No one likes to be managed.

I don’t like to be managed. And I’m pretty sure anyone reading this doesn’t like to be managed.

The first thing I told every engineer at Noon when I joined back in April 2022 is this; “I will not manage you. And I won’t be your manager. I will be your coach.”

Basecamp’s manager of 1 idea is spot on:

This means we rely on everyone at Basecamp to do a lot of self-management. People who do this well qualify as managers of one, and we strive for everyone senior or above to embody this principle fully. That means setting your own direction when one isn’t given.

I like to be coached. And I love being a coach. A coach is always there on your side helping you improve. A coach simply tells you to:

  1. Do more of X/Start doing X
  2. Do less of Y/Stop doing Y

And then he moves away, watches, and coaches you again. He doesn’t manage every aspect of your work.

I believe that brilliant people like this. Because they know they have authority over their work. They know they have ownership of their work. And they know that they won’t be micromanaged. They own their work.

When I think of Noon, I don’t think we need managers at Noon. We need more coaches. Coaching can be in different shapes and sizes. Be it in a form of another engineer giving someone feedback on a PR on how to improve your code, an EM (or should I say a Coach?) discussing your career aspirations, or another team forcing more stringent quality standards.

The best managers I had in my career were coaches. They set expectations and then they move away. Thanks to Madhu Sivasubramanian for first teaching me this back in the day. And thanks to John Lusty for teaching me how to adjust my style when I moved into a director role, managing managers.

A coach is there for you. And we can always be coaches ourselves on a daily basis. I shall be a coach for someone every day. And I should be coached by someone every day.

[He is interchangeable with She above.]

Thoughts to write about in the future

The word management is bemusing. It entails intervention. Nassim Taleb talks about iatrogenic when a treatment causes more harm than benefit. If someone is hired as a manager this entails “intervening.” To manage is to intervene. And I think this is nonsense. I shall write about this later.


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