Category Archives: Psychology
A friend (non technical) recently asked me how I lead my dev team, he had led product and marketing before, so I have attempted to focus on the differences, that said good team leadership has commonality with all disciplines.
I currently have three software engineers, one IT/Dev OPs and one product designer (3 female and 3 male). In the past I have led 23 teams. I will use this blog for my team to hold me to account
Being accountable for “no surprises” is the core. Where ever possible you should be accountable for all of the people that you work with, people should not be surprised by what you say, because you have already asked their opinion, maybe even evolved your thinking and they can see the process by which you went through to reach a decision.
It means more communication and more interaction with your people. It means you can be vulnerable. It means stepping outside of your “assigned” responsibility and forming relationships with all parts of your organization, and other organizations. Its about being connected, its about being a leader and a follower. It shows that people understand you and your core principles. That you can be consistent and when you adapt they can see that to.
There are not things left unsaid, you are not passive aggressive or have control issues.
Being a Leader of context
The role you take on should change depending on the context. Sometimes you are the coach, sometimes the mentor, sometimes the friend, sometimes a psychologist, sometimes the engineer, sometimes the product owner, sometimes the user advocate, sometimes the engineer advocate, sometimes the leadership context, sometimes the inspirer, sometimes the critic.. There are different leadership styles and yours should adapt. In 2003, prior to my MBA this book really helped me step up my game The New Leaders: Transforming The Art Of Leadership Into The Science Of Results
You are the right person at the right time
Different places/ways to work
People are generally smarter/productive longer, when they can have different types of environments to work in and have multiple ways to express themselves. Have multiple places that engineer can work in. When I recruited my current team, I got the organization on board with the following:
- Give the engineer a laptop
- Have somewhere comfortable to work e.g. sofa, kitchen
- Have somewhere serious/quiet with extra screen
- Have somewhere they can stand up and code
- Have somewhere outside if possible, natural light/fresh air is a great refresher
- Make it possible to work remotely
- That there are white boards for people to express, figure out a problem.
This is a good book if you want to really consider your culture and the way you work. The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace. Without doubt you should ask each team member what helps them concentrate, what distracts them, what they need to stay in the zone. The obvious big one for many is a good set of headphones. Do not underestimate the quality of a good display also, anything at the quality of a Retina can reduce eye tiredness.
Different physical environments can refresh you, help you think bigger or focus. Be flexible.
Leave chunks of time to code
Engineers are generally more efficient if given chunks of time to code. Thus have your meetings meetings near mornings or lunchtime. To give several hours of interrupted research/code time.
- Get engineers to block out their time on their calendars, so product/founders can book time when needed
- Use an IM system to ask questions such as Slack or Skype during those chunks of time and do not expect a quick response
Developers need chunks of time to be left alone to get on and focus
Being a good human being
This means understanding each others needs and wants. Expectations both from the lead and engineer should not be hidden, things should not be left unsaid. Sometimes we need processing time, to check in destructive emotion, but you should still tell that person how they made you feel. You should also be kind but not nice.
Both people should be able to be vulnerable with each other and trust each other. You both need to avoid surprises. This is done through good communication, which is not common and takes effort. This needs time together.
- Feedback in the moment, always ask permission before giving feedback and make it about the behaviour you saw. Do not assume intent, in fact assume positive intent. Give positive and negative feedback. Understand how each member likes to receive feedback. This is my slide deck from teaching my teams about feedback.
- Weekly One to One checkins 10-30 mins, any fire issues? any smoking issues?
- Monthly sit down at least one hour. I have a list of questions to always go through, which we agree when we start together.
- Allow others to lead, giving opportunities to members of your team to lead on a project/task whatever you do not need to be the boss of everything.
Question set for monthlyFirst conversation should be to agree the questions, here is a starting set. They should based around the culture we wish to create and how we want to treat our people
- How are you feeling? Any hot issues we should talk about?
- How are you contributing to the company and your team?
- Are you a Team player? How are you involving others in your process?
- How are you growing/learning? Are we are helping your reach potential? Do you have mastery?
- What are your Technical Capabilities here? Where do you feel competent?
- How are you helping the company grow and evolve?
- Are you Hungry? How productive are you? Are you taking inspired action?
- Do you have a friend here?
- Do you have a mentor or coach in the company? Are you coaching others?
- Do you want stay with the team and the company?
- What can can we do better as an employer/me as your leader/CEO?
- Do you feel you have Autonomy? Are there things stopping you doing your job?
- Do you feel you have Purpose? Do you understand what we are building and why?
- Are you contributing to the wider community? What can we do to help?
One to one, face to face is the highest bandwidth of communication
Your processes and system should evolve.
The way you do things should be Agile (as originally intended i.e. flexible and evolve NOT rules). Agree a workflow together from product to engineer. It should change and evolve to be right for the context.
- When starting with a team, I will audit all current systems and ask for each members views privately on each tool/system/process, to ensure the less confident or shy people get their say
- I will then have a team meeting to review what we need and what we like
- Any team wide system change should involve all parties
- Deadlines should have engineer involvement and not be dictated downwards
For example in my latest team we discussed the tools we wanted and we decided to use
- Slack for IM
- BaseCamp for idealization and research
- Github for product/features/user stories and code/issue management – The way we used tags evolved several times.
Freedom to solve the actual problem
Sometimes Product/founders/Engineering leads may try to solve the problem in their way i.e. micromanage. Giving the engineer the “code monkey” role of just coding to a very prescribed way i.e. an exacting feature. Giving no space, to actually problem solve can be very limiting and create an environment where creativity and innovation are stifled i.e. the evil called micromanagement. Most humans do not like their freedom taken from them. So find the the right balance between the organizations’ needs and the employees. That said some people like more structure, context matters.
- Give space for engineers to solve the problem in their way. If you are already using Agile then you may evolve the story a couple times as users respond to the work.
- Within the user stories/feature requirements do not limit. Ensure you actual describe the problem you want solve, suggestion ideas/solutions but where possible do not dictate
- Involve the team in talking about the features and discussing possible approaches, but the actual engineer who takes the feature gets to decide
- Engineers should have some understanding of the customers. Ensure your engineers meet customers, and spend time with your Customer success/relations people.
- Keep the engineer accountable for the response by users. Thus have good monitoring software and have a culture when engineer go back to check the real world implications of their work.
Micro Management is the evil of leadership, it kills creativity, innovation, trust, and growth. It can appear both in a manager and in the processes you impose on your people
A culture of science
Scientists experiment many times and fail many times and one day they get it right. Encourage a culture of learning from mistakes not teasing/persecution which means encouraging experimentation and forgiveness.
- Discussion should be based on logic in reference to code
- Create an environment where people can I say “I do not know.. but here is an idea/feeling/instinct”
- Call people out if they tease others about their failures or use it to argue they case in a discussion
- Careful to not let irrelevant aspects enter into the discussion such as gender, race, age or sexuality. I say careful because humour can involve these but they should not sway discussions and the receiving of the humour should not be hurt.
Experimentation and failure should be Ok, team members should not “haze” each other. Leadership need to be able to move on
To build a team well, needs reflection and the teams involvement
The team needs time to connect as a team and evolve together as a team. We have a book club where we talk about the teams performance in terms not related to code. How good are we at communicating:
- Giving/receiving feedback
- How do we react to others ideas?
- Who do we go to help us through problems?
- Who pair code with more often
- How much do we know about each others strengths and weaknesses?
- How vulnerable can we be with each other?
We used The Five Dysfunctions of a Team to kick start this conversation. Every couple months we take time to talk about how a team we are in terms of communication. You need to invest in the actually team to have a team..
You need time for the team to talk about the team, spot weaknesses and evolve
Ask your people how you are doing
“How am I doing?” should not be a hard question for you. Ask it informally in your one to one monthlies and formally at least every 3 months. The no surprise rule should be for all. It should be 360 your leaders, peers and your people. Find out if people get what they want and what they need from you, in terms of communication, conflict/challenge, advice and performance.
You learn faster by other people telling you what you are doing right and wrong
Collaborating with your leader
Hopefully you chose your boss carefully when you were recruited into the organization.. but things evolve, so maybe that perfect person you went to work for, moved on. I have found the best leaders are those who keeping growing i.e. they read about how to be a better leader, they can be vulnerable with you and you can talk openly. When you make mistake your instinct is to tell your boss, when one of your team performs really well you never feel the need to take credit and generally you have no fear of your boss talking to your team. If you do find the above hard, understand why.
- Never underestimate the amount of time you will need for your leader
- Know each others strengths, weaknesses and blind spots
- Find those things you really enjoy about each other
- Find those things that you find difficult and talk about them
- Build strong relationships throughout the organization, ensure all find you approachable
Success in any organization is about working together and helping each other evolve
Adding to the team
Whilst you as the lead will drive this process, you should involve the team in the process. You should ensure everyone is trained and good at the interview process. This may mean mock interviews, where your team interview you. Its worth noting that you do not want more clones, you need different types of people, skillsets, who sometimes will clash, but have the communication skills and reasoning capacity to grow from each other.
- Be clear what the team is missing and what you need
- Agree on what you are looking for both terms of technical and personality
- Ensure the all those that are interviewing try out their questions, again no surprises
- Have space for something social
- The best interviews are like a great chat amongst friends about something technical
- Personally I hire on communications skills, problem solving skills, learning capability and then current technical skills
- I often look for potential as much as current craft capabilities
- I do not hire more of me, I want diversity
- If employing someone with less experience, be clear what the areas are and put in place a training program to fill those gaps.
I look for growth potential, hunger, curiosity, pro-active, problem solving capability, how they will add value to the team and how they will help the team evolve. Then I start start to consider technical experience.
Software engineers are great problem solvers
Sometimes we box people into a role. Humans are so much more than their job title and job description. Most people are capable of applying their skills in other domains. You have a problem, why not ask a software engineer?
I will keep adding to this blog as I learn.
Ageism is often used in reference to what some people think about older people. I have seen ageism used to undermine the opinions and thoughts of younger people.
I think what I have learned is that perception of someones age has some strong prejudice and assumptions that come with it. That these undermine people when they need not. That by treating someone with more or less respect due to their age can often blind you.
My friend circle varies massively in age range with my oldest friend being 35 years older then me and my youngest 23 years younger. Interestingly I find younger people more prejudice than older for relationships. Personally I like a good mix of friends who we can have fun, conversation and trust. Having friends from very different backgrounds, helps me to have greater perspective of the actual world.
Dating sites encourage age discrimination, with Tinder/POF/okCupid (not eHarmony) having it as priority information. Age seems an easy category to filter on, but like looks it’s not a good predictor of chemistry or how you feel with someone. What little I know of relationships is you need to be a partners (that control and guidance should be shared by both), grow together and respect each other. Also I have found that some people are more concerned how others think i.e. he looks too old for her or vice versa than anything inside the actual relationship. We are sometimes concerned with one taking advantage of the other. The question really is what is equal? No doubt a journey travelled together is more powerful and sharing the different perspectives of your different experiences is more powerful.
Being younger in work
My experience in my twenties was there was a lot of assumption by older people about what I did and did not know. I found myself looking older to be heard. I had a goatee for a long time to and dressed to look older, it made a huge difference in the reception of my thoughts. I also found that adults/leaders/managers would not include the why when they were doing something and just tell us what and sometimes how. I felt like a child and I did not like it, in fact it made me more rebellious. And in part I gave up sharing my best ideas. The best leaders who would explain the why would get best of me.
Our Life Stage can sometimes be mistaken for ageism, for example couples tend to hang with couples, couples with kids hang with couples with kids. Whilst this is not always true, there is something in it. One potential employer asked me because you have a child will you be able to truly commit to this job. I just left the interview, and I don’t have a child!
Being Older in work
Now as an older person occasionally I have been asked if I have too much responsibility or have the energy to really commit to a job i.e. stay late on a regualry basis. The energy one is something I have seen both to me and others (if you know me you know I have more energy then the average 16 year old). In fact it has increased the older I get (hangovers however last longer then they should)! Medical science is also improving the quality of our lives, which is good because most of us will not be able to afford to actually retire. One employer asked me because I was older would I be able to keep up with the younger employers? I asked him what he actually meant, he said are you hungry enough to work long hours? It felt like he liked to take advantage of people. I have always worked long hours. Six months ago I worked for two years seven days a week.. My age had nothing to do with it.
It’s assumed that if you’ve made it to a certain level, you must be over a certain age and have advanced credentials (Eg. A master’s degree). Assumption makes an arse out of me and you.
Startup and Techs
When I go to startup pitches I find the Angels (Investors) tend to favour young men. There is a combination of sexism and ageism going on here. And there is a mythology that all successful startups are built by young people, which is not supported by any science but appears to be the “view”. This article digs into this.
Mark Zuckerberg apparently said that people under 30 are smarter. Another article explored The Brutal Ageism of Tech. One practice of hiding jobs behind Recent Graduates is explored here. There appears to be a view that people over 50 should not be in leadership jobs.
Rising above ageism
I want to be better than my past experience, I want to evolve not enforce a stupid prejudice. So here are my suggestions to myself:
Never ask someone their age
Do not judge someone by their age. It is lazy, get to know them first. Attitude may be effected by your age but is not dictated by it. Just because you started with same (or opposite) political view as your parents does not mean you keep them. Its experiences not age that will determine what they become.
Talk to all like an adult
Take the time to explain why, treat all like equals and invest in a person. Treat others as you wish to be treated.
Ideas should be valued regardless of age
A great idea can come from experience but also from lack of experience. Understanding the idea is more important than making assumptions of what I perceive it to be or who delivers it. Ideas are always fragile, so grow it see where it takes you before dismissing it.
Actual experiences is more important than age
Wisdom I feel comes from experience more the bad ones than the good ones. Own your experiences, they maybe apply to others. That said, experiences can also limit us, sometimes you need to prove there is more to explore.
Age does not relate to capability
There are now more ways to learn, than ever before. And its not just knowledge, There is more shared wisdom in the world. Take this article on reaching 40 and what you realize. Just look at TED.COM or the number of self help books. Money does not always determine access to knowledge. And teaching has become better so we can all learn faster. In fact I would say that two things can show this how well read a person or how many “good” videos (ted.com) or video subscriptions a person follows e.g. RubyTapas. All of that said getting fit right is often more important than current capability.
Age does effect health but not energy or drive
That said, it can be severally muted with a good diet and exercise. When I was younger I took my health for granted. As I got older I appreciated my body more, learned more and in some ways I am fitter now than at any other time of my life.
What thoughts or experiences do you have?
I am a workaholic (I never feel I work hard enough), there used to be a few things that make me pause and force me to reflect such as illness, love, friends, mentors, etc. Sometimes these “interruptions” are random and infrequent and may not occur for several years.
Life has taught me to occasionally pause and consider who and where I am.
Every year now I review my life, I considering all aspects and what I need to change or not. At work they would call this a performance review.
You in the end, are the only person you have to live with throughout your life, you need to stay in touch and avoid too much drift. A little drift is good because it can allow you to reflect and consider new paths.
I use the following categories to help me breakdown what is important.
These are my personal ones that have change throughout my life, you may have different ones, over time you will find that they will evolve.
Is there enough love my life in terms of relationships, friends and family? Are there people in my life that cost more then they give/gave? Am I giving enough to them? Do I Love myself? Does your “friend” spend more time talking about themselves then asking you how you are? Who helps you out when your are sick? Who calls you out on your stupidity? Of course these questions are reversible? e.g. are you a good friend to them?
Am I working or playing towards something? Am I just floating? Am I happy with my level of progress?
Am I giving back? Am I mentoring, teaching or helping others grow. Am I paying attention to politics and the communities needs?
Am I still the same person or have I evolved? Am I growing and learning? Am I pushing the boundaries of my personality, my knowledge, and my skills. Is there enough challenge in my life?
Do I have muses? Do I have people? Books? Music? Arts? Games? Food? Is there something refreshing my soul? Do I have moments to explore or simply rest?
Am I healthy? Do have the body that I want? Can it do the things I want? Do I eat as I should? Do I sleep as I should? Are you snappy with friends? Do you need time off?
Do I enjoy it? Do I have a leader who inspires me? Does the organization value me? Am I able to use my core capabilities? Is the cost of working for them matched by the value I receive? Yes I give my work a performance review – are they what I need?
Do I have enough? Do I have plans for when things go wrong? Do I have saving goals/purposes.
9. My Drivers
Over time you will start to see patterns in your behaviours, things or people you prefer to be around. It has helped me understand that I have certain drivers (some good and some not) for example I am incredibly curious, I want to know why, but do I spend too much time exploring/discovering and not acting? There are things that I sometimes find difficult to manage e.g. being a workaholic do I make sure that I have enough rest and/or vacation, is my health good?; we are all better people to others when we are refreshed.
Making it real
Often I will draw a mind map for each (1-8) and then give it an overall score between 1 and 10. If it is lower then 5 I start to consider how to improve it, by adding things that could improve the score on my mind map on the edges. I build an action plan for the next year e.g. If I do not have enough Love, should I meet new people, do I deepen the my relationships that are good for me, or do I remove people from my life. After completing all the mind maps I consider the bigger picture and the inter relationships between each mind map, e.g. could I kill two birds with one stone? Or is one so high and at the cost of others e.g. Work is at 9 but Love is at 2.
Then I will consider my drivers. Some of these drivers will clash with others, how are you managing that balance? I draw an illustration for each of my drivers and consider both the good and bad of each.
Then I again I will look at the connections between all (1-9).
This is the way I consider my life on an annual basis, you may have different things that matter, different drivers that push you. I urge you to discover who and where you are and how to make sure you are in control of your life, not too much control, but enough to be heading in the direction that you wish.
The reality for most people is you will have many jobs and careers.
My journey so far would appear to be all over the map. I started as apprentice potter, a newspaper delivery boy, a general dogsbody in a kitchen, a cook, a chef, a computer scientist, a student politician, a trainer, a charity campaigner, a political campaigner, a english teacher, a dive instructor, a politician, a cabinet member, a marketing VP, consultant, startup founder, a college professor, a tech support, and a developer.
Every job and career can teach you many things (if you are paying attention), changing either, will give you a faster track to understand the similarities and difference in different sectors and jobs. In the end by having different of jobs/careers you will see connections, innovations that others who are stuck in one role and career will rarely see.. For me I connect so many disparate things, see opportunities where others are blind and I am constantly readdressing what others see as the “truth”, common sense or the obvious. All because they are coming from one angle or a limited few angles and I am not.
Hint when you have lost your keys stand on a chair it will allow you to see the room from a different angle that you are unfamiliar with and you will pay more attention because it is new.. I am suggesting the same thing about your career..
A job and career should fit to your needs and desires at the time.. sometimes that will be simply to pay the rent, other times it should be explore another part of you. Choose a pathway of jobs and careers that will make you happy and that will teach you the things you need and desire, to help you with the next step.. consider it a pathway or a tree with many opportunities..
Plan your professional life.
So if you change your job career regularly what about loyalty to orgainsations and businesses, fair question:
- Public companies are often more loyal to their shareholders and the organisations survival then you, yes even if you are the founder or CEO.
- Private companies loyalties are determined by the power structure or family relationships or funders.
- Governments are loyal to the last electorate vote, who often vote on the last bad thing the government did, whole programs and departments are wiped out as governments change.
- Non-Profits immediate future are determined on the economic cycle
Ok a touch cynical I appreciate, but the reality is organisations are always changing even if a bit slowly. And so should you!
Here is a couple things that helped me and things I continue grow:
1. Importance of self awareness
The more context and angles you see yourself in, the more constructive feedback you get, the more you will truly understand yourself. As you experience different organisation cultures you will build an understanding in what you like and dislike. You will need to book sometime for yourself to reflect, process and understand.
Most people are not truly aware of what their dream job is, they even think they do, just do not know until you have tried it. Maybe you have be driven to this point because it was what was expected of you by your family or friends or teachers. Chill, I personally do not think you have to have a job or career for life, you are not a penguin you are a human you have choices. Sometimes having choice is part of the problem..
In my experience, there is something more powerful then the right job, its working with an awesome team. When this happens the role seems less important as long as you are contributing to the team. Being good in your role and being proactive in learning becomes natural.
Trying out a few personalities tests will also give you some slivers off your personality, remember most of this are very superficial and a snapshot in a time and a place.
2. Fear should become your friend
We all need become unafraid of changing both careers and jobs or at least manage the fear so it becomes your adrenaline, your extra boost, a source of strength, not weakness.
You can reduce fear by planning for the change, e.g. taking evening courses, internship, work seven days a week (5 in one job, 2 in the new role), get a mentor in the role you want to be in. Take a vacation and go to a conference that concentrates on that role, check out if these people are the ones you want to be surrounded by.
It is not easy to learn new skills for which you are being paid for. You will often feel “stupid” and fustrated at yourself. Understand the basics of anger management, because your mistakes will make you angry at yourself more! Ask your partner(s), friend(s) or family(s) to keep an eye on you and help you adjust, reflect and process.
3. Choose your boss carefully
It does not matter how good you are, if your boss does not like you, the rest is irrelevent. You must choose a boss who can be both your coach and mentor. You are recruiting for you. You are looking for the best match for you. Let them worry about if you are good match for them. Your interviews should be 50/50 in terms of questions, yes you asking 50%.
Questions to ask:
- How many of your staff have you coached and mentored?
- Describe to me your coaching style?
- Can you give me examples of your staff that have outgrown their roles?
- Have any of your staff ended up in senior positions to you?
- If I fail project how will you react to your colleagues and me?
4. Understand how to build a new network
You will not be here for ever, find out who the good people are. You have a strong advantage over those who stay in one job or company, your network will grow faster, this gives you more opportunities for new roles. Again match people on your personality, not power/influence. Look for the people you want to work with again. Also look for the people who are really good at, what you are not.
5. Understand how to learn and grow your skills fast
This is very important. Get to really know how you learn best and expand your learn capabilities. You should not, use one learning model to understand this, you use many models (they all see different things). It may require an investment on your part, in the end understanding this will determine in part your success in each job and career. Accept that your will occasionally make a mistake or even fail.
Here are some learning style models:
- Honey & Mumford Learning Styles Questionnaire (Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist)
- David Kolb’s model (Accommodating, Converging, Diverging and Assimilating)
- Neil Fleming’s VAK/VARK model (visual learners, auditory learners and kinesthetic learners)
- Grasha-Reichmann Learning Style Scale (avoidant, competitive, collaborative, dependent, independent and participative)
6. Grow both your leadership and followship abilities
Whilst we have media mythology that states that leaders are more important.
Leaders only exist if they have followers.
If an organisation expects you to serve as a slave for five years before you can have some leadership responsibilities move on, go work for a smaller growing organization, who offers opportunities.That said it is also important to occasionally work for larger organisations to understand how to work in one e.g. how bureaucratic systems work, how the culture of having several tiers of management, effects innovation and the impact policy decisions from on-high effect the person on the ground floor or customer facing.
In my career I have chosen to work in leadership and then not. It has accelerated my abilities in both. But it is not easy. It has taught me humility, patience, the ability to coach upwards and let others fail if need be. Sometimes you need to reinforce your roots, other times explore a branch. Growing upwards is not always the best choice.
7. Do not burn bridges
A lesson I learned from politics. You will fail, what people really respect is how you do it with humility and style and then come back and show people why you are good. You also never know who will be your allies in the future, occasionally you will have to forgive others and move on. Sometimes you will work out in hindsight it was you creating the problems.
8. You own your future
Plan your professional life. Work out where you think may want to be. Look at the skills, knowledge and experience you will need to acquire, to achieve each step. This plan should and will change as opportunities pop up. Reflect on each job, what did you like about it and what did you not. Reflect on your bosses, what was good and not, how will this improve both your leadership and followship abilities. How specifically are you going to grow, what books, courses, conferences will you attend? Which personality tests will you pay for.
Make a plan, but stay on your toes and change as you learn.
Do not let your manager or HR “talent manage” you. They care about their needs or the organizations needs not yours. Of course listen to their advice, but check in with their motivation. Yes ask them!
Most talent management and skills databases systems are simply shit. They are limited by traditional concepts of the education you have received and the job titles you have had. They are predicting your future by looking at your past. Idiots. Just imagine if we limited the human races future on the past, so why do we do it for every individual. Your past could be a reflection of your parents, the financial place you have come from, if you were teased at school, things that as an adult you can choose to move on from.
Even currently online resumes miss the point, how limited in expression and in understanding the professional needs of a human, even from an organisation perspective they are limited in use.
This simply waste of human potential, angers me so much, it is in part why I founded Professional You and why in time I will blow this shit into the past.
This has become my flame, the thing I will build all the skills I need towards, the types of people I will hunt for to help me with this mission. And if I fail it would be for a cause I believe in.
My path is clear, I understand the full grown tree that I need to grow, in myself. This clarity took many roles, many careers, many failures and success.
I hope this post helps you find some of your tree, or helps you on your journey. Please share your learnings, so I can learn from you
So recently someone I respect has being promoted to become a leader of an organization. I want them to be successful, so I thought long and hard if I had some good advice that I could share. Was there a good book I could recommend? Or a video?
I own about 60 books on leadership excluding the MBA stuff. There was one that I kept coming back to me, it was a book I first read when I had just being elected to office and became the cabinet member for Cornwall County Council (UK) as Community & Culture “Minister”. This role was a real step up for me in terms of budget (71 million) and staff (over 440 spread out over many locations), where there was often upto 4 leaders between me and the frontline staff.
A good book for those who wish to improve their workplace. Provides a lot of evidence e.g. psychology studies and crafts them into a compelling narrative. The actions at the end of each chapter are a usefu summaryl.
A lot to learn here for all leaders and those who wish to be leaders. And maybe even for progressive trade unionists. And of course for people who would rather improve their workplace, rather than complain about it!
This book not only had a lot of wisdom in it, that we often take for granted and thus forget. I think the best kind of leadership book is one you walk away from and think/feel I want to be led by this person. And to make it even better I know now how I can ‘upgrade’ myself to replicate this over time.
“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them”
In the end the leaders behaviour will create a culture, so the book and video I recommended were as much about context (i.e. of this new leaders organisation, and its culture).
Another choice was the video by Simon Sinek, Start with the Why
This video ties into the need to inspire and effective leadership is about inspiration not overt control.
The book The Power of Why by Amanda Lang, had a number of factors I needed, it is written by a women who is also Canadian and the stories come from other industry sectors. Context is everything.
“Permission to dream is also permission to fail”
A book I found useful early in my career was The New Leaders by Daniel Goleman (he also wrote Emotional Intelligence). It was this book that showed me on reflection, the different leadership styles you will apply e.g. command and control has its place, depending on the context. It was also the book that helped to delegate with trust when moving into middle management.
Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion an inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal: Great leadership works through emotions..
The last book is produced by CEO of the company with probably the best customer service on the planet. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh journeys through time and a mans’ growth in understanding importance of leadership behaviours and their impact on the staff and thus the organisations’ culture.
Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded
My last couple thoughts come from experience:
- That leadership is as much about vulnerability, as it is about confidence – see Brené Browns TED Video
- That followers choose who inspires and leads them rather then manages and controls them
- That women leaders are often better coaches then males, but the often to do not “give” territory for their coachees to succeed in.
- That “rebels” can often be bright people who are bored, give them something to do, they could become your greatest innovators
Finally leadership is a skill that you will never master, so expect to fail, maybe even plan for it, that said we often “love” rather than just respect the leaders more who have failed and have come back to succeed.
Your brand is the COMPLETE experience, every interaction, anything that can change motivation and/or attitudes, with your company. This can include the consuming of your product and service, repair, suppliers and yes your recruitment process. The good modern brands are human and often concrete, you can trust them.
You are only worth an automated response..
If a person spend hour’s, maybe days writing a letter of introduction, adapting their resume/CV, maybe even pulling a slideshow or video together for you. And than they receive a notification that you will not even bother contacting them, because you have so many applicants. You know this type of letter:
Thank you for your interest in XXXX Company and for sending us your resume link and supporting information. We’re always looking for the best and brightest new candidates who are interested in joining our fast-growing team.
Please note, due to the vast number of enthusiastic applicants, we are only able to contact those we select for interviews. We will however take the time to review your resume, cover letter and all related materials you’ve sent through, and will contact you if you are selected as a shortlisted candidate.
We frequently add new positions to the Careers Page so keep an eye out for more opportunities to work at XXXX company.
I wonder who in an organisation is so naïve that they feel that this experience will encourage the ‘recruit’ into buying any of your products let alone a service. Many organizations don’t mash together their HR and marketing talent. When the applicant started the process the applicant was a keen advocate, which you have turned into something else.
No closure for the applicant
The typical scenario is where the applicant is not even told when you have been thrown out of the process, or when the process is complete and they have not got an interview. The applicant then does not even get a chance for closure. The first they may hear is through a press release on your website or indeed nothing. That’s just plain mean and very common.
As an applicant we only care if you have the capability
Most employers will not look at a candidates’ application if they have not even taken the time to write a relevant cover letter that covers off the person spec. So they expect you to spend time on them but they are not always willing to do the same. Aren’t good relationships formed on equality?
You are just a transaction..
It seems most Applicant Tracking Systems have being built from the aspect that you are just another process to deal with. They do not see you as a human that or you should be treated with dignity or respect. In fact the more they ‘take over’ the process the less human you are treated. People are not simple nor are the ways you should interact with them.
We are often more protective of our friends than ourselves
The applicant may not be alone during this journey through your recruitment system, as they may share it with their friends e.g. can you check the letter please, especially if they are woman. Friends don’t take it kindly if you reject, ignore or attack their friends. You haven’t just pissed off one person; congratulations you just gained two pissed off people for the price of one – who now thanks to online social media have the ability to share globally. They may not indeed talk about the job application process, they just may look at all your marketing as another ‘poke in the eye and respond negatively.
Your worse case scenario is that you have just given them the motivation (see this TED video) for the job applicant and their friends to dislike your products and services and look to your competitors.
Bottom line – the buying power of every rejected applicant is?
In the end this will affect you financially. The chances are that you will reject more applicants than you will take on board. You will, probably still want them as a consumer? Who will pay a company that has just rejected them? or even taken the time to communicate, er, anything after the initial application.
Not just B2C
In the B2B sector relationships are even more important and in the end B2B purchases come down to a very human emotion e.g. Trust.
StartWire, recently completed a survey of 2,000+ job seekers, asking how a company’s application process affected their view of the brand. This is what we heard:
- 77% said they think less of companies that don’t respond to job applicants,
- 72% would be deterred from recommending or speaking positively online of your company
- 58% said they’d even think twice about buying your products or services if they don’t ever hear from you after they submit their application.
Outsourcing to save money
I wonder who missed the lessons from out sourcing call-centres to another country where the understanding of both culture and language was insufficient to handle the customer care in an appropriate manner. Now its automated on a computer (and they are really known for their customer care!), you are not even worth a human response.
Good ‘customer service’
If your customer service system treats your customers as just a transaction you deserve to go out of business. Humans want to be treated with respect and dignity. Even politicians know this hence why some of the most sophisticated marketing happening on the planet is happening in election campaigns. But some of the best sustained examples I have seen in customer service are from Zappos (http://www.zappos.com/) or Freshbooks (http://www.freshbooks.com/) They essentially treat you with respect and appreciate your time is as valuable as theirs.
Who is accountable for this?
Maybe the CEO for not paying attention or CFO for cost cutting, or the HR leader being squeezed or even the CMO for not considering the brand impact. In the end HR needs people to ensure a good experience.
The days of unaccountable recruitment and HR process are coming to an end if you are consumer-facing provider.
On-line systems are rating well everything. For example http://www.ratemyemployer.ca/ it’s only a matter of time when people start rating recruitment systems and HR. We already have individual rating systems for people such as http://blog.ratemyprofessors.com/
It will not get easier to find talent, just more competitive
The economist wrote two pieces about how hard it is in get the right talent:
The Search for Talent – http://www.economist.com/node/8000879
The battle for brainpower – http://www.economist.com/node/7961894
Another article of interest – Canadian tech CEOs see shortage in talent. – http://www.pwc.com/ca/en/emerging-company/connecting-vision-to-reality/ceo-report-emerging-companies.jhtml
In these circumstances, is it wise to give job applicants a good experience? They may return and have grown since they last applied, if you gave feedback last time, they may have responded to it and exceed your expectations on the next attempt.
Now add Generation Y behaviour to this and you have an interesting power cake just around the corner.
Is your recruitment system losing you customers and damaging your brand? How many job applicants did you reject last year? How much social influence did they each have?
It seems to me that corporate culture is on a journey from repression to expression from viewing human beings as number, resources, sales figures to, surprise, human beings. It can be seen in the HR titles e.g. VP Personnel -> VP Human resource -> VP People. I think the organisations that have the lead HR person reporting into finance or corporate or operations are worse off. There is one person, that a lead HR person should report into i.e. CEO. In terms of political power HR are generally one of the weakest on a board (if they are even on it), I think in part because so many of their process orientated capabilities are being outsourced, maybe because people are too complex or too emotional compared to finances/sales/operations. Or maybe its because in some organizations leaders are taking on the role of HR for their teams (about time).
Reward, if possible give feedback and say thank you
The job applicant, was a person who wanted to help your organization grow, for a moment in time were probably your most passionate advocate. Yet they are often treated like robots, resources or costs. How would you like to be treated? If someone has invested more time in your company than the average, why not say thank you. Tell them what they are missing in terms of capability or fit and prove you mean it. I think the best companies employ on ‘fit’ before capability. Who is to say that this person maybe a future employee? Consider it another form of relationship marketing.
Leadership accountability – Don’t pass the buck!
If a candidate gets through a number of stages, it should not be HR having to give the bad news, the leader should do what they are paid for and give the bad or good news. I believe leadership is taking on the responsibility of your decisions both the easy and tough ones.
- Tell the applicant when they have been removed from the process.
- Give some useful feedback; the chances are that you have spent some time human processing anyways; at least give the biggest single reason why they were knocked out. You may find that there are a lot of standard reasons e.g. you do not have enough relevant experience or the average interview applicant will have 5 years more experience.
- Say thank you in some meaningful way.
- For those who you think culturally match, consider other posts or put on a watch list. But be careful no one believes “we will file it and if something comes up we will contact you.”
- The deeper the experience (number of interviews) the more likely rejection will be felt. But also they are more likely to be match for your organization and thus the more likely they may be a future employee.
- For all candidates that have being interviewed by the manager, should be given the news by the manager.
You are nothing without your people. The ones you have now and the ones you have yet to work with.
Its not the money, no I don’t get free courses or any discount on other courses. Here are 15 reasons why I teach:
It turns skill into knowledge
I have always found the act of refining and teaching what you think you know, turns it into something more refined, more useful even. It can make you think very deeply on a topic and for me; it makes me question the foundations of what I think I know. It encourages me to seek alternative answers, sometimes before I have formed a question. It allows me to reflect on some of the decisions I made in the ‘field’ and explore other options of a possible future from that decision point. Whilst you can copy someone’s skill you cannot copy his or her knowledge, as I believe knowledge comes from a journey, which you have to travel and reflect upon.
“Knowledge is the inoculation of information” Anon
I learn & and grow as much as my students
Helping others learn, if you listen to the students questions, can challenge your own thoughts and feelings on a matter. The ‘tired’ teacher just forces the student to learn what the ‘agenda’ tells them, whilst an ‘awake’ teacher will explore with the student the path of understanding and together they can grow. Occasionally I will meet a student who does not receive my materials or teaching in the way that works for us, this keeps my thinking and rethinking of different styles, materials, activities I need to use to involve and engage the students mind.
Staying ahead and preparing for the future
To teach keeps me up-to-date with my domain expertise and it pushes me to understand the likely trends for that domain. I than have to translate that into my lessons and it explain to my students and prepare them for it. Of course at the same time I am preparing myself for the future.
Hubris does not take over
Some teachers think they know it all, not only is this naive in terms of knowledge but also in terms of communication/engagement. They are idiots. I need to remind myself that I am not an idiot!😉
I test my assumptions
Working with people from different generations and history is really useful as your assumptions are constantly challenged not every Gen Y acts like a Gen Y or every baby boomer like baby boomer. We often get surround by ‘shortcut labels’ or brands and start to believe that every women thinks’ shopping is fun or every teenage boy only thinks about sex. As you teach you get to see the next upcoming generation, how they think/feel, learn and make sense of the world. On the counter side you get to see the older generations re-training themselves.
Prevention is better than cure
Effective education can prevent many problems in our lives, communities and society. Unfortunately we as a human race spend more time fixing problems after they have occurred, rather than preventing them with education. If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.
It helps me understand humans to a greater level
I am thirsty for works on memory, learning, processing, communication, interaction and risk. All of this curiosity helps me explore, test and understand. Hopefully over time it improves my lessons and the students retention and ability to use the knowledge.
I believe in meritocracy
I am strong believer that our society has too much cronyism and nepotism and this needs to be balanced with meritocracy. Note I said balanced not replaced. There are days when I would suggest that meritocracy should be then dominant force, but not completely replace.
I like partnership
For me I have a contract with each of my students. They do their part and I will do mine. Sometimes life intervenes and does not allow the student to put the work in. I don’t have that choice.
I like accountability
In the end you get to see how successful you are as a teacher by the students work. When did you teach well and when you communicated a concept that was unrefined or too fluffy. For me this holds me accountable.
The global need to share
Like most human beings I have the need for acknowledgement, to belong and be part of something. Teaching satisfies part of that need.
It reminds me to be patient, understanding and compassionate
The most effective teacher will take their time and not hurry a student. They will allow ideas and thoughts to grow in the student and I greenhouse them until they are ready to be challenged. I don’t believe the Socratic method is always helpful, especially in early stages of knowledge development; it can force people down a path of believing in what they can defend. It can be very aggressive which not all humans appreciate. Nature often reminds us that to allow something to grow, you have to wait. Don’t get me wrong, there comes a time for testing where the Socratic method is very helpful.
It improves my ability to explain and communicate
For every lesson I have to think of a number of ways to explain the same concept, so that students with different learning styles can understand the concept well and grow beyond it. Very helpful in business.
It improves my leadership & mentoring
My simply philosophy for my employed teams, is to help them out grow you and the organisation, so they move on. I don’t expect anything to be forever. If you want to keep people in your life you have to work at it and try not to take each other for granted. Even so I think those people who work or play together for long periods have found a way to evolve and grow together. I have and do coach/ mentor a number of business leaders and politicians, I will cover this in another blog.
Teaching is not just in the classroom.
Mentor, Coach, friend, lover, colleague, leader, follower, we are all teachers.
“Those that cannot do, teach” Anon
Whilst I don’t agree with this statement, for many of reasons above. For me teaching is part of my life not the whole of it, hence why I prefer to do it part-time.
Here are some of my thoughts on the future of culture and identity.
Language will evolve
I believe the the barrier of language will disappear and it will become more of a your style of communicating, the way you think and your values, that will differs us. Technology will start easily translating the basics, whilst at the same time the tidal wave will push people to learn english for business and travel.. India got there sometime ago and China is already make leaps in getting their population to have english as their second language. English schools (teaching as a second language )is one of the fastest if not the fastest growing industry.
A global culture
I will think we will see a greater merger of national cultures online; currently it is very English speaking American. We already see it happening with entertainment. Bit by bit I see more trends coming out of smaller countries in terms of word usage, behaviours, etc. Perhaps merger is the wrong word, as I feel that it will be something different more complex than any one national culture.
A lot of product and services are still built in a western methodology in terms of process and systems. Of course Japan has already influenced this in certain sectors e.g. cars and consulting. I think we will start to learn more alternate ways of encouraging community and collaboration from the rest of the Asian countries.
For us lucky few who were here and now, who could benefit from cheaper flights, which allowed some of us to travel around our country or even the world. Exposure to other cultures I think deepens understanding for those willing to learn and may also give us a greater appreciation of our culture. Of course it is all about the experience, who you meet, the events that occur whilst you are in that country. Serendipity really.
Expressions of culture
Through software and the advert better quality camera, whilst still becoming cheaper – Film has dropped in terms of cost, other countries are able to enter the film industry again and reveal their thoughts, fears and dreams to us. At the same time our ‘tolerance’ for low quality production has risen. Allowing a rise of new media producers use smart phones and free software to create something.
Distribution of culture
Starting with the Internet we have greater access to each other, it helped globalise culture distribution. Successful open global platforms have increased our ability to share such as YouTube. Even global closed systems such as Xbox live or iTunes are allowing us to explore new avenues of communication and access media once hard find such as music.
We are demand more transparency from everything, governments, corporations, food etc. I don’t see this declining in fact I see it having a massive impact on the future of business.
If you live in the first world immigration is occurring, in fact there is alreadly competition to get the entrepreneurs of the future, best skilled or the hardest workers. Countries where there are more older than younger people are seeing their budgets slowly shift tax dollars to health and social care. Combine this with a reduction (in the richer nations) of child birth means they will run out of money to support their older population. Some countries are thus trying to make it easier for young people to move to their country. I think within ten years countries will start paying immigrates to move there. I think this trend will mean people will start to move countries more often and be exposured to multiple countries in depth.
I think these trends will take decades, probably a lot of pain. It may be sped up by global tragedy or an alien invasion. If we don’t get wiped out by us or others. The end result I see is one human race with a greater understanding of itself and each other. Personally I believe in Infinite diversity infinite possibility as it will give us a greater opportunity to survive as a race.
What do you think or feel?
Whilst the book (Strength Finder 2.0) was a little fluffy I found the test (psychometric instrument) interesting and in my perception accurate. I wonder if they will publish Weakness Finder er 0.8? I think this is more likely to come from a British publisher than an American one though, we Brits are a little more cynical..
My top five themes are:
People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.
It’s very likely that you may help people know you better as a person when you openly share what you think, feel, have done, are doing, or hope to accomplish. To some extent, you are eager to tell your story. Why? When others know more about you, perhaps the relationship helps you more easily convince them to get busy working on a particular project, assignment, or chore. By nature, you usually are the team member who listens to what others say. You normally repeat back to individuals key thoughts they shared. This is just one way you demonstrate the worth of their ideas. Your attentiveness probably puts people in good moods. Chances are good that you likely are the human spark plug of your team. That is, you inspire and energize people to dedicate themselves to a task. Once a course of action is chosen, perhaps you are the person who says, “We’ve talked long enough. Let’s get started right now. Why wait? Let’s just do it!” Instinctively, you commonly influence people to produce results, sign up to work on projects, or rally around causes. When you take time to know them as individuals, many people are willing to move into action at your prompting. They are apt to realize you appreciate their special qualities, talents, interests, or experiences. Driven by your talents, you sometimes gravitate to situations where you can be your true self. You might feel life is wonderful when people listen as you share stories about your successes, failures, talents, limitations, hope, or fears.
People who are especially talented in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.
By nature, you not only buy books or check them out from the library; you also read them. Your investigative mind is restless until you have collected lots of information about factors that produce various outcomes. You are motivated to read more about topics of personal and professional interest. These can range from history to science, from politics to mathematics, from entertainment to sports, or from art to law. Chances are good that you gain a certain degree of satisfaction when you can be of some service to others. Driven by your talents, you might enjoy helping your teammates. Perhaps playing, studying, or working by yourself is not as satisfying for you as being part of a group. Instinctively, you regularly help members of your group discover ways to cooperate with each other that they never before considered. You can identify the talents, skills, knowledge, motivations, and/or of individuals. You can also pinpoint each person’s unique styles of thinking, working, and learning. Because of your strengths, you may enjoy befriending newcomers. This might explain why you regularly step forward to introduce yourself to new classmates, coworkers, teammates, or friends of your family. Perhaps you ask questions that are guaranteed to stimulate discussions with people you are meeting for the first time.
People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.
By nature, you take advantage of every opportunity to describe to others all the amazing things you see happening in the coming months, years, or decades. Your vision opens people’s minds to new and wondrous possibilities. You challenge them to consider ideas they might not have thought of on their own. Instinctively, you have a capacity for envisioning what the coming months, years, or decades could, should, or will be like. Frequently you are prompted to transform your ideas into things you can touch, taste, see, smell, or hear. Because of your strengths, you are a visionary thinker. Your vivid mental images of the coming months, years, or decades often impel you to move into action. Chances are good that you channel your mental and physical energies toward what you can accomplish in the months, years, or decades ahead. The question you must answer is this: “How far into the future can I think before my ideas start becoming vague or uninspiring?” It’s very likely that you forge ahead to build the life you envision. You reach your goals by finding as many opportunities as possible to use your unique abilities and natural gifts.
People who are especially talented in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.
Instinctively, you may feel more optimistic about life when you surround yourself with truthful and upright people. Perhaps you keep your distance from deceitful and unethical individuals. By nature, you typically infuse energy into members of your team. You are apt to enjoy life more than many people do. Why? You choose to concentrate on what is good rather than on what is bad. Chances are good that you likely are quite adept — that is, talented, skilled, and knowledgeable — with language. You can express your ideas and feelings with ease. You typically rely on words or phrases your teammates readily understand. Because of your strengths, you are apt to be the team member who delights in coordinating new projects, scheduling activities, and/or gathering materials for others. You often play a key role in your team’s success. Driven by your talents, you have a strong sense of commitment. It motivates you to make sure that things are carried through to completion even when difficulties arise.
People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
Chances are good that you demonstrate an ease with language. You effortlessly verbalize your thoughts. You relish the opportunity to share your insights. You derive pleasure from actively participating in conversations when group members propose ideas, seek solutions, or debate issues. It’s very likely that you long to know more so you remain on the cutting edge of your field or areas of interest. Your inventive mind usually generates more possibilities than you can handle or fund. Nonetheless, you are committed to acquiring knowledge and/or skills. You study everything involved in a situation and conceive entirely new ways of seeing or doing things. What you already know prompts you to ask questions and delve even deeper into a subject or problem. Instinctively, you generate innovative ideas. You offer unique perspectives on events, people, and proposals. You probably inspire people to start projects and launch initiatives. You tend to identify a goal, devise numerous ways of reaching it, then choose the best alternative. This explains why you see opportunities, trends, and solutions before your teammates, classmates, or peers see them. Because of your strengths, you generate ideas quickly. You draw clever linkages between facts, events, people, problems, or solutions. You present others with numerous options at a pace some find dizzying. Your innovative thinking tends to foster ongoing dialogue between and among the group’s participants. Driven by your talents, you can reconfigure factual information or data in ways that reveal trends, raise issues, identify opportunities, or offer solutions. You bring an added dimension to discussions. You make sense out of seemingly unrelated information. You are likely to generate multiple action plans before you choose the best one.