food chain for him to actually care about me”.
Quite a bit of karma lost.
In this particular instance the issue was solved pretty quickly. Jim accepted the invite and that was the end of it.
But what would have happened if Jim didn’t our couldn’t accept the invite?
He would have told me his reasons and then I would have gone back to Bob and tell him “Jim can’t make it”. I’m pretty sure the next thing I would have been told to do was to go back and either make him attend the meeting anyway or ask him about a time that would actually work.
The waste of time alone that things like this cause is unfathomable to me.
Had Bob contacted Jim directly he would not only have allowed me to work on the things that I was actually supposed to work on, but this whole thing could have been solved in a fraction of the time.
The whole delegation process didn’t even make his life easier - on the contrary: Everyone involved was frustrated. Jim was frustrated (“Why doesn’t he talk to me directly?”), I was frustrated (“Why doesn’t he talk to Jim directly?”) and I’m sure Bob was also frustrated (“Why does everything take so long?”).
And for what? For cementing the hierarchy.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the only example where Bob completely trampled on members of the team. But it should suffice as an example for now.
Another situation that I found myself in several years ago was a project manager micromanaging the development team with superficial bug reports. They actually weren’t bugs but feature requests, but that’s something for another story. The important thing here was that it was him who just a couple of weeks earlier had implemented the “no work without a JIRA issue” policy. No exceptions.
Now guess who in reality never took the time to write an issue but preferred to either send low quality emails or simply called team members by phone and told them his horror stories of what would happen if they didn’t fix this bug immediately?
The amount of credibility and cohesion within the team that is destroyed in such scenarios is astonishing.
I do believe it is imperative that people in any kind of management or leadership position set a good example.
If there is a “no work without a JIRA issue” policy then of course I will create a ticket if I encounter an issue. First of all because there is a policy (which of course also applies to me) but also because I want to be a good citizen by doing the right thing.
It will also give me an opportunity to feel some of the pain my team feels. Once you start to actually use the same tools you may become a lot more susceptible to the issues your team has. The complaints you’ve heard them voice for weeks and months about how much time it takes to actually file an issue? Now you experience them first hand.
I don’t believe in playing the hierarchy card in situations like that. I never have and I never will.
There may be situations where your time is more important then my time. But let’s be honest: I have yet to find an example where this is actually true. And of course it goes both ways: There may be situations where my time is more important than your time and I expect you to care about that as well.
Don’t treat people like second class citizens.
Don’t assume that just because you may find yourself further up the company org chart than some of your colleagues that you actually are above them.