Recipe for a Good Development Manager Dish

During our interviewing process for a technical lead role, one of the candidates moved his profile to the top of a very short list when he asked, “What makes a good development manager?”

This has to be the best question I had to answer for a candidate; after some serious consideration I shared with him what I think are the ingredients a Software Development Manager recipe have:

  1. Most managers understand their organization’s domain, Good managers, on the other hand, know the domain, and they are the experts of that domain. Developers must have enough confidence in their managers to ask domain-specific questions and expect the best answers. If the manager does not know the answer, it is his/her job to find it, understand it and provided it to the developer.
  2. Show empathy (Not to be confused with Sympathy), in simple terms empathy means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. If you take a moment to see their perspective, you will see more of the big picture. From there it becomes much clearer what is in the best interest of the business. Showing empathy requires a fundamental change in mindset. The more we can actively remove ourselves from our own silos, the better off we will collectively be.
  3. Do not start pointing blame fingers at the first sign of a crisis; they own it, learn from the experience and move on.
  4. Know their team members, know their strengths, weaknesses and their ambition. Team members will not trust you if they do not think you care about them.
  5. Good managers cannot be technically inept. Technical skills do not become optional once you take a management role.
  6. Expect their teams to hold them accountable for their performance; management is a two-way road.
  7. Be fair; favouritism has no place in any professional organization.
  8. Communicate with openness and sincerity. People can readily tell when someone is disingenuous.
  9. Live their message. Practice what they preach.
  10. Attune to their team members' culture, background and skillsets.
  11. Empower the team; understand that there are three main barriers to empowerment:
    • The desire for job security. Only weak managers worry that if they help their subordinates, they will become dispensable. The truth is that if they truly empower others, they become so valuable that they will be indispensable.
    • Resistance to change. Empowerment brings constant change because it encourages people to grown and innovate. Change is the price of progress, embrace it.
    • Lack of self-worth. Insecure people worry about what others think of them. They cannot give power to others because they do not feel that they have it themselves. By contrast, the best leaders believe in themselves and are secure in giving power to others.
  12. Hire the best, mediocre/average people belong to your competitors’ organization.

Being a good leader is not easy, leaders start the change process with themselves first then move on to change others.

Comments (4) -

Mike Miller 4/2/2014 9:07:31 PM

I love the empathy part.you definitely should read this study www.washingtonpost.com/.../gIQAAx0jfO_story.html. It's sad that rodents can show empathy while human can't.

Sammy Ageil 4/3/2014 12:00:56 PM

Thanks for the link Mike.

Maybe I should forward this to my manager.

The part about the manager's technical ability made lol
Our "leader" calls the helpdesk when his keyboard switches from English to French

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