What makes a good Engineering Manager?

I was asked this question recently and and since answering, I’ve come away and thought about it in more detail. Here is where I ended up…

A good Engineering Manager creates an environment where their team can do amazing things whilst delivering great software.

OK, so how do you do that?

Well, you need to provide what Engineers need to be truly fulfilled in their roles. To me, this consists of five things:

1) Purpose

We need to know the reason we are required…and indeed that we are actually required. This is not just about our specific role but the bigger picture too, everyone ought to understand and be bought into what we, as a company, are trying to achieve.

2) Control  / ownership

People care far more about things they own and can control then things that they can’t. If you can’t control something, you aren’t really responsible for it succeeding (or failing!), so why bother?

This is why autonomy is so important. Show Engineers what problems need solving and let them take ownership and work out how to solve them.

3) Appreciation

I once read that all anyone wants is to be appreciated and this is so true. If you feel appreciated, you’ll be eager to do more for someone. If you don’t, well, why bother?

4) To be themselves

So you may have purpose, control over what you do and feel appreciated but if you can’t be yourself, is it worth it? No one wants to spend all day putting on a front, what a waste of energy! Energy that could be used to do your job even better!

5) To work with great people

However diverse a team is, a great team will all get on (most of the time!) and celebrate each others’ differences.

They will also support each other. Engineers need to know that they can ask for help and not be judged. We also need to know that if we make a mistake, the finger of blame won’t be pointed; making someone feel bad for their mistakes helps no one.

In summary, a good Engineering Manager builds a team who know what they need to do and why they need to do it but they let the team decide how they will do it. They will encourage a team that supports each other and that appreciates people for who they are.

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