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I am managing a team of five, so I can be considered as a team lead of them. Above me there is a general manager, who is managing 4 team leads, and I being one of them.

The problem-- as I see it from a team lead perspective-- is that my boss doesn't know anything about management generally, and expectation setting specifically. My boss would let us just "do our best", with absolutely no idea how to measure our output, neither does he has a way to gauge whether our efforts/excuses are reasonable. So if we just slack off, and we can't meet our target, as long as we can invent a half-convincing excuse, we can be let off the hook.

The net result is that other teams under him ( not mine, I think my team is donig fine, but I cannot know for sure because there is no feedback mechanism from my boss) are not putting in enough effort to make company as a whole succeeds. They are trying to do minimum jobs to get away with whatever they can.

It is very painful for me to see our company languishes because the boss has no direction. I feel like this company is struggling, but I don't want to leave the company just yet, and I can't ask to be transferred to another boss.

Is there anyway I can wake my boss up, so that he is really managing and getting his act together and behaving like a boss?

  • I've seen stuff like that referred to in the web as "managing up", not as "Reverse Management" – gnat May 30 '13 at 6:44
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    @gnat, let me change the title – Graviton May 30 '13 at 6:58
  • The question is: Why do YOU slack off and invent excuses? There's no reason for you to be worrying about your boss if the blame is squarely on you and your colleagues. – Deer Hunter May 30 '13 at 7:14
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    @DeerHunter I read that as "if we were to slack off". It's the other teams that are definitely slacking off; asker's team isn't (although it "cannot [be] know[n] for sure") – AakashM May 30 '13 at 8:01
  • @AakashM - agree on not knowing for sure. It's always easy to blame the boss; I also fail to appreciate the idea of manipulating one's manager. – Deer Hunter May 30 '13 at 8:25
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Focus on your team and let your boss know what you are doing. Show some metrics of your own. Don't wait for him to figure this out.

Hopefully, he will try to apply some of this on the other teams. His boss may wonder why your team is performing so well compared to the others.

Oh I forgot, you have to make sure your team is performing to a high standard. You may not want a promotion, but you may have to unless you want an even worse boss. Imagine a boss who doesn't know what he's doing and tries to tell you what to do.

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    Careful with using the metrics of one team to set the bar, though. Not all teams have the same performance; teams are composed of different people with different skillsets and experience, and different personal lives. That's all fine and to be expected to some degree. As a lead, OP has his boss's ear and might "suggest" that he regard some of the excuses more critically, but (to use some Agile buzzwords) just because OP's team completed 45 "points" last sprint doesn't mean that any other team, even his, should be expected to hold to that velocity as a standard. – KeithS Jun 5 '13 at 22:38
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Every manager should expect to get some advice and direction from their experienced employees, that's a mild form "managing up" but there are some situations that I've seen that go beyond that:

  1. New Manager - The employees have to train the manager and that puts them in charge for a litle while.
  2. Apathetic Manager - A manager that could do a better job and just doesn't so that the employees have to pick up the slack to keep their company / group running.
  3. Unskilled Manager - An ineffective manager doesn't focus on the right things may delegate real management to the employees I've seen this done intentionally and unintentionally.

Most bad managers I've seen were a mix of 2 and 3 and that seems to be what you are facing, everyone is different so I can only offer a few suggestions and leave it to you to judge and adapt:

  • You're going to need him to "buy in" to your idea so he needs to be able to take some ownership, a good way to do this is to go to him with an abstracted version of your idea and ask for his "expertise" on what kinds of goals should be reasonable, effective, and make you all look good to upper management. It's important that you listen and use that advice as best you can - remember you aren't asking for an opinion you are asking for expertise.
  • Guide the suggestions by asking questions - "Measuring lines of code is a bad measurement." would be better asked "Do you think that would that encourage sloppy coding and reward people adding fluff?"
  • Once some buy in has happened then offer to do the research on different measurements and get back to him on it with a summary by X deadline. He doesn't have to do anything and deadlines make things official.
  • Build a "Dashboard" - People love dashboards with charts and status lights, especially managers - just be careful about what you put on there. You want him to use measurements so make it easy and fun.
4

You can't "manage" your manager, but you can explain what you need him to do in order to help you produce the best results, which obviously includes (but isn't necessarily limited to) some kind of benchmarking.

Focusing on what you need from the manager in order to perform, you'll stay out of the "don't tell me how to do my job"-tar pit, but should stand a decent chance of getting better support.

If this seems to take off, you can move on to talking about what (de)motivates you in general. Such as other teams slacking.

Of course, all this can't take place unless it's on a backdrop where your team is producing good results.

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