This is Kommon People — the newsletter from Kommon which highlights stories about people, organisations, and technology to help you be a better manager. If you like it and want more like it in your inbox, consider subscribing.
This week we were at LeadDev Live, the virtual conference focussed on sharing best practice in software engineering leadership.
We were there last year too when it was packed full of relevant advice for all managers, not just engineering leaders, and this year was no exception. Two of our pieces this week are summaries of their great talks and panel discussions, so thank you LeadDev.
There’s a consistent theme in the comments we get about this newsletter. Here’s one example:
‘I wish this content were available online and linkable - it's fantastic and I'd share it all the time’
Well we’ve finally done something about it.
We’ve gone back over all the previous issues of Kommon People and categorised and collected our advice in one place in our new Manager Guide.
It makes it easier than ever to find guidance on a particular management topic.
In future, you’ll also notice that we’ll now provide dedicated links to individual articles in each newsletter if you just want to share a particular piece of advice.
Hopefully that’s what you were all after 😉
We’re told that coaching is a vital part of being a good manager, but it’s a huge topic, and it can be quite daunting to know where to start.
They drew out some of the fundamentals of getting coaching right, which we know will be very useful, particularly if you’re just starting to think about how you can be a better coach to your team.
Struve is a Senior Site Reliability Engineer at Netflix and runs a team across eight timezones from Thailand to Denver. She had some very tactical advice for any manager looking to put in place new processes to help their distributed team work together, successfully and inclusively.
Her approach is based around three core strategies: Async Standups, Rotating Meeting Schedules, and Setting Async Work Expectations.
If you’re distributed across eight timezones (or even much less!) finding a time for a weekly standup meeting which works for everyone is almost impossible. Yet sharing that context about what everyone’s working on for the week remains invaluable. So what to do?
Struve’s standups aren’t meetings at all, they’re a blog post.
Every Sunday evening she creates an internal post of relevant team updates. Team members can then view the document and leave comments if they have anything else to add. There is also a dedicated section for team members to introduce their own topics, and praise colleagues for their work.
Everyone stays updated, just like a standup meeting, and everyone is always included. As an example of inclusion, even the date format specifically references the month in full rather than using US formatting (July vs 07) so it’s clear to everyone.
Although async docs work well for standups, teams need facetime to help them bond and build relationships. Rotating schedules, where several meetings of the same type happen at different times over a period of several weeks, are key to doing that in an inclusive way,
She arranges two types of meetings this way.
Setting specific norms for your team can be very powerful in creating inclusive habits which foster distributed teamwork. Struve mentions three that have worked for her:
There may be other norms you could put in place for your teams based on your pattern of work.
Research suggests that we may be holding back from praising our co-workers as much as we should.
The power of a small compliment can be immense, but we’re less forthcoming than we could be because we’re worried about it being perceived as clumsy, patronising or fawning.
Vanessa Bohns, a professor of social psychology at Cornell University, has been doing research on how people give and receive compliments.
‘Across numerous experiments, the researchers found that the participants significantly under-estimated how happy the other person would be to hear the praise, and significantly over-estimated how cringe-worthy they would find the encounter.’
Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago, and Xuan Zhao, a psychologist at Stanford University, have found similar dynamics in their research.
They found that worries over whether the compliment was delivered well, or if an individual was offering them too often, were unfounded.
“They just care about how nice or kind the compliment is.”
So next time you feel like praising someone on your team, just do it. Chances are you’re overthinking the process, and underestimating how happy they’ll be to hear it.
For more on giving praise, you can see our piece on ‘Praising in Private’.