Managing small teams

In the past three years, I went from being a developer in a team, to a team lead, to a engineer manager. I find my new position is very challenging because of the size of my team, and the remote aspects (we're all remotes.)

When you manage 4/5 people, you're in that weird spot where you're not going to spend 100% of your time doing manager stuff. So for the remaining time, the obvious thing to do is to help out your team by putting back your developer hat.

But switching hats like this has a huge pitfall: you are the person giving people some work to do depending on the organization priorities and you are also helping out developing. That puts you in a position where it's easy to fall into micromanagement: you are asking someone or a group of person to be accountable for a task and you are placing yourself on both sides.

I don't have any magic bullet to fix this, besides managing a bigger team where I'd spent 100% of my time on management. And I don't know if/when this will happen because teams sizes depends on the organization priorities and on my growth as a manager.

So for now, I am trying to set a few rules for myself:

  1. when there's a development task, always delegate it to someone it the team and propose your help as a reviewer. Do not lead any development task, but try to have an impact on how things move forward, so they go into the direction you'd like them to go as a manager.
  2. Every technical help you are doing for your team should be done by working under the supervision of a member of your team. You are not a developer among other developers in your own team.
  3. If you lead a task, it should be an isolated work that does not direcly impact developers in the team. Like building a prototype etc.
  4. Never ever participate in team meetings with a developer hat on. You can give some feedback of course, but as a manager. If there are some technical points where you can help, you should tackle them through 1:1s. See #1

There. That's what I am trying to stick with going forward. If you have more tips I'll take them :)

I see this challenge as an interesting puzzle to solve, and a key for me to maximize my team's impact.

Coding was easier, damned...

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