Engineering Managers

Common Mistakes Engineering Managers Should Avoid

Do you know there’s a big difference between writing code and overseeing an entire team of engineers who write codes? Beyond project planning and resourcing, the engineering manager’s role includes aiding the professional development of their direct subordinates. Experienced engineering managers will tell you that with more responsibility means more mistakes. Which is cool as long as you make the proper adjustments.

The top mistakes are broken down into a few themes: communication, leadership, and skills.


Don’t be so focused on listening that you forget to observe nonverbal cues — or worse, forget to communicate your expectations. Be upfront with your strengths, weaknesses, what motivates you, and your preferred communication style. Ask your direct reports for the same transparency.

Here are other mistakes to avoid:

  1. Not being a liaison between the team and the rest of the company: Breaking down barriers to collaboration helps people do their job more effectively.
  2. Being a micromanager: You need to let people make their own mistakes while providing a clear path forward with checkpoints.
  3. Not asking for feedback: Ask for performance reviews from people within your team and outside of the team on your work and role.
  4. Having a calendar full of meetings: This makes you “unreachable”. People should feel like their manager has time for necessary Q&A. 


Being a good leader means being there for your team. Help them set realistic milestones and clear expectations for projects and tasks. Set your team up so that they ‘fall’ from a height that’s manageable.

Here are other mistakes to avoid:

  1. Pretending to be a friend because you’re “supposed to”: Make a genuine connection with everyone and truly care about their position.
  2. Asking malicious questions during a presentation, in everyone’s presence: Ensure you know the right time to “challenge” someone. 
  3. Focusing too much on daily tasks that you lose grasp of your team’s impacts on the company’s strategy: Don’t let tunnel vision stop you from seeing the big picture.
  4. Taking too long to make a decision, or making one without consulting your team first: It’s better to make decisions on time to avoid any setbacks in targets and even better when the team is involved in the process. 


It’s not unusual for new engineering managers to imitate what they’ve seen other managers do. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can prevent you from challenging the status quo. Developing your management style doesn’t happen overnight.

Here are other mistakes to avoid:

  1. Losing touch with the latest tech and failing to grow your craft (for many, this is coding): Make an effort to keep up with the evolving tech landscape.
  2. Having a tendency to fall back on coding because it’s “familiar”: It’s natural for new engineering managers to struggle at first! Don’t revert to coding, it won’t help build managerial skills.
  3. Misunderstanding techniques and tools, like stand up meetings: Take 15 min every day to sync with your team on shared goals and how to move past setbacks, instead of your to-do list.
  4. Not taking responsibility for team objectives: Your success depends on the success of your team. Be a coach and supervise their assignments.

That’s it! Once you are able to tackle such mistakes, you will be on your way to becoming one of the best engineering managers out there. Have more to share? Drop it in the comments section.


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