Managers should not be messengers


This is a pet peeve of mine; everytime I see a manager trying to get something done by carrying the message between folks he manages and upper management, it makes me cringe. 

If you are an engineering manager and find yourself in this situation; change the company or change your company.

You need to ask for things you can manage. What do we mean by “manage” ? A well defined area in which you have accountability and decision making ability. To make sure you are set for success, you should look for a few indicators:

  • What are the boundaries?
  • Is there a clear objective I am managing towards?
  • What is my accountability?
  • What is my decision making ability?

These 4 simple questions may give away if you have your manager title but you are merely a communication channel that carries the message back and forth between the decision maker and the engineer. I call these folks messengers. This is not a role anyone signs up for. It usually shapes up to be this way after the fact, due to existing processes and culture of the company.

However, engineering managers have the opportunity to change this. Ask for more accountability and decision making authority. 

If you find yourself in this situation; just ask and take on  1 more area of true management every quarter. You will be amazed how things start changing for the better. 

If you are a Director or VP of Engineering and you find yourself making these decisions, it is time to change. The more responsibility you give away, the more you gain in terms of direction setting and higher order thinking space.