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Leadership

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I recently watched the movie Sully starring Tom Hanks. Most people will remember the actual event on January 15th, 2009 that the film is based on but I didn’t know anything about the pilot or the investigation that followed. Not only did I really enjoy the movie, I thought it provides some great examples in leadership.

For those who don’t know, or remember, what happened this is about US Airways Flight 1549 that landed in the Hudson River, New York. Three minutes after takeoff the plane struck a flock of birds which took out both engines. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger decided there wasn’t enough power to reach nearby airports so opted for the river with all 155 passengers and crew surviving. During the investigation the board initially believed the decision to land in the river was a pilot error but as it continued Sully was cleared of any fault.

Was… Continue reading

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When I first became a tech manager it was an exciting time, I knew it would be a challenge and was ready to go! I quickly realized management is not something a two-day training course can really prepare you for but I had one thing going for me, I knew I wanted to be a manager. I made mistakes and was certainly naive in situations but I was learning and gaining experience at every opportunity. Looking back over the years certain areas stand out that I believe are needed to be a successful tech manager.

We’re not short on articles listing the attributes of a good manager/leader, each has similar themes including communication, honesty, transparency, humility, etc. Nothing wrong with these and I believe they are essential to the success of any manager. I want to look at a few others, some are personal traits while others are more practical… Continue reading

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Imagine being in a team when the manager gets you all together to present a plan for a new project starting in a few weeks. It doesn’t have to be a software project, it could be anything. The plan includes the vision for the project, timescales, and people’s names against areas of work. After a run through of the plan, the manager closes the meeting without an opportunity for input from the team. Maybe it’s not too difficult to imagine! It’s a shame, one, because this is typical of many teams and two, there is a manager who is clearly not part of the team. The effects may not be visible until it’s too late.

This approach has many negative effects on the team that could become serious issues. It creates an atmosphere in the team that does little to promote openness. This can be put down to the attitude… Continue reading

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Leading Lean Software Development is a great read and would recommend for any tech leader. There is a lot to draw from and learn but for this blog it was a quote on the last page that caught my attention:

to lead the organization as if I had no power

What an excellent mindset to have! Following the reference to the quote leads to an article Role of Management in a Lean Manufacturing Environment by Gary Convis, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, that includes this paragraph:

I’ll never forget the wise advice given me by a man I grew to respect and admire very deeply, Mr. Kan Higashi, who was our second president at NUMMI. When he promoted me to vice president, he said my greatest challenge would be “to lead the organization as if I had no power.” In other words, shape the organization not through the power of will… Continue reading
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I enjoy photography and learning how to capture better photos. I’ve been the photographer at a few low-key events, snapping away trying to catch those special photos. It’s not until later that someone asks did you get a picture of this or can I see a particular photo that you realise you didn’t capture it in the right way or didn’t get it at all. I didn’t know it was important so didn’t spend time being in the right place or thinking how to best capture the moment. I learnt a lesson, know what is important to the hosts of the event. By asking them you find out areas to concentrate on e.g. the food, certain people, a certain activity during the event. If you don’t ask, you don’t know which could lead to disappointment! There is a similarity here with tech teams – do you know what is important… Continue reading

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We all have needs and many of these are unique, this is what makes working with people intriguing. Some needs are obvious, others are closely guarded secrets, and more we don’t even know ourselves! As leader’s we have to make every effort to understand the needs of the people in our teams and adjust our approach to meet those needs. I will use Autism and ADHD as an example here as I’ve had a steep learning curve in this area over the last couple of years. These could be considered quite extreme needs compared to others but we can still approach these in a similar way.

The first challenge is recognising there is a need! For those who are not open about their needs, we have to spot them, which makes observation key. Is someone acting out of character? Are you seeing unexpected responses to questions? Is anyone uncomfortable in… Continue reading

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The desire to praise people or teams should be firmly rooted in the mind of every leader. When someone does good work or puts extra effort in for the team it feels natural to praise them for it. I wouldn’t want anyone to think their effort has gone unnoticed. HBR’s blog – The Easiest Thing You Can Do to Be a Great Boss – focuses on recognising great work. Their survey results show giving praise improves the “Boss-Employee” relationship, boosts morale, and improves job satisfaction. I couldn’t agree more and believe that giving praise in part of what makes teams stronger. That was until…

…I came across the following while reading Lean Enterprise (p222):

Dweck’s work shows that if we reward people for the effort they put into solving problems that they find challenging, it shifts them towards a growth mindset. If, in contrast we praise and reward people for… Continue reading