LinkedIn VP of Engineering Heather McKelvey Discusses the Company’s Approach to Remote Work at Turing’s Boundaryless: #ScalingPostPandemic Conference
Heather McKelvey, Vice President of Engineering for LinkedIn, discussed the secrets to developing high-performance in distributed teams with Emma Giles, Co-Founder & COO of Sophya, at Turing Boundaryless: #ScalingPostPandemic conference, that took place on May 13, 2021.
Highlights of the session included:
Strong sponsorship develops high performance
Emma began the session by asking Heather to define the key characteristics of high-performing teams, to which she answered:
- Strong leadership
- Execution (fulfilling your goal and simultaneously learning something)
- Craftsmanship (building something that can be easily maintained or scaled)
To achieve high performance, Heather advised leaders to assemble and consult a board of mentors, not just one mentor. A board can combine its strengths and offer greater insights to the mentee, she explained.
Heather also recommended, “Look past mentorship and towards sponsorship.” A mentor helps you identify your strengths and opportunities, she said. A sponsor promotes you within exclusive circles. “Teaching people what a sponsor relationship is, is key,” she explained.
Don’t raise the bar prematurely
Heather cautioned leaders against constantly raising the bar for their teams. She suggested, “Raise the bar. Stop and celebrate. Then, when the team is ready, raise the bar again.”
Agreeing, Emma offered an example: When leadership raised the bar for the Sophya team, the group seemed to internalize it quickly. Rather than raise the bar again right away, the management group decided to wait. That turned out to be the right decision as they found the overall team needed more time to operate at that higher level, she explained.
Following up on Heather’s comment about celebration, Emma asked how managers could bring teams together to celebrate achievements—before raising the bar again. Heather recommended arranging events that unite employees with common interests.
She also suggested organizing activities that involve employees’ families—and offered magic shows as an example. Emma pointed out that the digital world blurs the line between personal and professional. “Moments of celebration can now have a more personal element,” she added.
Set your boundaries
Heather shared insights from her experience transitioning to an all-remote work environment.
One important lesson, she explained, is to set boundaries. “If you’re going to maintain high performance, you should also maintain the ability to relax and turn off,” she said. “Remote work can cause burnout when team members don’t identify their limits and make them known,” she added. Heather further recommended that managers purposefully enquire about their team’s boundaries and respect them. Moreover, she said she asks team leaders to identify their limits and communicate them to their team.
Emma said from her own experience that “performance wanes if we continue to stay on all the time.”
Heather shared her method for setting boundaries: two 30 minute slots of going off-grid each day. Other colleagues, she said, put defined limits on their workdays. “Working six hours as a high-performer is better than working ten hours while feeling 50%,” she explained.
Emma and Heather also discussed proactive communication, team bonding, and other critical strategies for managing high-performance teams. Catch the whole conversation here.
Watch the rest of the conference, featuring additional discussions between top Silicon Valley engineering leaders, here.
PS: Turing’s readers can get two months of free access to a private Sophya digital office for teams of any size by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
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