Leading hundreds of people. What it means to manage big teams today
2020 will forever remain synonymous with COVID-19 and related crises. But, even after we curb COVID-19, people and businesses will never be the same again. What are the current trends in team management? How has the IT market and candidates changed? How do we find the middle ground between people with different mentalities and work styles? These and other questions are answered by Oleksandra Titkova, Service Delivery Manager at Innovecs.
The manager often has to act as an intermediary between the client and the team. In addition, it is necessary to protect the interests of the team and satisfy the client. You can keep the balance only when you are in objective reality and clearly aware of the interests of each party.
Objective reality is often governed by purely formal things: contracts and agreements, which are important as a reminder for yourself as well as colleagues and customers. And understanding the interests of the parties makes it possible to calculate certain actions a few steps ahead and thus prevent possible negative consequences.
You work with two projects each having up to 100 people. How do you deal with conflicts in such large teams, and how do you motivate your employees?
Conflicts always arise from emotions, and I as a manager need to adhere to absolute neutrality. In international teams, due to different mentalities, it is mostly hidden conflicts that often arise. In this case, it is important to understand both sides and to act as a translator: to explain to colleagues what exactly the client requires and to communicate to the client why people react in this way.
Conflicts also take place between teams, and it is almost impossible to hide them here. The scheme of work with such conflicts differs depending on the size of the team. The larger the team, the weaker the connection due to the random selection of different types of people. In a small team, one manager can afford to build a team that is close to him personally. And here, everything is usually good until the small team begins to scale.
Simply because we are all different I try to focus on each person: everyone has their own needs, thoughts, and visions. While dealing with a conflict I once again remind everyone of the objective reality, and ask people to abstract from the situation and objectively analyze the actions of others.
Effective management comes only with experience, is it possible to improve your skills?
Normally, any skills can be improved by courses, training, special educational programs. However, without sufficient practice, mistakes, and conclusions, a mere theory is not enough. Experience plays a pivotal role. For example, my extensive experience in HR helps me a lot: I understand the psychology of people, I feel free to make important decisions, I have learned to work in a multitasking environment and to be stress-resistant.
I also read a lot of professional blogs, but I’m pretty meticulous about choosing them. The fact is that the advice that most offer is not in parallel with my own experience or vision. For example, Natalia Tylka is one of my favorite coaches and bloggers, whom I read and listen to all the time. Natalia runs her Telegram channel and Facebook page, she always gives a lot of practice and stays on point.
What trends in company management are you familiar with? Which ones do you use yourself?
Trends and guidelines in team management always depend on values and business strategies. Therefore, I think it is wrong to take a certain set of trends as a theoretical basis and apply them to all businesses. But there is one factor that has forced us all to change our approach to work — COVID-19. Amid quarantine and new work format, I would single out 3 main trends. They are not new, but now more relevant than ever:
- Well-being, work & life balance. Remote mode blurred the line between work and personal life. You get up, drink coffee, sit down at the computer, and the working day begins before you know it. And you close your laptop when you go to bed: there are no breaks, like the one you used to have while driving to the office or back. As a result, we get tired and burn out quickly, and this is a big problem that managers and businesses need to tackle.
- Getting things done (responsibility & commitment). In my opinion, the market is now moving towards reducing control and expanding people’s freedom, even though the work will be done one way or another. That is, no one will control your every move, but you trust your subordinates and know that the tasks will still be completed.
- Freelance. The personnel market in Ukraine is now very overheated, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a specialist. The competition for talent is higher than ever. Therefore, candidates use it and strive to work on their own terms: a flexible schedule, part-time option, zero dependence on the office while earning as much as a full-fledged office worker. Due to the market situation, companies often have to accept these conditions and adjust.
Therefore, I think it is the right thing to hire entirely freelance teams for projects where the level of security, scope, and format of tasks allows it. Here is a win-win approach: you can ease the team workload, reduce the pressure on recruitment, and close business tasks.
What motivates you and keeps you from burning out?
Although I am often the “lightning rod” person who motivates and charges everyone, I am also the same person who needs to find sources of inspiration. I am very motivated by positive feedback when my work is positively evaluated. I do not take negative feedback as a challenge, it only demotivates me. But positive feedback definitely gives me wings.
In my work I try to find something interesting in each task — then I will definitely enjoy it. In addition, it is very important for me to periodically reboot, preferably with absolutely no access to mail and work messengers.
I drive inspiration from people I work with, and I happen to be surrounded by very energetic and passionate colleagues. Every year I see glaring eyes, new faces, and bright personalities, and each of them gives me a chance to try myself from different angles and in new roles. This energy of a newcomer is invigorating, and I always want to mirror it and give back. Therefore, we inspire each other not to stop and move on. Movement forward is always a positive thing. And it is great when there are numerous opportunities for everyone to evolve within one company.