Moving From Doing to Managing

5 years ago, I went from being a “doer” (ie, a programmer), to being a manager. This was not an easy transition. I suspect some people find this transition easier than others, but I think most everyone who makes the leap struggles in some way. If you’ve recently (or maybe not so recently) made this move, you may find an article by Dave Gray helpful. It’s entitled “The craftsman-to-manager paradox”. Dave defines the paradox as this:

As you move into management, the very things that made you effective as a craftsman are now deadly threats to your success as a manager. Your independence and self-reliance, which was an asset, is now a liability.

This is 100% correct, and I’ve seen it happen more than once; both to myself, and to the others around me who were promoted from the rank and file.

The article also includes a list he calls Ten Communication Commandments for Managers.

Number 8 is one of the things I struggled with the most:

Don’t avoid difficult conversations. As a manager it’s your job to initiate them when necessary.

I have often put off having those conversations, naively hoping that the issue would resolve itself. It never did, and putting it off only made things worse.

The other 9 items are equally valuable to anyone in a leadership position.

Another point to be made though, which Dave neglects to mention, is that great doers aren’t always great managers. It’s two completely different skillsets. I’ve more than once seen someone who was a really great developer/server administrator/router jockey get promoted into a supervisory position and then fail miserably. This isn’t a reflection on the individual, it’s more the fault of the person who promoted them. It isn’t that leadership and management skills can’t be learned, it’s just that some people just don’t have the aptitude (or often the desire) to do the job well.