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What kind of manager do you prefer?

November 13, 2015

Officially, I’ve had one manager in each job I’ve worked since college, and that adds up to 4 managers.

Most of my jobs have had matrix organizations, which means you report to someone day-to-day that isn’t your manager who runs your project.  They have a huge impact on your career, can “fire” you from the project, but they are not officially your manager.  With that into consideration, I’ve had at least 20 people in various leadership positions directly above me, who I looked to for guidance, input, feedback, and leadership.  Almost all have been men.  There were 2-3 women depending on how I define leadership – only one of the women was a manager by title.

Unlike Save, Spend, Splurge, I can’t draw any conclusions based on gender.

For general good management techniques, there are better blogs to read than this (Ask a Manager is my personal fav). Management 101: Set clear expectations, address performance problems frankly, hold people accountable, delegate appropriately, don’t micromanage, etc.  The list isn’t that hard to come up with, but the execution is crucial and hard to do well.

Aside from being basically good managers, the leaders I’ve thrived under share a few qualities.

  • Logical, extremely competent, quick thinkers.  This is by far the number one priority. I don’t have innate respect for hierarchy, and will only follow my manager if I respect them.  I can’t respect someone whose thought process is muddled and unclear.
  • Big picture thinkers.  They can listen to someone talk details for five minutes, then they can summarize the main points that were made in a sentence or two.  (My project manager on my last job could not give succinct answers to ANYTHING.)
  • Straightforward and honest.  I don’t have to guess at their motives or what they are thinking.  They share as much information as they can.
  • They inherently trusted me to be competent and expect me to figure out solutions. I have no patience for people who underestimate me or seem unsure whether I can do the job.  I expect to have to prove myself to a certain degree, but if my leader doesn’t start from a place of assuming competence, it’s an uphill battle to have a good relationship.
  • Bonus points for fun/humorous and inspiring people, but I’m most inspired by people who are simply spectacular at their job, which is captured above.

Basically, they they are what I aspire to be.  This also pretty much applies to coworkers, but I give coworkers (slightly) more leeway than someone I report to.

In my first job, I had one leader who mostly fit this bill.  At my LA job, I had two leads that were amazing in my six years there. At my last job, no one I worked directly with fit this (but there was some in the company that I expect could have).  At my current job, I’ve already met three people that fit this bill (two in leadership roles, one more of a senior coworker) – and it has only been 11 months. This is why I like it here.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2015 9:19 am

    I’m glad you have had good luck with your current job’s managers. I’ve actually never had a female manager. Mine is a reasonable human being (my bar is low based on past experiences), but not an amazing manager. It’s been a while since I had a manager I really liked.

    Reading NZ Muse’s post on loving many of her jobs made me a bit sad. I love grad school, but I don’t love my job. I loved my job in 2014 until I got a new manager partway through the year though and that was so fun to be reminded it is possible to love a job for a bit!

    • November 13, 2015 10:35 pm

      To be fair, my official project manager isn’t fantastic. He’s very good, but I have my quibbles about how I wish a manager would be (he’s good, but the fit/match is not perfect). The fantastic people aren’t my direct managers, just leads of various things and people I love working for in some capacity. And… I’m off to a new manager within a few weeks! I’m a little nervous, because he is a lot more perfectionist/detailed than me. My point is there have been various leads around me that are super fantastic – and I’m really happy about what appears to be a high density of like-minded people.

      Do you have thoughts of leveraging your grad school into a new career direction?

      • November 15, 2015 10:19 pm

        Good luck with the new manager! I’ve been so happy to just have one this year. The matrix thing is kind of interesting. I actually somewhat like it because it reduces the single point of failure of you not getting along with your manager and means that it’s easier to change projects than in past organizations I’ve worked in.

        I absolutely have thoughts! We’ll see how successful I am with said thoughts though… And how slowly I really want to be doing grad school…

    • November 14, 2015 4:03 pm

      Aw, sorry to hear that! If it’s any consolation, it’s pretty much the only thing in my life going well right now. So I’m holding on to that.

      • November 15, 2015 10:16 pm

        That’s fair – work is the main thing I don’t love right now. I’m happy for you that you love your job! It’s such a huge part of our day to day lives to not be happy at work. I wish it wasn’t the only thing going well in your life though.

  2. November 14, 2015 4:09 pm

    Ah, interesting take on matrix! I’m still not 100% clear on what it is, I would have said that whoever you report to varies by the project you’re working on (I’m used to working on several diff things at once though which may be different from you – so your statement about ‘day to day’ reporting threw me off a bit). So generally most of my work would be under my manager but many other bits of pieces of work, would be under others and I’d deal directly with them on those parts.

    Again with the run of great jobs I’ve also had a run of great managers. The not as good ones were both male actually, sort of gregarious, big picture thinkers, visionaries, could be a bit frustrating to deal with at times as a result. In both cases, on a day to day basis I didn’t really directly report to them much, I liaised with the person one step down and they were really my de facto managers despite not being the ones who actually hired me.

    Great bosses – understand politics, filter shit and shield you accordingly but keep you in the loop. Trust me. Want to develop me and are concerned about ensuring I’m working on the things I want to, and have opportunities to learn.

    • November 15, 2015 12:20 pm

      That is interesting. I certainly can see big picture visionaries being frustrating if they don’t combine it with sufficient skills in execution and leadership.

      My industry standard is for people to have maybe 1-2 projects at a time, but they are very very long term projects. So my manager according to HR is often in charge of “functions” and I’ve been in roles where I didn’t see them very often. It doesn’t fit my idea of what an actual manager is, although they do hold responsibility for giving performance reviews, raises, etc – mostly just by talking to whoever you have worked with on a project.

  3. November 15, 2015 11:44 am

    Off topic but I read “manger” and thought : Baby Jesus!!

    I like hard workers. I like managers who work hard and set an example for me to follow and are successful at it. I don’t relate well to lazy managers. I also don’t like micromanagers and pennypinchers.

    Brutal honesty works for me.

    • November 15, 2015 12:17 pm

      Haha – thank you! Probably my biggest weakness in LIFE is my hatred for proofreading. i’m too impatient to proofread things I wrote.

      Anyway, totally agree. Hard workers are important and brutal honest is helpful!

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