Leadership as a service
As a human in any sort of management or leadership role, there will be times when trying to cascade just what you have done on a daily basis can be a real hardship.
Back in the days of old, you could go home to your other half and describe something you had built with your bare hands (kind of) or how your idea has sparked a new feature which has been rolled out to the customer. However as a leader in a any sort of business, and especially those who are building software, those conversations over the dinner table become few and far between.
That is a good thing.
A leader in an engineering team of scale will find it hard to crank code, because there are so many other immensely complicated problems of another nature to crack. Right now I am trying to learn a code base that someone once told me is the hardest syntax I will ever come across; human beings.
There really is no other way to put it than to say humans are hard. They can bring moments of pride, passion and joy to your day or entire commutes of frustration and resentment to your evening.
The best part is the line between the two tends to be particularly thin.
The biggest problem that new leaders have is they don’t think about their new problems like their old ones as they assume they are not the same.
If I gave you a design problem to solve, you would open up your drawing pad, whiteboard or something like Sketch to begin working on something that would make sense.
If I gave you an iOS security problem to solve, you would open up Xcode or a cross platform IDE and begin figuring out why the hell that JWT token isn’t sending properly.
However, say I gave you a people problem to solve, what would you do? I suspect you would sit on it, have a think and then decide what to do after going through all the various options and scenarios in your head.
That’s rational right? Xcode won’t solve Marys problem with Jon and a whiteboard won’t help you figure out why Jane isn’t performing like she did last month. Well… yes it is rational, but is it so binary to say you can’t use something similar?
Now I’m not saying your co-workers are as easy to figure out as a security problem on iOS, of course I’m not, but I could argue that the number of possible problems presented to you by your co-workers is potentially less than a huge Angular codebase for your enterprise Cloud app.
So with that, I give you my first edition of the Leadership as a Service (LaaS) toolkit. Let’s see what the definition of SaaS is;
The applications are hosted in “the cloud” and can be used for a wide range of tasks for both individuals and organisations. Let’s tweak that a little;
The tools are hosted in “your toolkit” and can be used for a wide range of problems for both individuals and teams. So let me run down a few of these with some common problems I’ve hopefully helped solve or at least move forward.
1–1s Why: These are the foundation of your entire team, the heartbeat of your team and therefore should be the very first item you go for when a problem arises.
What does it help: It helps any colleague who has any sort of problem at all and is comfortable telling you about it during their private time with you.
Additional comments: Skip level 1–1s are something I am trying to get into this year. I’ve had them highly recommended from other leadership type folks.
Documentation & Meeting Minutes Why: Humans want to know what the hell is going on. Is that so shocking? Just because you and all your direct reports know what is happening doesn’t mean that everyone does… so find a way to tell them.
What does it help: It helps tackle gossip, rumours and lies flying around within the team and/or organisation. Allowing everyone within your team to be on the same wavelength is an extremely powerful tool for very little effort.
Additional comments: At first the team will be skeptical… but if you keep the feed consistent they will begin to trust it.
W.A.I.S.T. Why: I wrote an entire post about this CLICK HERE
What does it help: Do you feel like you are making all the decisions? Who does that really help other than you? Maneuver the conversation to allow your team to make the decision.
Empathy Why: Another previous blog topic but the summary still stands; put yourself in as many pairs of shoes you can per day to help find out the true motivations of your colleagues.
What does it help: You understand your team. It helps you become a better leader by realising and deducing why certain decisions have been made, even if they are completely bonkers in your opinion; someone rationally got there at some point.
Additional comments: Emotional Intelligence is a good area to look into also; http://www.6seconds.org/2014/04/12/emotional-intelligence-career/
‘No’ Why: This can be pulled out far more by you than by most of your team, so use it and use it when you feel it’s right to do so.
What does it help: When your team are churning on crap work or spinning wheels waiting for decisions to get made. This allows the team to think their time is valued if you don’t let them wade through work which brings no delight to your end users.
Additional comments: Make sure you use it with purpose as it can actually help galvanize your team within the organisation.
Time Why: It’s a boring final item, but sometimes issues just seem to sort themselves out. There will be circumstances when you just can’t do anything meaningful to tackle it; you will feel bad about this but you will get over it.
What does it help: Sometimes acting on something only makes things worse for all concerned. Knowing when not to get involved is a skill, one which I’ve yet to fully embrace, but knowing that sometimes no action is sometimes a positive one, is quite something to behold.
Additional comments: Time is also another way of saying don’t react to things straight away. Go for a walk. Get a coffee. Come back and decide with an open mind.
I’m being genuine when I say software is easy; humans are hard.
I.T. brains look at a problem of any nature completely different to most of the world, and that is why management within our professional is often cruel to those who just aren’t ready for it and even worse for those who are under their care.
I’m looking forward to adding more items to the LaaS catalog in years to come and feel free to add any items that you think would be wise to add.
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I also live here; https://twitter.com/ibenstewart