Bridging the Gap: Engineering Managers and Trust

Nov 20, 2023

In the intricate dance of innovation and project execution, the linchpin holding the delicate balance is trust — especially between engineering teams and upper management. This foundational element serves as the bedrock upon which collaborative efforts, efficient communication, and successful outcomes rest.

🚧 Common Signs for Lack of Trust

There's usually a few signs you can look for to see if there's a significant gap in trust between upper management and engineering teams. Here's a short list of the most commonly found, in my experience:

  1. High Turnover within the engineering team,
  2. Micromanagement and looking for hands-on/technical staff to join the upper management team,
  3. Resistance to change from engineering teams to embrace the vision and ideas coming from upper management,
  4. Secrecy or lack of transparency in the decision-making process,
  5. Blame Culture focusing on pointing fingers rather than finding solutions.

While some of these symptoms may cause others (for example, micromanagement may increase turnover, secrecy might increase the team's resistance to change, etc.), they're all caused by one thing: lack of trust between upper management and the engineering teams.

🛠️ Building Bridges as Engineering Managers

Instead of relying solely on technical prowess, consider empowering your Engineering Managers to bridge this divide. Their role extends beyond managing projects or solving technical problems; they are instrumental in fostering a culture of trust. By actively engaging with both upper management and the engineering teams, they can facilitate open communication, align goals, and strengthen collaboration.

First and foremost, transparent and open communication is key for everything else. Regularly updating both the upper management and the engineering teams on progress, challenges and successes is essential.

Aligning goals and expectations is a close second when it comes to building trust. The goals must be in line with the upper management's vision and plans, while also being realistic and accepted by the engineering teams: alignment is a two-way street.

Recognition and acknowledgement is essential in building trust. And this also goes both ways. The Engineering Manager is responsible to make sure the engineering teams understand the essential work that upper management does, just as much as the upper management should know about the successes and achievements of the engineering teams.

💡 Why Focus on Trust?

A lack of trust can hinder innovation, slow down decision-making, and impede the overall progress of engineering initiatives. Engineering Managers, adept at navigating the technical landscape and interpersonal dynamics, can play a pivotal role in rebuilding and nurturing this essential foundation.

When trust is restored, it ripples through the organization, positively impacting morale, productivity, and ultimately, the quality of deliverables. Investing in the right leadership at the managerial level can be a strategic move to address the root cause of the disconnect.

🔗 Connect with Purpose

Take a moment to consider your Engineering department's organisation. Are you looking for someone hands-on/tehcnical in the upper management because you don't trust your engineering teams? Is your company showing signs for lack of trust?

If so, perhaps the solution is to empower your Engineering Managers to bridge the trust gap.

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me or post an issue on this blog's github repo.