This week, we interviewed Pete Peltier, chief technology officer at Beachy. Pete shared how an emphasis on iteration, healthy conflict, and understanding team dynamics has helped his team navigate the start-up landscape.
Tell us about your team.
“At Beachy, the product and engineering team operates as a single cross functional team that is focused on the entirety of the product; I'm responsible for six engineers, a product manager, and a product designer.
Building a trusting team environment.
“Q1 was challenging for Beachy; our focus wasn’t well aligned and as we all know, the landscape changed quite a bit over the quarter. To re-align, we’ve narrowed down our priorities to one or two big efforts while staying consistent with our team rituals, such as daily check-ins and bi-weekly retrospectives, where we open up about our biggest issues, whether it be about work or personal life. I’ve always believed being vulnerable allows other people to open up in the work environment. Looking back, I can clearly see the storming, norming, and performing cycles with the team, seeing how we have evolved from being a team that was not always open with one another to now having a good dynamic.”
Action: Consider having a daily stand up with your team in order to build team community and trust, especially in hard times. Create a list of questions that will engage your team. Anything from “what is your favorite movie?” to “what is one hobby we don’t know about?”
How does your team manage conflict?
“I am a conflict averse person-- conflict can sometimes feel scary and I’m naturally inclined to create harmony amongst a group. But, over the years, I have learned that conflict is a necessary component in the team dynamic. You can’t build a world class product, team, or company without disagreement and productive conflict. Conflict doesn’t have to be scary -- it really all starts with trust.
Action: Consider how your team handles conflict. As a group, do you tend to shy away from disagreement? Encourage your team to share disagreements, concerns, and risks. Try using the “I like, I would change” format to discuss team member’s opinions.
Biggest strength of your start-up team?
“We recognize that as an early stage startup, we can be more nimble now than we may be able to in the future. A strength of our team is simply that we constantly inspect and adapt - both from a technology and engineering perspective as well as an overall process standpoint. We’re really not afraid to change. We put ourselves out there, constantly working to make our product, and our team, the best it can be. We cut some corners in the past and now we see the necessity in taking the extra time to build and ship high-quality software.”
Action: How does your team make tradeoff decisions between the quality of work and the speed of work delivery? When considering new work or projects, make intentional decisions about the quality and timeline requirements. Check in on how you’re doing against those agreements over time.
What is the greatest hope for your team?
“Above everything else, I just want my people to be ok right now. I want my team to know that this is temporary for the world and for Beachy. If this changes anything for us, it only strengthens our position and demand for our offerings. I want them to know they’re cared for as human beings, not just their work output. It can be frustrating when we can’t get things done as quickly, so I think adjusting expectations can help us focus on what we can do, not what we can’t.”
Action: Adjusting expectations can feel like a slippery slope for managers. The urge that comes from the pressure to get work done can make team interactions all about the work. Find time to talk about non-work things every day and you’ll find the work will get done faster too.