People Management

Here's how to manage, build and grow your team in a human and effective way.

We'll give you concrete and unconventional tips from the most innovative companies and backed by the science of what motivates people.

Start here with our management guide and how to take back your work day.

Trust, But Verify: The Key Management Tool To Build Team Satisfaction

Delegation is one of the hardest management tools for leaders to learn.

We all understand that micromanaging your employees isn’t good for anyone, but when you’re used to being involved in everything, it can be hard to let go. It gets easier as you hire great people and implement sound processes—watching your company grow without your fingerprint on everything is a beautiful thing.

Perspective helps too.

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Google’s Unwritten Rule for Team Collaboration

This week’s article is a guest post by Paul Berkovic. Paul is Co-founder and CMO at ScribblePost (productivity software for capturing and sharing task and project information with anyone, anywhere).

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We do a lot of collaborating these days. But despite the number of open offices, designated “thinking” areas, and our managerial focus on small teams, we still haven’t mastered collaborative work.

In fact, we’re really bad at it.

The point of collaborating is to get everyone in a group involved and exercising their strengths. But according to the Harvard Business Review, “In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.” In most collaborative teams, the bulk of the work still comes from a minority of participants.

In response to this imbalance in their own organization, Google launched Project Aristotle, an internal research project studying Google teams to discover why some were superior collaborators.

Google has a known penchant for quantifying everything. Project Aristotle expected to find something quantifiable, like the optimal team size or the most productive structure for group meetings. But Project Aristotle hit the ultimate irony: the key to collaboration is not a quantifiable. In fact, it wasn’t even codified. The best teams don’t have a measurable, highly visible solution to collaboration—they have an unwritten social code.

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The Most Effective Way of Combating the Problem of Standup Tardiness

You’re responsible for coordinating a daily standup with a team of developers, and you’re consistently faced with the same pesky problem: standup tardiness.

Every day you try to have a standup at about the same time, and no matter how hard you try, someone still doesn’t show up on time. This wouldn’t be as big a deal if it were an hour long meeting, but missing eight minutes of standup is missing most of it! Or, if you don’t start without them, you find yourself waiting fifteen minutes to hold a ten minute meeting. The whole point of the standup is to quickly communicate your daily schedule.

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You’ve tried different times of the day, you’ve tried giving warnings, and you’ve even stopped making them physically stand up—but, still, all your efforts have proven futile.

The reason: one fundamental misunderstanding between developers and managers.

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How to Sell New Tools To Your Team

In 2013, public schools in Greensboro North Carolina received a shipment of over 15,000 iPads as part of an initiative to bring technology into the classroom. Now, those very same iPads are collecting dust because teachers either refused or didn’t know how to incorporate them in their workday.

New tools, however shiny, don’t automatically make a difference to your team. It’s up to managers to get the ball rolling.

As a manager, you might be really certain that a new tool will make a huge difference. That new CRM is going to make finding information so much easier. That communication tool is going to make everyone so much more productive. And that new email provider is going to make your data so much more secure.

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But new tools don’t make any difference at all if your team doesn’t get on board. It’s a really common phenomenon: you bring in new tools, but everyone is so stuck in their ways that they’re not willing to budge when it comes to changing how they do things. Even though you’re convinced it could help them.

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People Management for Rookies

Most people who start their own business do it because they have a great idea. Whether they’re setting out to start a new social media site or an environmentally-friendly sock distribution company, they do it because they’re excited about the business concept. People management is usually far from their minds.

It’s one of the least sexy parts of starting your own business. And it’s also the most important one to master.

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In fact, people management is one of the things entrepreneurs struggle with the most, in part because it requires such a different skill set than other entrepreneurial qualities. But new entrepreneurs often make the mistake of dismissing it as a secondary task, instead focusing their efforts on what they think are more important duties.

Managing teams—especially remote teams—is hard, but really important. Poor prioritization leads to breakdowns in communication, which lead to mistakes in your team’s work, which spell out failure for your company.

The good news is, managing teams is a learnable skill. It boils down to a handful of daily processes that you can accomplish to be a competent and successful manager.

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Why Google Got Over Brainteasers

You’ve probably heard stories about Google’s interview process. The web is littered with examples of brainteasers interviewers have posed, including “How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?” and “How many piano tuners are there in the world?”

Brainteasers were another one of Google’s trailblazing company culture quirks essential to its “Googlieness,” like casual dress or napping pods. These head-scratching puzzles were touted as a meritocratic way to hire. The logic was, no matter where you went to college or what your SAT score were, if you could solve one of these questions, you deserve to work at Google.

But Google’s brainteasers are a thing of the past.

“We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time,” Laszlo Bock, senior VP of Google’s people operations stated. “They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.” In fact, the people who succeeded at brainteasers were often the opposite kind of employee Bock wanted to hire.

While buzz-worthy, brainteasers have been abandoned for straight-edge processes and questions. Interviewers ask boring questions that you might hear from any other company. And they get better results.

Bock overhauled the quirky interview process in favor of hiring policies that yielded employees who would work hard and work smart. Here’s what he did.

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Your Employees Are Underperforming…They Just Don’t Know It

As an executive, criticism is an essential part of your job. Your role is to get your team working as efficiently as possible. This means reminding employees of impending deadlines, hounding them to finish tasks, and firing off nit-picky memos. It’s important work, but it comes at a high cost: employee confidence.

Hard and fast criticism might seem the quickest way to get your team to work better. But if negativity is all they hear from you, you’re harming your company’s productivity.

Unconfident employees are less likely to approach you with out-of-the box ideas, teach themselves a new coding language, or apply for that promotion where they would excel.

Confident employees are productive employees. The problem is, most people aren’t as confident as they should be, since they don’t accurately perceive their abilities and competency.

If they’re not cognizant of their capacity, they probably aren’t working at it. If they’re under-confident, they’re underperforming.

Here’s the good news: confidence isn’t fixed. By applying a couple of positive psychology tools, you can boost their confidence and their productivity.

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The Management Technique Essential To Google’s Growth

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In it’s early years, as the company was experiencing astronomical growth, then-Google executive Marissa Mayer started executing a technique she picked up while teaching computer science at Stanford.

At 4 p.m., for 90 minutes each day, Mayer held office hours.

Employees could put their name on a board posted outside her office to reserve a chunk of this time.

“Many of our most technologically interesting products have shown up during office hours,” Mayer, now President and CEO of Yahoo, said in 2006.

The idea for Google News, for example, was first discussed in one of these sessions. Mayer was reportedly able to fit in 15 meetings per day averaging seven minutes per person.

Many other successful managers and entrepreneurs have celebrated the benefits of holding open office hour sessions, a concept that has roots in academia.

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How Travis CI Is Fixing Company Culture By Taking On ‘Culture’

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Here’s a loaded phrase in the startup world: culture fit.

It’s a term with humble early intentions that has grown weeds and sprouted out of its container. It started as a simple way of talking about whether a new hire and current team would work well together. It’s grown into a loaded gun of baggage and misappropriation. It’s used to hire unqualified people and fire great ones.

Mathias Meyer, CEO at Travis CI, started to notice a problem with “culture fit” and the way it was implemented at many companies. It seemed to him like “culture fit” was doing the opposite, and holding company cultures back. Companies, if not careful, would create a monoculture, with everyone acting and thinking the same way. This is terrible for creativity and growth.

Or as Meyer put it in an excellent blog post:

“There’s one fundamental mistake in both using and looking for culture fit as a means for hiring: You’re assuming that your current culture is healthy and doesn’t need to be changed.”

I chatted with Meyer about his thoughts on culture fit, growing Travis CI and what they’re doing to create an authentic company culture.

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How To Keep Great Employees Once You Conquer The World

How to keep great employees

Landing an early role at a hyper-growth company like Facebook or Google seems like a dream. It seems like something you’d never want to walk away from.

So why do so many great people do exactly that? What can keep great employees from taking off?

And if you’re running one of these organizations, how do you keep great employees — those who helped build the organization — from hitting the road once you’ve achieved big success. It almost seems inevitable.

When the going gets tough, the tough show up.

When it stops being tough, they go find something else.

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