Engineering management for nice people

This post is for nice people who find themselves leading engineering teams.

Not kind people who treat everyone politely even when disagreeing. Nice people. People who care a lot about what other people think and how other people feel.

Because they put the success of their team or their company ahead of individual glory, nice people often get pulled into management. That's great! To a point.

Once you, a nice person, take charge, there's a temptation to keep putting other people first. After all, that's what got you to where you are! But it's not your job.

Your job is not to be everyone's friend. Your job is not to be the cool aunt.

Your job is to provide clarity.

What should I work on next? Which goal should our team focus on? Is this bug bad enough that we have to stop everything and fix it?

Your job is to come up with answers to those questions.

This is where being a nice person comes in handy. If you listen to people, and care about what they think and say, they will tell you how things are actually going. You will hear about the real issues and what's genuinely exciting.

Your job is not to keep everyone happy. Your job is not parrot the last person you talked to.

Your job is to share where the team stands and where it's headed next.

People can then either get on board or not. Most often they will. (If you're listening well.)

Your job is also to provide clarity to your boss.

Providing clarity to your boss is like providing to your team except different. Your boss has less context on the day-to-day than your team and a stronger grasp of the big picture. So you'll need to spend more time describing the present.

There's lots more that goes into managing engineering teams! But you, as a nice person, are probably already doing those things. Don't let other people's thoughts and feelings distract you from your one job.