By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The old way of being a manager is over. No longer can managers drop orders from their place of position and expect people to obey. Command and control methods of leading teams can no longer ensure highly motivated and productive teams and are not conducive to employee engagement as well. 

Organizations also have experienced a structural shift in the way work is conducted owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world of work embraced remote work and is now moving towards a hybrid environment, we are looking down the barrel of a long-term shift on how managers keep their teams performing optimally.

This shift has also made the manager and employee relationship asynchronous. With managers getting lesser visibility into the everyday activities of their team members, the role of the managers must shift from being directive and outcome-driven to being more pastoral and collaborative. 

The Motivation Crisis 

Along with all sorts of crises, the pandemic also brought in the motivation crisis at work. 

Recent research revealed that 44% of employees were struggling at working because of a lack of motivation. A lack of communication or connection with others impacted 21% and had a direct impact on their performance and productivity. 

While the early days of the pandemic were spent in figuring out how to keep the lights on, the attention now needs to turn towards identifying ways to help employees remain invested and motivated at work and connected with the organization. The role of the manager is of critical importance here since they are the bridges connecting the organization with the employee. 

The Technology Acceleration

Organizations invested in technology to monitor employees during the pandemic to accommodate the shifts that emerged because of the pandemic. Digital solutions made it easier to collaborate while scheduling software, AI-enabled auditing tools, and automation were leveraged to deliver enablement at work in a location-agnostic manner. 

The acceptance of technology and the pace of technology development has accelerated rapidly. With this acceleration, organizations are becoming more open to automating traditional tasks such as assigning work or nudging productivity…tasks that were historically done by managers.

Shifting Employee Expectations 

Employees expect their managers to help them with their workplace activities. But, they also want to know that their managers are available to provide the support needed to have an elevated life experience, not just employee experience, since work and life are now seamlessly integrated.

The Culture of Empathy 

Building empathy in managers is also becoming an organizational prerogative as it is now considered ‘the’ skill needed to lead successfully in the new work environment. However, according to a 2021 Gartner survey of 4,787 global employees assessing the evolving role of management, only 47% of managers were ready to lead with empathy.

Leading with empathy in the hybrid workplace also becomes an essential managerial trait as it helps managers contextualize performance better. Empathy helps managers transcend understanding and helps them walk in the shoes of their team members. With empathy, managers can build high-performing, engaged, and inclusive teams – something that is the need of the hour. 

The Evolution of Managers

The role of managers has evolved and involves more than just winning the numbers game and managing workflows. This new work environment demands evolved managers whose primary role is that of an enabler. Both new and experienced managers need to bring about a strategic shift in the way they manage people, lead with empathy, and build trust bridges across the organization. 

Experienced managers need to now understand and identify new ways to connect and effectively communicate with their team members, identify their needs proactively and help them progress along their career paths. They need to become the enablers of productivity, rather than be the keepers of productivity. They have to help their team members remain on the path of growth by enabling contextual coaching and helping them build a network in the virtual environment. At the same time, they also must enable the same for themselves. Experienced managers need to proactively identify their critical skill gaps and work on closing them.

New managers need help to settle into their new roles. It can be infinitely hard to build networks and connections in a virtual environment. Along with this, many new managers need a little hand-holding to manage responsibilities such as developing people, creating accountability, driving execution, and applying their EQ to lead with empathy. 

Additionally, both new and experienced managers need to develop individual and team resilience to contribute towards building organizational resilience. 

 

The Road Ahead

Organizations realize that the training and development needs of their managers have evolved. Just like how organizations accommodated the shift from the physical to the virtual, they need to accommodate the shift their learning and development programs offer. 

Along with formal training sessions, organizations need to equip managers with informal learning networks to help them seek guidance and help proactively. Peer coaching emerges as a valuable tool to bring about a step-change in manager development and helps managers mold winning behaviors and mindsets that drive better outcomes. 

Peer coaching helps managers achieve their goals by establishing rapport, identifying goals and the gaps that impede achieving this goal. Peer coaching is highly contextual and is an informal and non-judgmental space, which makes it more effective in driving behavioral change by reinforcing learning. 

Both new and experienced managers need peer coaching to succeed in today’s digitally transformed work paradigm. Only with peer coaching managers will be able to navigate the evolved demands of their job roles, learn new skills and imbibe a growth mindset. It helps them become more adaptive and iterative towards success, both of their teams and their own. 

With peer coaching, managers stay on the path of continuous learning. They get to move away from the traditional command and control form of leadership towards identifying their unique styles by building their self-awareness. 

In today’s competitive business environment organizations have to ensure that their new and experienced managers have the tools they need to succeed in the workplace and help others succeed as well. Peer coaching adopts a human-centric learning path that contributes to a culture of continuous learning by addressing their individual needs with clarity and context. Better manager performance, highly motivated teams, and engaged employees emerge as consequences of these actions.

Connect with us to learn how our AI-powered coaching platform can transform your learning and development initiatives and build a thriving peer coaching network within your organization to drive continuous learning. 

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The shift from being an independent engineering contributor to becoming an engineering manager can be quite challenging. 

Engineering is often seen as a solitary craft where you spend time fixing bugs, crafting user stories, and taking deep dives into volumes of code. However, as the engineer graduates to the role of an engineering manager, these activities are replaced by one-on-one planning sessions, project meetings, and helping the team progress along the project path. Impact now is no longer defined by the lines of code written but by the success of the team.

For engineering managers, the roadblocks to professional success are seldom technical. They are invariably personal. 

Engineering today has moved from being an isolated activity to becoming more collaborative. Modern technology products demand teams to work cohesively and collaboratively – especially as the world moves towards a more distributed environment. 

Distributed and remote teams are a part of any software development teams’ vocabulary. And thus, along with having a strong technical foundation and being extremely knowledgeable, engineering managers also have to have strong people skills to drive successful projects. 

Jessica McKeller, a major stalwart in the Python community and the founder of the company Zulip (later acquired by Dropbox), says, “When engineering management is done right, you’re focusing on three big things,” she says. “You’re directly supporting the people on your team; you’re managing execution and coordination across teams; and you’re stepping back to observe and evolve the broader organization and its processes as it grows.” 

None of these activities are easy, and each of these comes with their complexities and challenges. 

So, what can organizations do to ensure that their engineering managers are effective leaders?

Enable access to rich eLearning material 

Learning is a continuous process when an engineer becomes a manager. This is because of the rapid pace of technological change, evolving market trends, and growing individual team members’ needs. 

Engineering teams are also more motivated by managers who have strong technical skills complementing their power skills. They will hardly look up to a manager who is not technically superior or cannot solve their problems. They will not lend discretionary effort or become highly motivated if their engineering manager does not provide the technical guidance and emotional support they need. 

To feed this need for continuous learning, organizations should provide their engineering managers access to rich eLearning material to help them navigate the chasm between desired skills and where they stand at present. 

However, with a plethora of eLearning options available comes a complexity. Which learning resource is right for the manager? What do they need training on? Where are the areas of improvement? Organizations thus have to ensure that they make these programs contextual to the individual needs of the managers. 

Enabling an intelligent recommendation engine to direct the managers towards the right program ensures better learning outcomes. It is so because now the managers don’t have to sift through volumes of courses to decide which one is the right one for them but spend time deciding which of the right courses is best for them. 

Provide coaching to become better managers

To be on top of their game and become good leaders, engineering managers have to complement their technical skills with strong strategic and critical thinking skills. They have to identify ways to keep their teams motivated, productive, and innovative. 

While they have to take on more responsibilities, they also need to master the game of delegation and prioritization, increase their EQ, and become better problem-solvers. Developing the capability to identify the development needs, the hurdles that keep the team members from performing to their best capacity and helping them succeed also fall under the purview of the engineering manager. 

These skills, generally categorized as soft skills, are essentially the power tools a manager needs to build a high-performing team. Developing skills like these involve introducing a behavioral change and, hence, day-long training programs do not suffice.

Instead, organizations have to enable these managers with robust, relevant, and contextual built-in coaching programs. These coaching programs can help them internalize these behavioral changes and become managers who can grow teams with industry knowledge, drive engineering excellence, and successfully manage their teams.

Develop the emotional intelligence to lead successful teams

Engineering seems like a cold and scientific process. However, the ones engineering futuristic solutions are human. 

To become successful engineering managers, it becomes essential to connect with the team at an emotional level. An absence of this emotional connection leads to struggles in building trust and camaraderie – tools that are essential for collaboration in today’s world of work.

We have enough research to propound that people don’t leave organizations, they leave a bad manager. But who is a bad manager? Arguably, the one who micromanages, does not trust team members, cannot provide guidance when needed, or is hyper-focused on individual development and ignores the needs that team members require to become high-performing individuals. 

Technically sound engineering managers have to open up to developing their emotional intelligence, identifying the latent needs of their team members, and learning how to best engage with their team members. 

Often the biggest hurdle for engineering managers is to just learn when to bite their tongue rather than give a frank opinion right off the bat. Calibrating when a team member needs your help and when they need guidance and support helps in fostering a culture of accountability. It helps the team members realize the trust being placed on them. 

Focusing on building power skills that help managers become better team leaders leads to more engaged, productive, and motivated teams. The absence of these skills poses the opposite effect and impacts the health of a team. To put it simply, engineering managers with higher EQ and well-developed power skills contribute to lowering employee churn, improve employee engagement, and build a healthier work culture. 

In Conclusion 

Developing effective engineering managers has also become an organizational priority since the pace of remote work has increased exponentially. Managing a remote or distributed engineering team needs elevated communication and collaboration skills. It needs greater prowess to keep these teams motivated, productive, and engaged. 

However, strong managers have to capably navigate the challenges posed in these situations with calm dexterity, greater resilience, creativity, and equanimity so that their teams continue to remain engaged.

Connect with us to understand how our Innovation & Engineering Coaching Program can help you build engineering managers who will lead your engineering teams and your organization to the pinnacle of success.