Inexperienced Managers to Experienced Leaders

Let’s talk about the different levels between inexperienced managers to experienced leaders.

Edmond Lau
4 min readJul 7, 2021

Inexperienced managers

Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

Inexperienced managers tend to see all people and resources the same regardless of their skills, qualifications, and expectations. They usually focus on the velocity of every role and continuously push for more velocity with fix amount of resources. This is a common mistake. Workers’ velocity does not equate to workers’ productivity.

These are a couple of real-life examples that I heard from inexperienced managers who said:

Software developers earn three times as much as a business development reps., they should work 120 hours a week on average”.

We are a startup, and everyone should work hustle and work at least 6 days a week”.

Essentially, inexperienced managers apply mythical person-month when managing people, measure velocity as the primary KPI. Their management practice will create factory-like work environments, create toxic work environments, and lead to employee burnouts and high churns.

Experienced managers

Photo by Leonard Reese on Unsplash

Experienced managers understand how to allocate work and can manage up and set expectations. They may continue to push for higher velocity to ensure everyone produces; however, they will only have their employees commit to their resources. In most cases, that is people and time.

Often time, pure managers have no extended experience with every part of the work themselves. Therefore, they do not always recognize people’s specialized skill sets, knowledge, or other work experiences. Hence, sometimes they see people in the team like checker pieces where managers issue commands, make the majority of decisions, and ask people to follow them. E.g., helicopter boss.

Not-so-experienced leaders

Photo by Michal Vrba on Unsplash

When managers evolve into leadership, they will let people they manage to make project-related decisions. This is a good thing as they no longer micromanaging people; instead, they start setting objectives and goals for the team. However, one of the common mistakes is that some less experienced leaders see it as a zero-sum game. Far too often, they focus on small wins, make themselves look good, and ignore the big picture. And from time to time, managers see it as competition with other teams in the organization. This is a pitfall to avoid.

Another common mistake of new managers is that they ignore signs of good team chemistry and team dynamics. They see each contributor as their own resource contribute to their projects and not clear on how to pair people up to improve team dynamics and maximize productivity. They also focus on assigning tasks for people to work on but not assigning problems for people to solve. It takes a lot of practice.

Experienced leaders

3D Chess Set by Cole Snapp

As leaders gain more experience leading various teams and different aspects of their organizations, they can lead and manage teams appropriately. Experienced leaders can lead multiple teams, multiple workstreams, and multiple disciplines. They can set the goals and expectations across their organization and communicate effectively. Essentially, they are the force multiplier working behind the scene.

Experienced leaders are also knowledgeable about every discipline of their organization, have the mental space to keep track of various workstreams, let team members learn, give people space to solve problems, understand when they need to step in and help and back off to stay out of the way. Experienced leaders understand what value people bring to the organization. This is much like playing 3-dimensional cheese, where there are multiple factors to consider to make an organization effective.

It takes a lot of practice and learning for people to become effective leaders.

If you are a new leader at a product/software engineering team and have experienced challenges for you to become an effective leader, I can help! I am a fractional CTO, startup advisor & coach at Mossa Labs. Reach out to me for an online discovery meeting! I provide coaching and rubber ducking to leaders and managers regularly.