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> Ok but serious question...what do you do with highly ineffective teams that you inherit ,and/or are contractors, and/or are the only engineers available, and/or are only motivated by a paycheck, and/or would rather be working on their five side projects, etc

I don't know if this is the best approach, but I actually kind of like these teams, and like working with/leading them, because usually the description is not true. And careful rebuilding of trust can usually (but not always) demonstrate that.

Very few people are truly as ineffective as they might seem, and people are more impacted by situations they are in, or the process/role/authority they have, then anyone will care to admit.

> in many cases who have demonstrated repeatedly that they make lots of mistakes and get sloppy and will fully refuse to cooperate

Ok, sure. I agree, and have seen this happen too. But why? Very few people intentionally want to make mistakes. Very few people intentionally refuse to cooperate for no reason. Most people are not inherently bad.

Are they making mistakes because they don't know something? Are they making mistakes because they are used to working in a different way, or prefer a different way? (If so, why?) Are they making mistakes because they feel some sort of pressure (like a time crunch, budget crunch, some 'three strikes' hanging over their employment status, etc). Is "only motivated by a paycheck" even a bad thing? (People can still do good work, despite only being motivated by payment. That's how most other industries work already). Are they refusing to cooperate because they have an unresolved grievance (where they demoted, or docked pay? Are they working on something that is slow/bad, because they couldn't get buy-in to do it the proper way the first time?)

People can be kind of cloudy, we're not robots, and there's not necessarily one single right way to go about rebuilding trust and creating functionality out of teams. And yes, occasionally there really are some folks who need to specifically be dealt with. But I really bristle when whole groups of people get written off with labels like the above, because it feels fundamentally untrue for most people most of the time.

These are all the types of things that a good manager is supposed to be solving. A good manager can make a "highly ineffective team" effective, even if they might never have been before.




I am not confounding good work with good people. I very often see great people deliver poor work. I rarely see bad people. I can be a great person and want to succeed at something I am I’ll equipped to do professionally, or for whatever reason am not fully engaged in.

Personally, yes, I feel working for a paycheck only is a sure sign of a bad fit/attitude. Maybe I have an unrealistic view, but I think people should work for more than that, or else find a more rewarding and engaging profession...life is too short to punch the clock (ymmv).

While very few intentionally make mistakes, I find it takes extraordinary effort to maintain the discipline to intentionally not make mistakes. A mistake is not always an erroneous action, it can be the omission of careful attentive proactive action.

My thesis (and practical experience) is that you can deliver good software with ineffective teams, contrary to the myth of 10x rock star hire-only-the-best mantras. But my question is how others use tools and techniques to reliably do this vs. gut feel and trial and error. I know it can be done, just as I know you can hire 10x coders and still fail a project.

Edit/postscript: you can also have (and often do) great people who as individuals can be highly effective, but fail to communicate or collaborate as a team. This is probably more common in larger orgs or in my specific cases, teams that span multiple orgs. You often have to manage great people who are poor communicators via nudges without direct hiring/firing or performance review leverage...aka “dotted lines”.


If you are offering your employees a paycheck, that is all they will work for. If you give them your companies assets, capital, and control over the org structure, then that is what they will work for. If you're offering them the opportunity to work on interesting problems, then maybe guarantee it in an employment contract. There is no reason to blame anyone for working to acquire the only things you're actually offering.


This is not universally true in my experience. People who take pride in their work will often go the extra mile, without being asked. I don’t “blame”, I just correlate.

Maybe this is the answer: if someone needs a guarantee then they are probably a bad fit for a highly effective team. Highly effective people look for opportunities instead of guarantees perhaps.

If I knew, I would be writing articles, not asking questions...


The guarantee is not a need, it is an opportunity that your potential effective employees are looking for. If you deny them that opportunity, they will look elsewhere and be highly effective for someone else.


> life is too short to punch the clock

If I only took work that I enjoyed, life would be a lot shorter. Uninteresting but better-compensated work allows for free time outside of work to do things I enjoy, and the theoretical possibility of saving enough for an eventual sabbatical or early retirement.


If people only worked jobs they liked, absolutely critical work nobody likes would never get done.


In my experience this is not true. I know lots of grunt work that gets done in both paid and open source projects that no one likes, by volunteers with nothing extra to gain. Those mundane tasks are necessary for the larger good, and folks can see past their short term motivations.

Those that respond and raise their hands to do the icky work everyone else tries to avoid seem highly correlated with leadership skills and better communication skills.




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