Being a great manager

software engineering , how igor ticks , manager

I aspire not only to be a great manager, but to be the best manager my team members will ever have (unless they get to work for a manager I’ve coached :) ). I hope to have incredibly stiff competition at the top, and I’ll often fall short of my goal, but through trying I will get closer. This post will gather my research on being a great manager, enumerate some of my learnings, and inspire me to be my best.

Few things make me prouder then this public feedback on LinkedIn from people who worked with me over several years.

I’m also writing a “manager guidebook”, much of this post is migrating to the manager-book and I’m decidign what should be in which post

Management situations - Igor’s book

Management is a very broad topic. So broad I’m creating Igor’s book of manager. From the back cover:

Managing is hard. Lessons are hard earned and should be cherished. This post is designed to make explicit, and improve behaviors and practices. It reminds us how to behave, and encourages continuous improvement.

There’s a lot of duplication between this post and the manager book. Content is slowly migrating to the book. I’m deciding what should be in this post, and what in the other.

How will I measure my success?

Acting is easy, but results are hard. Here are the results I measure.

Coach, empower, build inclusive and supportive culture

  • Employee surveys (MS poll, Amazon connections, Amazon tech survey, Amazon Forte)
  • Employee referrals and public feedback (from LinkedIn)
  • Employee career velocity relative to median (you can ask me the ratio in person).

Productive and results-oriented

  • Trains run on time and frequently.
  • Ruthless prioritization (Shipping is a feature)
  • Define and deliver business priorities.

Great partner to other teams and non-tech partners

  • Biz functions understands team and tech constraints
  • My team understand constraints and needs of partner teams and biz functions.
  • Team not blocked on other teams or biz functions.

How will I behave to be successful?

As I tell my teams, the what lags the how, here’s my how.

Being a great coach

  • The team members are my most important customer, and will be treated as such.
  • Coaching is critical to being a great manager - an excellent primer is The 7 coaching questions.
  • When we remember work, we think about our peak moments.
  • Human Meetings
  • Building intra-team cohesion
    • Encouraging team to eat lunch together
    • Encouraging team to share their out side of work passions.
    • Building team ownership over individual ownership.
  • Team wide appreciation
    • Weekly linked in posts celebrating the team
    • Cook the team breakfast
  • Individual specific recognition
    • Continuous on the spot recognition.
    • [Pending] Hand written notes
  • Self-service management through fortune cookies.

Communicating clearly

  • Keeping everyone informed and proud
  • Monthly newsletters
  • Draw pictures/pen casts


Working across teams

  • Ease at which my team can collaborate across the larger organization.
  • Leadership card experience
  • Team wide engagement through clustering exercises.

Staying technical

This is answered directly in Igor’s book of management


  • I finally hosted a hack-a-thon for my parent team. Here is my advice for folks setting this up.

Some behaviors I’m just starting, these include

  • Team music videos
  • Engineering peak moments

Establishing Process, Project Lifecycle, and Artifacts

Some teams have these things well defined and running smoothly, other teams (seems to be most) need help building out these mechanisims

  • Design Meetings
  • Weekly Engineer Review (Status Reports)
  • Design Meetings
  • Weekly Leadership team Meetings
  • Weekly Operations/Engineering Excellence Review
  • Bi-Weekly Team Meetings

  • Agile Ceremonies: - The standard - Standups/Backlog Grooming/Sprint Planning/Retro

  • Project LifeCycle Documents/Meetings
    • Requirements Review - Design (p)review - Test Plan Review - Operations/Launch Review/Pre-Morten - Bug Bash

Igors Super Powers

Why do people think Igor is a good coach?

Someone once asked my why I’m a good coach, took me a while, here’s what I came up with.

  • I believe you can’t be efficient with people, you can only be effective. And it always pays off.
  • People are not ‘resources’, they are 3 dimensional humans, with lives outside work, emotions(like pride), and desires.
  • I’ve read and digested slews of self help books which while often mocked, are filled with great models.
  • I actively study and practice coaching and effective decision making

Other Resources