Managing People

I am possibly going to go from managing 2 people to managing 6 soon. What are some good thoughts and philosophies for moving from being a producing member of a team to really just guiding a team of producers? Please share some serious stuff and some funny stuff.

I have people skills goddammit


Find a good balance between “high quality work” and “good enough for now”. Even when you have “lots of time” to complete a project/assignment, give your direct reports time to develop w/o having the pressure of “getting it done now”.

Want the best from your team? Then be the “shit-block”. That is, when shit is coming down from higher up, accept the responsibility for it happening and not “pass blame”. Tell the higher up that you’ll get it fixed. Then talk to the individual(s) in private about the situation (never give specific, personal criticism in a group setting).

And document EVERYTHING that you do with your direct reports. Doesn’t need to be in excruciating details, but a general idea of what happened and why every time you meet in a one-on-one. If you have a problem child that likely needs to be let go (or passed on to a different team), that is where you start the detailed documentation.


Start from a position of trusting your reports. Some may take advantage, but most of the time not, so making everyone feel trusted means they’ll bring their best selves.


I’m fortunate to have a small team and to be able to implement whatever I like.

I’ve taken the attitude to give them the experience so that they are really attractive for their next job. Then I try and load up with perks so that the next job can’t compete with what I’m offering.

I define projects so that they have discrete and definable things they can put on their resume. Not ‘i sort of worked in this’ but’ was responsible for all of this part of the project’.

I push them to get certifications for their area of work.

We spend one day a week devoted exclusively to learning. Each person works out a plan with me on their direction, and we devise a course outline for them. The learning days are Fridays and I encourage them to shut it down early if they’re getting brain dead.

I try and pay better than standard. Not excessively,but if there’s an average for the position, I go a bit higher.

Individual meetings every Monday morning where we discuss what we did last week, what we are doing this week. Part of the meeting is my asking Ng them explicitly if they’re getting what they need,if there’s anything else I can be doing to reach their goals.

It’s working well. We’re a fast paced and very dynamic environment so it’s damn the torpedoes for four days a week. And I figure I get better than 5 days of work in four. Everyone is told to take a break when necessary but they rarely do. It’s full on no stop on work days. And no overtime. Everyone that works here can quote me that there’s no emergencies in life insurance, if they’re dead they’re not getting any reader so what’s the rush.

Everyone gets invited to management meetings so they can see the overall business stuff. The programmers come to the marketing meetings, the marketing folks come to our strategy meetings.

Only one problem so far, maybe. One person I don’t think is working very quickly and they don’t seem to always be available when I IM them, so I thought k thy may be riding a bit. But they’re a student so the problem resolves itself in a couple of months. Until then, it’s not worth creating possible conflict over it


Summer student is essentially an extended job interview

OP - you’ve had bosses before and know what you like/appreciate and what you can do without.

You will end up with your own style, but you can pick and choose the best of each boss you’ve had before. You can learn something even from a terrible boss.

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I have 2 direct reports now. We have a decent request tracking system at work that helps keep track of the day to day. I will use most of my time to push longer terms projects that creat Power BI dashboards and Data Models. I just want to make sure I am thinking right.

This one is going to be important as the larger team I would move to has another lead who is a bit toxic. She micromanages and tries to push work off on people who do not report to her. Making sure she does not impact my direct reports is going to be a big part of my role, because she is 2 people down since she ran them off and has not found replacements.

Depending on the employer / position, this isn’t always something the direct supervisor has control over.

I never even had direct input over my direct reports’ pay. What I could control was their study time and their performance reviews. I protected their study time so they could pass exams and get exam raises and be eligible for promotions. And I was generous on reviews, saving criticisms for private meetings (with one horrible exception where the direct report made a big issue of it in a non-private setting and I should’ve relocated the conversation to a private setting but failed to do so… an error I deeply regret). I mean, I always had something for the “areas for improvement” section of the review but it was something I’d discussed with them ahead of time and it was stated in as non-critical a way as possible.

And at one point the grand-boss declared that we should have our teams write their own reviews. I previously detested that practice as it seems like such a cop-out by management. But it was eye opening in that one direct report wrote himself a terrible review. I’d butted heads with this person but his performance was massively better than his review. Like, his work product was mostly great but he stubbornly refused to accept pointers on the few areas where there was room for improvement. So it ended up being good for both of us to get on the same page. I had been under the impression that he thought he was perfect and could do no wrong and he had been under the impression that I thought he was terrible and could do no right. Even if I’d written his review he would’ve seen my perspective, at least. But I wouldn’t have seen his, which was helpful in moving forward. Probably my proudest moment as a manager was the fact that we truly did repair that damaged relationship.

Regardless of my tangent, the actual pay was set by higher ups than me and even their authority was allocating a fixed amount of money between employees. I recall one of the higher ups explaining to me the Herculean measures (s)he went to in order to manipulate the system to get that block of funds to be as large as possible.

So if you are in a position to game the system, by all means do so. As an actuary you are probably better situated to figure out and exploit loopholes than non-actuaries. But if you learn of your direct reports’ merit increases when your grand-boss hands you a form with them already listed / carved in stone then just do what you can to help them get as much pay as possible.

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This is like being an adult and asking how to be a good parent.

We were all kids once. You can do it.

Just having been a kid isn’t a great background. But I think the type of parent who asks/seeks to learn how to be a good parent is going to be a good parent. Probably the same with managing.


Most people managers are terrible at being people managers. There is a shocking lack of investment in leadership training. People management is often a byproduct of success, not something those with the talent and passion for it end up in.


Yes, being a good manager is a skill, much like being a good teacher. But in the absence of solid training (hence asking it on GoA), the best advice I have is, manage how you’d like to be managed. Same for parenting, or teaching.

My kids are very different than I was as a kid.

Parenting one child is very, very different from parenting two, let alone parenting 6.

have you no self control? /s



IMO, this is pretty poor advice on every level. Focusing on just the managing portion, there is a lot more to managing a group of people than keeping them happy and giving them the kind of work that they want to do, time off when they want, good reviews, etc. All of these things (and many more) are areas that employees might want to managed so that they get what they want. That may be in direct opposition to how you are ultimately measured as a manager. If your goal is to manage as the underlings want to be managed, you will likely be seen as a poor manager by your boss. You’ll have happy employees, but the work may not get done or done a well as need be. That will put the responsibility on you to get it done right. You could be crushed by deadlines.

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well goes both ways. your boss should also know how you are feeling, as he’s been in your shoes before. if you are judged negatively for trying to make your employees happy, something both you and your boss should be able to empathize, then this speaks to how people change for the worse as they climb the corporate ladder, and the overall toxic culture of the company.

While this is doubtless true at McDonalds, I think when you’re dealing with people with a proficiency for passing actuarial exams, the happier the employees are the better a job they’ll do for you.

That doesn’t mean that you never provide constructive criticism or give deadlines, of course. But there’s a lot to be said for setting goals and then watching them accomplish the goals without micromanaging the process. Answer questions, give them useful background info, make sure they have the tools they need, provide helpful feedback, keep an eye over progress, redirect where they’re going down a bad path, but stay out of their way as much as you can.

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Now if you have a lazy butt who’s not pulling his/her weight then that’s a different story. That needs to be addressed or it will lower morale.

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