Hi, I’m Sasha, product lead, responsible for the development of data products. Making users happier is my job. But it’s important for me to make not only them happier, but also the people around me – the colleagues with whom we create products.
I have been implementing practices to motivate the team for more than 6 years: first at n1.ru, and now at Lamoda Tech. Today I want to share the simplest of them. These are quick recipes that we use to maintain a lively, energetic atmosphere within the team, even when everyone works in different parts of the world and does not want to turn on the camera on calls.
I’ll immediately warn you that these practices do not solve global problems in the company, they will not raise everyone’s salaries and will not make them a level 50 team leader. And we don’t even have statistically significant metrics that could prove that thanks to them we are able to release features into production 2 times faster or earn 1.5 times more money. But it’s a fact that they can make daily work more enjoyable and team communication more honest and effective.
A couple of weeks ago I talked about this at Product Camp:
How do you know if these practices will benefit you? Answer 3 questions.
If you chose the right option for at least one question, then we have something to discuss. And you – or your team lead, project, product – have something to improve in working with the team.
I’m telling you about 6 practices that, by applying them, can make you happier yourself and improve the atmosphere in your entire department or team.
1. The first 5 minutes of the meeting are to create the mood
When you have planned a presentation and connected to the call on time, you often fall into a trap: you either have to remain silent, waiting for all your colleagues to connect, or urgently come up with a topic for conversation.
What should those who connected on time do during the first 5 minutes of the meeting? And is it possible to somehow encourage those who came without delays or reminders?
For example, my colleagues and I solve riddles: what prompt was sent to the Midjorney input, how to move a match to flip the image, find the cat, and so on. During this activity, the waiting time flies by. And the meeting afterwards takes place with great involvement.
To get started, you can just take our pictures. Try it, surprise your colleagues.
2. Questions for the audience during the presentation
You have prepared a great presentation. We gathered our colleagues and showed it, waiting for discussion, and in response – silence. How so?
If there are no questions or suggestions, you probably weren’t listened to. It hurts. But it’s your fault as a speaker for not being able to reach the audience.
I often give presentations when I want to share something with colleagues or ask for their help in implementing an idea. It is important to me that listeners are involved: if we have a lively discussion, then in a 30-minute discussion we are making good progress in resolving the issue. In addition, after a productive meeting, everyone feels satisfied: they see that there are professionals around whom they can rely, and they are convinced that we are a team that can handle anything. Such moments strengthen the ground under our feet, add confidence and energize us for ever larger experiments in the future.
It is important for me to involve the audience, and one of the simple ways to do this is to ask questions “to the audience.” At the beginning of the presentation, warn that there will be questions and ask the children to answer. For the first time, you can separately ask the most active member of the team to help you fill the silence: the team will need time to get used to the new format.
The simplest and most workable question options that I regularly use:
I’m asking for advice: “Why do you think the A/B test metrics are so negative?”
I raise the team’s awareness: “And +1% of revenue is how much in rubles?”, “And what about tube boots and a banana bag?”
I bring it to the brainstorm: “We are thinking of further developing the product in this direction. But if you have other ideas or insights, please share.”
3. One head is good, but five is better
Do you like to give advice? How about complaining about an app to your friends? What about coming up with a solution to a problem, even if you are not an expert in this field?
I am “yes” on all three counts. And many of my friends and acquaintances too. This feature of people can be directed in a useful direction and brainstorms can be organized.
At the meeting, dive into the problems of the user of your product (or identify the problems yourself), and then think about what can be done about it, how to treat it. As practice shows, good ideas can be generated by any team member, regardless of role and skills. The main thing is to use your product and have an eye for it.
Conduct brainstorms with the participation of the entire team or even with the participation of people from different teams and departments. This will help improve the quality of the primary hypotheses, and therefore, ultimately, the likelihood of a successful A/B test.
We at Lamoda Tech have gone further and periodically conduct a series of brainstorms. I talked about this format in article.
And this summer, in the teams I work with, we organized a whole Research & Development week, during which any employee could feel like a product owner and go through all the stages from pitching an idea to developing an MVP and defending the product in front of the jury (if the article gets 10,000 views, we will tell this story). Our hypothesis was that the startup atmosphere, constant brainstorms, and work in the hackathon format would allow us to generate non-standard ideas and create new, breakthrough products. The results did not disappoint.
A bonus of such formats: over the next quarters, the teams will refine and implement the most potentially profitable ideas that they came up with together, and not just someone “brought down from above.” And this is much more interesting!
4. Going beyond
The product manager is responsible for the product, the designer is responsible for the user experience, the project manager is responsible for the implementation deadlines, and the team lead is responsible for the team. Developer, data scientist, analyst and tester – for the quality of the developed solution. Everything has been distributed, cool! Yes? Or not?
I think that each person on the team should be responsible for their own piece of work on the product. But there are situations when everyone can do a little more – and this will lead the team to a better result.
A developer can receive a task, estimate it in 2-3 weeks, and simply roll it out to sale. Or he may offer to slightly adjust the functionality and help convey value to the user in just a week.
The project can introduce best product testing practices and introduce a quality control system in order to reduce time-to-market.
The product manager can be outside the team, be responsible strictly for the product, and meet with the team only at grooming and planning meetings. Or he can teach the team leader how to conduct incendiary retros, start tracking the team’s speed and speeding it up.
When I first joined Lamoda Tech 4 years ago, I used retrospectives to get to know the team, to increase confidence in me, and to immerse myself in the nuances of developing ML products. The site helped me a lot Retromat, where you can put together an interesting meeting format in a few minutes. I regularly conducted retros, tracked changes in the team, and after a year the team lead and I were pleased to see good progress! A motivated team worked better, and users received new versions of the product faster.
These are just a couple of examples. Has there ever been a time on your team that you or another person did more than was asked of you? At this moment, negative examples may come to mind when, because of such an initiative, another unsolicited case was assigned to you – this happens. But in my practice there were much more positive examples: proactivity is beneficial.
5. Friends are somewhere nearby
Black squares without cameras on Zoom, Google Meet, or whatever you are using are not soulless entities. There are people behind them. Alive. Honestly!
If you remember this and sincerely want to get to know these people better, you can find interesting interlocutors, and maybe even friends.
While everyone is logging in to daily on Monday, ask who did what over the weekend. And tell us how you played The Witcher on PlayStation all weekend. Find out at the grooming site who lives where now and what they do in the evenings. At the retrospective, ask about the weather outside the window – and complain that your foliage is already turning yellow. And if a cat or dog appears in your colleague’s photo, find out the cutie’s name. The conversation will only take a couple of minutes, but the good mood will remain much longer.
For what? Yes, it’s just more fun and easier to work, I tested it myself.
It’s cool to have someone to go to the office for and someone to play a game of tennis with.
A meeting goes easier when you can first discuss the latest episode of Ted Lasso.
It’s easier to accept developmental feedback if you understand that it was said by a “normal dude” and not with the aim of asserting oneself or offending.
Only in a trusting atmosphere can you laugh heartily and be yourself.
Take the first step. Today. Now!
6. A kind word pleases everyone
Everyone loves to be praised for their great skills and actions. If you can sincerely see the strengths of those around you, tell them about it!
Team lead had a great brainstorm? Praise his ability to involve guys and support other people’s ideas.
Did the developer complete the task quickly? Thank him for the speed and quality.
Does the product always clearly and clearly describe the tasks? Mark this skill, people like this are as rare as unicorns.
By sincerely saying kind words and receiving a smile in return, I feel my mood improve and our performance as a team increase. This is both pleasant and useful.
Let’s do this: praise one of your colleagues today. And for your willingness to bring joy to the masses – a compliment from me right now: “You are the sunniest person in the city today! Thank you for sharing your warmth and light.”
What has changed in our teams thanks to these 6 practices? It’s difficult to measure this truthfully, but what I noticed:
The team knows its product and develops it together with the product.
The speed of development in teams has increased.
Every 3-6 months – cash launches.
The level of support and care for each other is high.
Low staff turnover.
If these ideas resonate with you, but you don’t feel the strength to change anything, send the article to your product, project or team lead with the words: “Listen, here are a couple of interesting ideas on how to improve the atmosphere in our team. I would like to try to implement something from the list. What do you think?”
And if you are a team lead or product leader yourself and are looking for options on how to increase engagement or improve the atmosphere in the team to speed up product development, then everything is in your hands. Start with one point and make it regular: in a couple of weeks or months you will see results!
I wish everyone to come to work with a smile – and leave with it too 🙂