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How Reminders can Unleash Your Full Potential

Handling Promotion
Personal Growth
Leadership
Strategy
New Manager

4 March, 2022

Michael LoPresti
Michael LoPresti

Senior Engineering Manager at PLATO

Michael LoPresti, Senior Engineering Manager at Plato HQ, shares his insights about scheduling his calendar to focus brain power on essential tasks.

IC to Management Transition

My transition from IC to manager happened very abruptly, and I was underprepared. I remember thinking, “how hard it can be” and only later realized that I made every possible mistake a new manager could make.

I know that many of those mistakes were avoidable, and what I came to understand was that many of the parts of management could be treated as an engineering discipline. Just like you write tests before you deploy your code, managers schedule one-on-ones to recognize minor issues before they grow. I found that once I started treating leadership similarly to an engineering discipline, many of my tasks were easier to maintain.

Tips for New Leaders

Maintaining a Healthy Calendar:

One of the aspects of my role I treat like an engineering discipline is the way I schedule my calendar. I assume that the ‘me’ who set up my calendar is smarter than the ‘me’ who has a meeting in five minutes – meaning once I schedule my calendar, I follow it religiously.

A recurring example I’ve noticed is that it’s easy for team members to skip a one-on-one. However, individuals schedule one-on-ones for specific reasons, usually important ones, and they should continue with the meeting. This principle relates to the Atul Gawande book, The Checklist Manifesto, where Atul puts heavy emphasis on his checklist and trusts it completely at the moment.

Creating the routine is the same as running; once you’ve run five miles once, it slowly becomes easier – once I create a routine, daily tasks and meetings become ingrained in my day.

Since managers have to focus on their own, as well as their reports workload, it can be difficult to remember all of the small tasks in a day. If you don’t set aside any reminders, you’re bound to forget. The simple act of trying to remember a task is cognitive load. Even if you only remember one simple thing, it’s still taking 5 or 10% of your brainpower – preventing you from focusing that energy on another task.

Streamlining the Transition to Manager:

I encountered many challenges during my transition to manager. I recommend that new managers follow these tips:

  • Read any available resources about the role
  • Set reminders for yourself to do tasks that easily fall through the cracks
  • Perform a retrospective on your performance and adjust to your findings
  • When something goes wrong, own the consequences and understand what you should do differently in the future

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