This is Kommon People — the newsletter from Kommon which highlights stories about people, organisations, technology and business which will make you a better manager. If you like it and want more like it in your inbox, consider subscribing.
It may be an odd admission from an HR/People company, but generally we think workplaces would be better if leaders spent more time listening to their teams than people consultants and the Harvard Business Review. So when we write, we try and find stories from individuals which give some insight into what good and bad management looks like.
So we’re pleased this week to be able to bring you a feature article based on a crowdsourced analysis of the number one thing employees feel their manager has done to boost their growth. We’ve also got various personal testimonies of how individuals felt their workplace dealt with the political violence in the US on 6 January. Oh and we’ve also thrown in a piece on the future of remote work and some people lessons from 2020.
Managers are usually busy. So if you could know the one thing which would contribute most to your team members’ career development, it would presumably be useful to know and focus on. Particularly in the new year when you might be trying to change habits and improve things.
Well we don’t have the answer.
But, we’re always on the lookout for it. And when an Engineering Director at Github asked her twitter followers exactly this question she got over 100 responses. We’ve broken down the tweets into various categories to see exactly what team members want from their managers. You can find out in the article.
You can also access our table of all the tweets here.
Just to be clear, the title of this section has its tongue firmly in its cheek. Any article that promises to give you all the answers to managing your team through the kinds of events that happened on 6 January 2021 is almost certainly lying.
Kommon is not an American company, and we don’t currently have any American employees but nonetheless the shocking events of last week caused pretty much all work to stop as we tried to process what was happening. We can only imagine how Americans of all different backgrounds felt.
The most important lessons from 6 January won’t be learned in the workplace (or something’s gone even more wrong). However, at times of significant upheaval and trauma in people’s lives, employers and particularly managers, are amongst those who can have the most immediate impact - for better and for worse. So whilst we won’t claim to have all the answers, we’ve been following some of the advice to managers which has been circulating over the past few days, and accounts from those at work, and we wanted to share some of it. Hopefully in a small way, it may help you and your team prepare for and process the next crisis, whatever that might be.
We’ll actually start at the company level. Mainly because a supportive organisational environment can significantly alter the type of role that a manager has to play. To look at the range of responses on the day, we’ll turn to Angelique Weger, a Senior Software Engineer from Baltimore who has been cataloguing different companies’ actions. She found everything from this:
To less positive stories:
From reading through individuals’ reactions, we get some insight into what employees appreciate at times like this:
Now for the manager. As you can probably see, if your employer doesn’t do any of the above, a lot of that burden falls on the manager instead and you need to start from the top. However, assuming these things are done, as a manager you can assume a more tactical role, which means:
Many countries are still trying to cope with the second wave of a pandemic which has kept people locked down in their homes. However, some optimistic operations managers and commentators have dared to start thinking about what work might look like in 2021 when people have the option of meeting in person as well as remotely. A wild thought.
In the past few weeks, there have been some excellent articles on remote work, office work, and hybrid arrangements. We expect some of you are part of discussions about what this will look like for your organisation so we wanted to highlight some of the main points.
But people don’t really want to get back to the office. They want to get out of their apartments, their houses, their parents’ houses. They want their children back in school, and also out of the house. They want to see people’s faces again, and have conversations with people who are closer than six feet from them. But that doesn’t mean that they actually want to be back in the office.
The humans who are elsewhere are at a professional disadvantage. There is a communication, culture, and context tax applied to the folks who are distributed. Your job as a leader is to actively invest in reducing that tax.
You may already know Mark Manson. He’s the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Everything is F*cked: A Book about Hope. Also the owner of the most direct marketing CTA we’re seen so far:
Takes quite a bit to raise our eyebrows at marketing copy, so well done Mark.
Anyway, in keeping with this newsletter’s theme of basing our analysis on other people’s lives rather than our own, he recently asked his email list ‘What have been your biggest lessons from 2020?’. The answers from 1273 people were illuminating, and the article is well worth a read.
We wanted to highlight some of the themes because we suspect they represent pressures that some of your team members may have been feeling - food for thought as you manage your team. And despite our wishes, 2021 unfortunately does not represent a clean break with 2020, so these dynamics are likely to persist.
Some selected insights:
“The pandemic has not been kind to me, to be honest. I had a mental breakdown in March, lost my job in June, moved twice in the past four months, slept on sofas and in mouldy rooms, was disappointed by friends and lovers. Despite all this, I have learned that I am more resilient than I ever thought.”