What is the most underrated management skill?

Imagine a rumor was published in the Wall Street Journal this morning that your employer was planning a major round of layoffs this week.

And today you’re supposed to lead the weekly team meeting.

How would you handle it? Would you address it? If so, how?

This exact situation happened to me one year ago. Up to that point, Facebook / Meta had never done a major round of layoffs so a lot of people weren’t sure anything would happen.

But I had been through multiple rounds of layoffs at Etsy and I knew the possibility was real.

As a PM, EM, or tech manager, your job is to support individual contributors and maximize their collective contribution to the company:

By getting them to work together as a team.

Meetings are one of the key where is the team comes together. But it requires finesse. It requires the art and science of facilitation.

I ended up addressing the elephant in the room, acknowledging the fear and uncertainty, sharing my own personal experience at Etsy, and leading the group through a mini retrospective.

The feelings that came out were not the ones I had ever heard folks address verbally. Worried. Anxious. Overwhelmed. But also Curious. Grateful. Motivated.

Using an anonymous polling tool helped the team feel connected and grounded with each other.

The layoffs hit the team hard, with five out of the seven engineers affected initially, although several of them were able to recover their position.

No one on the core team quit, or tried to change teams (some got reorged without consent). And morale and productivity stayed relatively high (while it generally tanked across the company)

Moral of the story: facilitating the right conversation in a crucial moment for a team can make or break their effectiveness.

Whether it's a planning meeting, a brainstorm, a retro, a performance review, or a project kickoff, learning the skill of facilitation can pay dividends.

On Wed October 4th, my friend, mindfulness teacher, and former Meta colleague Miroo Kim and I will be teaching a hands on workshop about the art and science of facilitation.

Sign up 👉 https://lu.ma/hlc8t1in