New Manager Handbook: Effective Communication

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As a team leader you need to explain strategic decisions and champion them with the rest of the organisation. You will also have increased exposure to stakeholders outside the people you work with, and need to communicate with them clearly and logically. Here are some tips to help you manage this like a pro!

Structured Problem Solving

If you are dealing with a complex issue, draw an issue tree to help solve it and aid communication. This will: increase your understanding of the issue; make it easier to discuss with others; identify the major drivers; prioritise actions and further analysis. Issue trees rely on three principles:

  1. Hierarchy: The problem space should be broken down in layers
  2. Mutually Exclusive: Each sub-issue can only belong to one group
  3. Collectively Exhaustive: Each layer should cover 100% of the problem space. i.e. adding all items at one layer together should equal the layer above

Make Clear Recommendations
Use Problem, Insight, Action to prioritising action and explaining your rationale.

  • Problem: The top issue or opportunity you are facing
  • Insight: The analysis that identifies the most effective course of action
  • Action: What needs to be done in practical terms

Use Hierarchical Recommendations to structure complex recommendations.

  • Build a one line summary of the action to be taken
  • Support this by 3-4 lines of reasoning – the rationale for why this governing thought is the right answer
  • Prepare  evidence – a body of facts and analysis for the thinking

In the absence of inclusion at the office, women and other minorities are less productive than they could be. This must change.

Abadesi Osunsade

– by Abadesi Osunsade

At the beginning of my career the word ‘underrepresented’ wasn’t in my vocabulary. I was a fresh London School of Economics graduate rushing around the Financial Times offices excited to be an editorial intern. Sure, there were hardly any people that looked like me around. Almost everyone was a middle aged posh white guy, but I was used to that. All my experiences of London’s corporate world, from interviews to internships, were dominated by this one type of person.

So, like all my prior work experiences, I sought out the people with whom I shared some similarities. I hung out with the other young folks, people on the grad scheme. I hung out with the other people of colour, many of whom were involved in the diversity scheme that helped me secure the internship. In the company of diverse people, I felt less like the outsider and more like part of the odd bunch. In a good way. I felt safer and more relaxed. I felt like I could be myself, ask questions without fear of embarrassment, and learn and blossom.

When I transitioned into the tech world, the word ‘underrepresented’ still didn’t register. My first tech job was a role in Groupon’s burgeoning London office a year before the record breaking IPO. Forbes had just named us the fastest growing company ever. Promoted to a team leadership role after my first eight months I was managing a team of 4, then 5, then 10. I was 24 years old. As a London-based tech startup with lots of international managers, and hiring more and more people each week, we had an amazing diversity of nationality, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, religion and sexual orientation.

But the leadership was mostly male. I noticed male colleagues getting away with behaviour that many of us women found unprofessional. I noticed male team leaders in my department adopting aggressive management tactics with their teams to great effect. When I copied them with my team, I was labelled “scary”. Literally. A direct quote from the company’s first round of 360 feedback. When I questioned my team later at the pub, one of my direct reports said that he used to find me scary, but then he started thinking of me as a guy and that made it OK. The rest of the team nodded in agreement.

I started to wish there were other women in the room, as leaders and as individual contributors, to help me fight against these ridiculous beliefs and misconceptions. Most of my headspace that week was spent digesting this information and stoking the frustration burning inside me. It was valuable mental and physical energy that could have been far better spent helping my clients, solving problems, and making the company money. I started to realise what it meant to be ‘underrepresented’ and the real opportunity cost a lack of diversity and inclusion creates.

When you have an office environment where minority groups are not treated as equals by every employee, you create an additional burden for them. The time and energy they should be spending on their job is instead consumed by the annoyance and discontent of being treated differently. Instead of having the liberty to just get on with it, they are fighting battles.  They may be answering questions about their culture or identity when they should be doing value-adding work. They may be thinking about the offhand discriminatory comment a colleague made in jest when they should be doing their work. They may be thinking about which of your competitors would offer a more inclusive working environment when they should be doing their work. This is why diversity and inclusion is so important to me, there is no level playing field until it is achieved.


Abadesi Osunsade is the founder of Hustle Crew, a career advancement community for the underrepresented in tech, and the author of new careers advice book, Dream Big Hustle Hard: A Millennial Woman’s Guide to Success in Tech, available on Amazon now. She has worked at Amazon, Groupon and is currently a part of the community team at Product Hunt / AngelList.

Nurturing Your Super Powers: The Importance of Edge

superhero

I was introduced to the concept of Edge about 6 months ago when I got a place on Entrepreneur First. EF have helped 350 individuals build 100 companies worth over $500m, and Edge is one of their key predictors of founder success. But I’d argue that it’s important for whatever you plan on doing in life, whether that’s founding a company, scaling the corporate ladder, or following a non-commercial career path.

// WHAT IS EDGE?

Your Edge is the skills and knowledge you have that are particular to you, and make you stand out against the other people you are competing against. EF like to call it your super powers. It’s something that can be developed over time through practice and study, and expressed as fulfilling your true potential, it’s the key to a rich and rewarding life according to everyone from Aristotle to Maslow.

Edge gives you credibility to approach otherwise daunting challenges. If you can’t articulate why you are the right person to take on a challenge, then you will have difficulty finding allies, investors and followers. When you can articulate why you are the best person in the world to tackle a problem, these flow in abundance.

// THE MYTH OF EDGELESS SUCCESS

It can be tempting to think that if you’re smart enough and driven enough then your natural talent is more important than a developed Edge. After all, didn’t Mark Zuckerberg start Facebook when he was 19? But look a little closer and success almost always grows from some form of head start or advantage.

Zuckerberg took private tuition in software development as a young teenager, and had built a number of social apps for both his father’s dental practice and fellow Harvard students before Facebook. Neither software, nor social dynamics were new to him. Of course, not everyone would have had the success that Zuckerberg had given the same starting point, but Facebook’s inception was no accident – rather the culmination of years of accumulated knowledge in related areas.

// FINDING YOUR EDGE

Deciding what to develop as your Edge comes more easily to some people than others. Some people have their calling and need look no further. For others, variety is the spice of life, and choosing where to feast from the world’s smorgasbord of experiences is difficult.

There’s no need to make a hasty decision. Our careers look set to span 40-50 years, and progress is often very fast once you are fully committed to a direction. But it’s worth bearing in mind “the jack of all trades is the master of none”, and at some point, hopping from job to job will start to impede your ability to play at the same level as more dedicated peers.

There are a number of questions that are useful to ask yourself to figure out where you want to focus:

  • Who are your role models? Who do you really respect? Why?
  • Imagine you are 70 and have had a long and successful career. What have you achieved?
  • Imagine writing your obituary or Wikipedia entry. What does it say?

// DIRECTION OVER GOALS

Once you’ve decided what your Edge is and started nurturing it, it helps to remember that life is an ongoing journey of discovery. Thinking about the ongoing direction you want to build your Edge in is a much better frame for your career than setting yourself a goal to use your Edge for.

  • GOAL: Run a marathon
  • DIRECTION: Become the best runner I can be

There are three main reasons why. Firstly, failing to reach goals is depressing and leaves you with nothing in return for your effort. You can always be pushing yourself in your chosen direction, however incrementally. If your goal is running a marathon and you don’t finish, then your training can feel like a waste of time. But if your direction is to make yourself a better runner, then every step counts.

Secondly, succeeding in your goals removes your sense of purpose in life. It’s not uncommon for your sense of accomplishment to give way to anti-climax after reaching a big goal. Once you’ve run your marathon, what do you do next? A direction always has more to give though. Completing the marathon is just assessing your progress in the journey to becoming a faster runner.

Finally, goals are often binary, whilst directions can be constantly redefined. You either run your marathon or you don’t. But your direction can change from being a great runner, to being a great athlete, or a coach or a sports blogger and the experience you’ve accumulated will still count towards your new Edge.