Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A good boss can make all the difference

We all know that's true - but how *much* difference, exactly? A study of 23,000 workers in a technology based company has given the answer. The average boss adds 1.75 times as much output as the average worker. And replacing a bad boss with a good boss will increase output by at least 10% (in a 10 man team, that's like having a whole extra headcount!)

What is the most important task a boss should be doing? You might be surprised, but it is teaching/coaching! There are skills you have that your employees need - or if you don't have them yet, you have the time and ability to acquire them and pass them on.

The whole idea of coaching freaks out some Software Development Managers, because their technical skills are necessarily less current than their staff. You shouldn't worry about that - you can buy books or videos for your staff, or send them on training courses.

You have lots of stuff to teach them besides technical specifics. For a start, there's the 20 years of software tips and tricks you've picked up during your software development career. Many of the same problems you were facing back in your COBOL days ;-) are the same sorts of things derailing software projects today. Poor estimation, users who don't know their mind, senior management who won't commit - there really is nothing new under the Sun.

Even outside of project stuff there are things you can teach them, about time management, about dealing with people, about developing their careers, about problem solving, about dealing with difficult clients, about written and verbal communication etc. etc. You can probably add a few more to the list.

Have a look at your calendar tomorrow. How many hours per week do you spend training, coaching and mentoring your staff. One study suggests a good manager spends 20-40% of their time on coaching. That might seem out of reach, but why not start with 5%, and work your way up?


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