As an engineering manager, it can often be challenging to strike the balance between ensuring a high quality of work with a comprehensive review process, and micromanaging your team. However, by establishing clear expectations, processes, and responsibilities, you can empower your team to manage their own responsibilities efficiently, and reduce the number of times you need to step in to fix things.
Outline Clear Expectations
Establishing clear expectations is crucial for effective leadership. In a report published by Gallup in 2015, only 13% of employees strongly agreed that their managers helped them set performance goals. As an engineering manager you have a long list of responsibilities, but ensuring your team understands their objectives, and feels prepared to accomplish them is perhaps the most crucial one.
This article outlines six steps to setting clear expectations:
- Ensuring you understand all expectations yourself before you communicating them to others will ultimately lead to a much more aligned team. For example: Ensure you have a strong understanding of design requirements before you review them with your team so that you're prepared to answer questions and provide clear direction.
- Understand the skill set and experience of your team, so that you can predict where challenges will occur, and provide extra support. Check in with your team regularly to ensure any unforeseen challenges are resolved quickly.
- Provide justification for your expectations
- Meet with your employees and have a two-way conversation about these goals
- Write the expectations down so your team can always refer back to it
- Gain agreement and commitment from your team members
Establish Clear Processes
Establishing a clear processes and procedures for working with multiple stakeholders can be a challenging process, and sticking to those rules can be even more difficult. However, having this set out from the beginning allows your team members to focus on executing the process rather than spend time wondering what to do or who to talk to. If you aren’t sure what your exact processes are, this article from Wrike offers a great idea of how you can identify your process and build a better one in a few steps.
Identifying your process
- Enlist your team; ask each person involved to walk you through their typical procedure
- Build a flowchart; this makes it easier for everyone to understand the process
- Pinpoint concerns; look at where the bottlenecks or roadblocks are, and focus on fixing those
Building a better process
- Ask your team questions; why are these roadblocks occurring? Is there something they need that they’re not getting?
- Create a new flowchart
- Move backwards; start with the goal, then figure out the step directly before achieving that goal, then figure out the step before that…
- Reduce the volume; scrap unnecessary processes, look for processes that are passing through too many hands
Setting clear responsibilities is especially important to ensure that everything gets done and that less time is wasted on issues like members jockeying for positions or trying to pawn unwanted tasks on each other.
Here are some of the steps you can take to define these responsibilities:
- Determine what you need to do, and set deadlines for each step
- Then, decide who will be responsible for each step- this includes coordinating everyone else’s efforts, getting the resources needed and overseeing the work being done. Consider using an issue tracking tool to assign tasks to team members as they are identified.
- Enlist the people needed to complete the work and to approve it
- If bottlenecks or barriers show up, make sure they know what the process is to solve it- if they have the authority or need to go to someone else, or should contact you about it
In order to help your team work more efficiently, ensure at the beginning of every project that:
- all tasks are assigned to someone (responsibilities),
- they know what to do and how to do it (processes),
- and they have a deadline (expectations).
Of course, processes always evolve, but it’s a good idea to ensure that your team is on the same page about that change. And since it is your team, don’t forget to get their feedback as well!