People are more important than timelines

I’ve been asked at times why I approve unplanned personal leaves in my team even if it affects our project timelines. It’s quite simple — People are more important than timelines.

Timelines aren’t real. People are.

Even our best laid plans are at the mercy of life’s chaos. If my teammate tells me they need to take a leave for a few days, I trust that whatever they need to do is important. I trust that they want to do their best work and finish our project on time but situations outside their control need addressing before they can do that.

But what If you’re wrong?

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll get taken advantage of?”.

If I feel that my teammates are being dishonest and putting their work at risk for no good reason, then I have much bigger problems than project timelines.

If I can’t believe them when they tell me they are dealing with something extraordinary, then how will we trust each other in the thousands of instances of the mundane?

A team that cannot trust it’s members is not a team. It’s a farce. It won’t last and it can certainly never thrive.

How we see the world matters

I refuse to optimize how we work to cater to bad actors.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are a very real phenomenon. If I expect to build a team of ethical, creative people who wish to do their best, then that’s what I’ll create given enough time. If I create a suspicious and distrustful environment then that’s what I’ll eventually end up with.

A system that treats everyone as a cheater because there might occasionally be a few real cheaters will not be a place where I’d want to work and neither would the people I’d want to work with.

But the timelines!

Okay, I admit it. There are some things that actually have to be done by a certain date.

That’s just some things though.

Most timelines are a pure product of our imagination and if our imagination can create them then it can also change them.

If I have consistently shown faith in my teammates for most things, they will be happy to put in the extra effort needed for those some things.

Trust is a two-way street.

Thank you for reading internet stranger!

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Until next time!

Head of UX Engineering at GOJEK