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Unsurprisingly it was a very insightful conversation. We tuned in and took away eight lessons.
In her book Radical Candor, Kim Scott has a great line:
‘In some ways, becoming a boss is like getting arrested. Everything you say or do can and will be used against you.’
To be clear, she isn’t suggesting this is in any way unfair. She’s just describing the reality that as a manager, people will listen intently to what you say and scrutinise what you do.
It’s worth remembering, because if you forget it can affect your reputation and alter your ability to lead your team (even if temporarily).
One VP of Product at Shopify seems to have given us an example this week. In response to a tweet about a Canadian politician exploring working a four day week, he tweeted:
Now, as he went on to discuss in his replies, the basic point he wanted to make was that hard work should be celebrated. That’s all very well and good.
But he didn’t just say that.
Instead we got a tweet which:
We don’t work at Shopify, and the ramifications of this one tweet probably weren’t that great, but then again...
Now assuming we’ve got the right TWEET (fingers crossed…), it seems that at least some people at Shopify were unhappy with Nejatian’s comments, and it seems to have provoked some discussion about working conditions at the company.
Are we reading too much into one guy’s tweet? Possibly. But that’s not snowflakery, it’s exactly the point. When you’re in a leadership position, people will do precisely that and it can have unintended consequences.
Precise, thoughtful communication is a wonderful tool for being a better manager.
The opposite is, well, the opposite.
If you’ve read this newsletter for any length of time, you’ll know we’re huge fans of Camille Fournier and her fantastic book The Manager’s Path.
She recently published a piece warning of some of the pitfalls in managing individual contributors - i.e. those who don’t want to follow a path into management but want to build their technical skills.
We’d recommend reading the whole thing, but in summary she speaks about:
Building team connections and relationships can be challenging at the best of times, but over the past eighteen months, the move to remote work has made it even more complicated.
To help with this, many teams have started focussing on certain rituals which help bring them together and reinforce their sense of shared mission and purpose.
But what if you don’t have any rituals?
She recounted asking it to Marissa Andrada, the head of HR at Chipotle, and one of the co-founders of Allbirds:
‘'When do employees at Chipotle feel most Chipotle-ish?... Most Allbirds-ish?’
It seems like an odd question, but it gets at the essence of what it means to work in your team and when your team members are most likely to feel it.
For Chipotle, it was a 10:15 am meal which was shared between staff before a 10:30 customer rush. For Allbirds, it was a four o’clock break which connected the company.
Try working out when your team feels most ‘your team-ish’ or ‘your company-ish’. You might find you’ve got a greater opportunity to foster team spirit at that point than you think.