Developing Your Team

Leaders commit to developing themselves and their team. They develop their team by learning about their career goals, strengths, and growth areas then leverage these insights to help them meet performance goals. You should have a deep understanding of your team’s capabilities and determine how to fill in the gaps so you can achieve your goals.

  1. Motivating your team – “Think about what fuels the team in terms of what they need (think love languages)”
  2. Dealing with your high-performers – “Roll out the red carpet for all-stars”
  3. Coaching & developing others
  4. Building your team
  5. Resolving interpersonal issues
  6. Knowing when to let an employee go: “Firing well is just as important, if not more important, than hiring well. And, you gotta fire fast”

Motivating your team – “Think about what fuels the team in terms of what they need (think love languages)”

Everyone has different drivers which means you have to find creative ways to motivate each member of your team. This entire guide was created to help you motivate your team; as you read the playbook you will find practical ways to fuel your team can include:

  1. Sense of mission and growth as well as clearly defined goals
  2. Great work environment and culture that values recognition and praise
  3. Seamless Communication
  4. Flexibility in work hours and style
  5. Ideal Management Style

Dealing with your high-performers – “Roll out the red carpet for all-stars”

All-stars should be kept at the organization to the best of your ability. It’s important to understand what motivates them so you can find creative ways to keep them engaged and challenged in their role. These all-star performers are the ones who can make or break a business. They create an insanely powerful ripple effect that motivates teammates across their team and the company. Their example is priceless.

This doesn’t mean they are coddled or allowed to be jerks (all-stars are team players, collaborators, and team enablers, not just highly talented).

They should be compensated at the highest bands, given greater and greater responsibility, and be honored and recognized for their contributions in a big way. They should earn greater and greater growth opportunities.

Coaching and developing others

Great managers don’t tell their employees what to do; they coach and partner with their direct reports to solve problems. Managers who coach their teams have seen better engagement, higher productivity, improved performance, and self-confidence for the employee. As you coach, your discussion should align with your employees’ career goals. Help bridge the gap and explain how their growth areas will set them up for long-term success. It’s important to note that you should also coach your peers, your boss, project contributors, and other employees across the organization. You are expected to help create our feedback and coaching culture. You can build a coaching relationship that leads to development by:

1. Exhibiting compassion and empathy for your teammates and all Bolters
Encourage vacations, recognize burnout, prioritize your team’s health. Ask about their culture and experiences. Understand how you can best support them; be in service to your teammates. Take a vested interest in people.

2. Having career conversations regularly
Once a quarter, schedule time outside of your normal 1:1 to conduct a career conversation and dive deep into growth areas, reflections, learning opportunities, and 6-12 month goals for themselves/role. You should provide performance transparency so your teammate knows where he/she stands.

3. Not skipping weekly 1:1s
Your 1:1s are the perfect opportunity to coach your direct report regularly. This is time to strengthen the relationship, develop trust, and create a safe environment. Prepare in advance even though your direct report drives the conversation. Check-in on key areas like their wellbeing, growth and learning, work relationships, productivity, and impact. Coach them through any issues they are facing as an employee. Ideally, 1:1s should do a good enough job with keeping an employee updated about their development areas that performance reviews don’t reveal much.

4. Investing heavily in feedback
Be thoughtful with feedback and ways to push your teammates to grow. Aim to praise in public and criticize in private. Regularly share constructive feedback. Leverage the feedback section to help build your skills in this area.

5. Asking open-ended questions
Ask probing questions so that the question may trigger certain reflections and insights in your team. You want to guide them through the discovery process on their own.

6. Providing positive reinforcement
Recognize behaviors that reflect company values and let your employee know what they are doing right.

  • Call-out behaviors that detract from our values as an organization. Be prepared to escalate the issue to Human Resources and place the individual on a Performance Improvement Plan if you notice that the behavior hasn’t changed.

7. Finding stretch projects and learning opportunities
Don’t let the skills of your teammates atrophy; find work for them that will help with their growth areas. Find innovative ways to keep them engaged and excited about the next challenge.

  • Stretch projects – As you build relationships across the business, ask other department leads if they have projects that can help with your team’s growth. “Dumpster dive” in other team’s ”someday/maybe” teamboard or projects; this could be a great way for your reports to learn about another part of the company and build skills outside of the scope of their role.
  • Build their network – Connect them with leaders and mentors that could help provide insight on how to get to the next level in their career. You don’t always have to be the main coach. Help create their support system.
  • Share learning resources – Post recommended articles, podcasts, and videos in your team channel as a way to encourage informal learning. Include your key takeaways and perhaps host a monthly team lunch to review/discuss materials.
  • Prioritize attending training sessions – Create the opportunity for your team members to prioritize attending an upcoming training. Make a recommendation on topics that you think they should focus on but find ways to make sure they are receiving the training they need to grow.
  • Common mistake – Not making employees feel safe (also can be: over-focusing on what you work on at the expense of how you work on it. i.e. ignoring team dynamics). Google’s Project Aristotle, a large-scale study on what makes effective teams, found that one of the top five attributes of top teams is “psychological safety”. If your employees don’t feel safe in their role, if they don’t feel safe to take risks, you are losing value. Embrace risk-taking and being 20% wrong. Listen to people with an open mind.
  • Common mistake – Underinvesting in hiring and training. The people you hire will make or break your company. Don’t expect them to be productive if you just throw them into the heat with no training

Building your team

When building your team, move away from being reactive to proactive. You must plan out and manage growth on an annual basis. You need to understand the annual business goals and plan headcount appropriately. Be honest about the limitations of your team from a skills and bandwidth perspective. Requesting headcount and funding for vendors should not be the default, however, headcount requests are appropriate when you need the resources to achieve business expectations. You are responsible for making sure your team can meet what the business needs at all times. You should have an ongoing meeting with Human Resources to discuss team capacity and headcount planning. During these meetings you can assess if you need a new team member or perhaps you should restructure your team to be more effective. In tandem, you should also discuss headcount needs with Finance (and Department leads depending on level) to assess budget and potential constraints that may impede your ability to get the headcount approved. As you approach the discussion with Human Resources, think about the long term consequences if you are unable to secure another employee and the impact that new employee will have on the organization and the team. You may need a new headcount if:

  1. You notice considerable skill gaps on your team
  2. The team is continuously overworked and starting to burnout
  3. You can’t achieve organizational goals with the current team size
  4. You need leverage to prepare for upcoming scale

As you build your team make sure you are only hiring the best. Hire slowly, if needed. Never compromise on talent to hit short-term goals. Know that your teammates are your greatest investment in your team’s long-term success. Never compromise on the long term in exchange for the short term. Review the hiring playbook to learn about our talent philosophy and hiring process.

Resolving interpersonal issues

When resolving interpersonal issues, strive to do it in-person (i.e. talking whether in actual person or on a video or phone call) as much as possible. When resolving interpersonal issues, the communication hierarchy is as follows: In-Person or Video > Phone > Asana > Slack. If the problem persists, bring in Human Resources for assistance as early as possible. Your HR Business Partner can act as a mediator, help roleplay conversations, and assist with conflict resolution.

When communicating constructive feedback, do it verbally, but also document in writing. See the feedback section.

Knowing when to let an employee go: “Firing well is just as important, if not more important, than hiring well. And, you gotta fire fast”

There are times when you will have to make the difficult decision to terminate an employee. It’s important to be firm with these decisions, but also carry them through with kindness and care.

Remember that letting go of underperformers (and doing so with care) is the most empathetic thing you can do for them. Sometimes there are also organizational changes that demand a different skill set and your current team members don’t have the capabilities to fit that change. In both instances it’s important not to prolong the inevitable; this delay can lead to disruption for your team. Being empathetic with the transition allows the person to move onto finding the right fit for them.

It’s also the most empathetic thing you can do for your team. A strong culture is one that’s built on motivated top performers. There is nothing that will demotivate a top performer faster than a low performer. It creates a sense of deep unfairness and makes it not fun to work with that individual. This is compounded if there are higher ranking low performers — that’s why managers and executives must be held to exceptionally high standards.

And finally, it’s the most empathetic thing to do for yourself (don’t forget to value your enjoyment of coming to work in this whole thing!). If someone causes you distress as a manager to have around, that impacts your energy and thus impacts your ability to give 100% to the rest of the team.

1. If you’re thinking about letting someone go, it’s already too late.
The toughest part of terminating someone is making the final decision to do so. Here are some sanity check questions that will help you see the bigger picture and gain final conviction:

  • How would the team and other stakeholders respond to this termination? How will it be received?

Exception: there are certainly cases of folks who are beloved socially but bad performers, they are some of the toughest to terminate, but it must be done.

  • Does this person continually impress you in their outcomes, or do they require constant hand holding?
  • If you were starting a search over for this role, would you hire them again?
  • Has this person done a complete 180 after being delivered serious feedback?
  • Is this person a “Hell Yes” on your team?

2. More signs that indicate it’s time to terminate the employee:

  • Productivity is down,
  • They are causing problems with the team/stakeholders,
  • They are not following the values/behaviors of the company,
  • They are violating your HR policy,
  • There is continuous underperformance.

When an employee is violating the HR policy please skip the below process and contact your Human Resources team immediately for assistance.

3. Follow the process:

  • Document and give feedback about the situation – Have a conversation with the individual and share your concerns about the path they are on.
    • Feedback should be continuous and timely. Waiting only creates mistrust that you didn’t tell them sooner
  • Monitor any behavior change – Over a few weeks, monitor if the employee course-corrected and made any adjustments.
  • Connect with your HR Business Partner – Request that the employee is placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Alternatively, tag feedback as “Serious” when giving it to that employee. This indicates that a behavior cannot continue. Read more about this = in the “how to give great feedback playbook”.
  • Share PIP or Series Feedback with employee – Have a conversation with the employee about expectations and potential next steps if adjustments aren’t made.
  • Monitor progress – Depending on the timescales discussed in the PIP or Serious Feedback, continuously monitor and document updates.
  • Request an official termination to be granted – Share your feedback with your HRBP about recommended next steps and move towards terminating the employee.

4. Always do it sooner than later

  • Frequently, managers convince themselves that now is not the right time to let the person go. All are false beliefs, even though you will convince yourself otherwise, for example:
    • “There’s too much going on.” → Keeping this individual around kicks the can down the road of reallocating work. It will demotivate top performers and may cause attrition from your top performers. Even if it doesn’t in the short term, every passing day is a hit to their morale and trust in you as a strong leader.
    • “It will cause too much commotion on my team at this point in time” → High performers respect you for making firm decisions that are best for the business. It will give them more faith in you as a manager.

No matter the circumstance and how we are parting ways, you want to do it with firmness but also with grace, kindness, and care. Engage with your Human Resources team to help you navigate the process.