How to Tell When A Manager Is Really Productive

what do managers do all day

What do managers do all day?

This is one of the great, constant mysteries of worklife. According to management expert Peter Drucker, what a manager does all day is set objectives, organize, motivate and communicate, measure, and develop people. The problem is, these tasks are so fuzzy that doing them makes it look like you’re not doing anything.

Your role is to help your team make meaningful progress, which means that your primary concern isn’t about you but the people you manage and how they’re doing. As Michael Lopp, veteran engineering manager, puts it: “Their productivity is your productivity.

A manager’s job is mystifying because it’s so hard to understand what this transitive type of productivity looks like. You have to redefine what it means to get stuff done and how to measure your manager productivity.

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What You Don’t Know About Internal Motivation May Harm Your Career

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So you want to build a billion-dollar company, and it’s because you want to make people’s lives better by solving a problem while hitting it big, rich, and famous. Sounds like a winning combo of incentives to drive you to achieve startup success.

It’s not like both motives can’t coexist. Humans, complex beings that we are, walk around with a jumble of intentions, impulses, and aspirations in our heads — instead of one clearcut reason for why we do things.

The thing is, you would think that having multiple motives would result in, well, more motivational power. When you can hit two goals with one activity, don’t you just have more incentive to do the activity? If you want that promotion because you get to expand your skillset and increase your prestige, doesn’t that help drive you even harder to go for it?

There’s one problem. There’s a tricky truth about motivation that might be preventing your best performance.

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Managers Are Blind to How the Sausage Gets Made, Literally

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When Toy Story broke box office records and Pixar was the biggest IPO of 1995, it seemed that company co-founder and president, Ed Catmull, had finally made it. He not only met his twenty-year-long goal of making the first computer graphics movie, he also created a successful company. “As a manager, I felt a troubling lack of purpose. Now what?” he wondered. Would he “merely” run a company? What was special about that?

His outlook changed upon learning he’d been completely oblivious to something that had put Pixar at risk, throwing his beliefs about success into a new light. Managing in a successful company is in fact a demanding, evolving, and rewarding job. The special challenge is to cultivate and maintain conditions, context, and culture that you can’t always see.

Just because you think you can see how the sausage is made doesn’t mean you really know what’s going on in your team and company. In fact, success and great qualities can even obscure problems, creating a peculiar blindness for diligent managers on their toes. Even when you have what seems like a winning combination of talented leaders, rising fortunes, and good intentions, you can still miss something vital.

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3 Surprising Science-Backed Ways to Find More Time Today

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Somehow, time is your enemy, while more time is also a luxury.

Things weren’t much different a few centuries ago in 1682, when William Penn wrote: “Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst.

Understanding our strange relationship with time simply helps us manage it better. When you feel like you have time, the world opens up. You’re motivated to act and explore on the one hand, and savor and breathe, on the other.

Contrast that when you feel like you don’t have enough time. It’s stressful and taxing and you start making decisions based on that anxious feeling of lack. It might mean reaching for the quick, unhealthy snack rather than your usual walk and putting those non-urgent (but important) activities that nourish and enrich you, like exercise, personal projects, and relationships, on hold.

Since how you think about time affects the reality of how you spend it, the ability to influence that perception can be incredibly powerful. Here are three surprising methods, backed by research, that will help expand your sense of time and motivate better decisions about how you use it.

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Failure & Cake: A Guide to Spotify’s Psychology of Success

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Nobody enjoys failing. It’s never really what you set out to do.

At Spotify, failure is cause for celebration, because it’s seen as an opportunity for growth. Jonas Aman, who is part of Spotify’s People Operations team, told us that instead of treating setbacks like speed bumps you rumble over in the course of running a business, they “celebrates thing that don’t work. It’s about the effort, not the result.”

Sometimes, failure calls for cake.

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Cells, Pods, and Squads: The Future of Organizations is Small

Think small and you will achieve big things. That’s the Yoda-esque, counterintuitive philosophy that nets Finnish game company Supercell revenues of millions of dollars a day.

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So really, how do you build a billion-dollar business by thinking small?

One key is the company’s supercell organizational model. Autonomous teams, or “cells,” of four to six people position the company to be nimble and innovative. Similar modules — call them squads, pods, cells, startups within startups — are the basic components in many other nimble, growing companies, including Spotify and Automattic. The future, as Dave Gray argues in The Connected Company, is podular.

Still, small groups of people do not necessarily make a thriving business, as the fate of many a fledgling startup warns. What is it about the cells and pods model that presents not just a viable alternative but the future of designing how we work together?

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Do You Take Work For Granted or With Gratitude?

When I first joined iDoneThis, I hated our weekly meetings. They were demoralizing and amorphous. We rambled on, drowning in circuitous discussions about product that led nowhere. The meetings became a chore, making us feel like sulky high school students waiting for the bell to ring.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner noticed a similar bad meeting phenomenon of tending to “devolve into a round robin of complaints.” His unconventional solution was to change up the meeting format by promoting something you wouldn’t expect:  gratitude.

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The Art, Craft, and Science of Great Management

When you meet management consultant Anne Libby, you can’t help but notice her passion and clarity in talking about how to bring workplaces to their senses.

Great management, according to Anne, is a “mixture of art, craft and science” — which can be a foggy path to navigate. Throughout our interview, Anne offers both practical tips and food for thought to help managers and the people around them do their best.

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How to Stop Life from Passing You By: the Weird Science of Stretching Time

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One unnerving aspect of getting older is how life seems to start speeding up. Feeling that whoosh as time rushes past you can be disheartening as you wonder where the days, or months, or even years go.

Yet we’re not doomed to march to time’s relentless beat. Your sense of time is weird and pliable — stretching, compressing, coming to a standstill. And you can mold it, to some extent, to move to your own beat.

When you encounter the familiar, time seems to constrict and when you acquire new knowledge, it expands. Neuroscientist David Eagleman explains:

Time is this rubbery thing…. It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, “Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,” it shrinks up.

That relationship between time’s elasticity and whether your brain is processing new information gets at why time seems to turn up the tempo as we age. As the world starts to become more familiar, we learn less and sometimes even seek information and experiences that fit within what we already know. There’s less adventure, play, exploration, creativity, and wonder to invite and engage with newness.

The way you spend your time influences how you perceive it. So the choices you make about what to do now impacts how you’ll manage your time later. Here are two ways to make your days richer and more memorable so that your sense of time expands and life doesn’t pass you by.

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A Winning Formula for Building Successful Teams

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You need great teams in order to build great products. The way senior software engineer Rich Paret creates such teams at the Twitter-acquired Crashlytics — which provides mobile crash reporting — is to “hire for the culture you have, and the culture you want to have.”

The company culture at Crashlytics isn’t a collection of perks or a bunch of abstract values. It’s how people get stuff done together. When we visited Rich at Twitter Boston this past May, he emphasized how it’s the quality of a team’s communication that determines its outcomes.

How does a project become late?” he asked. As our minds ran through various scenarios and the complexities of managing a team, he broke our pondering pause with his simple answer — “Day by day.” Just as you can build meaningful progress day by day, you can also increasingly get off track to the point of failure. Communication losses accumulate, a slow but steady snowball, as the days roll by, when you’re not careful.

Consider the distribution and flow of information within a company. Too often knowledge is guarded amongst the people at the top, or cooped up in people’s heads, or trapped in silos. What happens then? As Rich puts it, islands of information” emerge. When different people know different pieces of information, it becomes progressively harder to reach across the waters just to know where the puzzle pieces are, let alone put the puzzle together.

One approach to avoiding islands and fostering a bridging, communicative culture is to hire smart and work smart. When you align people and process, you ultimately create strong values, culture, and behaviors.  Here’s a look at Rich’s formula for building awesome teams and in doing so, awesome company culture:

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