Over the years, I have worked with, for and managed a spectrum of management talent. A good manager can make a huge difference to the bottom line and influence the actions of an entire organization or program. They are at the center of driving business success.
Yet too often, I still hear phrases like “I am looking for a manager who is an expert in building enterprise Java applications” or “I am looking for a manager who has an MBA from a top notch school and has a track record of managing portfolios worth $X”. While it is important to hire for the job at hand, let’s not lose sight that we live in a fast changing world – and job descriptions change quickly. I am sure everyone who is reading this was hired to do job A and then transformed themselves into doing a multitude of other things. Hence it becomes critical in our fast paced world to have a lot more than just domain knowledge to excel as a manager.
In conducting the interviews for my book ‘The Software Soul’, there emerged a set of core traits that set apart truly great leaders.
1. Domain knowledge, focus and drive
• A macro understanding of the product, and its business value
• Strong analytical and problem solving skills
• Customer knowledge
• Strong work ethic, passion and drive
2. Operational Excellence
• Excellent project scheduling, tracking and execution
• Create balanced product portfolio
• Optimize resources: use the least number of resources to address maximum number of business needs
• Ability to forge a path forward in the face of ambiguity
3. People and communications skills
• Creating a strong sense of community and purpose
• Ability to get individuals working together as a team
• Fostering pride of ownership, creativity and innovation
• Soliciting concerns and feedback & taking actions
• Ability to simplify complex ideas and convey that to a team/executives
• Being unbiased and fair
4. Fit into the leadership ecosystem & Sponsorship
• Gaining the sponsorship of their management
• Connecting with their peers
• Collaborating with other teams
• Gaining customer trust
• Assessing and Navigating office politics
Managers are most often hired based on their domain knowledge, credentials and operational excellence. They most often fail if they cannot master “People and communication skills” and they certainly will not be promoted without “Sponsorship or fit into the leadership ecosystem”. If the leaders fail, the teams fail, the projects fail and the organization fails. Recognizing that all these dimensions are important will make a difference in your ability to succeed as a manager.
What has been your experience in factors that influence management success?