Check out this email from Elon Musk to employees at Tesla on communication within the company:
Subject: Communication Within Tesla
There are two schools of thought about how information should flow within companies. By far the most common way is chain of command, which means that you always flow communication through your manager. The problem with this approach is that, while it serves to enhance the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company.
Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one dept talks to a person in another dept and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager who talks to their manager who talks to the manager in the other dept who talks to someone on his team. Then the info has to flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding.
Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager’s manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else’s permission. Moreover, you should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens. The point here is not random chitchat, but rather ensuring that we execute ultra-fast and well. We obviously cannot compete with the big car companies in size, so we must do so with intelligence and agility.
One final point is that managers should work hard to ensure that they are not creating silos within the company that create an us vs. them mentality or impede communication in any way. This is unfortunately a natural tendency and needs to be actively fought. How can it possibly help Tesla for depts to erect barriers between themselves or see their success as relative within the company instead of collective? We are all in the same boat. Always view yourself as working for the good of the company and never your dept.
As a manager I try to encourage this type of action with my team. I don’t need to be ‘in the know’ of everything that is going on. I don’t need to be spoken with first. I’d much rather the employee to take direct action and ‘get things done’, vs. following a chain of command.
Check out this awesome video of Steve Jobs responding to an insult. Well worth your 5 minutes.
I found this video to be fascinating and think it has several takeaways that all leaders should note:
As a leader, you need to handle being put on the spot.
Resist the initial emotional reaction. Breath. It’s OK to pause to collect your thoughts.
Admit they are right. Point out where you agree with the accuser.
Steer the conversation to the bigger picture. Why are we here in the first place?
Acknowledge the hard work of the team.
Admit you may be wrong, but that’s OK because decisions are being made, and course corrections will occur.
What I loved about this strategy is that it’s really hard to disagree with any of the points above. You end up nodding your head and agreeing with him by the end, regardless of the original point being made by the accuser. He ignores the personal attack and does tie his response periodically back to the original question.
I’m now on my second company that offers a policy of ‘unlimited vacation time’. As an outsider coming from a company with a rigid time off policy and time card system, this sounds very alluring. But, does it actually work?
As a manager, it’s very easy to quickly lose your technical edge. Most of your day will get filled with meetings, planning sessions, strategy sessions, tactical status updates, 1 on 1’s, etc. On top of a day filled with meetings you will need to figure out how to execute various initiatives, and spend nights catching up on email.
Given the above time and mindshare constraints, how can anyone expect you to have time to keep up with technical skills?
The simple answer is, “it doesn’t matter”, you need to figure out a way to do it regardless!
As a manager, I’m always on the lookout for better tools to help increase my productivity. I tend to be a visual person, and like to draw diagrams for everything. When I came across Roadmap Planner from Keepsolid, it seemed like a simple tool that would allow be to quickly throw plans together. Here are my first impressions with the tool:
In my previous article, Top 5 Reasons to Choose Managing Over Coding, I laid out my top reasons why I choose to be a manager rather than software engineer. However, the management role may not be the best option for everyone. In fact, oftentimes I wonder if I even made the right choice myself! In this article I’m going to lay out the counter-argument of why you should continue coding and stay away from management altogether.
I love James Altucher. In case you haven’t heard of him, he’s an investor, writer, and entrepreneur. He has a popular blog, podcast, and a bunch of books. You can find all his material here: www.jamesaltucher.com
[Photo: James Altucher, source: www.jamesaltucher.com]
One of James’ most popular books, and my personal favorite, is called “Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream”. In this book he talks about how the nature of employment is changing, and how we all need to become entrepreneurs. There are several principles that he advocates that I’ve started to utilize at work and have noticed a hugechange. All software managers, really anyone in a leadership position, can benefit from the advice in this book and put it to immediate use. I highly recommend you check the book out for yourself. I also recommend you check out his podcast where he interviews various celebrities (from rappers to venture capitalists to authors).