What Makes a Healthy, Happy, and Productive Team?
The average employee spends more time awake with their co-workers than their own family. As backwards as that sounds, its a reality for most of us. Don’t you owe it to your team (and yourself) to make sure your work is as enjoyable as possible? Nobody wants to be a cog in a giant corporate machine. This site discusses how to make sure your team is healthy, happy, and productive.
When I was first promoted into management, I had no idea what I was doing. I was asked to replace someone who just wasn’t good at it. He lacked empathy and thought that everyone should just do things his way. I don’t exactly know what made them think that I would be better, but I was willing to give it a try. They had faith in me, and apparently so did my team. Meanwhile, the guy I replaced was still there. Awkward.
Prior to my promotion, I had my little team that I really enjoyed working with. We regularly hit our goals, and I felt genuine respect and loyalty from them. Would that scale to a larger team? I had no idea. One thing I knew for sure was that as much as I enjoyed the engineering side of my job, what I really loved was seeing others succeed and knowing that I could actually make a difference in their careers.
I wasn’t trained other than being told that management was just a series of making mistakes and learning from them. I basically just tried to live The Golden Rule, but I still made a ton of really dumb mistakes. What I struggled with the most was having difficult conversations and providing critical feedback.
I still don’t have all the answers, but I want to pass along what I have learned so that you can benefit from what I’ve learned over the years.
How Do We Know If We’re Succeeding as Managers?
As a leader, you are no longer measured by your own accomplishments. Your success depends on the success of your team. That is a difficult adjustment to make, because it feels like your fate is no longer in your own hands. Measuring your effectiveness becomes much more subjective.
The number one reason why people hate their jobs is because of their immediate manager or leader. Its not the tech, or what they’ve been asked to do, or even other jerks on the team. It is quite possibly you and me.
We hire the smartest people we can find, and ask them to solve really difficult problems. How good are we at providing the right amount of vision, feedback, and communication? When something isn’t going well, how good are we at truly finding the root cause and fixing it? Do we tend to assume we know the cause, or do we truly take the time we need to understand the problem?
We have no conferences to attend. No AWS. No Google I/O. There are no “how to manage” meetups. There are no podcasts to listen to or communities to bounce ideas off of. There are thousands of books out there, but which ones are worth your time? So many of them seem outdated or too idealistic. Where do you even start?
You don’t need an advanced degree (or even a degree at all) in order to lead a successful team. I don’t care what your guidance counselor told you about getting an MBA or a degree in Business Management. I think that there are certain timeless lessons and tools that can be used in any industry, and with any team.
Businesses Are Nothing Without the People That Make It Work
Nobody is truly irreplaceable. People come and go all the time, but you should never ever treat them that way. First and foremost, your team is made up of people. Just like you, they have dreams, aspirations, families, vacation plans, and friends outside of work. Even so, they spend most of their time with you.
They’re investing in you just as much as you are in them. They could go somewhere else, OR they could stick around and become one of your most valuable and effective employees. Whether they do (and to what degree) depends largely on how you treat them, how much you inspire them, and how clearly you articulate your vision.
It doesn’t matter if you’re building the next Facebook or responsible for the company’s intranet, inspired individuals can have a huge impact on whatever they touch. Demotivated and depressed employees can bring down an entire team or department with their negativity.
So how do you inspire people, or even whole teams, to perform at their peak? I believe that good leaders have much in common. Good leaders are those that you would follow into battle. They inspire, not threaten. They lead from the front lines. People follow them because they want to, not because they have to.
There Are No Silver Bullets
Difficult conversations will inevitably have to occur. People are people, after all, and they make mistakes. How you handle each situation, however, will have a massive impact on how well the individual and team continue to perform. What I hope to be able to do is provide a place where people can go to get ideas on how to handle their unique situations.
I have been incredibly fortunate to have worked for and with some of the most incredible leaders and mentors I’ve ever known. I don’t have all the answers though, so this only works if you chime in and contribute to the conversation. Let me know when you agree, when you think I’m wrong, and what has worked best for you.
Even though it felt incredibly vague at the time, the best advice I was ever given was to remember that “Managing is just a series of making mistakes”. The implied follow-up to that is that we learn from those mistakes and improve over time.
What I’d like to do is create a community where we can learn from each others’ mistakes and become the most effective and impactful managers and leaders. So if this speaks to you, please subscribe, follow along, and participate. I’d like to learn from your experiences, just as much as I hope you learn from mine.