15 | Bruce Wang from Netflix: How to succeed as a leader

For this episode we got the honor to interview Bruce Wang again! Bruce works as a Director of Engineering at Netflix and in the first episode with Bruce, we discovered recruiting and organizational culture at Netflix. This time Milla and Bruce dive into the theme of leadership.

To have a strong Monday is to be able to reset the brain during the weekend.

This is what Bruce said last time and he still believes in it strongly. That is why he sets away some time of the week only for him and his family. This could be spending time together hiking or exploring the city. For him this is the key element for a good work-life balance, to be able to relax during the free time and then getting back to work refreshed.

What is a mistake leaders often do?

What usually happens when people change roles is that they don’t differentiate their behavior enough. It is very crucial to understand the difference between different roles and how to behave in them. A common mistake is that when the role changes, the behavior of a person doesn’t change with it. That can lead to misunderstandings and confusion from team members’ side.

The challenge is that sometimes we don’t know how to change our behavior. The responsibility of a technical team lead is to lead the projects forward, as a people team lead is responsible for leading the people. The main difference is the thing you’re supposed to lead: projects vs. people. And if you change the role between these two, you’ll have to learn how to change the behavior to match the new role.

What is the recipe for building a successful team? Or is there one?

Bruce highlights one thing above all others: how is your team able to learn while growing. Do your team members learn from their mistakes and can they thrive in the future. If the leader is able to create an atmosphere where it is ok to make mistakes, then it is also a safe place for new learning opportunities.

Basically, this requires constantly coming up with new ideas and structures that’ll work at the current time. This way you form your team to become a learning, growing organism that constantly adapts and overcomes obstacles ahead. If your team doesn’t have agile skills for learning and adapting, it will definitely slow you down and possibly put an end to your business.

Tips for new leaders

As a leader, you have a lot of things going on at the same time. One main thing to remember is:

Do not focus on too many things at once. Pick a few strategic ones and focus on them.

By focusing on a few things at a time you’ll be able to share your attention more effectively and the outcome will probably be better than if you try to do a hundred things at once.

Also, keep in mind that with a diverse team you most likely will get better results than if all of you were exactly the same. People tend to be around others that are similar to you but that doesn’t make a great team. Think about the team as a puzzle: each piece is different, but together they form a complete picture. By creating a diverse team, you create a much stronger system.