Friday, June 20, 2008

Don't be a barking phone

Last night I was talking with one of the other DPMs (I shall call him Toby) here at Macadamian. We were talking about the perception the developers in our global R&D centres have of us.

Toby traveled to Romania and ended up spending nearly 2 weeks there. After he was there, peoples perceptions of him changed. The old perception was that he was an angry person, always mad at something. After Toby visited them in person, they realized hey, he is a pretty swell guy.

Why did they think he was an angry person? It was because most of their interactions with him were not very positive:
  • emails that seemed blunt
  • VoIP calls when they were not performing, or had made a mistake
  • asking them to do something
  • emails asking for status
  • etc
All these interactions where either Toby was in charge, or performing corrective actions.

So what changed on the trip? Well, Toby did these sorts of things:
In short, they realized that hey, Toby is a person, and pretty swell too! It was not that Toby was trying to butter him up, it is just how he is in person.

You as a team leader need to be seen as a person, sure, you are in charge, and you are accountable for the delivery of the projects, but your team is comprised of people and no matter how many times you tell yourself, yes, you are only human.

So, if you are leading a global team, try to visit them in person, and when you can't visit them in person, make sure to follow these simple tips:
  • Prefer voice calls over email
  • When you need to send emails, try reading them aloud to see if they seem harsh or overly critical
  • Don't talk just about business, try to have a water cooler chat every now and again
  • Ask questions like, how has your day been? I heard you were sick yesterday, are you feeling better?
  • Try and schedule the meetings in common hours, if you cannot, try to alternate the times they have to stay late versus you have to come in early
Remember, you don't have to be their friend, but it really helps for you not to be their enemy. And in your spare time, start working on the virtual foozball game for those ad-hoc games, err, I mean design sessions.

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