Over the years, I have worked in various startups as a manager and gained a lot of experience in managing remote programming teams. I’ve also had a lot of managers and throughout that time, I have observed that some of my managers, as well as myself do some great thing but also miss some very obvious patterns and loops of success that every startup should be following.
Lack of Communication
Since 2018 I’ve worked on remote teams and I’ve learned that they are a different thing to manage. Remote teams require more communication than co-located teams. Unfortunately, some managers don’t understand this, and they fail to establish a regular communication cadence. Without consistent communication, remote team members may feel isolated, unmotivated, or unsure of what’s expected of them.
This can be caused by a lot of things but usually lack of communication is established or perpetuated by my second issue.
Failure to Establish Clear Goals
One of the most common things I’ve witnessed in fast moving startups is for various team members to believe they have the same goals in mind when they don’t. It’s also very clear for managers to get frustrated when they needed to clarify a set of goals a few times because of misunderstanding.
It’s hard to work through this one because, as was with my previous point, the cause is the subject of my next point.
Micromanagement and Lack of Trust
Often when managers are feeling stress they make the mistake of micromanaging remote teams. This can be when they are working on one too many projects or are spread thin. This can even be caused by issues in their personal life.
Getting regular updates about progress is nessesary but some managers can micromanagement causing more stress in the team. This type of management can make team members feeling like they’re not trusted, or that they’re not given the freedom to work independently.
The opposite can also be true though and it’s also common for managers to not give enough support.
Not Giving Enough Support
Remote teams need support often more than co-located teams. I’ve worked for managers who at times would be so busy they just told me “build the project however you want” then once they got more time and reviewed my code they would complain, often in team meeting with other developers present, that I shouldn’t have done something a certain way.
When this type of lack of support followed by blame becomes common it’s a good sign that you need to look for a different job. Without sufficient support, remote team members may struggle to complete their work, leading to delays or mistakes.
Not Prioritizing Team Building
Remote teams need opportunities to build relationships and connect with one another. This is an area that I struggle with the most. It’s very hard to put together events that manage an entire team’s feelings while also having looming deadlines that they feel pressure to complete.
However, managers who neglect team building activities run the risk of creating a disconnected team that doesn’t collaborate well.
Do Fewer Things and Do Them Well
A lot of startup teams are high in energy and can be very high in output. You have to change parts of your business very quickly at times. But when lack of focus becomes common it can lead to no progress, uneasiness in the team, trust issues, and overall dissatisfaction from your team members.
Validate your Learning
Nothing should be assumed to be true until you can empirically validate it.
Everyone must be 100% honest all the time. If you’re not completely honest about your deficits you will fail. A culture of covering up problems or being unwilling to solve them solves nothing.
You Must Measure Your Success
No vanity metrics. The amount of features you have doesn’t matter if no one wants to use them. User growth by itself doesn’t matter unless you can retain the users and know how much you spend to acquire them.
If you’re considering moving to a new job here are some other things to consider.
What’s is the primary thing the company your joining should be good at?
A fintech company should really understand the flow of money.
A marketing should really understand how marketing campaigns are run.
What is something that everyone in the company should be good at?
This comes down to processes for feedback?
How do you review and deploy code?
How do you check if your product will work before building it?
How do you communicate when something doesn’t work?
Once you answer these questions you can hopefully find a company that works for you. There is no one “best” way of running teams but there are certainly sub-optimal ways.