How do you spot a beginner manager?

Mudassir Ali
Feb 10, 2020 05:33 AM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 10, 2020 05:33 AM

I’d add to Yaris’ comprehensive list with one distinction:

(a) beginners tend to believe they are in the position because they’re the smartest in the room and they have to be-in-charge;

(b) veterans know their staff is generally smarter and certainly more technically skilled, and realize the veteran’s role is to eliminate roadblocks for employees to accomplish their goals.

The former tend to dictate; the latter tend to ask questions and seek input and consensus.

Below are some examples of how the two approaches, beginner vs veteran, plays out in the workplace.


Beginners often start meetings with agendas that resemble briefings attended by more people than necessary. If task oriented they will lay out a plan w/ timeline and milestones. If it’s policy oriented they will brief the new rules and ask for questions.

Veterans tend to hold meetings with project leadership (project lead, a project lead trainee/protege, senior tech staff) that outline project objectives and deadlines and then ask for ideas from attendees on how to achieve them and the resources needed. If policy oriented they will explain to all staff why there is a new rule and then ask employees how it may impact them and then offer to meet with individuals privately to see what can the manager do to ameliorate impacts or address workarounds.

Project Management

Beginners look at numbers (spend rate, labor assigned, milestones met, etc) and then ask project leads pointed questions about the numbers.

Veterans do the same thing, but then ask project leads questions about their needs (Do you have enough staff? Do we need to increase budget? Do you want to rotate some folks in/out? Is there anything I can get for you to help your workflow? Etc.) and don’t expect written reports. These questions are asked during a brief face to face request by the manager but arranged at the convenience of the project leader’s schedule.

Personnel Management

Beginners focus on headcount and utilization (efficiency) and rely on lines of communication.

Veterans delegate the above to their project leads and instead try to assure that the project lead gets the type of employee skill sets and temperaments needed to mesh with the project leader’s team. Veterans trust delegation, and provide service oriented support.

Generally management and executive training programs focus on things like Trust, Delegation, Service, Temperament, Communication, etc more than other aspects of the job because the other parts — as exhibited by Beginner behaviors — are learned at the project lead level.

The skills learned prior to the promotion or assignment are still important; yet the skills needed to manage and lead aren’t really practiced at the project or task level (unless someone has had a far-sighted mentor). They come eventually along with course corrections and some bruises to the ego.

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