TL;DR: We had a chat with Damian Tanenbaum, our new Chief Operating and People Officer, about what makes a team successful. He talked about working smart, establishing good communication channels between team members, and the main reasons he was drawn into Blankfactor.
Damian Tanenbaum joined Blankfactor a month ago as the new Chief Operating and People Officer. But a month at Blankfactor goes by very quickly. “I’m no longer the new guy,” he says jokingly. And he’s right. The company grew globally over 2-digit percent in a couple of weeks in February alone.
Damian’s 25-year expertise in strategic operations and his wealth of knowledge around customer-oriented strategies that drive company growth are fundamental in strengthening company culture and processes. We sat down for a quick chat to learn more about how to create effective, streamlined processes, and successful teams.
Why is creating an efficient process so important?
A while ago, I was working really hard — up to 12 to 14 hours a day. I was kind of frustrated that I wasn’t getting responses timely and that I felt like I was running up against a brick wall. A really good manager, whom I really respect, told me: “Damian, nobody wants your job. You make it look too hard. If it takes you 14 hours a day to do the job, you’re doing something wrong. Nobody cares how hard you are working. Start working smart.”
So, with that, I spent a lot of time studying and came back with a simple answer. The best way to do that is to connect the dots in the straightest possible line and make sure that communication is clear and straightforward.
You have to take baby steps to accomplish this. Begin by reaching for the low-hanging fruit; the things that have the highest value, but are easiest to accomplish. Then, start to swim upstream into some of the harder things. If you create a repeatable process, some of the harder tasks will begin to fall in line. Over time, teams will deliver high-quality results and will become more effective.
What are the key aspects of creating an adaptable and efficient culture?
To me, each person has to come to the table with their own different skill set; their own different way of doing things. They have to challenge each other, agree on the right steps forward, and then get to work.
How do you create an effective, streamlined process while working with different cultures and personalities?
I’ve organized this process into five steps. First and foremost, you have to start with communication. I like to begin talking to people one by one, bouncing off and exchanging ideas. The second step is pulling everybody together, stating what we’ve already agreed upon, and listening to whatever questions they may have. The third step is a little difficult. At this stage, you begin reminding people what they’ve recently agreed to.
As a result of the third step, some people will struggle to adapt to the new changes or will react negatively. This is the moment when we remind people of their new role. Finally, in the fifth step, you see the team moving in the right direction. New projects, new tasks, and new functions are much easier to handle once we’re performing as a single voice.
What are the greatest challenges in what makes a team successful?
Change is scary to a lot of people. But you have to allow everyone to adjust at their own pace. The main role of anyone in a leadership position should be to understand that we all have different speeds. Some people are going to be very process-oriented while others prefer to learn as they go. And that’s completely fine.
An important part of this process is making sure your team understands what their strengths are. It’s just as important, however, to work on their weak points. I mean, these won’t be front and center. Their strengths are in the same place. But, by working together as a team, you’re able to balance different sets of skills and points of view. At the end of the day, success builds success.
What makes a team successful? What are the three greatest lessons you’ve learned about creating efficient and adaptable teams?
Keep it simple. Communicate. Care.
First off, it’s got to be simple. I can’t go in there and set a vision that nobody understands. Right? Second, I’ve got to communicate it well and make sure everybody is on the same page. Third, I have to care enough to help bring everybody in the organization to the career they want, and for them to become the professionals they want to be.
What drew you to Blankfactor?
Blankfactor partners with some of the best businesses in the industry. Everybody we service is a growing company with ambitious goals. To remain relevant, they depend on the newest technology, which advances at a rapid pace. They need developers, project managers, and designers. And I think it’s so cool to be in a position to be needed!
At the same time, our expertise in the industries we service makes us incredibly valuable. Let’s look at it like this: the industries we specialize in are growing, we’re highly knowledgeable on new technology, and we are in the position to add value to those customers. We’re in a position to offer people jobs that can help shape the future.
What’s your vision for Blankfactor?
My goal is to make sure every team member at Blankfactor is engaged and highly motivated. A highly stimulating environment fosters great, innovative products that our customers will love. This is the way we can grow in the industries our customers are growing and stay relevant partners in their business.
That’s why we’re constantly looking for people who are willing to learn, train their minds, their social skills, and their technical skills. Our vision for this company is to hire world-class talent looking to participate in great projects and build a successful career path out of following their dreams.
How does this vision fit into working in a multicultural environment?
I think it’s awesome. Working with different cultures keeps our job interesting. It also means we can learn from each other. I can start my day with an 8:00 a.m. call and talk to folks in Bulgaria; understand what gets them to stay engaged and motivated. An hour later, while talking to people in Colombia or Costa Rica, I can see that what moves them is something totally different. What’s key here is knowing what they need and providing the necessary support.
We offer our customers multiple options in services and resources. And it’s the same for our employees. We’re building multiple products for multiple customers. To me, having a cross-culture, cross-country, and cross-customer business is actually a selling point as to one of the reasons I’m here.
This is a technology company with a people mindset. We create great things because we care about the people who build them. That is one of the reasons every employee should want to be here, and one of the reasons every customer should want to deal with us.