The Passionate Doer

lessons shared by Yana Petrova

Posted by Alexander Todorov on Fri 21 October 2016

Passionate violinist

Two weeks ago I visited Startup Factory Ruse and had the opportunity to attend The Passionate Doer – Lessons Learned where Yana Petrova shared her journey with CoKitchen in the past 2 years. The event name comes from The Passionate Programmer book.

A doer is somebody who acts and strives to make changes. When you jump into something new it looks hard and scary at first. With time the important and difficult tasks begin to look like ordinary ones because you gain the experience required for them.

When you are a start-up company you have a limited amount of time and finance to make a break through. Thus it is important to hire the right people, but Yana argues it is more important to quickly dismiss the people who don't fit into your organization. I quite agree with her and the following paragraphs are centered around this idea.

An interesting point Yana makes is about negative reactions and lack of motivation in employees. When a person is lacking motivation they have troubles making logical connections between various tasks and are not able to see the big picture or how their actions or lack thereof affect everything else in the organization. She thinks these are most likely due to problems in our private lives instead of problems at work and as managers we should seek to understand what triggers these negative effects.

Yana believes fatigue makes us vulnerable to negative thoughts so it is best to make important decisions after you've had a good rest. In similar fashion her way to deal with a non-motivated employee is to give them a short break. Then she asks whether or not the employee is ready to return back to work and invest 100% into the job. If not then both parties say good bye to each other. Yana also says that for most problematic employees she'd seen it hasn't been worth it to bring them back and try to improve them.

I've asked Yana if she had some sort of test to keep track of how well a person performs their job. She didn't quite answer but an indicator for under-performance to her is how busy the rest of the team is. Unwillingness to take corrective action, e.g. explore new ways of doing things, acquire more skills or read particular books which will help improve on areas she'd identified, is also a good indicator that the person will have a tendency to under-perform.

Yana says she wouldn't keep an employee who defines their own boundaries and doesn't want to expand them because that person will not go out of their comfort zone. This leaves everyone else tiptoeing around that employee and having to do the job they can't, which puts more stress on the team.

Same approach we should adopt towards customers as well. Get rid of rude and angry customers so that the work flows with less stress.

Yana has been part of many volunteer efforts and her mistake was that she expected everyone to have the same volunteering spirit that she has. In reality it turned out people had trouble managing their own time or lacking the proper communication skills. Not taking responsibility for your actions and not learning from mistakes are other traits she noticed.

At CoKitchen they aim at pairing completely different people with one another so that everyone is able to learn the most from the other person. This is part of their internal mentorship program.

Another interesting book mentioned by a member of the audience was Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The book reveals the three elements of true motivation:

  • AUTONOMY - the desire to direct our own lives;
  • MASTERY - the urge to get better and better at something that matters;
  • PURPOSE - the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Sounds like an interesting book (from the point of view of the employer) which is definitely going into my reading list.

Sorry if my notes are a bit terse this time, it's been a busy month. I still hope you learned something new from this post. Thanks for reading!

Image credit: Omar Ismail

tags: events

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