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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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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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 Remote Companies Are Doing Employee Perks Better Than Google

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Employee perks. The idea rushed into our vocabulary sometime around the year 2000. The world feared Y2K, it got foosball and laundry service. Since then perks at tech companies have covered all positions on the field, from the practical (catered lunch) to the silly (birthday parties).

Some perks — casual dress, equity — are so common in Silicon Valley that they don’t even seem like perks anymore. We take them for granted.

In your parents’ or grandparents’ day, insurance and sick days were the only perks needed. Even weekends and holidays started out as a wacky and progressive idea. Those days are gone. Today’s employees expect ping pong, pizza Fridays and bring your dog to work policies. Or at least that’s what we’re told.

In reality, many companies are evolving their understanding of what a good employee perk really is. We’ve gone from the early perks of the dot-com bubble (ping pong tables to seem cool and attract press attention) to the perks designed to help keep you sitting on your squishy exercise ball writing code all night. Now, a new kind of perk is emerging, and remote companies are leading the way.

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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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What Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg Love But 1 in 4 Americans Ignore

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What’s the secret weapon of highly successful people? Reading books.

Throughout history, Bill Gates and many of the world’s most successful and influential people have been avid book readers.

Unfortunately, many Americans are not. One in four Americans did not read a single book in 2013, according to a Pew Research Center poll. In 1978, that number was 8 percent. By 2005 it was 16 percent.

It’s a trend to avoid it you want to do great things.

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How Micromanaging Poisons Productivity and Creates a Vicious Cycle of Despair

 

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Here’s the thing about bosses who micromanage. None of them think they’re actually doing it.

It’s easy to see how this happens. Managers, typically, were once experts at the work their subordinates are doing. That’s likely why they were promoted.

But this changes at the management level. Their jobs are more strategic, less hands on. Many managers aren’t up for the transition, so they sink back into what they’re familiar with — the gritty details of the work they used to do.

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What Sports Knows, and Business Gets Wrong, About Motivation

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Big teams are bad for productivity. The bigger the team, the less people do.

Maximilien Ringelmann discovered this more than 100 years ago. The French engineering professor measured effort from students in a simple rope pulling exercise. Not only did people exhibit less individual effort while pulling as a group, individual effort quickly diminished as the size of the group increased.

Ringelmann found that eight people didn’t even pull as hard as four. It became known as the Ringelmann effect.

Unfortunately, many businesses are run like a giant game of tug of war. There can be a top notch team, a clear objective, everyone working toward the same goal. And maybe it’s successful. But who actually helped pull the rope? Did they do their best? We’ll never know. Stop running your business like tug of war. Want to be successful? Run it like an NBA team.

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How Great Managers Know When They’re Doing Their Job

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There’s a piece of conventional wisdom in business: People aren’t raw materials. You can’t manage people like they’re widgets on a conveyor belt. People are fluid, emotional, volatile, unpredictable beings that need to be treated as such. You can’t manage people like an assembly line, right?

Maybe not.

The problem with that type of thinking isn’t that people actually are static and predictable. The problem is thinking that a manufacturing process is static and predictable. On a production line, unexpected problems and changes happen all the time. Raw materials arrive flawed, blizzards slow down deliveries, equipment breaks down, orders slow down and inventory piles up, some obscure agricultural disease in another continent wipes out a crop used in a chemical essential to the production process.

Unpredictable, fluid, ever-changing. Kind of like humans, right?

Great managers of people realize this. Great managers of people, in fact, embrace this and approach their job seeking the same consistency and measurable results as a production line operator. They know that their job is measured in the output of the people and departments they’re managing.

It’s the kind of thinking that helped propel Intel into the company it is today, with more than $55 billion in annual sales. It’s a central theme to Andrew S. Grove’s classic 1983 management book “High Output Management.”

The output of the manager is the output of their organization, Grove writes.

“In principle, every hour of your day should be spent increasing the output or the value of the output of the people whom you’re responsible for.”

In other words, a manager is doing their job when their department — when their people — are producing results. A manager at a candy cane factory can measure their personal productivity by the amount and quality of candy canes sent out the door. A software company manager can measure their achievements by the software shipped from the engineers.

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The Transparency Paradox: How Transparency Can Force Your Best Employees to Hide

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The rule is one operator per station. But when nobody’s watching, there might 17 people for 13 stations on the assembly line at one mobile phone manufacturing plant in Southern China.

When managers comes around, though, they’ll see 13 operators, one for each station, exactly as prescribed by the leaders. Even with company values like learning and continuous improvement, this plant’s employees scrambles to hide exactly the kinds of refinements and creativity that management seeks.

Transparency is often touted as a vital ingredient for the best teams. And it’s true. For people to move fast and think for themselves, they need ready access to the information they need to do their job. Failing to provide a foundation of common knowledge and creating an uneven distribution of information opens the door for inefficiency and unhealthy power imbalances.

But the transparency paradox arises when there’s no trust and autonomy. Actually, it’s more like counterproductive monitoring — one-sided visibility to benefit the manager’s curiosity rather than equip the employees to do their best work.

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