I've done a lot of research on how to be a good manager, but now do I just "trust the process" or how do I ensure we are a high performance team over the next half?
I'm a newish EM at a Series-B start up of 150 people, ~25 engineers. So far I have positive feedback from my manager and reports that I am empathetic and supportive. What my manager is telling me now though is that we need to see results. Productivity and performance seem OK in my first months but it is too soon to really see my impact. My manager noted that since we have scaled up from 4 engineers to 25 and gone mostly remote over 3 years there may be a loss of a sense of urgency and the feeling of impact per dev. We are also split into many teams with a smaller scope per team.
The temptation when asked to "get results" might be to ask for constant updates from developers and punish them when fake hard deadlines are given and missed (we are a B2C company so there are rarely actual deadlines). So how do I motivate my team to work hard in a healthy sustainable way? How do I measure the progress and reward them fairly while creating a team focused culture and not one that is competitive and individualist?
Below are some of the management ideas I'm using/working towards. I have lots of room to learn how to do each better, so advice on which to prioritize my effort at improving first would be great in addition to notes on what's missing and what seems off on the list:
Bonus questions about motivation: In 1:1s how do you figure out what motivates someone since they might not say extrinsic things like money even if that is what they are working for, or the opposite they might be happy at their level and just like the work they do with a good work life balance but might not say that directly either. Also if there is a team of 5 where 2 want money and 3 love the work for itself, how do you tailor their experience to that? The first two will still want fun/interesting work and the second three still want to get promoted and compensated fairly.
You are already in a good direction.
I would ask one question: For the sake of what?
The goal to achieve a high-performance team should be a by-product of the bigger goal.
I would suggest thinking about the care of your engineers.
It is not ideal for focusing on getting the best output from them and triggering their motivation buttons. Let us treat them as humans instead of machines.
Genuine relationships are built on care and building trust. Can you be that manager they have been hoping for all their lives? Can you see beyond the performance and see them as humans who have challenges, ambitions, and concerns?
When this care and trust are established, you will be able to inspire them, listen to them, and help them in their career.
Happy engineers with back from a manager will give you all when needed. Take care of them, and they will take care of you and the company.
Care and trust are the starts; then there are other sensibilities you need to build afterwards, which I will post another time.
There's a lot of questions here (alongside a bunch of things that are already right directionally), so I'll split up my response into multiple parts.
So how do I motivate my team to work hard in a healthy sustainable way?
It's interesting that you don't have actual deadlines as a B2C company. I understand that B2B has formal contracts, but B2C is a tough space as well: Consumers are demanding, haha. Anyways, less "deadline culture" makes this a lot easier.
Tactically, what I recommend:
At a high-level, if you want your team to be chill, then be chill yourself. 😊
How do I measure the progress and reward them fairly while creating a team focused culture and not one that is competitive and individualist?
This is actually 2 very separate questions rolled into one.
In 1:1s how do you figure out what motivates someone
This one is straightforward: Build up trust. For resources on how to that, I recommend the following:
I also recommend the in-depth case study I gave about how I grew Meta engineers lightning fast: [Case Study] Mentoring Junior SWEs [E3] to Senior [E5] In Just 2.5 Years At Meta
The fastest-growing managers (i.e able to go from M1 -> M2 -> D1 very quickly) I knew were all able to get their reports promoted very quickly.
Lastly, I agree with pretty much all the bullet points you have in the original question about tactics you're thinking about. Just follow through on those and lead with empathy - I'm sure you've got this 💪
What's already been shared here is great and as you've seen some are motivated by different things. Work and money are my top most things and I think you're able to tell who has what motivations already. I'd focus the two interested on money bigger problems in the organization knowing they will wield the power responsibly and then make sure the others still get interesting work to keep them engaged.
Now, when it comes to deadlines, always make sure you have hard deadlines and tell the engineers that. This is how you get them to be reasonably motivated. Also keep in mind several realistic targets that I would do with statistical project management before I ever approached the team about this and ever even commit any dates to contract. In a sense, with these resources how likely am I to make the dates given and toy around with that before ever bringing the staff onboard. Once the deadlines are decided though, everyone needs to move in unison and its likely going to be hell for them. Support them in this, take their feedback and adjust the culture as the culture itself of the place is going to be inefficient for the goals you have outlined and so you get into debugging lots of cultural problems too. Along the way, you also have to learn how to help the culture learn to chart course in a very hostile, competitive free market.
Here's some books that I've found useful:
Hope this helps!