Helping engineer to set priorities

Hanjie Ji

Director of Engineering at WeWork



"One of my engineers, who was still quite junior, was quite ambitious and was confident in his technical skills. He decided to take on a big feature, which required him to undertake a lot of work. However, he faced some issues that turned out to be bigger than he had anticipated, which delayed the project. Out of the shame of having over-promised, and the fear of being confronted by the product team, he didn't admit that he was facing problems. His priorities were not aligned with the team's priorities, and he was being a perfectionist technically, at the detriment of delivery."

Actions taken

"After I noticed that his projects were regularly facing delays, I had a conversation with him and helped him with his priorities. I advised him that engineers can always improve things and choose different directions, but when he had committed to an objective for the team, his priority should be on reaching it, before refining it if he had time. He had the impression that he had to solve all of the feature's issues, so I reassured him that some issues could exist in the system, and that his focus should be on the feature."

"I also talked to him about his communication problem, to make sure that over time he would learn to let his team members know when he was encountering an issue, so that we could try to figure it out as a team. Following our discussion, I regularly checked in with him about how he was doing during one-on-ones, and even though things didn't change overnight, his collaboration skills progressively improved."

Lessons learned

"From a manager's perspective, I would say that one of your main roles is to help your team to understand their priorities, and to keep an eye on how team members are doing in their day-to-day work."

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Hanjie Ji

Director of Engineering at WeWork

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyTeam & Project Management

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