Design Managers

Most design managers are accidental managers. Their managers see a spark when they are a star individual contributor, admire their craft and meticulousness, take a bet, and make them managers.

They know their stuff, and if push comes to shove, they can roll up their sleeves and get things done. However, they often lack formal training or mentorship in being a manager and usually they just jump into the role and learn on the go.

Many new managers make ONE common mistake: the moment they become a manager, they become hands-off. They let go of what got them there in the first place. At the same time, doing everything themselves can also be detrimental. A good balance goes a long way.

After a decade and a half of being a manager, I have found a ratio that works best for large teams (if your span is 6-8 and you are a part of 100-member org). For smaller teams, the ratio is very different.

The ratio for effective management is 15-60-25.

As a manager, set the landscape and work with your team for 15%. Allow them to deep dive for 60% and review their work/collaborate/take to finish for 25%. You can't be completely hands-off. This ratio allows the team to work better together. They see you as one of them, not an outsider. They appreciate your involvement. They discuss details with you, and this way you can micro understand their work and challenges.

When you become a manager of managers, help your new manager to follow the same approach and watch them thrive. That's how we create incidental managers, not accidental ones.

P.S: This is one of many ideas brewing in my Thriving as a design manager guide. Yet to give form and shape to the guide.

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