Getting started as a new manager

Jason Fried, Founder and CEO of Basecamp, recently wrote about how easy it is to be a bad manager. (If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do. Managers will recognize their own experiences in his writing. If you’re planning to become a manager, it’ll give you a heads-up on what to look forward to. Spoiler alert: No matter how good you were at your previous job, as a manager you will be a beginner again!)

Fried notes that professional managers have typically spent most of their career doing something else and get promoted to management. In management, they have brand-new, complex situations to figure out. They also have to learn the enigma known as “people” and get good at knowing people react to situations they face. Fried’s summary of the “new manager” experience is accurate: “When you practice being a manager, you’re already on stage. Your flubs have consequences. Fucking up could cost you or someone else their job. It could cost a business money, customers, reputation.”

I shared Fried’s article with my team members, which led one of them to wonder: If you’re learning as you go as a new manager, and your mistakes could have big consequences like costing you or someone else their job…how do you prevent big mistakes (or at least catch them quickly)? How do you ensure your learning curve as a new manager doesn’t cost anyone a job?

Read the rest of my blog post on Medium.

Keep work from expanding to fill time in software development

Keep work from expanding to fill time in software development

Work expands to fill all time available for its completion

I’ve been thinking lately about time and deadlines. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • You go to a meeting scheduled for an hour. A project decision is made in the first fifteen minutes, and the next forty-five minutes are spent discussing and re-hashing that decision…only to then settle on the original decision.
  • Your software team works in two week sprints yet seems to scramble in the last several days of each sprint to finish the bulk of the work.
  • In a project with a deadline months away, the requested feature list continues to change and grow while the deadline remains the same.

These examples are all instances of Parkinson’s Law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Read more

Bad employees or bad system? Ask 1984 GM.

Bad employees or bad system? Ask 1984 GM.

In July 2015, public radio show This American Life aired an update of a 2010 episode on NUMMI, an auto manufacturing joint venture between GM and Toyota in Fremont, California. This partnership was revolutionary in that it brought the Japanese automotive manufacturing system, which stressed teamwork and continuous improvement, to American auto workers. It was responsible for a cultural transformation in the workers at the GM plant that brought with it an abrupt improvement in quality and team morale.

The story of the NUMMI plant highlights how true teamwork can revolutionize a workforce and its output. The experience of NUMMI is also similar to transforming a software development team or an organization to embrace Agile methodologies. (Others have also noticed the parallels with agile software development. See the article “An Agile Transformation Story from 1984” from Matt Block, an Agile Coach also in Indianapolis.)

See if you notice any parallels between your current workplace culture and the culture at GM Fremont plant before it transformed to the NUMMI plant. Read more

Help employees take small steps to reach big goals

Help employees take small steps to reach big goals

One of my favorite aspects of being a manager is coaching my employees to reach some of their big goals. I like learning about what motivates an employee and what their ambitions are. As a manager, I consider it my job to my employees to remove obstacles, push them when needed, and provide them with opportunities to reach their goals.

One possible reason things aren't going according to plan is that there never was a plan.I have a postcard of Pot-Shots #571 by Ashleigh Brilliant hanging at my desk: “One possible reason why things aren’t going according to plan is that there never was a plan.” Working with a plan to hit goals doesn’t have to be overly cumbersome and complicated. Here is a strategy I use to drive my 1-on-1s with employees to help them identify their goals and take small steps regularly to reach them. Read more

Share the mood you want your team to have

Share the mood you want your team to have

This is the final part of a two-part series on how a leader’s mood impacts their team, and how you can better manage your mood at work. The first part of this series is “Mood is contagious. Which one are you spreading?”

Eeyore and TiggerI’ve read articles before that say you can choose to be a Tigger or an Eeyore in life. Personally, I don’t entirely believe that. I think my regular mood, like most people, is in between. Great days pull me to a Tigger mood and bad days pull me to Eeyore mood. But, if you ever see me being either Tigger or Eeyore 24/7 for weeks at a time, I think something has gone wrong. 🙂

I don’t believe you can always just “choose” to stop being unhappy, angry, or upset at work. I also don’t at all agree with wearing a mask all the time and pretending to be thrilled when you are upset. But, there are definitely things you can do to start breaking a sour mood when it hits you.

You don’t like being in a bad mood, and you’re hurting your team the longer you remain that way. So, here are some tips to break the funk. Read more

Mood is contagious. Which one are you spreading?

Grumpy CatThis article is Part 1 of a two-part series. Part 2 is “Share The Mood You Want Your Team to Have,” which explains what you can do to put your best foot forward even when you’re not in a perfect mood.

I recently had a rough day at work. The stress and frustration got me down, and I was wearing it all over my face. At dinner that evening, my partner remarked, “You look like somebody killed your puppy!” Even the next morning before work, my Grumpy Cat face was broadcasting my mood. My partner put this in perspective for me when he commented that people were going to interpret anything I said that day based on my demeanor. Looking unhappy and frazzled doesn’t convey confidence, and people would respond to me at work accordingly.

Uh oh. It was time for an attitude adjustment. Research does indicate that a leader’s mood impacts their team and people they interact with. Leaders must have self-awareness and develop skills for better self-management of their own bad moods. Read on to learn how mood is contagious. Read more

Multitasking: kill it to improve leadership!

Multitasking: kill it to improve leadership!

Multitasking man juggles office suppliesIt’s time to start a new support group: “Hi, my name’s Kevin, and I’m a multitasker.” During my team standup meeting, I may jot down items on my to-do list that I need to accomplish later. When attending meetings, I sometimes reply to emails while also trying to contribute to the meeting. Despite knowing that it actually decreases my productivity in the long run, I try to multitask anyway. I need help! And, I’m not alone.

Despite our misguided notions on the benefits of multitasking, research actually shows a significant mental decline when we multitask. Learn some of the facts about multitasking, why it can be harmful to you as a leader, and some ways to kill the multitasking habit when you need to. Read more

Reflection: The Power of Introspection

Mount Hood reflected in Mirror Lake, OregonAs a leader, it’s imperative to assess what’s working and what’s not, both for you individually in your day-to-day job as well as in the teams you manage. Believe me, I know how difficult this is! We’re undertaking some massive initiatives at work with some pressing deadlines. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of a team and go on autopilot. For me, this is especially difficult when I’m feeling overwhelmed. When you feel like you’ve been thrown into the deep end and are struggling to stay afloat, it’s hard to pause and reflect on your approach. (I’m too busy swimming!) But, paradoxically, this is the most important time to take a step back and figure out whether there’s a better way to do things.

Read more

Success strategies for the introvert manager

Success strategies for the introvert manager

Hello, my name is Introvert.Introverts have a bad rep as socially awkward, shy, people-haters. That’s not exactly a good match-up of attributes for being a successful manager. I’ve spent most of my career as a computer programmer, a field that is not exactly known for being filled with gregarious extroverts. Before becoming a manager, I really questioned whether I would be happy and successful in a role that requires so much interaction with others. Thankfully, I’ve learned over time that there’s a big difference between the common myths of being an introvert and the realities. And, once I understood the realities, I learned how to better manage my energy levels to be a better manager. Here are some strategies for an introvert to keep their batteries charged during the workday to help be a great manager.

Read more