#37 - 9 Oct 2020
You're probably not micromanaging; Ten habits; Help, I'm a research computing manager; Declining a meeting
As I write this, the jurisdiction I live in (Ontario, Canada) is almost certainly about to start additional COVID-19 restrictions - 4-8 weeks later than it should have. The predictable, and predicted, second wave is reminding us that we’re going to be dealing with the pandemic for some time to come.
This time has been hard for some of us, and extremely hard for others. I hope your team is doing well. I do think we will come out of this experience better managers - more deliberate about finding out our team members needs and in our communications, more thoughtful in our planning - but it’s challenging and tiring, and I hope you take some time for yourself.
The roundup follows:
It’s Management, Not Micromanagement - Kristen Heyer, The Success League
Heyer pushes back on the fears that new managers often have of being “micromanaging”:
Many newer managers confuse management with micromanagement. One of my favorite books on the topic of micromanagement (My Way or the Highway) defines it like this; “Micromanagement is when participation, collaboration and oversight interfere with performance, quality and efficiency.” Unfortunately, management (oversight that adds to performance, quality, and efficiency) often gets confused with micromanagement.
I agree - and I’ve seen way more undermanagement from new managers with a research background than I’ve seen micromanagement.
Heyer describes management approaches that are not micromanagement:
Set metrics-based goals for your team.
Hold weekly one-on-ones with all direct reports.
Make performance and metrics transparent.
Provide active coaching throughout their tenure, not just when they’re onboarding
Delegate tasks to team members who are ready
and has a nice table distinguishing micromanagement, management, and just not really managing:
The way I like to think of it is that good management is holding your team members accountable to assigned tasks and goals at the right scope, the right level of detail, the level they’ve shown themselves routinely capable of handling. And that scope can and should expand over time. If you’re inserting yourself into details that they have routinely demonstrated they’re capable of handling without some good, clearly communicated reason, three bad things will happen. They’re going to feel micromanaged, you’ll be wasting your time, and you’ll be risking losing that team member.
10 Habits That Help Me as a Manager - Marty Matheny
Matheny shares his habits he uses to stay focussed on the priorities, motivated, and fully charged:
Identify My Top Six Priorities
Write and Share Daily Intentions (e.g. for standup - what is next for you)
Keep an Emotional Journal (especially for stressful times like this if you find yourself reacting strongly to things)
Update My Calendar - block off time for those priorities
Review Indicator Metrics
Record Impact I had
Share a Weekly Update
Record My Quarterly Accomplishments
Create Personal OKRs
My own habits would look a bit like this - I tend to have priorities for a week, and tasks for a day (and try to keep my tasks focussed on my priorities as much as possible). How about you - what are the habits you have that keep you on track?
Help, I’m a (Research Computing) Manager! - Jonathan Dursi, SORSE event
At the really nicely run SORSE event last week, I gave my 10 minute pitch on management skills. It’s particularly aimed at research software development, but the application is broader.
As readers know, my contention is that research actually prepares you pretty well for the advanced skills managing needs, we just need to shore up the basics. The basics I covered won’t be of a surprise to any readers - one-on-ones, feedback, delegation.
The talk and the resources I recommended are on the page; also, I updated my one-on-ones quickstart guide that had been written at the start of the pandemic to start them fast fast fast to instead start them up at a more normal pace.
The talk started with a poll - what are the problems the (mostly new or not-yet started) managers see in research software projects? Not surprisingly, they were almost overwhelmingly people or institutional issues:
47.5% Shifting needs/unclear requirements
42.5% Poor communications with stakeholders
30.0% Getting poeple in agreement on howto move forward
25.0% Poor support from other departments/institutions
17.5% Technology choices
Managing Your Own Career
How to Decline a Meeting - Another Task Done
There’s no such thing as time management; managing time isn’t a power given to we mere mortals. For us, there’s only task management. And the first and most important task management skill is saying no to them.
This post give some helpful sample text for politely declining four kinds of meetings:
The weekly status meeting that you don’t have any real role in
The meeting with no agenda - always a red flag
The brainstorming meeting - at least cutting down the length of these
The information broadcast meeting - shouldn’t exist, but they do
One of the big challenges new managers face is that they finally get to be At The Table for stuff so they want to be at every meeting they get invited to. That’s normal - how are you supposed to know what meetings are important for you and what aren’t until you’ve gained some experience? As the novelty wears off you have to disentangle yourself from meetings, and these are a good way to start.
A paean to nethack.
Manubot: an all-in-one setup for writing your manuscript in markdown with git and publishing into PDF, HTML, or docx with Github actions (or, less feature-fully, Travis-CI).
It’s not news when a climate/weather centre gets a new cluster, or that they’re playing with machine learning. It becomes news when they’re also partnering with the vendor to play with quantum computing applications.