First time people manager. Dos and don'ts?

I’ll have some junior PMs assigned to be my direct report, this would be my first time (I’ve mentored a few before).

To all of the people manager here, what are some dos and don’ts?

If you are a junior PM yourself, what would be helpful for you?


Do: praise publicly

Don’t: criticize publicly


@BethanyGrey, Disagree about praise. - Do whatever your team prefer. Ask them. I don’t care for praise. It’s not how or why I operate at my core and embarrasses me when I receive it.


@ShiyaoLiu, you don’t need to knob slob, but you should be making sure the people who write and decide the paychecks know about your employees’ accomplishments.

Most of the praise I give my direct reports isn’t public to the whole company, it is privately to our director/VP to make sure THEY know about the quality work my team members are doing.


Build really really short feedback cycles. Both positive and negative. In the remote world, this translates to weekly catch-ups. And a longer monthly deep-dive. Use a framework like start/stop/moderate or characteristic rating to track these sessions.

Don’t trust your own judgement. We all have our biases, make sure they get time/opportunity to work/interact with others at your level and use their feedback.

Listen to them. Identify obstacles. This could be others in your team, a process, yourself, or themselves. Work with them to plan how you reduce/remove these obstacles.

Have a sound onboarding plan that covers 1. Product knowledge, 2. Company processes, 3. Key stakeholders 4. Goal setting and 5. Team/rapport building.

Be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes. You will cause problems. They key is not to be perfect. The key is to never stop learning.


This is all excellent advice! I would add don’t micromanage and if you’ve been internally promoted because you were the best at what you’re doing, don’t try to do everything yourself. You need to be comfortable to step back and have others do it for you.


Yes. That was a big hill for me. I had to stop when I realized I am hurting exponentially more than am helping, in the long term.


This book helped me a lot.

Book: making of a manager - Julie z

Do: Have regular 1:1’s and have your directs set the agenda.

Support them and bail them out when they mess up.

Ask coaching questions: “how do you think you should solve that? “Who should you talk to? When are you going to talk to them?” Etc…

Provide feedback on their deliverables (at the start) to ensure quality work is being done.

Set clear expectations and objectives

Provide real-time feedback as often as possible.


  • Do any of their work for them. No matter how much you want to, because it’ll be “faster and easier”.
  • Give feedback bombs. (a lot of feedback at once)
  • Have nothing to say when they ask “where can I improve?”

The third don’t is so incredibly unintuitive but is key for growth. If they can’t learn anything from you, they shouldn’t be working for you. Simple. Find ways for them to grow inside the company.


Will this book cover how to handle reports where you know they’ve hit a ceiling, or they’re clearly just not a good PM/engineer and this is the best you expect them to do, but you can’t let them go either? Sounds pretentious but I am going to be a new manager soon so just call me naive! But would still love to learn about this!


Do: actively listen, be proactive (to a certain degree)

Don’ts: Do not waste anyone else’s time when there is no need to!


Treat management like a discipline. It’s not just a thing that you can be good at just because you’re good at the job of those you manage.

It’s a whole new skill set, and you are now a junior manager. I think you understand this, which is why you’re here, but I want to emphasize this heavily. You’re a junior manager.

Find mentors. Look for them outside your org if necessary. You can learn from managers across disciplines even (I’m an engineering manager).

Read books! You’ve got a couple good recs already. My personal recommendations are:

Drive - a book about motivation Management 3.0 Agile HR team topologies Accelerate Lean Enterprise The devops handbook

The last couple are for managers in technology. They’re not just for engineers though.

Understand that leadership can be studied and practiced. Simon Sinek is a good author and speaker on leadership (apologies if you’re already familiar)


I was ENTIRELY unprepared for this.

Junior Developer to Developer was a promotion.
Developer to Senior Developer was a promotion.
Senior Developer to Development Manager was NOT a promotion, it was a career change. The success metrics are all different, the skillset is all different.

My first time out in leadership did NOT go well due to my not understanding this fact.


Thanks! That point about being a junior manager does put things in perspective. It’s a skill and discipline I need to learn about.


I think this is multiple books?

  • Drive
  • Management 3.0
  • Agile HR Team topologies
  • Accelerate Lean Enterprise
  • The devops handbook

Can you confirm?


Yeah - sorry - that ended up formatting goofy


Lots of good stuff here. One thing I’ll add - be specific in your positive and negative feedback.

DONT say: “You tend to do XYZ wrong, work on that.”
DO say: “in this specific instance, you did X. If you did Y, you would’ve gotten a better outcome”


Do: get to know their motivations, strengths, weaknesses; make sure they know you have their back

Don’t: sugarcoat things - be honest about what’s going on, especially when they mess up

This is a good read for new people managers


I’ve managed people managers before (though not necessarily in a PM context), so sharing some of my observations with the common problems that trip up ICs leading people.

  1. Focus on the what, not the how. Your reports may have different ways of accomplishing a goal than you. Distance yourself from the style and focus on the substance of their work.
  2. If you see issues or weaknesses, nudge them on those early on. If they’re not communicating effectively with key stakeholders, let them know that before a situation blows up.
  3. Give them a space to safely fail. People will make mistakes. They will learn from them. Give them the space to make mistakes, but with enough slack for you to step in to correct them when this happens. How you do this can vary but having 1:1s with them coming prepared with Addons / above the line / below the line work updates are how it’s been helpful for me (Andon = critical need that requires 100% immediate attention, or upcoming immediate attention, ATL = tasks currently being worked on, BTL = tasks NOT being worked on).
  4. Encourage them to think through the answer. Others here have covered this in more detail already.
  5. Hold people accountable. You can hold people to a standard without being an asshole. The earlier you flag warning signs to your reports, the easier it’ll be to course correct. If you don’t do this because you dislike confrontation, the greater the chance it’ll cause an even bigger implosion down the line.
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This article will get you 80% of the way there.