Chapter 7. Managing Managers

The job expectations for managing managers are not that different from the expectations of managing multiple teams. You’re responsible for several teams, for overseeing the health of those teams, and for helping them set goals. The difference is one of magnitude. The coverage area for these teams has increased, and there are more projects and people than you could possibly handle by yourself. Instead of managing a couple of closely related teams, you may manage a larger scope of efforts. You may manage functions in your division that you haven’t managed before and that you don’t have a lot of expertise in—for example, a software engineering manager who now also manages the operations teams for a division.

While managing multiple teams can be exhausting and daunting, managing managers adds a whole new level of complexity that is often a surprise. Consider this email I once sent to my leadership coach:

Managing managers, how do I do it without taking up all my time? What processes should I be putting in place to get appropriate communication out of them and enable myself to scale? How do you help with problems that you aren’t in the room to see, with unreliable witnesses? I’m spending all of my time two levels deep in people problems and it’s exhausting.

The answers are even less at your fingertips than they were before. Things are now obscured through an additional level of abstraction, and it’s easy to miss out on details because you no longer engage ...

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