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Tim avatar image
Tim asked

DBA Managers - What do you like / What do you dislike

I have recently been made manager of a group of System DBA's. We are responsible for all SQL Server installs, tuning, backup, recovery, HA, DR, application upgrades, patches and regular production support. Basically all aspects of our SQL shop other than hard core development, we have another team for that. What I am looking for is guidance on things I should look out for to not do as a newbie to management and things I should look to be doing to ensure I keep my guys happy and motivated. What are the things you all like most and least of current and past managers you have had. I have had my share of technical and non technical managers so I am not entirely in the dark, but would love input from others across the globe. I am fortunate to have mature adults who work for me so I am not running a daycare so to speak.
careerprofessional-development
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My condolences.
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Congratulations on your appointment.
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Thanks for all the comments. I am not a micro manager by any means, most days I feel I am to relaxed with my team. :)
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BTW, total congratulations Tim. I didn't offer advice because every time I've tried to manage human beings it's been a disaster. 'Don't be me' is the best thing I could say and that's not helpful.
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ThomasRushton avatar image
ThomasRushton answered
To do: * Ask for their input about they want you to do for them * Ensure that they know what's going on in the wider business and how they support that / what they can do to make things easier * Training. Lots of training and study time. * Treat them like adults - sounds like you've got that one nailed * Be consistent - this one's a difficult one. * Communal library - pbooks or ebooks. Not to do (oh, man, I used to have a list based on what my past managers used to do me...): * Just say "do this" with no explanation (unless they know the situation, it's an emergency all-hands-to-the-pumps kind of thing) * Over-burden them with management whims and fads * Allow users direct access to them without good reason. That's your job now. * Allow other management direct access to them without good reason. Likewise, that's your job now. * Change your mind every five minutes. I'm sure I'll think of some others...
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in respect to bullet point one I would add - ensure that you act on their input or feedback why it wasnt acted on or what your plans are. Nothing worse than feeling your comments are just dropping down a well.
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@Fatherjack - YES!
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@Fatherjack is wise - I should have put that in...
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KenJ avatar image
KenJ answered
- Run interference and keep company $h!# from landing on them - Flexibility: Focus on the job getting done rather than the chair staying warm - Give them autonomy - they all know what needs done and are likely happy to do it - Challenge them - most people hate just going through the motions - Encourage them to shop the market (seriously) - Keep them trained - encourage them to train others (user groups SQL Sat. etc)
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My team is very lucky with the training aspect. I run the local user group, we have a yearly SQL Sat that I organize and we have hundreds of hours and countless ebooks available to us all. Now how I can reward them for using the materials is another question.
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Perhaps you could explain the reasoning behind "Shop the market"? Unless they are an employee that you are trying to encourage to exit gracefully before you make them exit ungracefully, that one is counterintuitive...
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"Shop the market" - the grass isn't always greener but sometimes you need to find out how good it is on your side of the fence to appreciate it.
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@TimothyAWiseman - I just posted the explanation as its own answer. I tend to ramble.
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Blackhawk-17 avatar image
Blackhawk-17 answered
- Don't micro-manage - Do ask questions - Don't expect minute to minute updates - Do demand professionalism - Do set goals together - Conversation! Conversation! Conversation! - Fight the battles for the team - Remove red tape - Give autonomy but hold accountable - Be clear in what is expected of them and you - Read and learn as you grow in the role - Get the team what they need to succeed
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+100 on the micro-manage. If you hire professional folks you won't need to micro-manage. Trust in their abilities until proven otherwise.
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I have to agree with that one. If your people are good, get the heck out of their way.
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ThomasRushton avatar image
ThomasRushton answered
My other answer was for the team. This one's for you. Make sure you have a mentor. Someone you respect to help you through the learning-the-management stuff. They don't have to have come from the same background, but they do have to be a good manager of people and projects, and need to be someone you can spend time with away from the office and other distractions.
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TimothyAWiseman avatar image
TimothyAWiseman answered
There are several great answers here, Particularly Thomas's 2 answers. But one thing I would say is to find out what kind of manager your boss wants you to be. I don't mean in the "management style" sort of way (your boss might give advice, but that should be your decision). I mean in the "lead from the front technical manager" versus "decision maker and overseer" vs "pure administrator" type role. That categorization will affect a lot of other things. Of course, most managers have some combination of those three (and more!) in their job descriptions, but which one predominates matters and that should come from your superiors. Many technical managers are expected to continue doing technical work and provide direct mentoring. They need to work hard to keep up on the technical side along with the leadership side. They are expected to do a lot of direct mentoring, but often the company will have other administrators that will handle a lot of the gritty details or at least help out on that side. But a decision maker and overseer is expected to spend more time making higher level decisions and tracking progress. It may be less important to keep up on the technical side, but more important to track what every individual is doing and how they are coming along on their milestones. And then there are almost pure administrators. This is especially common when dealing with a team of engineers. An administrator might be more focused on tracking time off, and acting as a communications facilitator and organizer than on leading in the sense of others. All three types (and some more) are valuable and have their place. But its important to know which one your boss epects you to be. (I've worked for all 3 at different times, and I've been two out of three at different times. They were all good experiences, but very different.)
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+1. This is a very good point.
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Fatherjack avatar image
Fatherjack answered
Most serious points have been eloquently covered by other answers already. So, bring in pizza when they are running a roll-out or working unexpected hours when you could be legitimately at home having your time off. Appearing mid shift and giving them a break and providing some light relief will be very welcomed and remembered. Don't disappear into management and leave them behind (Unless you want to?). You are in charge but that doesn't necesarily mean you are exchanging SSMS for MS Project. When there is a tight deadline and the boss can help out and cut some code to ensure completion on time can be useful.
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Good points. I should bring them in some breakfast or something one morning to show some love. As for getting in the trenches with the team, I am a working manager and just put myself back into the on call rotation until I can back fill a position. Small task like that mean a lot to my team. I have really enjoyed reading the responses and everyone has given me a bit more to think about. I really want to be a great manager to my guys and be what they need in their career. Keep the ideas coming. :)
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so, keeping this attitude and enthusiasm for their well-being wont see you far wrong. Also, congrats and best wishes on the new gig.
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KenJ avatar image
KenJ answered
This is a bit more on "Shop the Market" @TimothAWiseman thought some explanation would be nice. Since this didn't seem to be a good fit with the original answer, I thought I'd post it as its own. I won't pretend it's a good blanket approach for everybody in all situations - you have to know yourself, your people and what works for them. As an IT leader (supervisor/director/manager/whatever-you-want-to-call-it), I want my employees to occasionally "Shop the Market" I'm no longer with the same IT consultancy where I began my career and I suspect that most other people aren't either. I also expect that I won't spend the rest of my career with my current employer. It's not that I don't enjoy working there (it is a pretty good place to work), or that I'm currently looking (I'm not), it's just that, where I live, for males my age, the median workplace tenure is 5.3 years and I'm well beyond that (50-50 chance, though, right?). For the future, the median tenure for for males 7-10 years my senior is 7.8-10.3 years (I'm right on the divide between two groups): if I were to change employers now I would just reach the median tenure for each age group right as I arrive. That's not a goal, just a statistic. The point is that, as a leader, no matter how hard I try, I'm extremely unlikely to retain my employees for more than a few years for reasons that may be entirely beyond my control. I'll sure do my best to keep them around and, while I have them, I'll try to build lasting relationships and memories with them that we can all cherish, but the numbers just don't have us working together for even as long as 5 or 10 years. By the time my employees leave, I'd like to think that we're friends that will stay connected, as has often been the case so far. I want them to have invested themselves in the company and in their peers, just as I want to have invested myself in them. My wish when those friends leave? To land in a place to which they are well suited with the right problems to solve, the right people to work with, and a high likelihood of success. With this in mind, what do I do to prepare for and manage the inevitable transition? I encourage them to Shop the Market. I want those friends to interview with confidence and poise when a job is up for grabs. I want them to like our workplace so much that they can walk away from an "almost right" opportunity without feeling they missed out or like they "have to" come back. I want to be able to truthfully and shamelessly discuss their plans and dreams - what they want to do next, or where they want to go next and get them set up for success. Let's not just go through the "where do you want to be in 5 years" script with the implied mutual understanding that it will involve either working here, only higher up the ladder, or retiring on the beach with their lottery winnings. Really, when I hear of a great opportunity with another company, I want be able to say to my friend, "I think you would be awesome at that place," and not have them fear for their livelihood.
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