How to work with people?

Learning to manage people before the team burns out: 21 concepts

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Most newly minted team leaders drive their employees to burnout while they learn how to manage a team. If these tips can help avoid such situations, it’s worth writing them.

I wrote this article for team leaders of small teams and startups. They may not be useful to managers in large companies and corporations.

What I am.

A manager of several small and medium-sized project teams;

a technical director at OnDeck;

remote work manager at AngelList;

and a technical director at Product Hunt.

Let’s get started.

If you’re a manager – the blame is always on you

I know – a very positive start. But there’s no point in getting mad at your team – ever . You are responsible for people and processes, and you always know more than they do. So:

Either you orchestrated the processes that led to this result;

or you hired (or didn’t fire) the wrong people.

Either way, you are roundly at fault.

You manage the processes and you direct the people.

For some reason, for many people, “managing people” means controlling them. Such people end up micromanaging employees: making sure not only what they do and when, but how they do it. If you have the time to do that, you can safely hire easier and cheaper people.

I think the root of the problem is a misunderstanding of the manager’s role in the process:

your job is not to manage people ,

but to manage the processes and to direct the people.

You define the processes, everyone’s areas of responsibility, how their careers are built, and how to discuss and/or change it all. You also have to inspire people by example and through empathy. They have their own goals, fears, and concerns. More than likely, there are problems outside of work, too.

Behave the way you would like them to behave in your position.

Processes are clearly defined expectations.

Many people perceive the concept of “processes” negatively. “We don’t need that many processes,” and so on. This, imho, is again a misunderstanding.

Processes are not complex chains of actors leading to catastrophic costs. Processes are concrete expectations. The wording can be simple, along the lines of “every morning we all do X so the rest of us can do Y without any problems.”

Formulate a couple of very clear processes and set them as a rule.

Decisions vs. opinions

In any discussion/project/problem/situation, it’s important to understand who makes the decisions. The rest of us are simply expressing our opinions.

Ideally, the decision is made by the one who will take all of the further work. The others – I repeat – only share their opinions. This also applies to supervisors.

The manager still has the right to yank the stopcock to block the project. Treat it like a real stopcock. If you pull it in time, you can save the train from disaster. And if you don’t yank it – or yank it at the wrong time – expect problems. So use it as a last resort, and then discuss how to fix the situation.

Hire people who know how to make decisions, and fire those who don’t. Good decision-making skills include listening to the opinions of others.

When in doubt, see if you can trust the decision maker by default.

Personal responsibility.

It’s hard to get people to take full responsibility for problems. But you have to. And if you can’t, you can always fire them.

Give employees feedback, help them, trust them. And let them make mistakes (within reason). Think of them as an increase in competence.

The worst that can happen is that you’ll get too involved in work processes, and employees will stop seeing the job as their business. Instead of taking responsibility, they will follow orders like droids.

If that’s what you’re aiming for, hire people who are simpler and cheaper.

Avoid the shuttle run.

When you line up processes, avoid shuttle running. For example, when you give feedback, you should expect the person to either follow instructions or explain why they won’t.

Don’t assume that they have to come back to you for an uproar. No one has time for that fuss.


Always understand when you’re nervous about employee performance and when you’re nervous about insecurity. Should other people deal with your emotions for you?

It’s also always easy to trust when things are going well. It’s much harder when things aren’t going well. Distinguish when a situation stresses you out and when a person stresses you out.

I’m not saying you need to stay on the sidelines. Keep your finger on the pulse, talk about your expectations, voice your opinions, but let the staff solve the problems themselves. If necessary, yank the stopcock.

Trust through openness

The easiest way to get people to trust your work is to share it openly without reminders. All information should be in plain sight. Don’t force them to ask, because most won’t.

Trust is not categorical.

We often think of trust in a binary way – I either trust someone or I don’t. But that’s not the case. We trust different people differently over time depending on the situation.

Think of trust as material to systematize. For example, what level of trust will you give a new employee? What do you expect from him or her in the first few weeks of employment? In the first month?

And in general, a crisis of trust is worth working with. Perhaps with a specialist.

Don’t confuse autonomy with indifference.

I often run into people who hire new employees and “don’t get in the way of their work.” This is true in principle, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help them succeed.

Tapping into decisions.

Employees at different grades at different levels rely on each other to do their jobs. A salesperson can’t do their job if the CEO doesn’t know what the priority is right now.

Don’t discount your work to other people. But also don’t interfere with someone else’s work just because it’s more interesting to you.

Avoid managing “on the run.”

Here’s an example. A group is standing around, quietly discussing something. The manager runs by on his own and, as if in passing, throws in demands, throws in ideas, redistributes authority, creates confusion, and heads off into the sunset. The scene is a mess. This is what I call management on the run.

Don’t throw around opinions and ideas at every meeting. Chances are, you don’t know the context. And you’re probably not the one who will have to follow through.

Make it clear that this is just an opinion, not a solution. But keep in mind how employees perceive the opinion of the company founder (or manager) . Use the FYI tag in the newsletter – it’s usually hard to convey a nuanced tone there.


people x context = results

I’ve seen great employees get into a bad startup and the bottom line is so-so. And I’ve seen mediocre employees at cool startups bring more results than an entire team.

It’s easier to objectively discuss the context of the situation than the employee in the feedback. What exactly led to the current problems? What has changed? What needs to be done now?

The rookie broke everything – but maybe someone gave him the wrong instructions?

June isn’t doing a good job. Is it his fault? Or is the team now unable to explain to him what’s what? It’s a common problem, but you have to admit it exists and solve it. Perhaps through firing him.

Someone broke production. How could this happen? Where was the team looking? Were there instructions for this case? Shouldn’t they be drawn up now?

The person who broke everything was not to blame. The whole team was focused on other tasks. Was it for the right reason (like unloading the backlog)? Or for the wrong reason (lack of skill)?

Always assume that the people you hired are motivated and want to do better. And for those who don’t, fire them.

Firing should never be a surprise.

Firing should never be a surprise. The context has changed and new demands should have been voiced.

When you fire someone, you usually do it because of the context:

the expectations of the employee’s role have changed;

you realized that you hired someone with the wrong qualifications.

And it’s probably mostly your fault, not his.

The employees may have hoped that their efforts would be enough. But at least this way they will understand why they were fired.

Never delay in firing them.

Often employees are kept in a zombie state at the company. Everyone thinks, “We need to fire them.” But you don’t. And you don’t do it for them. They’re probably not happy with the situation-they’re not valued, they don’t have the ability to do a good job.

No, you’re doing it for yourself. Because you don’t like to fire people.

They deserve you to be more concerned about them, not yourself and your feelings. So fire the person as soon as you make the decision.

You can do that, but it’s better not to.

Make an appointment and fire them. Don’t babble on distracted topics at the beginning of the conversation – get straight to the point and follow these rules clearly:

1. Clearly convey the message that they are fired;

2. Remember, it’s not about your feelings or concerns right now.

In some countries, it takes a couple of days to get fired, and in others, it takes months. In any case, engage in the process with respect for the people. They trusted you and trusted your team with their careers. It’s probably not their fault they got fired – it’s just that the context has changed. Remember that – and help these people find a better role for themselves.

Чётко > Fuzzy

You need clear decisions after meetings. No clear decision? Raise the issue.

Need a clear understanding of who is responsible for what. No clear division of responsibility? Raise the issue.

Identify who makes the decision, and what decision is ultimately made.

Best Practices: Identify what’s already there.

When you’re looking for best practices or want to change things about your team/processes, look first at what’s already working.

If you hire good people, they start looking for solutions themselves. Is that a good thing? If yes, articulate it clearly – and communicate it to the team. If not, discuss how this can be changed.

Be prepared to have to rebuild the company every few months

Fast-growing startups have to rebuild their internal structure every 3-6 months. So make the minimal changes you need right now. You will never reach perfection: – you will always be dissatisfied with the company processes; – it will be hard and painful to grow until you reach stagnation.

Be guided by the same principles you would use when refactoring code:

do testing in an isolated area;

assess what’s going on with your peers;

don’t change everything at once;


There is a stereotype that burnout comes when you work too hard. In fact, it comes when you lose a sense of control and/or don’t see results from your work.

Remember, you can drive yourself/employees to burnout by not working/smallly working.

How can you give people a sense of control over the outcome of their work? How can you define boundaries that contain the chaos that surrounds them?

Chaos is not felt by those who create it

Business founders are often frustrated that the team doesn’t keep up with the change in course.

As a founder, you likely understand the context of change better, you learn about it before anyone else and, most importantly, you control it.

Employees don’t have that.

Expect more from managers in a subordinate position.

By default, they, not their teams, are responsible for mistakes. Honestly share your opinions with them in private.

By default, always trust them to make necessary decisions.

They are responsible for the outcome. They are responsible for failures, but not for success. It is the achievement of the team.

They should also, where possible, let their team shine in the spotlight instead of directing them to themselves. It’s simple: they have more authority-the team has more ways to prove itself.

We started on a happy note and ended on the same note.

Geekfactor together with is running a job preparation program for foreign startups (we help you prepare for interviews and show resumes to cool companies for free). You can read more about it and register here.

How to work with people?

Most of us deal with all sorts of people every day, and on all sorts of issues. And while conversations with family members we usually feel easy and confident, the working dialogue is not always successful and it happens that we find it difficult to convey to colleagues or subordinates their ideas. They simply do not hear us.

In addition, if you run your own online business, then much of your time is spent on online communication (with designers, editors, administrators, marketers, managers, etc.), which has its own specifics and its own laws. After all, if in person you can explain something, as they say, “on the fingers”, then in correspondence it is not always so easy.

However, if you notice that you can not find common ground with colleagues or co-workers, do not despair. The situation can be turned in a different direction, and this does not require being a master of persuasion.

The main thing you need to understand is that in order to communicate successfully and for people to hear you, you need first of all to monitor your communication habits and the words that you say. Today I would like to share with you my personal communication secrets, which help me not only to communicate harmoniously with my family and friends, but also to cooperate every day with world-renowned experts in various fields and manage my team – and not only in face-to-face meetings, but also online.

1. be honest and natural.

Honesty earns you respect among your colleagues and subordinates. If you are honest and straightforward, you are always a pleasure to do business with, because people know you won’t try to deceive or intrigue them to get what they want, and so will do your work in good faith. And this, in turn, benefits any project or business.

Conversely, falsity in communication will not contribute to the development of good relations. So be who you are – without pretence, hypocrisy and attempts to manipulate people.

2. Break down a difficult task into simple ones.

Agree, there is a difference between “write an article” and “write an article on this topic, namely – make an introduction of 15 lines, write 10 points and in the end put a call to action. Not to mention complex technical tasks. After all, you can not just tell the designer: “Make me a website. You will try as accurately as possible to describe your wishes, show examples, set deadlines. For any, even the smallest task, treat with the same care – do not spare time to explain, and in this case, you will be heard and you will get exactly the result you expected.

3. Control Your Emotions.

When people don’t control their emotions and resort to yelling, it’s unlikely they can hear each other in those situations-they just don’t care. Yelling causes anxiety, fear, and fear reduces the ability to think. How would you feel if someone important, such as a boss, was talking to you in a high-pitched tone? Surely you will feel as if you “goof”. So learn to control your emotions and engage in a constructive dialogue, because even to express their discontent, there are much more “adult” methods than the transition to higher tones.

4. Forget about the “not.

As you probably already know, our subconscious mind stubbornly skips the “not” part in any phrase it hears. And then we wonder why our requests are ignored, and we think that people just do not hear us and disrespect us. And we just need to learn how to communicate in the right phrases. For example, instead of “Don’t delay any more!” say “Let’s release projects on time.

5. Ask instead of order.

Promote the interlocutor to the necessary actions to be taken, not in an orderly tone, but respectfully and calmly persuade – with suggestions, questions and clear objectives. Do not give orders and do not control every step of the employees and colleagues, otherwise you’ll negate all their motivation and as a result they will not do their job as well as they could. So if you want a task to be done not only on time, but also qualitatively – just ask, and then you will definitely be heard.

6. Correctly point out mistakes.

Evaluate the actions of your team members, not their personal qualities. If the person made a mistake, then analyze it and focus on his/her actions that led to the mistake, not on his/her character traits. Otherwise, pointing out the error can lead to a decrease in the employee’s initiative and self-confidence, and this will directly affect the entire project. Discuss together an algorithm of new correct actions and then you will hear each other, the consequences of the error will be eliminated, and friendly relations will be preserved.

7. Be a trusted member of the team.

Let your colleagues know that you can be relied upon and that you are a man of your word, especially if you are a project manager or owner of your own business. By working for such a leader, people will also feel their own responsibility and put in their best effort. In any teamwork it is important that people know their tasks clearly and solve them together, shoulder to shoulder and actively interacting. When there is trust in a team, communication flows naturally, and people hear each other.

8. Praise achievements.

If you don’t stimulate the person with praise, he or she will soon become indifferent and tired, and this directly affects the overall results. So encourage your team and recognize their merits – sincerely, openly and from the heart. So you’ll not only maintain a positive atmosphere among the participants in the work process, but also help them feel their importance to the cause. This positive attitude will make it easier for employees and colleagues to reach new professional heights and move the business forward.

9. Learn to listen and hear for yourself.

If you want to be heard, first become a good listener yourself. We are all imperfect, but sometimes we tend to demand more from others than we demand from ourselves. We can be irritated waiting for someone at work to complete their task on time, while it is easy to forget that the child has been asking for a walk in the park with him for the second week. So practice listening to others every day – no matter with whom you are currently communicating. This skill will be invaluable for both your personal life and business.

The relationship atmosphere in a business team is very important, especially for us women. Because we tend to be more impressionable and emotional, and therefore the environment is very important for us. And the success of the work and harmony in personal relationships depends on our inner state.

So, despite the fact that business is a professional part of our lives, but there should also be a place for love. That love, which is a good attitude towards people. If you wish your colleagues and employees well, you will automatically communicate with them properly – so that they will always hear you.

P.S. Are you already making money doing what you love to do? If not yet, you are here.

Did you like the article? Share it with your loved ones, girlfriends and friends by clicking the “Like”, “Share”, “Tweet” buttons. Perhaps these are the ways the rules can help them work effectively with people to be heard.

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