Two common problems of a young manager and how to deal with them
1️⃣ 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐈 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐤 𝐭𝐨, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐟𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐈 𝐠𝐞𝐭.
The product manager says engineering’s not sticking to timelines; the tech lead says that the specs aren’t clear; and the project manager says that their time goes setting up meetings. And oh, everyone says they’re working really hard.
If you lead a team, how do you build your own map from different viewpoints?
☑The first thing you can do is 𝐚𝐯𝐨𝐢𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞, which is to not trust your team. So, believe them when they say that they’re working their darnedest and accept that their complaints are genuine. Because they’re most likely true.
☑Then 𝐠𝐨 𝐝𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐥𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐞. What you’ve with you from your reports is second-hand information, which is possibly a version of their reports’ distillations. It’s the classic 𝘮𝘢𝘱-𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘶𝘴-𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘭𝘦𝘮. Replace looking at the map with walking on the actual terrain.
☑Finally, 𝐚𝐬𝐤 𝐝𝐞𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬. Be ready to look stupid. Filter responses by motivations. The classic 𝘱𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘱𝘢𝘭-𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘭𝘦𝘮.
These steps are hard and if there’s one outcome guaranteed at the end of it, it is that you’re now closer to reality. Accept this or you’ll be humbled time and again.
2️⃣ 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐈 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐤 𝐭𝐨, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐈 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧
Clashing versions aside, 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐦𝐚𝐲 𝐚𝐥𝐬𝐨 𝐠𝐞𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠’𝐬 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐞. And then there’s some inevitable hiccup and the launch gets delayed or it’s a buggy release or whatever. When someone tells you that everything’s fine, understand first if they’ve thought deeply about the problem they’re trying to solve. Or if they have just regurgitated something passed on to them by their direct reports. Shit travels up too.
A way to pick this out is to 𝐝𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐚 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐰𝐡𝐲𝐬. Soon enough, if the person hasn’t thought enough, they’ll hit rock. If they have, they’ll just keep going.
Whether you hear multiple versions of what’s going on or the same superficial version from all, it is your job to scratch that surface. As a leader in charge of diverse business units, I don’t recall feeling confident enough in my intuition to simply pick out signs and go with my gut. I preferred to put myself through the paces, and found that it became a little easier with each try.
How do you get to the truth?