Back to resources

Being a Manager of a New Manager

Managing Expectations
New Manager Of Manager

28 June, 2021

Vartika Chaubey
Vartika Chaubey

Director of Engineering at Mapbox

Vartika Chaubey, Director of Engineering at Maps API, explains how she stepped away to give more room to a new manager who took on her previous role.

Problem

At one point in my career, I was promoted into a new role where I was tasked to manage a new manager who took over my previous team. Naturally, I felt immediate empathy for them; as a new manager, they had to build relationships with ten people on the team and get to know me, their new manager.

But, what I soon noticed was that most engineers on the team who felt comfortable working with me started to create a parallel reporting structure, bypassing the new manager. By doing so, they were effectively undermining their authority as well as my efforts to empower the new person. Being a manager of a new manager, I wondered how to ensure that the team remained happy while empowering the new manager to exercise their authority in full.

Actions taken

For starters, I would remove myself from all team meetings. Regardless of how curious or concerned I would be, I would step aside and let the new manager run those meetings without me being present. If I would attend those meetings, I could say something, most likely unintentionally, that would contradict their decisions or even overrule them.

But, while my attendance in team meetings could be detrimental, my participation in skip-level one-on-ones could be immensely helpful. Sometimes, my former team members would be more comfortable sharing something with me because they would think that their current manager was directly accountable for it. That allows me to have an accurate account of what is happening on the ground and help the new manager if needed. While people would feel more comfortable sharing something with me, I would be careful what kind of information I would share with the new manager. There is no universal recipe; it is more a matter of a single-case judgment.

The whole situation reminded me of two real-life situations. One is a parent-grandparent relationship where one is more lenient than the other and becomes more forgiving to mistakes a child is making. Another applicable situation is the one of being intermittently being a good cop and a bad cop. On some days, I would be demanding and strict; on other days, I would have a new manager taking on themselves to be a bad cop.

Another thing that I was careful about was not to impose my management style onto a new manager, especially if they were first-time managers. I would let them first try their intrinsic style, and only if that didn’t work would I offer some coaching. It would still be the least directive and mainly suggestive, “If I were you, this is what I would do.” But I wouldn’t solve things for them. I want to empower my manager, not diminish them.

Lessons learned

  • Don’t impose your management style on other managers. Managers need to find their own style that resonates with their personality and values and can also be adjusted to their team’s needs. This is one of the main differences between managing managers and managing ICs, who will not be impacted if you impose your management style.
  • Don’t abandon the team. Relationships take time to be built and are a cornerstone of any team’s success. Though you will have new responsibilities, use skip levels to maintain the relationship.
  • Have regular check-ins with the new manager and focus on where you want the team to be. You are no longer responsible for day-to-day problems on the ground but for implementing strategy (for example, how to make the team more effective). Focus on what is next and what the team needs to do to be able to grow in the next six months. Let the new manager focus on sprint goals.
  • Set up regular check-ins and milestones with your managers. That would keep you informed and updated without having to gather input from the ground. It can also be a dashboard if you want to reduce interaction.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

The Optimization and Organization of Large Scale Demand

4 May

Kamal Qadri, Senior Manager at FICO, drives the importance of setting expectations when optimizing large-scale requirements.

Managing Expectations
Delegate
Team Processes
Prioritization
Kamal Qadri

Kamal Qadri

Head of Software Quality Assurance at FICO

The Necessary Structures of Time Management

14 April

Suryakant Mutnal, Engineering Manager at PayPal, discusses the importance of time management and the necessary structures in order to create internal consistency.

Goal Setting
Managing Expectations
Remote
Deadlines
Productivity
Roadmap
Prioritization
Performance
Suryakant Mutnal

Suryakant Mutnal

Engineering manager at PayPal

Navigating Your Role Change: From IC to Engineering Manager

13 April

Anuj Vatsa, Engineering Manager at Carta, describes his journey of becoming an Engineering Manager and shares some tips for easing into this new role.

Managing Expectations
Handling Promotion
Personal Growth
Leadership
Feedback
Career Path
New Manager
Anuj Vatsa

Anuj Vatsa

Engineering Manager at Carta

Bring It All Together: How to Implement Processes in a Nutshell

17 March

Dhananjay Joglekar, Head of Consumer and Channel Growth at Craft.co., shares how he involved all the stakeholders who felt the impact of changes in the organization.

Managing Up
Managing Expectations
Cross-Functional Collaboration
Dhananjay Joglekar

Dhananjay Joglekar

Head of Consumer and Channel Growth at craft.co

Common Management Challenges and How to Overcome Them

16 March

Omar Mekky, Sr. Director of Engineering at Swvl, shares how he tackled the challenges of being a manager of managers and addressed them to help his managers lead and scale their teams.

Personal Growth
Meetings
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Team Processes
New Manager Of Manager
Career Path
Omar Mekky

Omar Mekky

Sr. Director of Engineering at Swvl

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.