I have a team-wide performance problem on the team I inherited about a year ago. No matter their title, the senior+ engineers on my team perform at the level of a junior engineer (objectively, according to the company's leveling rubric):
- They don't reach out to other partner teams for guidance in advance for work that involves changing things in other teams' purview, leading to a week, or sometimes several, of time spent undoing work on their PRs that wasn't kosher with the owning team (even if the correct solution was documented or when there have been several announcements that certain infra is thorny and that it's critical to reach out in advance).
- They can't ask questions on their own. When I've pushed them to reach out to X team to see what they think, they won't tailor the question to the audience, dump whatever they're asking without context, and then get 0 responses until I provide them a question to copypaste which does get answers. Then I have to help drive the conversation once it starts up to provide additional context as it gets asked. I explain why I worded the question the way I did, but then this repeats anyway
- They don't try to keep themselves in the loop and aware of what's going on outside of the bubble of our team. Even things that are widely messaged across the company might go unnoticed. It seems like the team tries to distance themselves from anything not immediately related to our work, which makes the above two worse
- The two most senior engineers on the team which I would expect to help level up other engineers perform under the level some of their more junior peers, and don't push team members to do the right thing
I've been very upfront with my reports on what I expect of them, especially the two most senior engineers. I'm constantly messaging, widely across the team and individually, that they need to reach out to other teams in advance to align on solutions well before the PR stage. There's even an existing weekly review of the teams in our circle where anyone can bring questions, proposals, and plans for feedback, but my team doesn't take anything there unless I explicitly ask them to. When they do after I ask, the wider review group is always positive and thanks them for bringing their questions to the group. The teams that I point them to ask questions to outside of this meeting are also very helpful. And, of course, I've gone over the leveling rubric with my reports in our 1-1s and clearly pointed out to them that I expect them to be doing these things. All to no avail. What to do when an entire team isn't receptive to feedback?
I suspect this to be a widespread case of imposter syndrome. The teams we work with are all extremely talented. From my interactions with my reports, I get the impression they don't want to come off dumb or feel like they're not "real" enough to involve themselves in areas outside of my team, even though the other teams are welcoming. I also have an inkling of a suspicion that they avoid keeping me in the loop if they know I'll ask them to talk to another team. I'm stuck on how to address this. Things I've weighed:
- Become very process heavy. E.g. each engineer has a weekly checklist: "Did you modify external code?" "Did you talk to external teams?" "Did you get a response from external teams?" to shift it to where engineers have to actively lie in order to continue performing below level. I don't feel like this would be particularly effective since it's just further hand-holding that I'm constantly having to codify into as much bureaucracy as possible rather than addressing the culture issue
- Bring in a new hire that performs at the expected level to help be a role model for the team and can one of the existing two senior-most engineers (limited positions). Not sure how well this would work out given that firing someone might just cause engineer confidence to further dive off a cliff and remove motivation for bettering themselves, and I have retention concerns for bringing on a talented expert to be a babysitter.
- Can everyone or work with leadership to reorg so that the low-confidence engineers are spread into other teams that set a better example and can more effectively enforce a higher bar that their team is already operating at. It's been extremely effective for individual engineers from other teams that were moved elsewhere in the past, but given that this is for an entire team, and, selfishly, reflects poorly on me, I don't think this is practical
None of these seem particularly appealing to me. Are there any other options I have to bring my team out of its shell?