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Engineering Manager Mistakes You Should Watch Out For

Engineering Manager Mistakes You Should Watch Out For

Experienced engineering managers will tell you that with more responsibility means more mistakes. Here are some of the worst mistakes to watch out for!

Engineering Teams

There’s a big difference between writing code … and overseeing an entire team of engineers who write code. Aside from project planning and resourcing, it's an engineering manager’s role to support the professional development of their direct reports. Experienced engineering managers will tell you that with more responsibility means more mistakes. And that’s ok so long as you make the proper adjustments.

I broke down the top mistakes into a few key themes: communication, leadership, and skills.

Communication

Don’t be so focused on listening that you forget to observe nonverbal cues — or worse, forget to communicate your expectations. Be upfront with your strengths, weaknesses, what motivates you, and your preferred communication style. Ask your direct reports for the same transparency.

Here are other mistakes to avoid:

  • Not being a liaison between the team and the rest of the company. Breaking down barriers to collaboration helps people do their job more effectively.
  • Being a micromanager. You need to let people make their own mistakes while also providing a clear path forward with checkpoints.
  • Not asking for feedback. Ask for performance reviews from people within your team and outside of the team on your work and role.
  • Having a calendar full of meetings — this makes you “unreachable.” People should feel like their manager has time for necessary Q&A. 

Leadership

Being a good leader means being there for your team. Help them set realistic milestones and clear expectations for projects and tasks. Set your team up so that they ‘fall’ from a height that’s manageable.

Here are other mistakes to avoid:

  • Pretending to be a friend because you’re “supposed to." Make a genuine connection with every individual and actually care about their position. Period.
  • Asking malicious questions during a presentation, in front of everyone. Know the right time to “challenge” someone. 
  • Focusing too much on day-to-day tasks that you don’t understand how your team’s work impacts the strategy of the whole company. Don’t let tunnel vision stop you from seeing the big picture.
  • Taking too long to make a decision, or making one without consulting your team first. Don’t assume they have time to work on something. Find a balance so you aren’t afraid of making decisions.

Skills

It’s not unusual for new engineering managers to imitate what they’ve seen other managers do. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can prevent managers from challenging the status quo. Developing your own management style doesn’t happen overnight.

Here are other mistakes to avoid:

  • Losing touch with the latest tech and failing to grow your craft (for many, this is coding). Make an effort to keep up with the evolving tech landscape.
  • Having a tendency to fall back on coding because it’s familiar. It’s natural for new engineering managers to suck in the beginning! Don’t revert back to coding, it doesn’t help build managerial skills.
  • Misunderstanding techniques and tools, like stand up meetings. Take 15 min every day to sync with your team on shared goals and how to remove road blocks, instead of your to-do list.
  • Not taking responsibility for team objectives. Your success depends on the success of your team. Be a coach and supervise their assignments. 

To be continued...


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