Be a Good Manager: Replace yourself

Part of your feeling like you’re stuck in a cubicle comes from the fact that there is a problem with many professional managers. Are you a manager by chance?

Especially since many engineering managers, for example, come from purely technical backgrounds without formal leadership training, they don’t necessarily treat their positions as an essential link in the effective running of an organization.

I would further suggest that managers as a whole in a corporate society have a very strong influence over the morale of the people because of their power to shape the working environment.

If you are a manager, you ought to take your responsibilities very seriously.


Look out for Chief Warrant Officer “Ski”

When I was the leading Diver onboard a Navy submarine, we were subjected to inspections by officers from Squadron. There was one man, I can’t remember his name but I remember how he looked. He was a senior diver and a Chief Warrant officer (CWO), we’ll just call him CWO “Ski”, and he had this scar across his face that made him appear to be one intense man you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of.

He wasn’t the smiling-type, you just get this feeling like you didn’t want to step out of line otherwise you’d be crushed.*

One day, he and I were going over my equipment records and I think we were missing some equipment. All I can remember is whatever explanation I gave him, “Ski” was okay with (thank God), but he asked me who the officer in charge of the diving department was and I could tell, he was going to rip him a new one.

I told you this story, because there needs to be a Warrant Officer Ski going around to make sure managers are taking their jobs seriously. And if you could expect that man to pay you a visit in your office, you might just take your job really seriously.

Now that we’ve established that managers have a key role, what’s one philosophy a manager could focus on to establish a vibrant organization?

Work hard to replace yourself

That’s right, you should be concerned enough about the employees you are leading that you train them to build their skills. In fact you should be emptying yourself out thinking that any skill you, as a senior person, don’t share is just going to be taken to your grave and wasted. For those who have the potential to be leaders, train them to be leaders. In fact, you should teach those who are able to actually do your job.

Your role should not be one as an individual living in a closet. You as a manager should be developing your skills in effort to smooth out the operations of the department. Every step you take to make life easier will have a multiplicative effect. If you are not doing that, then what the in the world are you doing as a manager?

Keep all of your people up to date with your progress, because, although they may not be directly responsible to do what you do, it helps them gain more insight to running the department and fosters a team environment rather than a leaving them as a bunch of random individuals thinking that managers are just position holders in a corporate structure.

If you adopt this kind of approach and your director or VP thinks you are expendable, then CWO “Ski” should be paying that fellow a visit too.

*Author’s note:  I had a chance to observe and talk with CWO “Ski” when he rode with us (on the submarine) during our evaluation exercises and I discovered that he was quite approachable. He had worked his way up the enlisted ranks before becoming a warrant officer so his experiences in knowing the difficulties of being an enlisted man gave him a unique credibility and respect among all ranks.

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Challen Yee

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