4 Tips for Managing Other Managers

by Greg Skloot
Management   |   4 Min Read
managing other managers

As you grow as a leader, a day will come when your organization has enough structure to have other managers that report to you. Instead of just being responsible for a group of individual contributors, you are now responsible for other managers, and indirectly responsible for every individual!

There are some key differences between managing individuals and managing other managers. To lay out those differences, consider the following framework of 4 questions to ask:

  1. What do you look for when hiring?
  2. How to do you assign tasks?
  3. What updates do you expect?
  4. How do you measure success?

The answer to each question explains the difference between managing individuals vs. other managers. Let’s answer each one:

Managing Individuals:

Managing Managers:

Most importantly, overseeing a team of managers requires a more strategic approach. You are likely providing less tactical input, and instead being a sounding board to discuss issues, help with people problems and clarify objectives.

To be effective in managing both individuals and other managers, consider the following:

1. Set clear expectations up front

Expectations for timeline and results need to be defined up front. Other managers might have more flexibility to adapt that timeline for their team. Individuals should certainly also have input but you may define a more precise process for them to follow with less opportunity to adapt it, depending on the capabilities of the individual. Ultimately, both sides benefit from clear expectations.

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2. Give continuous feedback

Both managers and individuals need feedback on their effectiveness. For individuals, your feedback may be focused on specific tactics and details of how they are doing a project to help them grow. For other managers, they may come to you seeking advice on how to deal with a problem on their team, or if their approach to a project is reasonable. Your feedback for other managers will likely be more strategic rather than tactical, if that manager is capable.

On of the reasons I started building Weekly Update for my team was because I found the continuous feedback process to be critical for us, and wanted everyone to be transparent on progress, concerns and results. This was beneficial for both individuals and other managers that I was leading.

3. Advise and don’t dictate

When managing individuals or other managers, you should strive to act as an advisor. Your goal is to listen and then give guidance with the expectation that your direct-report will come to the right conclusion. This is the best way for them to learn and grow. For individuals, there may be more of a need to dictate on occasion if they are really off-base. For managers, the need for dictating how to do something can be indicative of a problem with that manager’s effectiveness. You should expect your other managers to be fully capable of figuring out “what” to focus on and “how” to execute.

4. Avoid micromanagement

Micromanaging an individual is frustrating. Micromanaging other mangers is toxic for your organization. Managers need to have autonomy to run their team in their own way. They might have specific customs, meeting agendas, and general approaches to how they work effectively. You may set guidelines that every manager in your organization must follow (e.g. everyone needs to have a 1-1 with each direct report once per week). However, when in doubt, step out of the way and let your managers use their own approach. Your focus should always be on the results of the team’s performance.

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