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5 things I learned about running a team from raising kids.

I have been managing technology teams for almost two decades. Looking back, I often wonder why they were not all the same.

  • Why did some teams outperform?
  • Why were some teams successful, while others failed miserably?
  • Why were some teams happy and loved working together, while others fought like cats and dogs?

It wasn’t until I started raising two young children that I began to develop the pattern recognition to understand the factors that create successful outcomes. Every day with my kids is basically a collection of small projects — getting dressed, making lunch, cleaning up the house, eating dinner, grocery shopping — with the same project team.

When you run multiple projects every day, you quickly start identifying what does and does not work.

For example, let’s say I ask my children to “clean up.”

1. Does everyone know and understand the goal?

In this situation, the goal can easily be misinterpreted. Does it mean pick up a single toy? Wash my hands? Start a new Lego project?
Goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based). I didn’t invent smart goals, I just better understand them after raising kids. Here is a goal my kids would understand.

“I need you all to pick up and put away all your toys and clothes, before we can go to your friends’ house in 1 hour. Does everyone understand?”

The last question, “Does everyone understand?” ensures comprehension and buy-in.

2. Is everyone properly incentivized to succeed?

Going to their friends’ house is something that will motivate them. If I had made the incentive “before you take a bath,” I would still be pulling out my hair.

3. Does everyone know their role?

This is where I have failed many times before. Since many of their toys are shared, I need to be specific about who is doing what.

“Grant you need to pick up the legos, and Charlotte, you need to pick up puzzle pieces.” If I am not clear about this, I will have a room covered in legos and puzzles pieces an hour from now.

4. Does everyone have the resources they need to get the job done?

Asking a 4 year old to clean up her toys at 7pm when she didn’t have a nap is a guaranteed failure. I didn’t give her the resources she needed to succeed, i.e. sleep.

5. Is the project being properly managed?

Another mistake is to create goals and assign tasks, but then walk away and hope that everything gets done. With kids, if you don’t monitor progress — “How is it going?” — and give feedback — “Don’t just shove it in the closet.” — you will be disappointed in the outcomes.

Switching hats to managing technology teams, the same learnings apply:

  • We need clearly understood goals that can be achieved.
  • Everyone on the team needs to agree to the goals.
  • We need a timeline.
  • Everyone must understand their role and the roles of their teammates.
  • The team needs the resources to get the job done.
  • Every project needs to be properly managed.

While these are some of the lessons I have learned from being a parent, the overriding principle is that you must to communicate clearly, share all the necessary information and make sure everyone is on task.

These lessons (and many others) guided us in building Mazey, a collaboration tool for deskless workers.

Mazey combines chat, knowledge sharing and task management into a simple but organized solution that helps teams achieve their goals. Today Mazey is used by managers across retail, service, and food & beverage industries to improve execution and create a sense of community within their teams.