Can a technical engineer ever be management material? It is definitely not their natural tendency. However, give them data and that may be the pathway in! According to a fascinating article (Harvard Business Review, How Google Sold Its Engineers on Management, December 2013) on the subject of management vs non-management, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin experimented with eliminating their management tier in order to break down barriers to idea development. Guess what? That little experiment only lasted a few months. So how do you get your engineers to value management, and in fact want to take on those roles? Show them the way and give them the data they crave in the way of statistics, reports and feedback.
A good manager at Google has these eight characteristics:
- Is a good coach
- Empowers the team and does not micromanage
- Expresses interest in and concern for team member’s success and personal well-being
- Is productive and results-oriented
- Is a good communicator – listens and shares information
- Helps with career development
- Has a clear vision and strategy for the team
- Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team
Google also put their money where their mouth is. The training Google offers in each of these areas helps their technical people see that they can manage others, and it rounds out their skill set. I’d say that management training, done right, is a great way to help your team grow, work better with others, think more broadly and learn communication skills. Whether a technical team member decides to join a management team or not, the skills can be applied every day and will naturally benefit your organization.