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When is someone ready to manage managers?

By John Lafleur 2 minutes read

TL;DR: An insightful list of criteria to see if you are ready to take on bigger things and with advices to improve.

How can you show that you are ready to take on bigger things when the opportunity comes along?

First, look at the role you are currently playing:

  • If you are still spending most of your time deep in the technical details of the projects, you are probably not really working on the skills needed to manage managers.
  • You need to develop the ability to leverage your attention and time through more people and projects, and that generally requires that you start looking outward (at people, teams, and related projects) and forward (to identifying opportunities, strategies, and potential pitfalls), rather than deeply down into the technical details.

How to go from line manager to managing managers

The promotion path forward generally depends on a few things.

  • Can you scale your team effectively?
  • Would other managers want to work for you?
  • Does your manager want you reporting to her?

But how am I supposed to learn these skills if I don’t have a team to practice on!

  • Is your team a well-oiled machine, delivering clean code regularly and partnering well with other teams in the org? If not, perhaps you need to make sure your local house is in great working order
  • Look into how you can help your larger organization. This could be volunteering for organizational tasks such as: helping develop the interview process, running hackweek, organizing open source initiatives, etc.
  • How are your relationships with other managers and tech leads in your organization? Are you friendly and collaborative? Do you sometimes do things for their teams without expecting something in return?
  • Are you presenting a professional face to the team? Are your working hours reliable? Do you respond to email in a reasonable timeframe? Are you thoughtful in your communication style?


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