What does a manager do? Manages, that’s pretty straightforward, right? The central question here is: How many meetings should a manager have? At the core of this issue is trust and connection between managers and their team, especially when scaling in a growing company. In my experience as a CEO, I’ve found that trust is the key, but how do we maintain that trust as we grow?
The Nature of Management
In a software development company, most managers manage people. I’m not a fan of the word ‘manage’, because I feel like it implies that people need to be controlled and that for some reason they can’t work on their own. In a highly professional team, in my opinion, the management job is less about ‘controlling’, and more about helping people.
Imagine a construction yard with a lot of people doing their jobs. Someone sits high above operating a crane. Others are on the ground, unloading something from a truck so that the crane can pick it up and lift it to the 22nd floor of that high-rise building that is being built. Others are at the top of the building, receiving the materials. Someone has to oversee the whole process while being outside of it, to help everyone work together. That’s what a manager does in a software project. Again, any manager, in my opinion.
When you work with many people, trust is the most important factor. Even though we’re not firefighters or spec ops, we rely on each other. It’s important for developers, designers, QA engineers, analysts to trust their manager and each other. It’s important for a manager to trust her team.
Now, the only best way to build trust is getting to know each other. Unfortunately, it’s not just about the time working in the same company that counts, it’s the time we spend together, presumably working on something and dealing with various situations. But what if a manager manages other managers, who in turn manage the team?
CEO Perspective and Scaling Challenges
I’m a CEO, and I don’t have the luxury of working with developers directly for a long time, apart from the tech leads. How do I build trust between me and my team? Do I have to? Or is it unnecessary? I think it is crucial for a CEO of a small company to build trust with everyone on the team. To be honest, I still can’t pinpoint the reason why, but I’ve been doing this for years, and it has an amazing effect on the whole team, including myself.
Unfortunately, this method does not scale, and I don’t know what to do about it. We’ll be at the mark of 40 people soon, and the team keeps growing. Even now, it takes quite some time to talk to everyone even briefly once a month, and often times it’s a longer period. Clearly, when we’ll be two times bigger, it will be only every two months or even more. My concern is that this connection might get lost because we’ll just be too big.
Trust is vital
I don’t believe that CEOs or other management positions are somehow superior to anyone else. It’s simply not true. If tomorrow all of my team leaves, I won’t be able to do nothing for quite some time. Same way, if I leave the team tomorrow, they won’t be able to do much for a while. In both cases, people leaving are replaceable, but the cost would be immense.
We need to trust each other to work together, no matter what our job is — a CEO, a developer, or a janitor if we had one — we’re a fully remote company. Building trust and maintaining it in a growing company is a complex challenge. I’ve shared my methods and concerns, and now I invite you to reflect on your own experiences or to share insights that might help us all grow and thrive.
My biggest fear about the team growing is that we’ll become one of those companies that doesn’t have a human soul in it. Maybe the answer is to stop growing at some point to keep the human connection. Or split into a few specialized teams that are completely independent. For me, the answer is yet to be found. If you know it, please share!
Originally published on Medium.com