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4 ways to become a winning engineering manager

David Kyle Choe
February 2, 2021

Creating win-centric cultures and helping your engineers capture their accomplishments to propel their careers forward

Among the many responsibilities of an engineering manager, one of the most important is that of archivist and historian. Engineering managers have to become adept at both remembering and encouraging their teams to archive and capture the work they've done and their accomplishments.

This is hard enough on any team but exacerbated on technical teams. More often than not, your developers are moving a million miles a minute.  As soon as they complete one thing, they're off to the races on the next. As much as we attempt to create retrospective ceremonies, it's hard to stop the momentum and reflect.

Here are 4 ways you can help your software engineering teams propel their careers forward and manage their goals:

1. Make win reflection a part of your regular one-on-ones:

Win reflection is just what it sounds like: a recounting of successes over the most recent cycle. Giving your team the space and time to share out and reflect on wins is critical. They may squirm at the idea initially, but overtime they'll become more comfortable sharing and documenting their success. Having a centralized, time-based repository of these wins will help them (and you) in annual reviews, promotions, and career development.

2. Foster in-team praise and acknowledgment as a part of your teams' culture

As a manager, it's your responsibility to set the micro-culture of your team. Whether you realize it or not, you set the small, daily interactions, norms, and precedent on your team. One way to help everyone on the team is to make in-team praise and kudos-giving a norm. This makes it so that acknowledging and documenting wins doesn't fall on just manager and individual contributor. Other team members may notice things that you and your direct report do not and raise them to the rest of the team. A flywheel of wins and appreciation. It could be as simple as a daily or weekly slack appreciation time, or even a dedicated channel.

3. Unveil the promotion process - be extremely specific as to what levers enabled the progress of other individuals (in and outside the firm)

Practicing as much transparency as possible around promotions without risking the privacy of others, will do wonders for your team. Understanding exactly what is expected of them and where they need to grow will give them the right frame of reference in the way they approach work as well as what they document. Although this may seem apparent, many managers do not have these conversations or transparency around the promotion process simply because they wrongly assume their team members are clear on what needs to be done. Without consistent conversations, things become murky. When things become murky, people tend to get discouraged, frustrated, and even anxious – all things that contribute to people leaving and higher turnover.

4. Share candidly about career lessons

The last and most impactful thing you can do is share candidly about your own career. What were the mistakes you made and the moments that most significantly contributed to your career growth. When you share your journey, your team won't see you just as someone who's "made it", but as a peer that had their ups and downs to get where they are. This is fundamental in trust building.

Do you have any tips on helping your team manage their careers? We'd love to hear them. Leave us a note at hello@staat.co or on our socials!

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