I was recently re-reading, actually, listening to Camille Fournier’s The Manager’s path. In one of the chapters, Camille talks about some questions to ask when hiring managers. One of those questions was - What is your management philosophy?

This took me by surprise. I hadn’t thought of it myself.

  • How would I have answered that?
  • What is my management philosophy anyway?


By definition Philosophy has several meanings

  • The study of nature, causes or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning
  • system of thought based on or involving such study
  • an underlying theory or set of ideas relating to a particular field of activity or to life as a whole

In this question’s context, it is the third definition that we are looking for from the prospective managerial candidate.

What is mine then?

By creating a psychologically safe environment where anyone can strive to be autonomous and also devote their time at work to master the skills that they wish they could master, we ensure that those working for us are also working with us.

In a psychologically safe environment, the team is held accountable, so are its individual members, they are happy and comfortable to disagree openly while not taking technical debates personally, and willing to challenge and call out one another in order to prioritise what’s best value for the customer and the company, and work together on solving difficult problems to find creative solutions. I am also a strong advocate of candid, frequent feedback exchange among my peers and my team.

Without this, good luck getting any work done well.

How do I do it?

Trust is my basis for this.

Based on the type of company I am in, I tailor the amount of trust that I can give someone.

If the company I am working at has a well defined hiring pipeline that is inclusive, and ensures that only well rounded candidates are selected, then I am in an environment where I can trust those that are hired to get the job done with excellent quality within a reasonable time with very little status checks. Never underestimate the power of a good status check though, it often helps the team remain focussed and avoid distractions from priorities.

On the other hand, if I were working at a startup that doesn’t really have a process for hiring, then I’d invest all my effort to create a well rounded hiring process to ensure my job is easier in the long run.

What is the right process?

The right interview process involves different rounds of interviews assessing different skills of the candidate and involves at least 5 members of the organisation that is interviewing the candidate.

The process if for a technical role in software must include - a pair programming exercise, a system design exercise, a behavioural or culture fit exercise. If for a technical manager role, then I’d strongly recommend adding a role play of some sort where the person has to help two members of the team pick what the right approach is among two - this has to be a discussion not where the candidate makes the choice for the team.

It may sound like a lot of rounds, but they are all assessment opportunities, not exams. Bear in mind that interviews must be just as friendly as the work environment they would be in if the person was hired, to ensure you get the best out of them in the interview.

With all this in place, one can be sure that you are eliminating most or all of the problem candidates.

One wrong hire can cost you a lot - in terms of monetary loss - directly or indirectly. They could drive away your best with their detractor behaviour, also could just underperform and delay deliveries.

Thus if you are wondering - oh that’s too much for an interview, you must remember the long term impact of hiring the wrong person.

I have hired, now how do I maintain their commitment?

Hiring is just one part of the process. Getting someone in doesn’t mean they are going to give you their 100% commitment or going to stick around through the difficult times.

Also this goes without saying: a 100% commitment doesn’t mean 100% productive all the time either. As a human being, life affects us in various ways.

Keeping your reports interested and invested in the mission and vision of the company or your team, is one of the most challenging parts of the job as a leader. You can hire and get self-motivated people to get things done but how long are they going to continue that motivation without other factors?

Perception vs reality

People often think managers are those who use other people for their own benefit. Unfortunately there are some like that. I cannot change them or speak for them.

As a manager responsible for the growth and development of people, it is your responsibility to ensure that your people get those opportunities to get where they want to. It is your responsibility to give them the feedback, which they may not want or like to hear but need to listen to and understand to take the first step to personal development. Now that doesn’t mean humiliating your people when they make a mistake but giving them regular candid feedback. How to give feedback is a topic of its own, so I am not going to cover that here. I strongly recommend reading Radical Candor, if you aren’t used to giving feedback. This should help tackle performance issues early on, before they start spiralling out of control.

Having regular career development conversations is extremely important to ensure you ensure that someone doesn’t end up coasting and understand their likes, dislikes and ambition. A lot of ambitious people, look for places where they can thrive and learn. If you cannot invest in an environment that does that for them, they will leave - maybe not immediately but eventually. I strongly believe in the Help them grow or watch them go philosophy. Your 1-1s are not just for banter. This is your best opportunity to discuss things like career and work on a plan together with your report. This doesn’t mean you create the plan but ensure that you get them thinking.

What if they outperform you?

This is the part where I am most proud. When I get to promote my report to levels beyond mine that is where I am successful. I appreciate that my team’s delivery is also my responsibility but by helping get my report to get to a level higher than mine and continue creating the impact they had in my team across the department or organisation, is how you multiply their reach and impact. Thus it is extremely important that you choose the right candidate.

For some people, sometimes believing in that person, assuring that they can do it and you know they can, is all you need to do to give that last push. They do wonders! I want people I look after to get to places beyond where I have been, I want them to experience better than what I have.

If you feel uncomfortable with this, then you probably aren’t ready to be a people manager.


For now I think these are what comes to my mind. My management philosophy may not be perfect. But this is how I have managed successful, high performing teams and this isn’t dogma either.

The things I have expressed here are relatively high level and doesn’t dictate every detail. I do change my opinion on things as and when I learn new things. So as and when I find something worth adopting or changing, I’ll update this post.