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Tag Archives: Reaktor

Give employees autonomy, start with coaching

Trusting your people and giving them autonomy is all good and well, but as Jurgen Appelo keeps telling us, delegation is a complex process. One of the things you need to do is to provide employees with the tools to resolve their issues themselves. In other words: they need knowledge and skills. In all the companies I visited, there were great coaching and mentorship programs to do precisely that.

Teach them how to organize

At Futurice they’re taking coaching and growing to the next level. Actually, their team of coaches is called the CTO Task Force. The team is responsible for continuous support. Think of competence development, facilitating meetings, personal coaching & mentoring and so on. Also, every employee has access to a mentor to help with his or her personal growth. Those mentors play several roles. The traditional one as mentor, coach, teacher and sparring partner. But sometimes they’re the ones you need for a hug or as a listener.

Those mentors have an important job. And they aren’t just more experienced colleagues, they take regular trainings themselves. It’s important to realize being a mentor is not a full-time job at Futurice. So they still work on client projects, write code etcetera. It’s the best of both world: they’re people who know (and do!) the everyday work and who know what it takes to help others.

External coaches or different roles

Similar ideas you can find at Vincit. Although they’re concentrating less on mentorship, there is a team of coaches helping people to self-organize. The unique thing in their situation:  They work with several external coaches; everyone can schedule one-on-one meetings if they think it would help. Yep, you read that right. Vincit spends a lot of money on professional trained external coaches to help their own people deal with personal issues and development.

A while ago I  talked about this with Lasse Koskela from Reaktor. Surprise surprise: They have a great program as well. What was interesting about their approach: The roles of people at Reaktor can easily change. When I talked to Lasse he was an Android developer working in a team. Several months before that he had a different role, as he was busy coaching teams.

Select your own leaders

People work in more stable teams at Ministry. A company that a while ago took a radical decision. They removed managers completely. Decisions are made together, as a team. Well, some teams really struggled for a while. But they made it work eventually by sending delegates to the company leaders. Explaining they might nog need managers anymore, but they surely needed Team Leaders to keep the whole picture and help with administrative tasks. The solution: Employees select their own leaders. Of course, being selected as a leader doesn’t mean you know how that works. So company leaders began developing a leadership program. One of the things they do is organizing regular talks with all the team-leaders outside of the office. Just one-on-one’s so people can share experiences and exchange tips.

Trust works both ways

These are just a couple examples of the endless possibilities. For me there’s a great lesson to learn. The funny thing is, it creates trust that works both ways. The company will get better results quicker. The worker feels he’s trusted enough to invest in.

See you next week,


The first day is too late

Few years back I was lucky to join one terrific company in St Petersburg. On the first day I arrived at 11 and went straight to HR department. I spent an hour or so there, got a small tour around the office and then I was delivered to my working desk. My team was partially distributed. During the day I talked to my remote colleagues and had a lunch with the colleagues in the local office. It was a great day and everyone was very helpful. Yet I felt confused at the end of it when I found myself at my desk. I got an access to huge amount of information: documents, wikis,  Skype channels, customers surveys, competitors notes and many new people to meet and talk to. I needed to go through it all and deliver some results in a couple of weeks. Next two weeks I spent long hours working in the office and from home trying to catch up with everything. It was both fun, boring and exhausting at the same time.

During my interview with the folks from Vincit I was amazed when they said,

“After new employees sign a contract, they get a full access to our internal channels”

“Wait! Do you mean they get a full access even if they are not working yet?”

“Yes. They may start working in a couple of weeks or months but they are already Vincitizens. They are very welcome to participate in all discussions, get to know people, visit internal parties and be part of the community.”

What a nice concept, right?

When you get an access to all communication channels upfront, you get an ability to talk to your future colleagues, create some connections, find about the interests of others. And you won’t feel lost on a completely unchartered territory on your first day.

Vincit goes a bit further. When you sign a contract you get an access to a Trello board which is a part of your onboarding process. It has a separate column with suggestions what you can do before you actually start working.

Other great companies also use the same trick. For example, Reaktor and Netlight.  Johanna from Netlight perfectly describes why they are doing it:

“Of course we can be a bit overwhelming that way. Every night it’s like ‘Come to this. Come to that’ and you’re like ‘Okay I haven’t left my old job yet. I am coming to you soon. Leave me alone.’

But that’s our way of doing it so the first day when you’re at Netlight you feel like you’re already in the company. You already know people, you probably know what assignment you’re going out to, you know the client, you know sales management and everything so you’re already apart of the company and have a network at your first day because that happened in different stages all before”

Looking back I realise that this practice could help me a lot in the previous company I worked at.

Let your new employees to join internal events and take part in all conversations before they even start working. It decreases their fear, increases confidence, shortens an integration time.