Engineering Manager Series Week 2

This is the second week, so this is officially a series 🙂 You can read the first post under engineering manager category. If you got your coffee, enjoy the rest. ☕

When I first started to work as EM, one of the things that I can’t forget is the shock of how many more meetings have been added to my calendar. There were 7 agile teams I was working with then, now 9, it was 10 for a while. It means that there will be topics at least in 7 different fields. But when I look at my calendar, not all of them actually seems related to the work that we’re doing, or they’re related but at very mixed timelines and different lengths or one of them is taking the first half of my lunchtime and the following second half; there were a couple of meetings on meeting-free zones. My first reaction was trying to understand the content. So at first I didn’t change anything and tried to join almost all.

As a new EM, after years of working as IC, I was assuming that I, only me, should have joined all these meetings and freaked out if 2 of them were at the same time. Then I learned the delegation.

Delegation is one of the core concepts of management leadership. The process involves managers deciding which work they should do themselves and which work should be delegated to others for completion.

Of course, we all know what delegation is and always saying now I’m not the sum of my behaviors, we’re a team. But when I started to work as EM, at first it didn’t come to my mind at the first couple of weeks. Then, what happened. I mentioned in my first post that thanks to my company I joined a coaching group for a couple of months and it helped a lot. The idea was that the coach comes with a topic and everybody talks about it. I was mostly at the listener side, listening to the cases was very useful for a new one. Well, one of the topics was delegation, when we should use, which kind of jobs we should do on our own and for which ones could be delegated to our teams. Until that point, for everything asked to me and including all these meetings, I was trying to handle, join, answer, research even some of the request wasn’t related to my new job definition. That was a light in my mind. After that, I started to judge each request and also if won’t able to join some important meeting, delegate to some experienced people in my team and getting help. Anyway, this is just an example but, I strongly read this HBR article: To Be a Great Leader, You Have To Learn How to Delegate Well.

The upper limit of what’s possible will increase only with each collaborator you empower to contribute their best work to your shared priorities.

Let’s return to the meetings. After joining meetings for a while, I could group the meetings under some categories. Some of them were just popping in my calendar because they were sending to everybody if it’s related. Not very much but there was a group of meeting like this. The rest was team-related meetings in a very mixed timeline. So the first thing was making a calendar for me and also applicable for teams.

I said to myself, if I will change whole my calendar, I can get some help. So I started to search for meeting tips and techniques. I’m sharing a video including the most useful tips.

To give a summary of the video, the types of meetings;

  • Update -> Kill them, Replace with standups or email snippets
  • Strategy, Brainstorm, Planning, Design, Etc -> Are they masking a decision?, Be stingy with attendees, Keep them scoped
  • One on Ones -> Keep them sacred, Consider walking, How can I make your life easier?
  • Daily Standups -> Small groups, Stand!, “Accomplished yesterday?”, “Accomplish today?”, “Any roadblocks?”, Take everything else offline
  • All hands -> Regular and periodic, Rotate the planning responsibility, Share and celebrate, Q&A
  • Decision makings -> Requires the most effort to organize, Source of most pitfalls, ESSENTIAL!

A couple of more tips;

  • Decision Meetings -> Can it wait for a meeting?, Does it even need one?, Who is decider, Who are reviewers, What’s the agenda (no agenda, no meeting)
  • How long( Shorter is better, Try 20 or 40 instead of 30 or 60)
  • When (asap, defrag meeting schedules, consider “no meeting days”, Beware of recurring meetings, give time for preparation)

What I did, was I set a regular lunch break into my calendar in the time interval of the company’s official lunch break time. If anyone sends a meeting during my lunch-break or meeting free-zones, I started to reject asking with replanning or proposal.

I started to set the meetings that I organized to 20/40/45 minutes so I could have breaks between meetings.

Make the similar type of meetings with similar time intervals, use blocked times, organized as recurring. So I could save some free zones. This helped me to organize one-on-ones more easily, I could have more time to talk with people.

Of course anything urgent comes, I join the meetings at lunchtime, meeting free zones, after work, or change my agenda. But starting to judge and organize made my life easier.

Check if we need a meeting for it just talk on using collaboration tools async.

It comes with a new question? What kind of topics can be async which sync. I recommend you to read GitLab’s article: How to embrace asynchronous communication for remote work. But again I’m sharing some hot points from the article;

1. “I use sync meetings to help others when an urgent matter comes up such as incidents or deadlines.”
2. “I use sync mainly for troubleshooting where more live dialog is faster for all parties to solve the particular issue than async explanations and back and forth.”
3. “I use sync when I have exhausted async options or async is not leading towards Results.”
4. “I use sync meetings to generate creative ideas/proposals with my team that quite frankly would be difficult to do async.”
5. “10 minutes on Zoom is more efficient than 100 Slack replies over a few hours or 10 days waiting for GitLab issue thread replies from tagged team members.”
6. “For work-related, formal comms, I prefer async (and choose async when the format is up to me). Sync is great for relationship building (coffee chats, group social chats).”
7. “I enjoy sync to establish an initial human connection when team members have never met before (e.g. coffee/social/team calls).”

It’s important ask yourself always why and believe what you’re doing why you’re doing and how.

Bonus: HBR Article: Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

Hope you enjoyed it. If you found the article helpful, you can rate/share(under the videos), claps(at the top of the article) or make comment so I can improve my series. See you at the next post!

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