day, but you can set up systems that allow you to keep in touch with the work
being done on your team so you can
communicate effectively with your peers
and your leadership.
If you work with a manager over time
and don’t feel that sense of trust, it is
critical to get that person out of that role
or into another position as soon as possible. Your job just doesn’t work without
being able to trust your key leads.
Oversight and project reporting. Your
managers are essentially acting as “you”
(and, in turn, the organization) when
they speak to their teams. You need
managers in place who are in line with
your vision and who will accurately present to their teams what you tell them.
If there is dissonance between what
you say and what the managers say, this
will gro w into a bad situation. Likewise,
if what you say is different from what
your peers or CEO say, that is also an opportunity to breed mistrust.
If there are managers who are not
representing you accurately, then you
need to correct them or replace them as
soon as possible.
You should be upfront and clear with
your managers about your expectations:
What is their job? What is your job?
Their job is to deeply understand the
company goals, and how their team fits
within those goals, and to communicate
to you where things are working well and
where they need help.
Your job is to support their decisions
(which is possible when you know you
have managers who innately understand the company goals) and to communicate clearly on behalf of the company’s leadership.
With so many people and projects
in your purview, it is important you get
regular status reports that are presented
in the language of your organization (for
example, OKRs at Google, Red/Yellow/
Green at Nordstrom, and others). This
will enable you to share progress upward
as efficiently as possible.
These reports, however, will give you
only the simplest view of the work being
done. To truly understand what is happening on your teams, you must maintain high-quality communication with
the managers working for you.
One trick another executive told me
about was to select several projects to
review (not exactly a deep dive but devoting more time than just reading a report)
˲ Skip-level meetings
˲ Large-group all-hands meetings
˲ Regular outbound communication
via email, videos, among others.
You now manage more people than
you could ever possibly keep track of in
your head. You may work with teams
distributed around the country or
around the world. Does it matter if every
single engineer working on a team within a team that you manage feels like he
or she knows you? That might feel like
an impossible challenge if you are managing hundreds of people. But do not
forget, your role is to be the organization
at this level. You represent the company
and its goals.
Feeling a connection with you is a
way for the people on your team to feel
connected with the company they work
for. No, you won’t be friends or even on
a first-name basis with everyone under
you but making an effort to be accessible will help people want to follow your
lead over time. Based on my experience,
the more people spend time with you
and get to know you, the more effective
you can be as a leader.
The name of the game now is trust.
Your people need to trust you, and you
need to trust your people.
Trust, but verify. But there is a caveat
to that trust: You must also audit. Yes,
you trust your managers, but you also do
the work to check in.
This can take a number of forms; for
example, you might do a really deep dive
into one or two programs on some regular cadence. You will get a presentation
from the key players and have time to ask
questions about the work, timeline, and
goals. You will get the chance to review
architecture, call out red flags, and confirm that progress is what is expected.
Just as startups have board meetings,
you can also set up monthly updates or
quarterly business reviews. My favorite
format involves having highlights, low-lights, and sections for special topics.
These forums are a chance for you
to answer questions for the people doing (or, more likely, leading) the work,
clarify your vision or goals for the project, and make sure your team is aligned.
This is a much more sustainable way
to work than just assuming you know
what’s going well and what’s not, based
on a bunch of status reports.
You cannot keep your eye on every
single project and person every single
You must look
further into the
future than you
have probably ever
before to see not
just the project your
team is working
on today, but how
it will connect to
projects that will
be done one to two
years in the future.