Congratulations for finishing the Starter Manager Guide! Let's take a moment to summarise what we’ve covered over the past few chapters, and then talk about what you should look forward to in the coming months.
We’ve covered four techniques in this guide — delegation, training, prioritisation and one-on-ones.
- Delegation is the core of management work — you’ll need to know how to assign tasks to various people on your team, without falling in micro-management.
- Training is a necessary part of delegation — without it you can’t delegate well, because you can’t trust that your subordinates will put out good work.
- Mastering prioritisation as a manager allows you to regain your sanity; it allows you to overcome the frustrations of the manager’s schedule, where time is chopped up into little fractured blocks.
- And, finally, doing one-on-ones helps prevent blow-ups in your team, while giving you the space to know your subordinates at a personal, human level.
As I’ve mentioned at the start of this guide, these four techniques will take anywhere between six to eight months to get sufficiently good at.
Applying Management Techniques
A quick note about applying these techniques.
Management is an art, not a science. In the same way that a karate practitioner cannot read a book and declare themselves a black belt, so too must a manager train through practice. It’s probably best to think of your practice of management as you would gaining skills in cooking, painting, or playing tennis.
I’d urge you to use each chapter as a starting guide, but then build your own understanding through trial and error. Remember: the proof of the pudding is in the eating! While I stand by everything I’ve said in this guide — and I believe that the techniques I’ve described here are nearly universal! — I also believe that no principle is set in stone, and that every manager has to figure out what works for them, in their unique organisations.
It’s no accident that so much of this guide is broken down into first-principles form: I believe that management, unlike other skills, depend very much on individual realities.
Unlike the programmer that can be depended upon to use a standard set of tools, or the UI designer who is expected to know Photoshop or Sketch, a manager has to learn and adapt management techniques to the unique organisations they inhabit. This makes it ever more important that you think critically about the techniques you use — instead of applying them blindly.
The four techniques I’ve covered are just the bare minimum you need to know to be an adequate manager. Learning these techniques won't guarantee that you'll become great. But they will guarantee that you’ll have a smoother transition from productive individual contributor to productive manager.
Growing Beyond the Four Techniques
So what’s next? Where do you go from here?
I opened the Starter Manager Guide with a framework for evaluating all of management: that essentially, the manager’s job is to increase the output of the team. I argued that you should use this framework as your North Star — that with every technique that you apply, with each experiment that you do, with everything that you learn, you should pause and evaluate: “Have I increased the output of my team? Or have I decreased it? If I’ve increased it, how may I increase it further? If I have decreased it, how might I prevent that from happening again?”
I believe doing this is the single most important thing you can do to guarantee your rapid improvement as a manager. Turning the practice of management into a single metric you can evaluate yourself on makes it much easier to chase down improvements from books, blog posts, and fellow managers.
This makes more sense when you consider that constant reflection, clear feedback and trial and error make up the components of deliberate practice — the method shown to most reliably lead to expertise (Ericsson, 2016). In management, clear feedback isn’t always easy given the chaos and complexity of organisational life, but reflection and thoughtful trial and error are still under your control.
And so the research suggests a remarkably clear path to getting better: you should try similar but subtly different things, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, and then change behaviour in response to that feedback to get cumulatively better.
As you grow, you’ll find ever more nuance in the techniques that you learn. There are so many ways for a manager to increase the output of her team. Now that you have a framework for understanding management, all of these ways are open to you:
- You may learn techniques for optimising processes in your company.
- You may focus your efforts on getting better at giving and receiving feedback.
- You may get better at building trust quickly.
- You may learn to detect a larger range of problems during your one-on-ones.
- You may improve the method with which performance evaluation is done across your entire company.
- You may learn how to hire better.
- You may learn how to fire those who are not performing well.
- You may get better at organisation design.
- You may learn how to create and form culture.
These are all paths that you may go after to improve your results. They’re vastly more complicated than the techniques in this guide, but they’re learnable and achievable given time, effort, and thoughtful practice.
I wish you only the very best.