Need someone to lead product or development at your software company? I lead product and engineering teams and I'm looking for my next opportunity. Check out my resume and get in touch.

Stretching your team

Freshness Warning
This article is over 2 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current.

As a manager, stretching your team is one of the best ways to improve your output, your team’s happiness, and your velocity. Setting a "Big Hairy Audacious Goal" gives your team something to strive for, and even if they don’t reach it, research shows that people that shoot for the moon and miss go farther than people who set easily attainable goals and reach them.

Psychologist Edwin Locke’s Goal Setting Theory research found that regardless of discipline, harder goals resulted in higher performance. He also discovered that people with extremely hard goals "consistently performed at a higher level" than people with very easy goals, even though the harder goals were less often reached.

As anyone who has been bored by an easy job already knows, he also found that people with challenging goals had more interest in completing their tasks and reported getting more enjoyment from doing their work.

I like to stretch people and their abilities. I’ll often give someone things to do that might be a little outside their comfort zone, with a goal of helping them grow into something new. This can be new to a lot of people, so early on, it helps to build their confidence by assuring them that you’ll give them things that you’re confident they can achieve. I also like to build the stretch goal muscles with tasks that are not super critical. This gives people room to fail and learn without undue stress and hardship on the rest of the team.

As a manager, you can’t leave the employee alone on these stretch assignments. You must commit to coaching them, and they must ask for help if they need it or get stuck. Don’t let them spend days banging their heads against a wall when asking for guidance or help getting a roadblock removed can unstick them.

This can be an unnatural skill for many people, and you might have to help them learn it. Asking for help simply doesn’t come naturally or easy to some people. Ensure that you’re open and available to give help, and that you actually give it. It’s not enough to say you have an open door policy if you’re always too busy or distracted to give detailed guidance when it’s needed.

It’s crazy-important that you recognize the skill level of someone when handing them stretch goals. Don’t be so afraid of being a micromanager that you’re afraid to actually manage. Legendary Intel CEO Andy Grove used to say that the most important job he had as a manager was to be a teacher. He realized that the amount of management and guidance someone needs changes as their skills change, and that this isn’t a matter of "senior people need less guidance."

Does it matter that you’ve been developing for 25 years and managing teams of developers for 5 years if you’re asked to start going on sales calls? Do your management and engineering skills magically make you a good salesperson?

What Grove understood, but most managers fail to grasp, is not just that the skill level of a person is relative to the task at hand, but that the amount of coaching a person requires is also relative to their skill level at a task.

Recently Written

A framework for onboarding new employees (May 15)
There’s no single good way to onboard an employee that works for every role. Here's a framework for creating a process that you can adapt to each situation.
TV hosts as a guide for software managers (May 10)
Software managers can learn a lot from journalists or late night TV hosts and how they interview people.
The Improvement Flywheel (Apr 29)
An incredible flywheel for the improvement of a development team. Fix a few things, and everything starts getting better.
Managers and technical ability (Dec 26)
In technical fields, the closer you are to the actual work being done, the closer your skills need to resemble those of the people doing the work.
Dysfunctions of output-oriented software teams (Sep 17)
Whatever you call it, the symptom is that you're measuring your progress by how much you build and deliver instead of measuring success by the amount of customer value you create.
Evaluative and generative product development (Aug 30)
Customers never even talk to the companies that don't fit their needs at all. If the only product ideas you're considering are those that meet the needs of your current customers, then you're only going to find new customers that look exactly like your current customers.
Product Manager Career Ladder (Aug 19)
What are the steps along the product management career path?
Building the Customer-Informed Product (Aug 15)
Strong products aren't composed of a list of features dictated by customers. They are guided by strong visions, and the execution of that vision is the primary focus of product development.

Older...

What I'm Reading

Contact

Adam Kalsey

+1 916 600 2497

Resume

Public Key

© 1999-2020 Adam Kalsey.