Skillz Blog

Creating Your Own Feedback Loops as a Manager: A Write/Speak/Code Recap

Skillz SVP of Engineering, Miriam Aguirre, was recently invited to deliver a presentation at Write/Speak/Code in San Francisco. She spoke about the role of tech managers and common challenges they face, offering advice on measuring success to advance in technical careers. Learn more about tangible ways to measure and track your progress as a manager in the following event recap.

As a manager, your success is aligned with the performance of your team. While leading a successful team is rewarding, it’s also important to recognize your individual accomplishments along the way. There are tangible strategies to measure both personal and team progress, as well as demonstrate how to improve leadership skills.

 

What Makes a Strong Manager

1. Ensuring the team hits their goals 

Set goals that align with the company’s business objectives. Write team goals down, along with a method for measuring and tracking them throughout the week/month/quarter/year. Ensure the goals are visible to everyone on the team to enable better tracking against progress and the ability for anyone on the team to address pain points on a consistent basis. Choose the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by asking: “What constitutes success?” Confirm that your team has access to all the resources needed to achieve the department’s goals in the required time frame. Finally, be sure to celebrate your wins to maintain team morale, while learning from mistakes along the way.

2. Aligning team and business objectives

Teams should be well-versed in the company’s business objectives. High-level company goals form the basis for team targets. When determining and communicating team goals, consider not only what they are, but why they’re important.  

3. Promoting the right employees 

Know the difference between an employee who prefers to be an individual contributor versus a leader. Establish a specific management path to better identify which employees want to be leaders. Give employees the opportunity to take on larger responsibilities (e.g., run a meeting or project). Create a sense of ownership by empowering employees to find the most efficient ways to achieve results and hold them to high-quality standards. 

Pay attention to which people are most eager to learn about every aspect of their job, as well as the larger company and industry. Instill key communication and time management skills by running team meetings effectively, using appropriate company terminology, and encouraging collaboration on team projects. Effective meeting management means preparing a meeting agenda ahead of time, having the right people in the room, and ensuring participation from all members. 

4. Hiring/team composition 

Employ strong hiring tactics when interviewing prospective candidates. Use behavioral interview techniques to discover how an interviewee has acted in past employment-related situations, as this will help determine whether their work style fits with your company. Test for learning and analytical skills, rather than only evaluating a candidate based on their resume and personality. 

Look for entry-level individuals who are ambitious and committed to advancing their careers. Seek out mid- to high-level candidates who possess valuable expertise in their field and have a demonstrated history working in relevant industries. In order to align against team and companywide goals, a strong candidate should be passionate about your company’s mission. 

Foster a referral culture to enhance successful hiring and onboarding of new employees. Referrals help bring in top talent, reduce time to hire, and ease the workload of recruiters. In a referral culture, employees at every level are invested in the program and have a stake in the organization’s success. 

5. Defining risk mitigation strategy

Risk mitigation planning is key to the success of team projects and objectives. Defining a risk mitigation strategy will enhance opportunities and reduce threats to meeting your goals. First, clarify the requirements of the project at hand, so your team knows exactly what you want to achieve. To eliminate confusion, interview stakeholders, hold workshops, and produce a comprehensive project brief/scope document. Next, select qualified people to run a given project and secure their buy-in. Spread risk evenly between resources and stakeholders to avoid shifting the burden of loss to a single team member. This ensures the impact of a project’s risk will fall equally on everyone, rather than just one stakeholder. 

Assess the feasibility of the project before moving into a full build by breaking it down into phases and including time for an investigation stage. This period allows teams to fully understand the foundation work and test solutions in a controlled manner. 

Throughout the project’s duration, test everything from training documentation and implementation plans to software and project deliverables. Frequent testing uncovers areas for improvement (bugs, pitfalls, etc.) and allows you to track the team’s progress. Additionally, implement a dedicated schedule for testing to maintain the integrity of the project timeline.

Even with the strongest risk mitigation strategies, surprises happen. Plan for the unexpected by: 

  • Incorporating buffer time
  • Involving additional resources/stakeholders during the planning phases 
  • Allocating contingency funds
  • Consider separating the project into segments or narrowing scope

 6. Performance management 

As a manager, it’s vital to foster a work environment in which people have the opportunity to perform to the best of their abilities. A performance management system should include:

  • Writing clear and concise job descriptions, recruiting potential employees, and conducting interviews in a strategic manner (i.e. past performance, relevance to target documents, open-ended questions, missed opportunities)  
  • Selecting the appropriate candidates through an established process that identifies the most qualified people with the best culture fit
  • Providing a strong and effective new-hire orientation and training, as well as integrating the employee into the organizational culture
  • Providing ongoing education, coaching, and feedback 
  • Establishing compensation and recognition systems that reward employees for their work
  • Conducting quarterly/annual performance reviews for growth and development opportunities

 

Measuring Success to Better You and Your Team

Performance measurement is a continuous process that allows you to compare actual output with the established goals and standards. The best managers measure their own success, as well as the success of the team. Taking key learnings from these evaluations and applying them to future projects will foster long-term prosperity. 

Skillz uses the following measurements to evaluate individual and team success:

If you’re interested in becoming a manager or individual contributor at Skillz, head to our careers page — we’re hiring across all teams and passionate about setting our talented employees up for success!