Five Questions a Manager Should Ask Themselves Every Week
10 May, 2019
As a manager your job is to make sure your team is successful; to cultivate an environment where people can do their best work. But let's face it, it's not easy. In today's increasingly complex workplaces it is all too easy to fall into a pattern of reaction. There's always more meetings to attend, emails to reply to, and fires to fight. Once you're there, it can be incredibly hard to get your feet back under you.
Five minutes of reflection at the end of the week allows you to catch things while they're still small and can help you stay on top of everything. Add a recurring calendar event every Friday afternoon, and ask yourself these questions:
- Does workload need to be rebalanced? Over time it is easy for work to become unbalanced among your team members. Someone will have three critical tasks on their backlog while someone else will be working through low-priority items. This is natural, but it's best to intervene before someone starts complaining and deadlines start being missed.
- Is anyone starting to show symptoms of burnout? Full-on burnout is hard to recover from, so it's best to act swiftly if a member of your team seems like they could be starting to suffer. Burnout isn't always the result of too much work, but can be related to lack of control, monotony, and fairness. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms and be ready to have a conversation if you notice anything off.
- Does anyone need more of a challenge? In a safe and supportive environment, we learn the most when we're pushed slightly out of our comfort zone, sometimes called our "growing edge". Ask yourself whether anyone on your team could have more autonomy, take on bigger projects, or assume other leadership responsibilities. Remember, bored people quit.
- Is there anything we should be celebrating? In many ways, culture is shaped by what you recognize and celebrate. If you only celebrate launches, people will yearn for the dopamine hit of a launch spike and will neglect the essential follow up work. Look for people living your values, doing work that is unseen, or taking initiative and filling in gaps, then celebrate them in a meeting, all hands, or with an email to the team. Also, gratitude is a strong indicator of high performing teams.
- What should we stop doing? Even when you're aware of the sunk cost fallacy, it can still be hard to put a stop to things. You might be worried about disappointing your team, but I wager they'll be happier to drop a task midway than spend a bunch of time working on something that doesn't matter anymore.
Five simple questions, and you only need to take a few minutes each week to reflect on them. Make a note of things you observed while answering the questions, and use them as a task list to get your Monday morning off to a running start.
Sameer Kalburgi, VP of Engineering at Fieldwire, discusses how managing managers, unlike managing ICs is, to the largest extent, a matter of style.
VP of Engineering at Fieldwire
Raghavendra Iyer, Head of Engineering at ReachStack, recalls how his recurring problems with securing a US work visa made him move to and continue his professional career in Canada.
Head of Engineering at ReachStack
Raghavendra Iyer, Head of Engineering at ReachStack, tells of his efforts to preserve the startup mentality of his team following the acquisition by a large company.
Head of Engineering at ReachStack
Nimrod Perez, CTO and VP of Engineering at Wobi LTD., recalls how he, over the years, was learning and adjusting his approach to become a better manager and successful leader.
CTO and VP of Engineering at Wobi LTD.
Anant Gupta, Senior Director of Engineering at Grand Rounds, challenges the common understanding of personal growth as he emphasizes the importance of long-term, intrinsic aspirations.
Sr Director of Engineering at Grand Rounds
You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.
Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.