Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. Yes I decided to use wordpress instead of blogger. Somehow I was not comfortable with the blogger interface or may be the theme. I moved all my old posts from various blogs here. Let me see how much I can during this year..

-Ferose

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Motivating frustrated team member

This time I will present the strategy that I have followed in the past to motivate the frustrated team member. It is not an easy task to accomplish. But nothing is impossible.

 Communication

First and foremost thing is to communicate the news (that the team member looks frustrated) to the team member. Lot of time it is hard to communicate this bad news. But hiding the problem from the team member will not solve the problem but in reality it will worsen the problem. Clearly tell the current situation on the face. Sometimes the team member doesn’t even know his current status.

 One on One meeting

It is easy to talk and give lot of advice but it is hard to sit and listen. Again if you want to get the team member out of frustration, listen to his side of the story. A few important things to follow while doing this

 

¨     Allocate half an hour in each work week and talk to the team member

¨     Try to listen to the team member with out interrupting his thought flow

¨     Don’t justify anything

¨     Be open to the team member’s suggestion

¨     The meeting should be time bound

¨     There should be clear cut action path decided for both the manager and the team member.

  Feedback

In my personal opinion the major factor for frustration is low respect from fellow team members. Try to help the team member in finding out why the other team members are feeling that way. Don’t give general feedback like “You are not punctual” “You are not dedicated” etc., instead give specific scenarios like “You delayed the delivery of this package which in turn delayed person X delivery” “You were not showing enough interest in getting this Y job done on time”. And also detail regarding what was expected out of the team member in those scenarios.

 Appreciation

This is the most important one. Every team member wants to prove that he/she is of value to the project and will show some visible changes on doing the about steps. It is the responsibly of the leader to identify the changes and appreciate if the team member is heading in the right direction. Appreciating a team member at the right time can work wonders. 

 Follow-up

Once you feel that the team member is out of the frustration don’t give up and act like nothing happened. Try to continue the one on one meeting but with a longer time intervals. Also make the team member feel confident. Allocate more responsibilities and empower the team member.

Indentifying frustrated team member…

After long time I thought of posting something again. This time regarding how to find out, that a team member is totally frustrated.

Every team member starts with lot of enthusiasm in the beginning when one joins a team. One takes up different kinds of job and tries to accomplish them at record speed. Each developer wants to get the recognition from his fellow developer and his lead. As time passes by things change. Some team members are regarded as high due to their technical excellence. Some are regarded high due to the way they present themselves. Slowly this level of differences builds up some kind of frustration with in a team member. If as a lead one cannot identify such a situation and encourage the team member at the end of the day the whole team  needs to face the consequences.

Now the important question is,

“How do a team lead find out that a team member has reached such a frustrated state?”

Over the years in my own personal experience the following list of things can be helpful

Intuition

Intuition is one among the best thing here. If a team lead has understood all his team members well, then a team lead feels that a particular team member is having some problem. But this is like Zen. It takes really long time and good amount of experience for a team lead to attain such a level.

Remaining Alone

As far as I know when somebody is frustrated one prefers to be alone. So if a developer  starts to prefer to be alone rather than being part of the team. Then it is a clear indication. This can be easily identified in team meetings. A frustrated developer never concentrates on what others are saying and doesn’t contribute any of his own comments on the subject. The team member attends the meetings just for the sake of attending the meeting and always ready to get out of the meeting room.

Don’t know

Again this requires some amount of experience to find this out. At a critical time when information is need of the hour a team member who knows the exact information will always come forward irrespective of what. But if a team member is frustrated then he says a clear no and says that some one needs to find the solution for that. Most of the time for an experienced team lead it is easy guess who will know the answer for a particular problem. But it is hard to find out whether a no coming from a team member is a real no.

Follow Orders

The other important aspect of frustration is a team member blindly follows the orders like military commando. In the normal circumstances a team member argues with the lead, if he thinks something is ridiculous. But once a team member is frustrated he will do anything given to him without any thought process. And when there is a problem he comes back with the argument that it was you who suggested such a solution.

Stick to Timelines

Every team member wants to impress others by completing task ahead of schedule. But once a team member is frustrated he will bargain huge amount of time for the smallest of the task. And he sticks to the time frame. If he finishes early he doesn’t come back with pride saying that he has finished early but waits till the allocated time is spent.

Pessimism

The easiest to identify is this aspect. When a team member gets really frustrated he tends be pessimistic regarding everything. Any team lead should be able to identify this very easily.

Next time I will write some solutions for the above list of issues.

-Ferose Khan J

Sharpening the axe…..

Here is my next important lesson that I learned after becoming manager.

First time when I became a manager, I received a set of people as team members. As a team we started to take up task and complete them one after another as per the schedule. Things were normal and we had no issues in meeting the deadlines.

After a while slowly the output from the team started to drop. My managers commented that the initial enthusiasm of the team is gone and people are not doing their job as per the plan. Now with respect to my previous post I believed that my team was putting in the same amount of effort it was putting before. And I did not know what was the problem. So I called for a meeting and explained the situation to the team and the perception that is building up on our team. Everyone agreed that we will put in more effort and prove to the management that there is no lack in our commitment. But the story repeated we missed deadlines more now.

At this time I read a small story

Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter asked for a job to a timber merchant, and he got it. The pay was good and so were the working conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Carry on that way!”.

Very motivated with the boss’s words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could bring only 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but could bring 10 trees only. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees. “I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought.

He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. “When was the last time you sharpened your Axe?” the boss asked. “Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my Axe. I have been very busy trying to cut more trees for you.”

I slowly understood the root cause behind our current crisis. As a team we were working harder and harder day after day. But we were still using the old methodologies. Sometimes we had the tools, but we never investigated in what way we can use that tool better. Sometimes the solutions were already published in the documentations provided to us but we always tried brute force to solve the issue. There is a famous saying from Tesla

“If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search.
I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”

Nikola Tesla

So we as a team started to update our knowledge regarding various tools and technologies. Slowly we were putting in lesser effort but we started to meet our deadlines again. The top management was happy with our quick turn around. But only we as a team knew what went wrong and how we corrected it.

Now a days before inducting any new team member we have made it a practice to give enough basic training regarding all the areas.

The lesson learned was “Knowledge is power” so as a manager it is up to me to update the team members knowledge base as much as required. It saved us lot of time and we never landed into a situation where we had to sacrifice our vacation for the sake of project.

FUD or TRUST in team management..

Last time I promised that I will write further regarding team management. When I became a manager for a small team of 6. It was a new experience. Suddenly I am responsible for a set of individual contributors whom I cannot completely control. And first things that came to my mind was FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).

Fear

That the team member is not doing what I intend but doing something else for eg browsing the web.

Uncertainty

That the team member will not complete the task in the allocated time and because of that all my planning and scheduling is going to go for a toss.

Doubt

Whether the team member is really spending time in doing the job or is just acting in front of me.

But luckily before becoming a manager I worked as an individual contributor under 2 nice managers Unnikrishnan and Ansuman who taught an important lesson.

That lesson was a manager should trust his team. A manager should never think his team member would cheat him.

It is true that out of a 6 member team 2 may get distracted to other things. But for the sake of those 2 if the manager starts to doubt all the other 4 definitely the team will act as per the manager’s perception. So when the manager is not around they would sit and browse. And act like working in front of him. 

In my own experience I have seen that each member in the team expects respect from his other colleagues and his manager. And if he comes to know that his manager trusts him it works wonders. He may be browsing in front of the manager that is not really important but when the manager is not around he will do the work which is very important. This way a manager need not do any micromanagement.

So the first lesson that I learned was to get rid of the FUD and have TRUST in my own team.

– Ferose