Becoming a Great Manager

Becoming a Great Manager

Becoming a great manager is a hot topic for anyone on their career path. At first, it seems like you will never become one when you are in the early stages of your career. Then one day, you are promoted, but the growth does not stop there. There are good managers and great managers, and the truth is that becoming the latter is more complicated of a process than you think.

I’ve gathered some suggestions for you from three of our managers at KMS Technology  that presented at our annual KMS Manager Meetup last month. While most of the presentations are tailored towards managers at software outsourcing companies, I’ve found that many of their recommendations are appropriate for anyone, in any business.

A Great Manager Starts With You

The first feeling many managers express when they are promoted is anxiousness. Suddenly you are overwhelmed with nervous feelings, worry, and lack of confidence. No matter how you feel, remember, someone trusted you enough to promote you to this new role. And while you won’t become a great manager overnight, if you stay focused on the journey, you will get there.

One of my favorite books for new managers is “The Rookie Manager,” by Joseph Straub. It sets up a list of skills managers need to master, including: managing your time, planning your day, leading your people, building your team, making effective decisions, delegating authority, hiring and training new team members, motivating your team, performance appraisals, disciplinary items, and effective communication.

A long list, right?

In my presentation, “Surviving Your First year in Management,” I narrowed this list to five basic concepts managers should consider and practice so that they can thrive in their new career path.

  1. Manage yourself, first and most important. The best way to manage yourself is to never stop growing. Have high expectations of yourself and stay disciplined.
  2. Work on and master people skills. Managers require great people skills to work with others and effectively lead. Ask yourself how you will work with others? How will you inspire your team? How will you help in their development? To be a great manager, the answers to these questions should be required commitments.
  3. Successful execution is how you contribute. Actions speak louder than words, and your action speaks for itself. Take ownership of tasks, set deadlines, commit to them, and get the work done. Before committing to contributing, understand the situation and know how you can best contribute. Get support and help from others who compliment your weaknesses. Be sure to always act with integrity. And never, ever, blame others when you fall short – this is the hardest one to do.
  4. Communication is the key to success. Now you’ve found yourself a middle man, between your staff, and your manager, or the company. Always start with being a good listener, hear the details, and communicate them upwards with accuracy. Being a good listener isn’t just for getting work done more effectively, it’s for creating trust between you and all of the team members you interact with.
  5. Optimism is the ultimate and best approach. Optimists accept the reality, but they also see the reality in a different angle than most. Using a lens of openness, understanding, and caring, great managers can find the solution to almost any problem and turn it into a positive.

A Great Manager For Your Company & Team

To expand on the role of the manager as a middle man, Dai Tran, VP of Delivery at KMS Technology, presented “Balancing Business and People,” to highlight the need of managers to be fair and balanced with their team.

What Your Team Wants:

  1. Financial Reward
  2. Career Opportunities
  3. Enjoyable Work – including flexible schedule and working with interesting products.
  4. Job Security
  5. Pride
  6. Social Relationships

What Your Company Needs:

  1. Revenue Growth
  2. Profitability
  3. Knowledge & Skill Growth – including technical skills and methodology.
  4. Commitment – to innovation, from team members, and low attrition.

He suggested that “business is the energy that keeps the company alive. The company lives for its people. The balance is the optimum point at which the company and its people will last. The great manager is the one who understands and maintains that right balance.”

A Great Manager For Your Clients

A managers’ job often has them working directly with clients. Managing expectations is a critical part of this role. Du Nguyen (…), VP of Delivery at KMS Technology, gave our managers a few tips to effectively manage client expectations for more successful project outcomes.

  • Over deliver. If you over deliver on your promises to clients, no one is unhappy. Make it a habit to exceed expectations.
  • Build and maintain personal relationships. Keep this in mind – people are what fuel a business, and thus relationships are key. Building relationships isn’t for leverage or manipulation, they are to build trust and maintain open channels of communication.
  • Communicate regularly and address problems directly. As recommended early in this article, communication is critical. The best way to solve any issue or conflict is to be upfront and honest. If you can meet face-to-face, that’s ideal. If you can’t, a phone call is better than an email.
  • Document expectations for accuracy. What is written is what should occur, and it helps hold your team accountable with what you agreed on at the beginning of the project. It also allows your client to remember the goals you set should they ever feel you aren’t meeting the requirements.

While no one could possibly list every tip you’ll need to become a great manager, these are some of our very favorites. We hope that if you are already a manager, this is a nice refresher for what you can do to grow. And if you’re not yet a manager, these are good skills to develop that will help you get that promotion one day.


An Observation of KMS Culture

Early March 2011, during one training session of the KMS Mid-Level Training Program, I happened to run into a good piece of information that is worth to share with you here. The story went like this. As an assignment from the training program, my group was assigned to present about corporate culture and how important it is. The group decided to send out a survey, collecting thoughts from all participants during the session to see what their thoughts about KMS culture are.

An Observation of KMS Culture - KMS Technology

Photo taken during the team building outing – Mid Level Training Program 2010 – KMS Vietnam

For your information, there were about 30 of us in the session and the survey included two questions, as shown below.

  • What do you perceive about KMS Culture?
  • What else could we do to improve our culture?

Simple enough, isn’t it? The first interesting thing was that we got one special response saying “I don’t know yet”, for the first question. This was either a sign of confusion, or it might be our cultural value that we hesitate to share things. Or it might just simply show our staff’s honest – s/he was saying the truth. Anyway, I would say it was a special one. And below is the result from this short survey for the first question.

An Observation of KMS Culture - KMS Technology

From these responses, I’m glad that it confirms we’re toward building a positive culture at KMS. We respect people, keep our integrity, serve our client well, improve ourselves every day and we have an open/flexible/dynamic working environment. That’s the original wish from the start and now it is confirmed that we’re on the right track. This relates to our excellent performance recorded during 2009 and 2010. As you can recall, we did quite a good job with customer’s satisfaction during those years. We earned 4+ for average rating from client satisfaction’s survey. That was an impressing result that I haven’t seen in all the other companies I had ever worked for. And I think the foundation we have set up through KMS culture can explain for the achievement. We are all set for service business. And we should congratulate ourselves for this.

Management Message in the First KMS Vietnam Insider Issue #1

This was the management letter sent to all KMSers in the first KMS Vietnam Insider series, Issue #1.

Dear all KMSers,

If you are reading this, you are holding the very first issue of KMS Insider series. This certainly marks a special milestone for what KMS, as a company, has gone through in the past 2 years. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a few things.

Flashing back to Jan 2009… At that time, we had 4 members in management team (1 in US and 3 in Vietnam). And we were able to hire the very first full-time technical staff working for Livescribe. The 4/1 ratio for Overhead/Delivery could tell all how small and how early KMS is as a company at that time. Challenges were all around us. The global economy downturn in 2008 had severely impacted to US market. Job cuts were announced day by day, many of them in IT industry. 1000 jobs lost, cutting 500 people, shutting down businesses were among the top lines for media during those days (J I guess that media businesses were doing well either the ways). What did we see at that point? What encouraged us to start building our KMS at that time?

It was opportunity. Such that fierce setting by market condition had widely opened a few opportunities helping US companies to get out of the difficulties as well as sustain their business in the long run. We saw that technology companies in the U.S. had the biggest pressure than ever to find long-term strategic partners to outsource some or all of the technology work. Given the situation of limited budget, go-to-market promises, continuous maintenance of legacy systems, most of U.S. companies were looking for vendors who can be their long-term partners at a better cost structure. Yet more importantly, it was to find vendors who can commit and deliver high quality of software development services to them, which in turn contributed directly to their success of providing their products to market. What we saw was that if we could make it right, we could tap into those needs and win happy customers. It could be a big win-win for everyone.It has been confirmed that we headed the right track to grow KMS from 5 people from that day to 170 people in Vietnam and 30 people in US to date. 200 people – That is an impressing number. As members of KMS, we can be proud of this achievement that we have been through together. Outsiders would be very curious about how we have done this. The very short answer is people. We have successfully built a strong cohesive team. While technology is our strength, it is scaled up to a bigger level of success by our teamwork, our being-together, our dedication to whatever we do, and our commitment to quality.

Well, looking forward to 2011, what do I see? Once again, I am seeing the same thing – opportunity. Now, our strength is our people and with that we can do a lot more in 2011. There are obviously challenges ahead of us. There will be more new faces to become KMSers. And there will be more celebration.

I would like to express my thanks to all of the effort you have put in for your clients, for your team and for the company. I look forward to seeing you all in the upcoming 2010 company trip to Nha Trang. Let us make it a memorable trip and let us celebrate our growth.

And I hope this series would do well its mission of sharing and turning the breath of KMSers in each and every day’s activity into our successes. My special thanks to Yen and the volunteer editors who have started this very first issue. I look forward to your continuous support and contribution to KMS Insider.


Viet Hung Nguyen