Technical Support manager at @heroku. Part of the @madrockclimbing climbing team.

Removing Distractions For Your Team

I’ve known far too many people who reach the coveted level of “middle management” and believe they’ve finally reached Easy Street. “Time to sit back and let the minions do my bidding!” Ok, I’m sure that’s not exactly verbalized, but delegation is easily abused by middle managers who think their primary job is to ensure everyone is typing away happily all day. (these are all the same managers you find tapping their watch when you come in too late or leave too early)

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On the contrary, great managers accept the responsibility of what it is to lead. And great leaders don’t bark out orders and head out for a long lunch break. Great managers help their team by serving them.

The thing to remember here is that moving into management usually means you’re no longer a direct producer. Your coding/designing/selling skills are usually taking a back seat to your newly found management skills. So you must realize that your team is now the only ones capable of producing a win. The prevailing thought cannot be “Who can I get to do this work for me?” but instead should be “My job is to make sure my team members can succeed.”

The best way to make sure your team succeeds is to ensure they’re productive. So you must keep an eye out for things that destroy productivity: useless meetings, directional ambiguity, and interruptions.

  1. Useless Meetings. For some reason, middle managers seem to think that creating and attending meetings is their gift to the team. And yet, there are countless studies that prove that meetings destroy productivity. Yes, there are some meetings that must be had, but please stop thinking that everything must be done synchronously. Most times, the discussion you’re wanting to have can be done over email.
  2. Directional Ambiguity. When the team doesn’t know what’s expected or where they’re headed, they will attempt to fill in the gap. This leads to team members going “off the reservation”, building features that aren’t needed, and needing to re-build things because someone up the chain has changed their mind (again). Make a plan. Work the plan. Remind your team what the plan is and do it frequently.
  3. Interruptions. There’s no bigger productivity killer than a distracting work environment. Most people think music in the office is the main offender, but sometimes the worst distraction is you. You walk around the office during peak productivity times, stopping by desks to smile and shake hands … to “see what you’re working on”. And your team will stop what they’re doing, take off their headphones, and engage. But you’ve just cost them their focus. Instead, leave “check-ins” for stand-ups or 1-on-1’s. Say hello in the morning while getting coffee, but fight the urge to constantly interrupt your team throughout the day.

Like a good Scrum Master, a great manager excels at removing obstacles for their team. Cut through the red tape, get the answers your team needs, and do your very best to provide a distraction-free work environment. Your team will thank you.

© 2017 Jon McCartie