Monthly Archives: August 2013

Me, a leader?

I’ve been a manager for several years now. A leader? That, I’m still working on.

Leading is difficult stuff. Managing, I’m actually quite good at. Leading people, now that’s a totally different ball game. There are all sorts of mushy, feely stuff involved. And when I said it was a different ball game, I did that because I’ve heard there’s coaching involved. It’s not enough to find great people, apparently you need to help them get even better. This isn’t going to end well.

As I mentioned recently, I just want us to not suck. Surely people should be able to do that all by themselves. No? So now I have to pretend to like people (I’m a hopeless introvert that would probably be better off living in a cave on the top of some remote mountain) and even try not to hurt their feelings when I tell them to suck it up and.. well, not suck.

Luckily, I read a lot of books (good cave activity). The other day I found one that reminded me that even as a leader, especially as a leader, you’ve got to tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. You just got to tell them nicely.

So when I tell people I don’t want them to suck, I try to do so nicely. I start by asking them about their day. And then I tell them please don’t suck.

Seriously, I tell people when I’m not happy about something, but I try my best to assume good intent. If someone did something wrong, they probably didn’t mean to. And if someone did something wrong, at least they’re doing something. And they’ll most likely do it different next time around. So by doing the wrong stuff, they’re actually improving. Hey, that’s what I was supposed to help them with, wasn’t it?

Maybe I can become a leader, after all?

Rest assured that on those rare occasions I do come across as a leader, I will be dead set on coming across as a good one. There are so many bad bosses out there, I’m not sure there are even room for more.

Even though I still find it challenging to improve others, I work hard on improving myself. In one year, I will be a better leader than I am today. In three years I will be even better. In five, the people who work for me will go “Hey, that shit you just said actually made sense!” when I tell them stuff.

Until then, I guess when I’m not managing, I’ll be in my cave. Reading. Probably about self managing teams and silly stuff like that. I mean, if the guys managed themselves, what on earth would I do?



I hate it when we suck

I’ve been around my fair share of useless people, I’m sure you have as well.
I don’t know about you, but I hate it.

I can handle people who are genuinely useless, but useless people who are actually intelligent and could have been competent, those guys I really hate. I hate it when people do a crap job even though I know they could do so much better. It’s amazing how much you can’t get done when you’re armed with a lack of motivation combined with a healthy dose of ignorance.

I hate leaders and managers who think they are doing a great job, but actually suck at it, and blame their employees for their own shortcomings.

When I started out as a manager (and to a certain extent even today), I always took the blame for anything my employees did wrong. When you made an error, so did I. Why is that? Because I hate it when we suck. I try to do my very best, every day, all day. I seldom succeed, but at least I try. I want you to try too. Hard.

So when I take the blame for your mistake, that isn’t right, is it? I don’t want to take responsibility for your mistakes, I want you to take responsibility. Own up, move on, do better next time.

You’re at the office doing whatever it is you do most of your waking hours anyway, so you might as well be passionate about it, right? It wouldn’t kill you, would it? If it did, at least you’d die doing something you were passionate about. It sure beats being bored to death.

The next time someone gives you feedback (that’s a nice word for someone shouting at you and telling you that you suck), hold back on that excuse for just a minute. Because they already know the specification wasn’t perfect. They know the customer is a jerk. They know you have a cold. And deep down you both know that you are capable of doing a better job. That’s probably why the guy is shouting at you in the first place. It’s no use shouting at an idiot, but he knows you can do better. So why the hell didn’t you?

I’d love for us to just get rid of all the terrible excuses and blame games (even though I still catch myself participating in them from time to time). And just. Get. Better.

So whenever you get yelled at, tell them that yes sir, you are exactly right. It was my responsibility to identify that the specification was incomplete. It was my responsiblity to figure out what the customer really wanted. It was my responsibility to make sure this new feature didn’t break anything else. I will go out of my way to do better.

I for one, will love you for it. And I will do my best to follow your lead.