Experimenting with management
3 October, 2018
VP Engineering & Product at Lyft
One of my engineering managers had too many direct reports and needed to promote some managers in order to add some structure to his team. However, none of his engineers were interested in stepping up to become a manager since they were focused on writing code. He thought about a woman in his team who was a great engineer but who was also quite people-oriented and was already acting as a mentor for many of her peers. However, when he brought up the topic with her, she was initially reluctant about the idea of managing people.
My engineering manager first explained to her that he had thought about her because she had a combination of technical and soft skills that were essential to becoming a good manager. Then, he told her that this position as a manager could expose her to very interesting career opportunities, and finally, he suggested she could take on the role on an experimental basis, and come back as a regular engineer after that if it didn't work out. This last argument convinced her and she accepted the offer. Since she had the right personality, she was well received by the team as a manager and things worked out great. It was easy to convince her to stay in this role full-time at the end of the experimental period.
It is essential to find a way to get somebody to step up in a way that doesn't hurt the team. Promoting someone who's already acknowledged by their peers as a leader is often the best option. Framing the role as an experiment is also a great way to go. If things don't work out, nobody is worse for wear. If things work well, it is easy to make the change permanent.
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