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When big decisions arrive they often come with three bits of baggage:
The first two statements are facts. The third one is often a lie.
So says Rands, in his latest post on improving decision-making. He makes the astute observation that in many organisations, the first two dynamics create a certain kind of pressure which it’s easy to confuse for urgency. This leads to managers rushing decisions when they have more time to make the right one.
You may recognise the way he describes the pressure building. We did..
‘Big decisions have a fan club. These are the humans swirling around the decision who care deeply about its outcome. They have contradicting motivations: they know enough about the decision area to call themselves experts, but they are also intimately aware (or annoyed) that it’s not their decision to make.The fan club grows annoyed when you don’t move with – what they perceive as – appropriate urgency.’
If you’re imagining your current/former boss right now, chances are you’re not alone.
Try and see through this.
You will ultimately be judged on the quality of your decision and its outcomes, not how fast you made it (acknowledging that in some cases speed will be important).
So next time you feel this pressure to act quickly, question whether it is indeed genuine, or whether you have the time to improve the quality of your decision-making.
For Rands, this means two things:
Both are likely to lead to a better decision.
One of the counterintuitive lessons every new manager has to learn is that it’s not the under-performers you should be spending most of your time with, but your rockstars.
(If this is the first time you’ve heard this, you’re welcome).
Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s Kim Scott in Radical Candor:
‘One of the most common mistakes bosses make is to ignore the people who are doing the best work because “they don’t need me” or “I don’t want to micromanage.” Ignoring somebody is a terrible way to build a relationship.’
If you haven’t thought about this before, now’s the time. Your best people are always in demand, but as record numbers of employees look for new opportunities, they may be more open to a new challenge than ever.
So, if someone’s knocking their work out of the park, how should you ‘manage’ them?
Leemay Nassery, an Engineering Manager at Spotify, has a few ideas.
In a recent piece for LeadDev, she laid out her thoughts. Here’s our top three:
Of course, in order to do this successfully you will need some insights into the individuals’ aspirations, interests, and people they want to work with.
This recent popular thread by the Head of Product Security at Databricks has some advice on this.
You can also check out our own article on how to talk about career goals so it’s not forced and awkward.
Jargon and acronyms can be the scourge of effective communication.
Whilst one person is happy to synergise alignment in how to calculate LTV across a CRM before COP, their teammates are wasting time asking others what just happened or googling ‘COP’.
In this example, they’d have limited success.
(For those still playing along at home, the correct answer was ‘close of play’).
Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be jargon. The same communications inefficiencies can be created by persistent use of a word for which there’s no common definition in your team - e.g. ‘impact’, ‘quality’, or ‘deadline’.
You might already be thinking of some of your own examples as you read this.
We propose an amnesty, guided by an exercise suggested by John Cutler, Head of Product Education at Amplitude.
Cutler suggests running a group session in which team members volunteer words which are commonly used in your team but which seem to cause confusion. He then suggests a group vote to narrow down the list to 10 of the most important words for discussion. For these, you then decide to do one of four things:
Give it a try. You’ll probably unearth a few misconceptions which are holding back communication on your team.
We’ve said before that one of the hardest things to do as a manager is get a feel for whether or not you’re doing a good job.
So when we come across techniques to help answer that question, we’re eager to share.
This one comes from the folks at PeopleStorming, a leadership development consultancy. In a recent newsletter, they highlighted the following quote from Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar:
‘If there's more truth in hallways than in meetings, you have a problem.’
Catmull was talking about assessing candor and openness as signs of a healthy team. Do team members have access and input into the discussions that enable them to do their jobs? Are team members comfortable expressing themselves to others?
Whilst we don’t spend much time in hallways at the moment, the same is true of remote communication channels.
If the majority of communication on substantive issues in your team takes place in private Whatsapp chats and Slack/Teams channels rather than in open spaces then you may have an issue.