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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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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Does Anybody Listen to You? 4 Steps to Becoming an Influencer

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The things we do at work matter, but our achievements alone don’t necessarily add up to a successful career. For people who have reached a certain level of success through sheer hard work (as many high-achievers do early on in their careers), this can be a hard lesson to learn.

After all, if you’re putting in long hours and knocking critical tasks off of your to-do list every single day, shouldn’t you be the most successful person on your team? Unfortunately, many people reach a plateau in their careers because their hard work doesn’t carry them forward the way it used to. So what’s missing?

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The Boss Doesn’t Always Know Best

Bosses:  sometimes your team is going to go above and beyond the call of duty, and you’re not even going to notice. It happens. Unless you spend your days micromanaging — and nobody ever wants this — you’re not going to see every amazing thing they do.

Why is this important? Because it means you’re lacking important information about how people are doing and so, are less able and likely to give feedback.

Feedback in the workplace is essential for making progress. So if you can’t know everything that’s going on at work, how can you create a great culture of frequent, helpful feedback?

That’s where peer feedback comes in.

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7 Essential Online Business Tools that Power You Forward

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As a distributed team, we find tools indispensable because we rely on them so heavily to collaborate and create our collective office space in the cloud. We know the beating heart of running a successful business is successful communication internally as a team and externally with our customers — and without helpful tools, we can’t connect.

We’ve rounded up our seven favorite tools that keep us moving forward. What these seven tools have in common is that they’re easy to use and responsive to our needs. And when tools can evolve as we evolve while retaining their simplicity and effectiveness, they have great staying power.

Here’s the quick list:

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3 Hidden Keys to Successful Communication as a Remote Team

This story is inspired by this week’s Startup Edition question:
How do you effectively work with remote teams?

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The biggest challenge of working in remote teams isn’t dealing with the physical distribution of your teammates but reducing the psychological distance between everyone. Bridging that distance is probably a test for all types of teams but requires more work as a remote team.

“One thing that excites me about building a company is the human experience of making something out of nothing together,” our co-founder and CEO Walter recently wrote in a company email. As a distributed company, we have to sweat to achieve that communal sense of creation, but in doing so, we’ve had to consider and resolve aspects of our work culture with deliberation.

Culture takes shape from a sense of coherence, built through shared experiences, expectations, and values — and one key to cohering is learning how to communicate effectively with each other. I wanted to dig deeper into what we’ve learned about communicating as a remote team that deals with building those shared relationships, expectations, and values and that help shape the cultural foundation of how we get stuff done.

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How Love With Food Found its Working Rhythm

Love With Food is a subscription service that delivers a specially curated box of organic and all-natural snacks every month. For every box that’s sent, the company donates a meal to feed a hungry child.

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Founder Aihui Ong embarked on Love With Food after seeing a friend forced to shutter her stir-fry sauce business because she was unable to secure wider distribution. Aihui (pronounced “I-we”) not only saw the need for alternative channels of distribution and marketing connecting food entrepreneurs to consumers but also an opportunity to help the one in five children in America at risk of hunger.

From a company of one in late 2011, Love With Food has grown to twelve employees. While growing any startup is challenging, Aihui notes that LWF’s mission helps her hire:  “In the last eighteen months, we’ve donated more than 100,000 meals, and that also draws the right talent to our company. People who want to join us really value that we’re giving back and doing something innovative to disrupt the food industry.”

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Send One Simple Email to Make Your Job Better

For better or for worse, bosses don’t spend much time thinking about your needs and worrying about to helping you with your career advancement. Bosses, like most people at work, are busy people with their own jobs, their own lives, and their own concerns.

That’s obvious. But the upshot is a harsh reality: your boss most likely has very little sense of what you’re accomplishing or even what you’re doing with your time. If you aren’t proactive about reporting your accomplishments, you’ll never get recognized for your good work.

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The Power of One Simple Email

For many people, the thought of being more proactive about sharing accomplishments at work can be daunting and a real turnoff. Eric Barker at his blog, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, provides an elegant solution to this problem that takes minimal effort and doesn’t require you to turn into a loudmouth braggart.

Every week, Eric writes, send one simple email to your boss that’ll make your life better.

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How Buffer Works Smarter, Not Harder

Buffer stands out among startups not just for its success in building a great social media sharing tool but in fashioning a company culture focused on making work fulfilling, impactful, and enjoyable. What’s fascinating is that they do this as a completely distributed team, spread across multiple countries and time-zones.

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Treat People in the Best Way

Co-founders Joel Gasciogne and Leo Widrich set the foundation for Buffer’s culture according to the tenets of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carolyn Kopprasch, Buffer’s Chief Happiness Officer translates what that means for Buffer’s modus operandi: “We want to treat people in the absolute best way we can, and that includes co-workers, vendors, and customers.”

It also includes how the Buffer employees treat themselves. With a unique self-improvement program, they share their progress on anything from time management to healthy eating with their teammates, spurring conversations about different lifehacks and routines. Michelle Sun, Buffer’s growth and analytics expert, tracks fitness routines and getting up early while Leo has been making strides with learning how to code.

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Co-workers become a collective accountability partner for future plans like blogging or exercising, and more importantly, they become an incredible support system. Instead of looking askance when you’re doing work to do something to take care of yourself, you receive encouragement. “If you’re trying to work on your health or your fitness or your happiness level, that affects work a lot too,” Carolyn explains.

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Stop Repeating the Same Mistakes

We make a lot of mistakes in life, and a lot of those mistakes take place at work. Elaine Wherry, founder of Meebo, even made a mistake diary to remember and review her mistakes, such as time management and perfectionism issues. “I wanted to be able to reflect on them later,” she explains, “so I wouldn’t beat myself up during the week … It was a way to get more sleep.” As she saw her employees make many of the same mistakes she did, the diary developed into a manual to share what she learned with others.

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Luc Levesque, founder of TravelPod and General Manager at TripAdvisor, decided to guide his employees with a boss blueprint. Luc shares his particular values, dislikes, and quirks to prime new employees for great performance in short order. With swift, effective communication rather than protracted information asymmetry, employees — and the company as a whole — are able to sidestep a period of trial and error, as well as lots of trials, tribulations, and stress.

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