As a manager, you have influence on a lot of people. Not just in your own team, but people in other teams or separate departments. If you look back on all the managers you had in the past. You will probably remember the managers that were genuinely good and the managers that were rather bad.

My former managers

In my professional career, I had several managers working at a fruit garden, a road worker, and even a pizza delivery boy. That is before I worked full-time as an engineer. I don’t recall all of them. But I do recall the good managers that made me take the extra step. And the bad ones, that made me feel shitty and give the minimum.

The good managers did:

  • Supported me when a close family member passed away. Even showed up at the funeral to support me.
  • Has your back when there is an incident you caused.

The bad managers did:

  • Made fun of my social media in a 1:1
  • Told my 16-year-old self I’d never get far with that attitude on my first day at work. (Guess where I could have been by now with a good attitude).
  • Took no action on reports of unwanted behavior.

Those memories of my former managers taught me a thing or two. Lessons best summarized in a Maya Angelou quote.

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

The lesson

That’s right. People probably won’t remember how you lead that one project, but will remember how you made them feel at an important moment. A family member passed away, and your manager was way too eager to get you back to work? People will not forget that.

But what does this Maya Angelou quote teach us that we can use in engineering leadership? Being a good leader and manager is not just about numbers and making deadlines. The people you manage are important. As their manager, you can make such a difference in their lives. Especially during tough periods.

If you ask managers if you should be good for your people, everyone will say yes. But in what smaller ways do managers impact how we make our people feel?

Imagine you have a 1:1 with a report. They are feeling anxious because they finally build up the nerve to tell you about that huge personal problem they have. And while they are open and finally sharing, you get a notification on your phone. Or a familiar face walks by the meeting room. While your report is extremely vulnerable you are distracted. Boom. Your report instantly will feel disrespected. Something people remember.

To summarize:

  • People will remember how you make them feel.
  • The influence you have as a manager is more than you think.
  • This is especially important when building teams in the long run.

This lesson has some overlap with the theory of Mcgregor. If you are interested check the blog post I wrote on Mcgregor’s theory.

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