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Hi everyone!

I have the following question - which I think most managers can relate to.

When I manage my team closely, they perform well. I set up tasks/goals, do 3-5 daily standup per week, and everything is going perfect.

But when I try to set a longer-term goal (e.g. 2-4 weeks) and leave the team on their own... Some of the people in the team have lower efficiency compared to before. Although there are people who still perform the same way in this long-term setting as well.

As a manager, I really don't like spending hours per day following up on people - "where are you with your task today", "are you going to be done with this today" etc. It feels like low value-adding activity compared to the alternatives. So do you think this is inevitable? Does it mean it is a hiring mistake?

What are your thoughts on this?


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    I think it's imp to have a Daily Standup

    I think it's also imp to have tools in place that help tracking tasks, organizing and reporting work (eg Jira or Trello etc)

    I think you have to have check-points. People get blocked and you need to make sure they unblock vs go down rabbit holes

    I think it's imp to reassess on a wkly basis

    Much of what I'm writing is just good Scrum process - I don't see a way around this.

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      That's what I normally say too!

      My experiment from last weeks - confirms it in practice as well.

      I guess my theory was that this team now have enough context about the project, and know our more decentralized way of working, that they can the sane output with less management involvement.

      But I was wrong. I'm not sure if it was because of motivation, or lack of self-management skills. Interestingly, when I started to dig into this, looks like while it didn't work for some of the team members, it worked for others.

      Thank you for writing it/reminding me!

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        Just one thing about this, Boris - I have also realised that we need to slowly build a layer of management between founders and certain employees. Just so that this management oversight can be looked into by someone else instead of you.

        These guys can be those who are able to manage these long-term initiatives well.

        "It feels like low value-adding activity compared to the alternatives." => at least this is taken off your plate so that you can look into newer initiatives.

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          Good point.. What we have tried was - to have one Lead Developer in each team.. who can do some of the oversight on the more junior people in the team. Essentially, it is a Senior developer.

          Without a Senior developer in a team, things are harder and take more oversight.

          I like this idea you propose, it is more of this direction.

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      Hey Boris, I have a few thoughts about this based on my experience. Not amazing solutions but just my perspective. If you don't mind I'll type it out tomorrow.ย 

      @suvansh will also have a lot to say about this too.

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        Thank you, Karthik. Looking forward!

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        I asked a friend of mine who has is a serial entrepreneur, with $50M+ acquisitions in his experience.

        He had a very insightful reply:

        "Dear Boris,

        ย 

        this is one of the big challenges of leadership. It can be super rewarding when it works and massively frustrating when it does not work.ย 

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        I think this depends on at least three elements:

        - The people involved

        - The leadership and work culture

        - Learning/ growth curves


        Re 1. Regarding the people involved it is not so much about their abilty to do their actual job but rather about their ability to self manage, motivate and get things done. Also there sometimes is a reluctance to take over responsibility missing because of fear or pure comfort reasons. Also some people have never experienced organizations with distributed leadership. The leaders themselves sometimes are part of the challenge: When you let go you need to provide the freedom for the new leaders to do their job, organize work and maybe have other paths that lead to success. Also interventions can be tricky and in the worst case undermining.

        ย 

        Re 2. The leadership and work culture is a lot about how responsibility and power works. When it is transferred temporarily through delegation it usually requires frequent check ins and more leadership involvement. When it is handed over permanently (a lot harder to reverse) it elevates leadership and organizations to new levels. Sometimes it is just unclarity where you and the team are not fully aligned on what is happening: They think you are delegating and expect more "micro involvement" and you think you are handing over the power and they just don't take it. Either because they do not understand or because they don't want. In my experience it is important to figure out, what you want, what the team wants and if you can clearly communicate with each other.ย 

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        Re 2. This is I think the key to success. A lot of times we forget, that we do all of this over time. And that we can design growth and learning curves. When the expectations are understood it can be super helpful to figure out which leadership skills are missing/ are not trained or that people expect a clarity that is not provided or even no one can provide. In my experience it makes a lot of sense to be quite transparent with the team and align on expectations and outcomes and a path (i.e. for the first "project" I will be close, for the second we will have regular check-ins and from then on it is going to be like thisโ€ฆ) I am always surprised how people can have so different expectations and thoughts, so communication is key here: see point 1. In my experience a good feedback culture is key to align and develop.

        ย 

        Another interesting way to look at this when it comes to "task" level is the motivation/ ability matrix. It is super simple: on a task level you look at an individuals motivation and ability to do something. This leads to a 4 field matrix. Depending on their ability and willingness you adjust your leadership behaviour between directing, motivating and explaining. When you then combine this with a learning/ growth curve approach this leads to well working organizations in my experience.

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        This topic is one of the most challenging ones in my entrepeneurial life as it is a constant struggle when people work together. What helps me a lot is my love for humans and my strong conviction in creating organizations that can bring out the best in people and help them to continuously develop.ย 

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        Does this help you?

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        Cheers

        Joerg"

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          Hi Boris,

          Sorry for the late reply and your friend's reply is quite interesting and I agree with it completely!

          The problem I think I/we face is that I/we know many of these concepts but they become quite tricky in practice.

          1. Hiring

          Yes, there are some that thrive independently and some who aren't able to do as well. But as an early-stage startup (maybe even for bigger companies) I don't think we can always hire the former. In the race against time, we do make a compromise on one of the many things we want.

          For e.g. At Flexiple, I want people to have a great attitude (hardworking and work ethic-wise), to be smart, have the ability to communicate well, be reliable and manage personal productivity. In this, I have already given up looking for specific skillsets in people, believing that any person with these softer aspects can always pick up the hard skills.

          But we fail in finding a person who fulfils each of these qualities. I would think that these are reasonable demands, but it turns out that it is a rarer combination than one would think.

          Having said that, I haven't given up and am still sticking to finding only such people henceforth. Our interviews are totally geared to these aspects rather than any role-focused discussions. I will share an update on how this goes in some time.

          ย 

          2. Tracking

          About tracking - @suvansh faces quite a similar problem as many of our hires report to him. Many times, I think, it is just the anxiety of whether things are even being done which becomes problematic.

          I think this stems from the fact that he is also quite new to delegating work and also that he expects everyone's output to be as perfect as his.

          For this, I have suggested and am implementing:

          - A simple tracking tool on Airtable: That helps him to know exactly who is working on what. For our colleagues, they will have a relay type system where everyone needs to keep their "view" clean of any outstanding items and has to tag the next person who needs to work on that task.

          Further, I have set up automated mails whenever deadlines are breached and also a sort of escalation (first mail only Suvansh and the colleague are marked, next time the other co-founders - Hrishikesh and I - are also marked).

          I am trying to continue implementing such alerts so that manual "where are you with your task today" doesn't happen.

          ย 

          3. Leadership

          This is definitely a problem. As I said, not only Suvansh but even I am new to delegating work at Flexiple. I did almost every aspect of work at some point earlier and estimate the time something will take based on my capability.

          That's quite wrong. Not to be arrogant, but I think it will be quite tough for people to match up to all the experience I have gathered over years. So, it requires being realistic and maybe even conservative.

          Next, I think we need to get better at accepting the fact that others make mistakes and will make them. In the guise of not wanting any mistakes to be made, a lot of micro-managing takes place - that wastes the manager's time and also doesn't allow the employee to learn & grow either.

          Finally, at some level, we need to accept that not everyone joining the company will have the same attitude as founders. It isn't fair for us to expect that and this expectation also causes a lot of friction.

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          There's possibly more to discuss around this topic and I will continue to share as I think of them :)

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            Interesting! Thank you, Karthik.

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            I can relate to many of the things, e.g.:

            - We should have different expectations towards not-founders.

            - It is surprisingly hard to find people that meet what we as founders consider a reasonable list of requirements.