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Climbing the Mountain of Leadership Productivity

Jared Jordan
Growth & Commerce

Whether you are transitioning into a leadership position as a new manager, new to a company, or changing roles, here is a guide with some practical steps to help you plan how to be productive and effective in your first 90 days.

I'm the growth engineering manager for Evernote. I've been a manager for about 10 years at various companies like Microsoft Erickson. And now, now I've traveled to Evernote to bring, bring some, some growth there by a show of hands. How many of you guys have stepped into a company on your first.

And everything was changed from the day you interviewed or decided to change us as a team. Like this has happened to me so many times in my 10 years that I've been traveling to teams and it's been little simple stuff. Like I got to the team and I didn't even have a desk, or I got through the team and I didn't have a manager or I've got to the team and I didn't have a team or an exact organizers organization.

So it's, it's been very, very scary. But what I really want to talk to you guys about is how do we stay calm in these times and give you guys some structured ideas and some plans and how to navigate this area, this area. So you don't have to take any notes. I see a lot of laptops, right? And I'm the growth engineering manager at Evernote.

And I'm going to make sure that there is a link to sign up for Evernote. So all you guys can be new users and I can have some more activations. The very first thing I want you guys to do is to stay calm, stay calm in these times. Everybody talks about this, but like, like you guys heard your team will follow the pattern.

So if you guys are very nervous, like I am right now you guys, your team will exhibit that, those kinds of qualities, right? So the one thing, but the one thing I want you to walk away with today is that your first 90 days is very cruel. To having success over the long journey that you were going to have with this team.

And I'm going to give you kind of three steps over the course of 90 days, and it may be shorter than 90 days. It may be longer than 90 days, but I just want you guys to have a rhythm that you guys can know and have some checkpoints that you can have. So the first one is start surveying the landscape.

The second one is start to drive alignment and the third one is execute on the. So let's, let's dig into the landscape here as a plan with a lot of words and the colors. It's all about having, becoming the first plan in the first 30 days. But you have a gift a lot of times when you transition to a new teams, it's called this empty calendar nobody's scheduled meetings, and nobody even knows who you are.

Right. So you can just start going into meetings and sitting in the corner and you can start having one-on-ones with your direct reports. This will give you an advantage because it's the gift of honest uncut feedback, because you get to see how these people act and behave. It's almost like being in a zoo,

but then you want to dive out and start diving deep into having real conversations about what this world looks like. And when you have these conversations, you want to start having a structured way. So bring some common questions. Here's a couple that I, I usually talk about. I say, can you explain to me the mission very important.

How are the other members on the team? What's it like to work in this team and what frustrates you the most you may add or shrink to that list, but have a plan when you go in there so that you can have some consistency and get some direct feedback from folks. And then you're going to have one, to have a one-on-one with your manager, and you're going to want to ask your manager.

Something like this. What does success look like for me? Like, and what does success look like for this team? And how do you measure that? There might ask you yet, that's your job now, but it's okay. You need to get their perspective. You also want to ask her who are the other stakeholders that I should talk to and when I have one-on-ones with, because you want to make sure that you can start trimming the areas of blind spots that you have, because you won't get every perspective you have from one-on-one right.

All leave. These meetings will take a while. That's why I'm giving you guys about 30 days to get this perspective out. It will help you find the landscape and then start directing you to what priorities that you have. You should start to begin to write down some thoughts. Here's a template that I'm going to give.

You never know

but it's going to let you categorize these priorities and assumptions that you have. So you're going to get there. And a lot of things, they're just going to see this world and you're going to see the teams. And one time when I was, I was transitioned to team, I waited about five weeks and this is the hardest thing is to resist the urge of changing right.

Or jumping in to change the team. But people started like the team was slipping deadline after deadline. And we were in like two weeks sprints and every week they would just go in and say, oh man, we didn't make this sprint. But when I dug a little deeper into that story, it was the team every week had a bunch of production fires.

So they, they were optimizing of solving the production fires over, finishing the work that they had signed up to. So during that one of those meetings, I decided that, Hey guys, look, we're going, let's have this thing called a retrospective at the end of this sprint. And out of the retrospective, somebody said it would really be really.

To like commit and then close on those stories. And I said, yes, but you guys have these production fires. So how about what we do is we take one dev and we put them on call and then let everybody else focus on the sprint activities. Instead of everybody jumping in and fighting the fires as they come, this worked for them.

This enabled them to get closer to what they're doing. This allowed the team to start focusing on the priorities and it established a little bit of credibility with me. They didn't think I was just blowing smoke. So again, a lot of words on this, but we just talked about priorities and that's one of the things that you're going to have to focus in in these 30 day increments about what you decide, what to do and what not to do.

And often the stuff that is that you help people decide what not to do is the most. An example is a lot of people on a lot of teams that I've transitioned to have tasks that they were just given to, especially during this transition period, somebody will say like, Hey, wouldn't it be nice if you take this?

And they're like, they don't have a manager to look up to and say, I don't want this. So they take it. That's one thing you can do to start helping your team drive. It's not a major shift, but it's something that you can do to help them.

Again, it's about the resources. And when I say resources, it's all encompassing to me. It's about the people that you have, the tech debt, the technology, it's all contributes to the friction, to friction points and lead you to conclude some conclusions and hypothesis. Sorry, I'm gonna drink this whole bottle by the time we're done.

But at this point in the process, you have a lot of. And so people are going to be telling you a lot of things and you're going to have a lot of influences, but you're going to need to start digging a little bit deeper to tug at those strings a little bit, to make sure that you have a good foundation for your hypothesis.

So you can understand why along with the technological debt, think about how you're calibrating, the people that are on your team and figure out how you're going to measure that. And also the goals that the mission that you have, I had this, this happened where I thought I had all of the, the resources I have, I understood the technical debt.

And then I went and talked to the people again after the first six to seven weeks. And I figured out half of the resources were likely to abandon, right? In this case, I kind of broke each one up into a individual story. I said, the first person I will call. I'll call her the wanderer every day, they would come and say, I think I want to go on that team over there or this team over there, because I've been on this team for so long.

And so we had to have conversations over a series of one-on-ones that helped me understand that they actually had just been on the team and they'd been maintaining the ship. So what we did was we built a transition plan. One that would help me enable to move this mission forward because we were under an extreme pressure in Denmark.

The second one. Was to give them the freedom to go to the other team. So they still wanted to work hard while were there another person on that scene didn't believe in the mission. And they actually didn't even believe in the company so that I knew they were going to trip. So I had a choice since this has half of the team and I'm having to hire as fast as possible to, we just had the conversation.

I looked at it because this person was very, very technical and could be very helpful in moving some boulders on the. I just said, Hey, if you want to leave, I'm very supportive of that. At some point, the return on the investment though, was like, if you want to leave, let's talk about it and enter your one-on-ones in every one-on-one.

We talked about that, but it also let me allow me to keep this person for over an extra quarter. And we were able to successfully move that project and he helped coach up some, the new people that we have. The other person on the team, she was super frustrated on the project. She knew that we were under extreme deadlines in circumstances, and she just couldn't understand why we weren't moving forward.

What I ended up doing after talking to her peers and some of the other stakeholders on the project, this person was frustrated because they cared so deeply about their company, that they just wanted to move faster and they wanted to work. I wanted everybody to work as hard as they were. So, what I ended up doing is promoting her to be the tech lead of the project that empowered her to make a lot more decisions.

And she helped me coach and build a culture for that team. And we ended up shipping that project.

So keep double checking with your team and make sure you understand the pulse of the team and make sure that you're reaffirming the mission during this, the manager view. So you're in this process, you've still got to continue to understand where your manager is at and how successful to gauge how fast you need to gain momentum and be successful in the project.

So you want to confirm the priorities further and I mean, all the time, every one-on-one, if it's once a week, twice a week reconfirmed because things change landscapes change under discuss the landscape with their hypothesis. Discuss your team members, the resources and how you're calibrating them and walk away with an agreement that you will have at the end, a timetable that you will talk to them, that if you're going to make some changes, when you're going to apply these changes, now let's get a little bit more data.

This is what you're going to do in the second phase of the project. They're going to look at priorities goals, milestones, but you're going to focus on driving these out. The other thing you want to do is make sure that you to getting buy-in, it's just not like a code review where you can take some feedback and punk some feedback.

Well, actually it is a little bit of like a code review that you can punch some feedback, but you want to get this so, so that people can buy in and understand where we're going. So it's not like a big surprise at the end and test your assumption with peers, especially the ones that are key stakeholders, like your product owners and product.

Make sure that you have as flu fight blind spots as possible. So during this last checkpoint with your manager, you're re you're going to change from your hypothesis to discuss solutions. You're going to discuss your plan in action. And then you're going to tell them, and the next phase of this project and the next 30 days, or whatever time you agree on, we're going to accomplish this task.

And here are the outcomes and reconfirm with her that. Now that you have buy-off you're ready for this last phase. The hard work is over. You've done all of your homework and you breathe, confirmed your conclusion with not only your peers, your stakeholders. So it's time to have a good night's sleep.

Cause we're ready to win on to the final climb. You know what the world looks like now you look and you took some time, you sat back, you surveyed the landscape. You've talked to everyone. Now your calendar looks crazy, the landscapes. So you understand what the survey you've surveyed the landscape and you determine what priorities that you need to take action.

And most importantly, you confirm with your manager, what success looks like. So now it's time to start executing your plan. What do you do? You talk some more? You go talk to the humans. Now that you're about to that affect their change. Why? Because they are the people that are. The biggest coaches and helping you change the plan.

If you get buy-in to these cohort, these stakeholders and the key peers, like your tech leads, they will be messengers for you. And it's a very, very powerful gift and make sure that they're actually bought in and that they feel like they're part of the plan. It's an early win and everybody wants to end.

You should be tired of winning, right?

You're not tired of winning. Okay. So what you're doing here is you're building trust along the way. With these early wins, it's a snowball effect, right? You have a couple of early wins. People start believing in your mission. The project starts going a little better. People you're committed to close ratio for your team that you're measuring and starting.

But you're getting people in on this early and showing them and letting them know the direction and letting them know where the process is going. You're being very transparent as possible, even when it involves management, meant tough management decisions that involve personnel and having a clear map and masters in showing them why it's beneficial.

A bit ago, I discussed how I had a retrospective for the. The reason why I had, I, I included retrospective early and so that I could show them in their language, why I was making these changes. That was very, very powerful for them. They then understood why we were making these changes and I can look back and say, Hey, and week three, when we had this discussion, you guys were talking about XYZ and they're like, oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

Okay. Okay. I can follow that path, but you don't have to implement everything in there. And although some of them may initially be resistant to what you're saying. If you show them that line of thought throughout, they will begin to follow your plan.

So what do you do? You're in the final phase, you've already talked to everybody. You've disseminated this plan. You're going to go get some more feedback, right? Because your plan is not going to be perfect. You're going to iterate on this plan as you're going, you're going to reconfirm what you're making.

And make sure that your priorities are still correct. The key here is to always be open to feedback. This is a gift and continue to place metrics around what is success, what success looks like and measure it, and then continue to execute on this. Dave L about in 2015 in calibrate show this very chart, it's really about what you should be doing on a day to day basis about the people.

And the process. Some advice that I would have also is that during this time and injury manager, it's, it's about being a servant to your team. Mecca an injury manager at Google hallway said like every day I go to work and I try my best to earn the right to be my own team's manager. And I, I think that encapsulates being a servant, you have to listen and resist the urge to jump in and do what got you there.

Leading the teams is a little bit different than writing. People are more complex than algorithms. So there's no right answer for every person and get somebody outside your organization, outside your manager, niching that you trust to give you feedback, because that is a gift that keeps on giving. Here's the plan that you guys executed over the course of 90 days.

Remember the first 90 days is crucial. Keep calm survey the landscape and execute on. And get the early wins and you'll be successful. Here's a couple of tips and bibliography that I have where you guys, I always read. The Bible is the best one. Thanks everyone.

About Calibrate—

Founded in 2015, Calibrate is a yearly conference for new engineering managers hosted by seasoned engineering managers. The experience level of the speakers ranges from newcomers all the way through senior engineering leaders with over twenty years of experience in the field. Each speaker is greatly concerned about the craft of engineering management. Organized and hosted by Sharethrough, it was conducted yearly in September, from 2015-2019 in San Francisco, California.