As a startup matures people’s roles change. In product, you might start out working on every little detail, triaging bugs, helping design UIs, deciding on how every feature should work and more. In engineering, you’re coding and building stuff every day. Over time if you move into a “management role” you get away from the weeds and move into a more strategic position. Startups don’t need managers that are completely removed from the weeds; to me that’s a sign that things have gotten too bloated. But managers in a scaling startup do play an important role.
One of the key responsibilities of a manager in a scaling startup is to help the people she’s managing do their jobs better. In fact, I would say the CEO and founders (who are ultimately the first “managers”) need to be doing that as well–as they move away from the day-to-day details, they need to be the enablers of everyone else.
As a startup scales, responsibility and ownership gets “pushed” to everyone, which makes everyone important and accountable. Once you get to that point, and your bottom-up organization is functioning, the people managing the organization have to make sure they fully equip everyone to succeed with that increased responsibility, ownership and accountability.
A manager needs to “grease the wheels.” She’s there to setup and guide people to success. She’s not there to micro-manage or dictate. She’s there to listen, understand her people’s needs and try to solve them as best she can. It takes a significant shift of mentality from, “I’ll just do this myself,” to “I’ll let Bob do this, but not only that, I’ll make sure Bob has what he needs to succeed.”
Image from Wikipedia.