As we've grown accustomed to in this interview series, we'll explore the challenges and practices that leaders in tech implement to build healthy, happy, high-performing teams. Dave took a deep dive into the mantra in which he leans to when leading teams: "build teams that you add value to, but don't need you forever", emotional intelligence versus IQ, and more.
Rapid-fire: Who are you?
I'm Dave Marsland, VP Engineering at Hussle. I've got to where I am from via some large engineering departments (TotalJobs and JustEat), and some smaller ones that grew fast (Paddle). Developing engineers and building healthy, happy teams is my passion, living by the mantra of "build teams that you add value to, but don't need you forever"
What are the key pillars to lead high-performing teams in the current environment?
Small, focused teams work best, especially in the current climate. The reality of most small/medium-sized businesses at the moment is they can't afford to be thinking more than 6/12 weeks ahead with any focus, so get your team invested and educated in the problems with authenticity (they'll know more about it already than you think). Diverse teams are better teams, much as diverse companies are better companies; remember to be mindful of your own bias and any echo-chamber situations within your thinking and prioritizing.
EQ vs. IQ. What do you think about it?
Emotional intelligence is an essential part of any management role. Each individual is motivated by a different aspect of their life. Some are very progression-focused and will constantly be striving and pushing for the next step in their specific career ladder, others are just finding their feet and exploring what options they have, and every nuance in between. Exploring what makes an engineer tick is a genuinely fascinating part of management, where you find together what drives them and how you and the business can help to guide them in the direction they want to go. Ultimately you’re there to manage and develop the person, not the “resource”. Within Engineering roles, I always move the culture/values aspect of an interview to the start or as early as possible, the days of the "talented a**hole" engineers who can get by because they're incredibly good at what they do are over, and breed a bad environment for developing and nurturing the teams.
What are the main challenges you had to face in the last few months and what advice would give to other team leaders?
Give yourself and your team more time and leeway that you would in a normal situation. We're not WFH, we're WFH during a global health crisis, so no-one will be operating with an empty stress bucket, more likely it's always half full. This doesn't mean not setting clear business expectations and goals, that's more crucial than ever, but being honest with yourself and your team will get to a better outcome.
What is your burnout story?
I used to only realize I was burnt out when I stopped working and had a decent break, however now I'm slightly better at setting boundaries for work/home life. I'm very bad at "oh I'll just check this", which means even if you take regular breaks your day ends up longer than it should. You're not working to survive it and collapse on the sofa at the end of the week, find a balance that works for you.
What practices do you implement to keep your team productive and healthy?
More regular 1-1s than normal during remote working (even if they're just 10-minute check-ins) are so important with remote working, as you lose any sense of atmosphere or body language through the day. Don't forget all the non-verbal cues you're missing out on when you only see people on a call. Retrospectives are a great way to get everyone talking and expressing themselves, regular ones mean nothing bubbles below the surface for too long.
What advice would you give a 28-year-old you?
Make sure you align your career to your personal life, they go hand in hand!
Favorite book or show right now?
I'm rewatching the HBO version of Watchmen, love it!
What are you excited about now?
Sounds like a company line, but the changes in fitness to be more focused around a digital and physical hybrid offering is really interesting
What puts a smile on your face every time?
Louis Theroux rapping
As usual, we thank you so much for making it this far. You keep proving to us that you're in this journey for the long haul, to keep growing as leaders. Let’s raise awareness, inspire, and start a conversation.