You’ve added 10, 25, maybe 50 people to your team in the last year. You’re probably interviewing quite a bit, and saying “no” twenty times as often as you’re saying “yes.” You only want to hire people who you think will make valuable contributions, who’ll work the best with your existing team, and who’ll be right for the stage your startup is in. Imagine all your hard work combing through resumes and running interviews just disappearing. Unfortunately, that happens - a lot. A great deal of the productivity and value you hired for is never realized due to ineffective team practices. If you’re finding yourself still burnt out from last quarter’s challenges, ask yourself, is your team really working?
Teams don’t work for a lot of reasons - constant change, team members who can’t get along, and many others. I’ve worked with a dozen engineering teams, ranging in size from 10 people to 250 people just in the tech organization. I can tell you the top two reasons teams didn’t work - and it might not be what you think. I saw teams struggle because of two things: one, they didn’t share knowledge effectively, and two, they didn’t support each other through change. I’ve put together two quick practices for overcoming those challenges.
Practice # 1: Everyone’s Onboarding All the Time
Winging a new hire’s onboarding means new folks who aren’t sure what their jobs entail, how to do their work, or who to ask questions of when they run into trouble. Throwing your new hires “into the deep end” also means that your current team doesn’t know what’s next or how to respond proactively. Instead of bringing on your new employees one person at a time, try to organize cohorts. This allows new team members to get answers to questions they were too afraid to ask, and it allows you to dedicate more time to sharing information effectively. I promise the practice will more than pay for the annoyance of having to push out a start date a few days. Effective teams also include everyone in the onboarding process: current team members are briefed about who’s joining and how they’ll be adding to the team, and some are tapped to be buddies for the new hires. Finally, managers are supported by an onboarding framework that makes their lives easier - namely, templates that they can copy and tweak rather than starting from scratch for every new hire.
Practice # 2: Context is Shared, Constantly
You probably already have regular meetings within your teams - these could be daily standups, weekly product meetings, or tech talks. When was the last time you thought about the effectiveness of these meetings? Great tech teams review their practices regularly, get feedback from new members, and share as transparently as possible. The best performing teams I’ve worked with practice what I call “contextual transparency.” Contextual transparency means you have an understanding of the emotional load the information will bring and you temper the shared information with a healthy respect for who has context. If your team doesn’t have all the information they need to process and manage new information, transparency may wind up hurting you in the end. Use your regular meetings to combat overload by giving focused, clear updates from across and up and down the organization.
These practices obviously aren’t the only ones effective engineering teams use, but they’re good starting places. We love when we see teams making small changes that have big impact, or when they hone the practices they already have.
What does your team do that helps you succeed? Tell me by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org!