Saturday, July 25, 2009

Are You Following Your Team's Information Stream?

If not, you suck. Really, you do. You sucky suck suck. You're a bad, bad manager. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

It's sad really, because you've got a great team, that's filling the atmosphere with fantastic information, and you're not taking the time to soak it in. Chances are, most people on your team are on Twitter. Also chances are there's a solid percentage of your team that's got a blog somewhere. This is likely the most valuable information that you can possibly consume. But you don't, so you suck.

I don't think you're alone though... I think that most manager's only hook into their team's digital personality is IM status, and that's just sad (though, I've seen some really good IM statuses). But, did you know that your most introverted engineer has 3,000 status updates on Twitter? Did you know that your Project Manager has a blog about Haskell coding? Did you know that your QA engineer is a semi-pro kickboxer?

Your team is giving you feedback, intentionally, indirectly. I think it's time that you need to accept the fact that this stream is like a uber-informative facial expression. Your team is letting you know how their day went, what they think you're doing wrong (or right), and what they think the company is doing wrong (or right). Maybe it's a bit passive aggressive, but who cares if they're telling you something that you should be hearing? Is there really a better channel for them?

As a manager, you've always got time to learn more about the craft, practices, people... And your team member's streams are full of great information about it. Believe it or not, they're thinking about work just as much as you.

Your team is likely doing very, very interesting stuff outside of work. Having an idea of what that is, and showing that you're interested in it goes a long way toward strengthening your relationship. Think about walking in on a Monday morning and saying "Saw you went hand gliding, how awesome was that?" instead of sounding like a fucking tool at the water cooler saying "How was your weekend?" and getting the same old "Good, yours?", followed by the awkward silence then "ok, have a good one". Get involved, and you'll have something interesting to talk about.

Your team would appreciate it. As a manager, your team looks up to you, and them knowing that you're paying attention and interested in what their doing, makes them feel appreciated. The more they do to feel appreciated through this information stream, the better off everyone is. You're all growing.

So, here's the good news; I can retract the sucky bad manager claim if you start following your team's information stream today. Do it, or you still suck.


programmergrrl said...

I'm trying to decide if I don't suck because I read your article or because I'm not a manager in the first place ;-)

Ben said...

I officially don't suck... Or at least if I do it's nor for failing to read this post.

Jim Fiorato said...

Chris, you're right. While I think that most write knowing there's a possibility of whomever they are writing about may actually read, there's probably a bit more restraint around the content of a post when you know for sure that person is reading the post.

But, I do want to clarify... I'm not saying that blog/Twitter is the most proper place for a team member to provide feedback. Blogging about how your manager sucks, or how you don't get paid enough, or how your process blows, should all be raised at work directly through the proper channels.

I think a non-sucky-bad manager can glean a lot of early warning signs of stress, unhappiness, and burnout from reading the team member's information stream though, and can be proactive handling those situations.

programmergrrl said...

There's nothing wrong with tweeting or blogging your experiences, both good and bad, whether or not you think your manager will read them.

Write to exchange knowledge with the community—to share what you've learned with your peers and learn what you can from them. When you tweet or blog, you never know what insightful response (or completely moronic flame) you might get. That's the beauty of the Internet.