12 Management Tips for First-Time Managers

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Rafael Timbó
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Rafael Timbó
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Chief Technology Officer
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Learn 12 management tips first-time engineering managers use to lead successful development teams.
Published on
April 23, 2024
Updated on
April 23, 2024

Starting as an engineering manager is as daunting as it is exciting. First-time managers must juggle many tasks, including leading a team, allocating resources, meeting organizational objectives, keeping up with new technologies, and maintaining a work-life balance. While challenging, various opportunities arise, such as improving management skills, expanding their network, and growing professionally.

Engineering managers must develop numerous skills extending past technical expertise to manage a development team successfully. Their new role is to foster positive work cultures that employees find enjoyable and motivating. First-time managers must communicate effectively with both the teams they manage and the personnel who manage them—ideally without micromanaging. Engineering managers must also constantly adapt and network without overworking themselves to burnout.

Being a first-time leader is often challenging, so it’s best to take actionable steps to prepare for a new engineering manager role. Here are 12 tips for new engineering managers to engage, mentor, and successfully lead teams in their new position.

1. Support and Mentor Team Members

To be an effective leader, one of the most crucial first-time manager tips is to actively help your team members. Engineering managers depend on the development teams' performance and results. Mentoring and supporting employees to improve their weaknesses and enhance their strengths will benefit the entire team. To do this successfully, managers must take the time to understand each individual's skill sets, career aspirations, and challenges.

Engineering managers can put team members in a position to succeed by providing the resources and support they need. This may come in the form of new equipment, assistants, or professional training. In some cases, assigning new responsibilities to team members may be beneficial. Asking a team member to take on new challenges can challenge them to step out of their comfort zone. It also shows that you, as their manager, trust in their abilities, which can lead to increased motivation and confidence.

When your team knows that you will support them when they face challenges and have a vested interest in their professional development, they are more likely to work hard to exceed expectations. This trust fosters a positive work environment, leading to better team performance.

2. Delegate Tasks

Taking on a management role is overwhelming for numerous reasons. New leaders must do everything from streamlining workflows and managing their development team to overseeing direct reports and meeting organizational goals. The first-time manager must balance day-to-day tasks and strategically plan for future projects, staffing, budgeting, and more. Realize you can't perform every task alone. A crucial part of being an engineering manager is determining which developers are best fit for which tasks and delegating the work accordingly.

Task delegation allows managers to distribute workloads evenly across the team. In doing so, projects can progress without overworking any individual contributor. Engineering managers must consider each team member's strengths and weaknesses to optimize the team's productivity. This includes understanding each team member's unique technical and soft skills. Effective delegation fosters a collaborative environment where employees contribute their best work toward the company's collective goals.

3. Create a Security-First Mindset

Embedding the importance of security into your tech team from the start will pay dividends over time. Tech teams that don’t focus on safety and protection can lead to devastating consequences. Data breaches due to weak security protocols may result in a loss of sensitive data that can affect the company, personnel, and customers. Not only can this lead to expensive fines, but also immeasurable reputational damage. When customers don’t feel a company is looking out for their best interest, it’s difficult to regain their trust.

Highlighting security is also crucial for the project itself. Safeguarding intellectual property and source code protects the company’s assets and ensures that the project remains innovative without information leaking to competitors. By implementing a security-first mindset and robust safety measures, you can help proactively preserve the integrity of the project, team, and company.

4. Manage Up

In addition to overseeing projects and team members, it’s helpful for managers to “manage up” by working with superiors to generate the best outcomes for themselves, their teams, and the entire organization. To effectively manage up, you need a precise understanding of your boss's goals and pressures.

Understanding how to help your manager succeed will set you up for success. Regularly updating your manager on the team's progress, seeking and acting on feedback, and supporting your manager's decisions can help strengthen your bond with your superiors.

If you've cultivated a solid relationship with your manager, you're more likely to get additional resources when your team needs them to meet a deadline. When team members excel in their roles, and you recommend them for promotion, executives are more likely to listen. Fostering such a relationship with your superior will build trust and enhance productivity throughout your team, contributing to your overall success as well.

5. Address Tech Debt and Refactoring

As a new manager, it’s important to emphasize the dangers of technical debt, or the avoidable costs resulting from cutting corners, to your team. The whole team can suffer long-term when programmers take shortcuts like writing suboptimal code or using outdated technologies instead of learning newer, more efficient options. Mediocre code may lead to difficulties with bug fixes and implementing new features later on.

Encouraging your team to embrace refactoring can have the opposite effect, reducing tech debt. Refactoring, the process of restructuring code without impacting its external behavior, improves code quality and makes it easier to maintain over time. Advocating this process will implement a work culture that prioritizes efficiency and a vision-oriented approach.

6. Prevent Developer Burnout

Sometimes, being part of a tech team is often physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Developers may work long hours under intense pressure when a deadline looms to produce deliverables. New engineering managers must notice when team members are at risk of burnout and take proactive measures to thwart it.

Empathy is a key to proactively preventing developer burnout. As a people manager, you'll want to practice active listening techniques that give full attention to the speaker. Acknowledging the staff member's feelings and responding appropriately will show that you respect their perspective. These actions also make it easier to notice when a team member needs extra support or resources to avoid burnout.

Developing strong emotional intelligence (EI) skills is also essential for first-time managers. EI starts with self-awareness and the ability to recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and actions. Recognizing emotional responses helps managers empathize with others.

Self-awareness also helps in emotion regulation. Tempers can flare in stressful situations when a development team's deadline is approaching. Conflicts may spring up, and they may escalate without some deft maneuvering. Engineering managers who can control their emotions are equipped to keep team members calm and find a resolution. In doing so, there is a better chance those involved will consider your concerns and comments.

7. Create a Positive Developer Experience

Some of the best advice for new managers is to cultivate a positive work culture. New engineering managers who adhere to some of these tips, such as being empathetic to prevent developer burnout and helping team members develop professionally, can produce a positive atmosphere. Recognizing hard work and rewarding accomplishments can also help boost morale and reinforce productive behaviors. It's not always easy, especially amid tight deadlines and frayed nerves, but people will notice and absorb your positivity.

Environments that encourage inclusion and respect make up positive cultures. Engineering managers who emphasize diversity, equity, and inlusion (DEI) initiatives ensure all team members feel comfortable voicing opinions and sharing their insights regardless of their backgrounds and cultures. An inclusive culture creates motivating atmospheres where enhanced team collaboration leads to better decision-making, innovation, and problem-solving.

8. Navigate Distributed Team Environments

Managers who need to maintain distributed teams of software engineers face additional challenges. Engineering managers with teams spanning remote or different geological locations must take extra steps to ensure effective communication and collaboration throughout the team. Implementing software development tools like version control can help multiple programmers work on the same project simultaneously.

Regardless of your management style, setting clear goals and expectations and being able to communicate them to your team is essential. For development teams to successfully launch products and complete their tasks, each team member must understand their role, expectations, and objectives. Completely aligned teams are more productive and contribute to a positive work culture.

Regular team meetings through video conferences can also minimize misunderstandings and ensure a distributed team is on the same page. Team meetings keep staff goals and objectives aligned and facilitate open communication. Open communication happens when team members express concerns, share ideas, and ask questions without fearing consequences. Asking open-ended questions facilitates reflection and encourages team members to share genuine thoughts. Teams that communicate freely are more likely to resolve conflicts and collaborate effectively.

One-on-one meetings are also crucial as they allow managers to provide regular feedback to team members. Constructive feedback helps team members develop their skills and grow into their roles. One-on-one meetings are also excellent opportunities to empathize with employees and demonstrate your support for their challenges.

9. Remain Technical

One of the best tips for managers in the tech industry is to maintain technical proficiency and continue to learn new technologies upon release. A development team will respect and trust an engineering manager who keeps up with the latest trends. You can contribute meaningful points and insights in discussions and team meetings by staying informed. Managers who grasp a wide range of programming languages, frameworks, and analytics tools can provide better guidance and solutions based on their experience.  

Enhanced knowledge of tech can also help in managing up. Being able to relay the newest tech advances and how they can affect the organization's profitability to stakeholders can result in increased resources. Often, stakeholders aren't as knowledgeable about the technical language, so simplifying it effectively to get your point across can help you gain credibility. Your superiors may also ask for your advice more often when they know you are up to date on the latest trends.

10. Prioritize Time Management

Time management is vital in any job and a significant priority for first-time engineering managers who must manage numerous tasks, including managing team dynamics, overseeing projects, and planning strategic initiatives. Effective time management practices will make you more organized, set a good example for your team, and foster an environment of discipline.

Managers who prioritize time management will decrease stress for themselves and their teams, leading to more productivity and a positive work environment. Efficient time management supports a healthy work-life balance, which is essential for a company culture emphasizing employee well-being.

11. Focus On Self-Development

An aspect of time management includes making time for yourself. Management positions come with a lot of stress and pressure. It can be easy to overwork and neglect your own mental health, which can lead to errors in decision-making, diminished performance, and potential burnout. Taking adequate time to rest, pursuing hobbies, and maintaining relationships with friends and family outside of the workplace can have a rejuvenating effect. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can keep you motivated and maintain job satisfaction.

Taking time to grow professionally is also crucial for your success. Learning the newest tech industry trends or attending additional management training courses will pay dividends over time. Employees who see their manager improving will cultivate an atmosphere of continuous learning through their team and the organization. Engineering managers who commit to professional development are more likely to attract and retain top talent.

12. Be Ready to Adapt

Software development projects often come with unpredictable challenges and rapid technological advancements. Managers must embrace change and remain flexible to meet shifting project requirements and industry standards. Engineering managers who adapt quickly position themselves better to lead their teams to successful outcomes, keeping projects on track to meet deadlines and ensuring high team morale.

Management requires accommodating a tech team's dynamic personalities, skill sets, and expectations. Engineering managers must constantly reallocate resources and tasks to meet productivity demands while maintaining motivational strategies that increase job satisfaction.

How To Be a Good Manager for Engineering Teams

Engineering managers must have many skill sets to manage a development team, including adaptable leadership styles, collaboration, empathy, and technical know-how. Balancing these leadership skills takes practice. Great managers learn to delegate tasks effectively and manage their time to maximize productivity.

Engineering managers and tech teams must work to overcome challenges unique to their industry. Some of the challenges that they face include:

  • Technological changes: The constant evolution of technology means putting resources toward areas such as software updates, hardware upgrades, and developer training.
  • Remote teams: Managing teams of remote developers requires managers to adapt to new digital communication tools. They must also find ways to foster collaboration when developers work from different geographical locations.
  • Security concerns: Engineering managers and tech teams must proactively implement the newest security measures to protect their intellectual property from cyber attacks and hackers.

To achieve success, efficient engineering managers must learn to deal with the challenges of working in the tech industry and the other pressures of their role.

Hire Engineering Managers With Revelo

Engineering managers are in challenging roles that always call for effective leadership. Finding and hiring talented engineering managers can turn into a lengthy process. However, taking advantage of a talent agency like Revelo can save your company time and effort.

At Revelo, we help match companies with top-tier engineering managers and developers from Latin America. Our vast talent pool comprises highly skilled candidates pre-vetted for soft skills, technical skills, and English proficiency. They are also time-zone-aligned to work on your company's schedule.

Revelo handles onboarding, including payroll, benefits administration, taxes, and local compliance. We also support developers throughout their tenure to ensure continued engagement and retention.

Contact Revelo to find the best engineering manager to lead your development team.

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