Sharing is Caring & Helps Avoid Management Mistakes…Ramble

As Yahoo!’s incredibly dysfunctional management skills are all over the news, I can attest it is not an easy place to work. As a former Yahoo! I’ve had my share of challenging situations, including a boss who compared his getting pushed out of the company, to my dear, larger-than-life friend, movie critic Anderson Jones passing away, while watching “A Mighty Heart, “(Andy loved Angelina) to a heart attack at 38-years-old. “I hope it won’t add to your pain that I’m leaving.”  As Andy would have said, “OUTRAGEOUS!”

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I have lead teams ranging from one person to ten. Sometimes managing one is the hardest, so when I saw the Girls in Tech breakfast topic was “Managing A Growing Team,” I signed up immediately for a refresher, part of my own personal belief that you can always learn something new.

Highlights included Facebook manager, Eric Sun, saying he prioritizes monthly one-on-ones for everyone on his team. It’s something I did with my team at Yahoo! and found it invaluable, sometimes what is not said is the most telling. Eric starts by asking his reports what is going on in there life and ending with asking what he can do to help them.

Here are the seven behaviors of a good manager according to Eric and Facebook:

  1. Find people who car about people. For instance, if you are just applying to be a manager because it’s a pay raise, but you’d rather write code in a dark corner, that’s it’s not helpful to anyone to make you responsible for managing a team. Facebook recognized this issue and made two tracks: one for engineering and one for management. A move to management would be lateral.
  2. Provide opportunities for growth tailored to the individual.
  3. Set clear expectations and goals. Performance reviews should not be a surprise.
  4. Give frequent actionable feedback.
  5. Provide helpful resources for growth.
  6. Hold people accountable for success.
  7. Reward people for success.

The second speaker, Karen Law, a director at Medallia, our hosted space, was fascinating.
She discussed second level thinking. Instead of asking an interview candidate directly “do you work well with others,” try asking “what does your ideal team look like” and then have a candidate describe when they had to deal with a challenge to those believes and the result. She recommended reading “Surely, You’re Joking Mr. Feynman,” by Nobel Prize Winner Richard P. Feynman to get into more of the interesting way of looking at situations past the surface level.

The Q & A afterwards revealed there are a lot of managers struggling with the politics of start-up teams and several dealing with cultural issues at international companies. Eric shared Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, implemented, which was talking through the “Unconscious Bias” test, where decisions are made based on instinct, which are often wrong, instead of using analysis. It’s explained below. The test results are to help you acknowledge and be aware, which is a good way to bring difficult conversations to light.

My advice to those who haven’t been a manager, consider your boss most likely has  information about projects and priorities you do not, before assuming the worst. They are usually too busy to plan to torment you. I had an indirect report who was capable, but slow. The first conversation we had one-on-one, that person told me their main issue was how to prioritize. I tried to work with them on the issue, but that person was often on another floor, complaining, instead of doing work, causing many delays and angry senior management. After I left, a management spot opened up, my co-worker could not understand why they had not been promoted, and went on their daily complaining route.

Take a step back, ask what you can do to improve, set expectations going both ways, on what is a priority for you and the team. Managers are there to help, but you have to take responsibility for your success and actionable items.

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Bad Blood: When Professional Friendships Cross The Line…Ramble

Howard Jones sang “when you cross that line, there’s no turning back.” As we know Jane Austen’s beloved “Pride & Prejudice” leading man, Mark Darcy proclaimed “my good opinion is lost, it is lost forever.” When you work with people over a career, especially in a high-instensity work environment, friendships run deep. This is partly because, just like high school, your geographically aligned by profession, thrown together at the same tentpole events, repeatedly, and the long hours mean you have less opportunity to make new friends outside of your profession.

When you work in entertainment, more often than not, most of your friends will be fun, have big personalities and some hopefully, not completely surface level. You bond over the insanity of how not-glamourous it is,  how rockstars are babies who throw tantrums yet, it’s worth it, cause you just love music and film, etc. oh-so-much. Years go by and these bonds grow stronger, until, one day, you find out that friend you made an effort and made an effort to go beyond the confines of simply industry-related events, to become a true friend, has betrayed you in some way.

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What makes it worse, is if this betrayal bleeds into the professional part of your friendship. It becomes an insult the betrayer delivered a professional sucker punch, leaving you ready to launch a full-blown war because “you can’t fix a bullet, with a band-aid.” Good thing our girl Taylor Swift, goes there for you, allowing for when that mad love to bad blood, to be an anthem,  without having to draw blood yourself.

Thank you Taylor for giving us real humans a way to vent.  If you don’t have something nice to say, all you have to do is turn up “Bad Blood.”

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