In any organization, the role of a manager is crucial to ensure that the team performs to its full potential. As teams grow larger and more complex, managing them effectively becomes increasingly challenging. At a certain point, you need to subdivide the team into several teams and make the decision to either promote or hire additional managers. This is where a director takes on the role of a “manager of managers.” In this post, I’ll talk about some of my thoughts on the topic as I admit it is also new to me.

What Do You Do Around Here?

As defined in “The Manager’s Path” by Camille Fournier, a manager of managers is “a person who manages a group of managers, rather than individual contributors.” This role is critical for companies with large and complex teams, where there are several layers of management. The manager of managers serves as a bridge between upper management and front-line managers, ensuring that communication is clear and objectives are aligned.

One of the primary responsibilities of a manager of managers is to develop and nurture the next generation of leaders within the organization. This involves coaching and mentoring managers to develop their leadership skills and build high-performing teams. The manager of managers also plays a critical role in setting the strategic direction of the organization and ensuring that their team’s objectives align with the company’s broader goals.

Another critical aspect of the manager of managers role is to manage inter-team dependencies. With multiple teams working on different aspects of a project, it’s easy for communication to break down and priorities need to be aligned. The manager of managers is responsible for ensuring that all teams are working together effectively and that any issues are addressed promptly.

In “The Manager’s Path,” Camille Fournier notes that being a manager of managers can be challenging because it requires a different skill set than managing individual contributors. While managing individual contributors involves a lot of hands-on work, managing managers requires a more hands-off approach. The manager of managers must learn to delegate effectively, provide guidance and support, and trust their managers to do their jobs well.

Balancing Team Needs with Organizational Goals

One of the most significant challenges that a manager of managers faces is the need to balance the needs of their team with the broader goals of the organization. While it’s essential to advocate for their team’s needs and concerns, the manager of managers must also make decisions that benefit the company as a whole.

One of the ways that a manager of managers can balance these competing interests is by fostering open communication and transparency. By keeping their team informed of the organization’s goals and challenges, the manager of managers can help their team understand the bigger picture and how their work fits into the broader context.

Another important consideration is to set realistic expectations and goals for the team that align with the company’s objectives. By setting clear expectations, the manager of managers can ensure that their team is working towards the same goals as the broader organization. Additionally, it’s essential to regularly check in with team members to ensure that they have the resources and support they need to achieve their objectives.

At times, the manager of managers may need to make difficult decisions that are not popular with their team. For example, they may need to restructure teams, change project priorities, or terminate employees who are not meeting performance expectations. In such situations, it’s crucial to be transparent with the team and explain the rationale behind the decision.

It’s also essential to remain empathetic and supportive of the team throughout the decision-making process. Change can be challenging, and the manager of managers must be aware of the impact that their decisions may have on team members. By acknowledging the challenges and providing support, the manager of managers can help their team navigate through change and come out stronger on the other side.

Closing Thoughts

The role of a manager of managers is critical in organizations with complex teams and multiple layers of management. They are responsible for coaching and mentoring managers, aligning team objectives with the company’s goals, managing inter-team dependencies, and balancing the needs of their team with the needs of the broader organization. It’s a challenging role that requires a different skill set than managing individual contributors, but with the right approach, a manager of managers can help their organization achieve its full potential.

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