The problem is people and the solution is people!
As of October 1, 2020, I officially have the title
Head of Engineering (Frontend) where I lead and manage the Web and Mobile application development teams. I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment of mine 👩💻 👩💻 👩💻. You can read my journey into technical leadership here. While I have been in the lead role for 2 years now, one thing you would often hear me saying is:
Coding is easy, but managing people is hard 🤦♀️.
Because people are used to being people, a.k.a
humans. We all have our own problems, fears, hopes and dreams. This is true, no matter who you are or what you do.
Show empathy to people! 💯 Encourage open communication amongst people to bridge the communication gap.
When I was a kid, I was always used to saying,
I want to be a good human being whenever I was asked what I aspired to be as I grew up. I can only recall that I had read about this somewhere, and ever since, I have been very fond of this sentence.
Now, as a leader, I always try to be empathetic and supportive, and cannot stress enough on the power of open communication between teams and peers.
In this post I will talk about 4 effective patterns to bridge the communication gap within your team.
- Do not just ask a question, but also the reason behind the question when it is a slack message.
“Did you do this, I am asking because I am looking into the same thing now and have some follow up questions” This helps in reducing the receiver’s stress rather than
"Hey, did you do this?" and the receiver having to wonder what the message could be about until they get to talk to the sender.
- Use emojis or a smile to have a pleasant feel for any conversation.
"I don't understand this" vs
"🙈 I don't understand this". The former can appear to be yelling at a person while the latter is a milder version of saying that you do not understand something.
Example #2: You might be in between meetings, or constantly receiving messages on Slack. Due to the workload, you might be too tired to realize that you are sending a negative tone. During this context, an emoji or a smile can greatly reduce the level of stress.
- When talking to the team, use generic terms to include everyone. Remember to address the teamwork and not take credit onto yourself or highlight your individual approach to someone.
"We prefer to use a code linter" instead of
"I like to use a code linter". Or
"In this component we have used this logic and it works great" instead of
"I was the one to write this logic and it works great".
Example #2: When reviewing pull requests, use
"Let’s do it like this" or
"Can you please do this instead?" rather than
Do it like this. Use of emojis also is highly encouraged to maintain a calm tone while reviewing difficult or lengthy pull requests.
- Keep others informed on what you are doing. Use public channels on your team’s messaging app and avoid 1:1 conversations when discussing important things, so that others too can follow along.
Example #1: A best way to update others is by documenting tasks. This also helps in sharing knowledge and enabling more than one person, other than yourself, to do what you can do. This helps a lot if you are a small team or a startup. I wrote a recent post on how it took me 1.5 days to solve a particular task. This problem could have been solved if the knowledge was shared from the beginning on how to perform the same task which was normally done by another person.
Example #2: If you solved an issue differently or encountered problems while addressing an issue, write a comment on the ticket or code so that others don’t run into the same problem. As developers we like stackoverflow because someone would have already encountered a problem that we run into.
Example #3: Document your processes. If you realise you are repeating something twice then see if you can document to avoid repeating again. This will save effort for yourself and also helps others to learn something faster without you having to explain.
We are all humans and can always crave appreciation in one form or the other. An exhausting workload can encourage you to complain about the bad things, and we often overlook some of the good things that our colleagues do. If you do not support a work culture of respect and appreciation, then it’s quite easy to lose motivation in your daily work.
Example: Let’s say your colleague creates a code pull request. It’s easy to point out at the obvious mistakes, but how often do you try to appreciate the same person in their code pull requests? Appreciating work might seem trivial, but developers will never fail to point out a missing semi-colon or a wrong code syntax.
Below are a few more examples to appreciate each other:
- Like/comment when someone posts something useful in team channels or be prompt to reply
- Appreciate in the team channels what you found interesting, or a good practice your colleague did
- Write encouraging messages, especially for juniors or new hires. They will value your team culture
Appreciate and respect junior/seniors, men/women alike. We are all humans and deserve equal appreciation and respect! 🌟
We started an
#appreciation slack channel at work to give kudos to each other.
By employing the above 3 patterns, you are creating a foundation for trust across your team.
- When you employ a nice tone of talking, you are being empathetic and valuing others feelings
- When you learn to share knowledge, you are investing time in others
- When you appreciate others, you are letting others know that you care about them being part of your team.
Trust plays a key role in bridging the communication gap. When the team trusts you and vice-versa, it is:
- Easier to talk to each other
- Close the communication gap, if any
- Work gets done faster
It is trust that transforms group of people into a team.
Example #1:The first thing I had to learn when I started leading a team was to delegate tasks to others. To achieve this, I had to trust them to be able to finish the task. The task delegation helped me concentrate on other important tasks, and I was able to bring greater value to the team.
Example #2: Trusting in each other means you, as a team, speak and understand the same terminology and be able to bridge the communication gap better.
What communication patterns have you employed in your team or what was the first problem that mattered to you to solve as a leader? Do let me know. Thank you for reading. 🐱👓