The secret to being a good manager: know nothing and be a little lazy.
When I first started managing our technical team, I had never tried any kind of programming (save for some Logo at school). I’d never even worked at a tech company before!
But we had reached a point where our projects needed workflow support and it made no sense for our developers to take on that responsibility when they needed to focus on coding. Being the only person available, it was up to me to try this management thing.
My management experience at that point was entirely theoretical and based on a completely different field. It was also based on a definition of management where hierarchical structures based on advanced knowledge/experience prevailed.
So it felt fraudulent to be responsible for people who were vastly more skilled in their field than I was. How could I tell them what to do if I couldn’t judge ideas from a technical perspective?
There was also the issue that before working together, my colleagues and I were friends, so implementing a management structure that didn’t reflect our egalitarian relationship would be challenging.
Agility and Trust
Perhaps if I’d done a lot of research before engaging them, I could have convinced them to try some more conventional management styles. There could have been reports and presentations. There could have been reading lists.
Instead, I took the lazy way out and crowdsourced the solution; deciding to be open and transparent with my colleagues and trust that they would reciprocate in kind. I asked them what they wanted from me as a manager and how I could best support them.
Based on our conversations, I did some targeted research and came across the Agile framework for software development and management. I read whatever books I could find on the topic, finding Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo particularly appealing.
Jurgen Appelo’s ideas, especially on delegating responsibilities helped me better understand how to grow trust within the workplace. It helped make workflows more efficient without the burden of micromanagement.
One step to developing trust in the workplace
Ideas around delegation and trust also influence our ethos at aio* where we know from experience that building trust has made for a comfortable work environment. Rather than waste time on office politicking, we can now prioritise openness and productivity.
Of course, we also recognise that trust doesn’t come overnight and often it has to be built in incremental steps. That’s why we’re passionate about supporting other organisations in that journey through aio*.
For example: you may not be comfortable with giving employees credit cards, but you can give them aio* cards. That way they can request money upfront, giving you budget control, while they can spend money when they need to.
Eventually, you may trust your employees enough to top up their cards regularly without them needing to request money every time.
While aio* won’t solve all your management problems, it will help ease some people into the idea of delegating tasks in a way they may not have previously.