Effective Leadership and Team Management

On Wednesday, November 13, Christopher Litsinger, the Director of Cloud Application Platforms at Comcast Cable, spoke to our members. Mr. Litsinger manages a team a programmers and his job is to be successful manager. This means he has to make sure that the team produces the most effective work and generates high profits for the company. There is an interesting concept called “Flow” that Mr. Litsinger referred to. Flow is essentially a state or sensation you achieve when you perform a challenging task that you are good at. When you achieve “flow”, you achieve peak productivity. Whatever the task is, it is a bit difficult but still rewarding because of your high skill level in the particular activity. Video games are the perfect example of flow. Think of some of your favorite video games and how addicting they are. They usually aren’t easy… yet you can’t stop! As the team leader, Mr. Litsinger’s job is to get his whole team to a point of flow.

Here are 5 key things that help Mr. Litsinger accomplish this:

  • Diversified Team: This is key to long-term flow. Statistics show that diversity improves the quality of work and production. A team with people from a wide variety of backgrounds, personalities, opinions, and skill sets keeps new ideas flowing and allows problems to be tackled from different angles. When everyone is the same, it’s difficult to recognize the flaws and potential improvements in a plan. Diversity also serves well because every team member is somewhat of an “outsider” and studies show that individuals perform better when they are challenged and a bit on edge.
  • Focus on Strengths: Instead of focusing solely on what team members need to fix or are doing wrong, Mr. Litsinger makes it a point to go over what people are good at, what they are capable of, and what opportunities there are to leverage these skills and grow. The times he focuses on weaknesses the most are actually when he is looking for candidates to join the team!
  • Time Management: Most people struggle with thisĀ and there is no clear-cut answer for everyone because each individual applies energy differently to different tasks at different times. Mr. Litsinger references Lara Hogan, a management trainer and author, who advises to figure out your particular energy and when to spread out or bunch them up. What times do you work the best? Mr. Litsinger has a team member that loves writing code at 2AM! So, together, they work on a schedule and how said team member can accomplish other things during their different schedule. WARNING: One thing Mr. Litsinger definitely advises against is multi-tasking. In reality, our minds are not wired to “multi-task”. When we think we are multi-tasking, we are actually just switching our focus back and forth rapidly. This is disruptive, especially when you are trying to get critical-thinking work done that requires focus.
  • Ensure Team Support: It’s important that everyone on a team is respectful of one another’s feelings and opinions. Every member has different ideas and it is important to listen to others’ thoughts. Mr. Litsinger makes sure to address right away if a team member has left damaging, unconscious actions that have impacted another. Oftentimes, we are not aware of the impact of our actions on others. Being conscientious and supportive of one another promotes freedom of thought and creativity. In a tense, strict environment, it’s difficult to think freely without the environment weighing down on your ideas.
  • Healthy Debate: With that being said, healthy debates are still necessary to address problems from different perspectives. After all, this does correlate to the value of a diverse team. For both team support and healthy debates, the key factor is listening to one another’s ideas and examining them. When exchanging ideas back and forth, new solutions can be formed that nobody had thought of before.