Two weeks ago, Top Chef aired their Restaurant Wars episode. With sports on hiatus, there aren’t many other forms of entertainment that can display team dynamics and leadership in a tight, narrative package. The annual Restaurant Wars episode in particular is a Petri dish for watching how teams form and storm all the while waiting to see if they can ever truly perform. After this episode airs every year, I’m inspired by what teams can do as well as the lessons that get enforced by the teams that can’t. Now more than ever, these examples remind us of the teams we can be and how we can avoid mistakes that trip up other teams.
In college, I took a pool class. That’s billiards, to be clear. Every Wednesday morning one spring semester, I spent an hour shooting pool in the campus activity center. I was late for the class twice. If you’re late for the class three times, the highest grade you could get was a B. This says more about my timeliness than it does about the class.
There’s a sense of finality that can come from finishing up writing reviews. Whether you hit send weeks ago or you edited your team members’ review until the last moment, you have earned a breather. Take a breath. Heck, take two. All set? Good because next we do the work that counts: delivering the performance review.
The first few weeks of the year can bring fairly different paces to a startup. Some companies left for the holidays with their Q1 planning set and they are slowly ramping up steadily from the holidays to execute. Other orgs are just starting to get their Q1 and year-long plans set for 2020. The start of the year is upon us, and so the one thing both of those organizations have in common is that they are probably gearing up for performance reviews. Whether you are kicking off the cobwebs or you’re hustling and struggling to clear some downtime to write, here are my tips for making the most out of the practice.
There’s a thing that happens when an engineer gets bored. They’ll be on a project, and instead of making the best decision for the work at hand, they’ll make the decision that’s interesting. They’ll make the decision that fights boredom. This typically involves writing some code from scratch that’s imminently available, extensible, and supported as a library or even three. As a manager, this is a tough spot to be in, but there is a counter to this. The idea is to change the problem. Instead of asking the engineer to solve the problem at hand, make the problem choosing amongst libraries available and building from scratch. Make the problem the choice. Changing the problem can be a powerful tool.