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Letters to a Young Manager

Accomplishing goals through others, #123
LTYM > Managing People II

Dear Sophie,
Early in my career, I was asked to manage a new, small group of programmers. Our job was to build a new modern portfolio theory (MPT) product for mid-market investors. We divided up the project into logical parts and each person was assigned a section to code. I was the overall architect and also did some of the coding. I had established myself as a quick and facile FORTRAN jock (the financial programming language of the day!) I could code better and faster than anyone. That was the problem.

One day, I was checking some of the code that Kathy, our portfolio input environment (PIE) coder had completed. I saw that some of her code could be improved and expanded. So late one night I did. The next day she saw the changes and was very upset. "What were you doing?" "I thought I had responsibility for coding that piece?" she complained. She was right.

I learned a very important lesson. I call it the first law of management. When you can do something better and faster than anyone else, you need bite your tongue, sit on you hands and let others do it. You'll never leverage your self as a manager unless you can accomplish things through others. So resist the temptation, and don't do what others can do, even if you are a jock.


To be a good manager, you need to work through others

Discussion Questions:

1) What are some examples of not working through others?
2) What are some more subtle ways of doing other's work? What about checking up daily? Requiring sign-off on every step? Not providing budget?

For Further Reading:

See "A Sense of Accomplishment," story #124.

© Copyright 2005, 2020, E. G. Happ, All Rights Reserved.

  • A new manager's challenges as a metaphor for collaboration
    • Need to trust others to do
    • Need to get satisfaction from others doing it