// MARK: Blindness
There was a time that I really enjoyed my job. Even if there wasn't enough actual work. For a long time I thought that it was the job itself. It took me a while to understand that I really liked that version of myself.
I've been moving in an ecosystem where common knowledge believes that your life is some kind of lottery; where you have a ticket and pray to whatever god you trust, hoping it will work out.
You might be promoted but just to copycat the last one. You are not able to play your game. You are just a puppet. Someone's pulling the strings for you.
This indefinite optimissim believes that nothing can be known in advance. "Attain to the specs, build the mvp and then iterate". As Peter Thiel says:
Making small changes to things that already exist might lead you to a local maximum, but it won't help get to the global maximum.
Companies end up iterating almost everything: modules, entire apps, teams and even people; and finally, when they cannot iterate anymore, they throw it away and start over. That might work for a while, but it won't last long.
The ABC for an average developer journey say that first you should code. After that, you lead a small team, then a bigger one, maybe an entire area afterwards.
These new scientifically designed trending topic position is what makes me cry. I don’t like the word leader because it tends to damage the perspective of the one in charge. Most people can’t handle it and get blurred. “I am the leader. Follow me.”
The fact is that leadership is not about growing grey hair or using glasses. Conventional wisdom does not invest in leaders, usually making a huge mistake by establishing that only great coders are a perfect fit.
It doesn’t matter how long have you been working or how perfectly designed your code is. The best leaders I’ve met don’t how to throw a single line of code or understand what OOP is. Leadership is about bringing the best out of your team, not about mails per minute. It's about knowing there is a difference between skills, knowledge and talents. It's about defining the right expected outcomes and let each person find his own way to it. Is about letting everyone be more of who they already are.
Fortunately, I’ve found really helpful people along the way. Unfortunately, they are a minority. During the last few months I've been identifying attitudes that don't follow the common knowledge about Leaders.
We could talk about Leardership based on Disney fairy tales, where everything ends up as expected. I could tell you that all Leaders are great and they will get the best out of you. But that's not true.
I've been following my Leader's last advice, and identified attitudes that I definitely try to avoid.
I call them:
!Leaders protect themselves in most areas of risk. They spam after each meeting, they get new people when things start going down, get backup every single time, etc.
The thing is, once you have decided to go with a given group your best tactic should be to trust them. Every measure taken to guarantee success over them will only make things worse. !Leaders are worried that the team errors might reflect badly on them. Only his own judgement is competent, everyone else's is suspected.
Don't get me wrong. If you are a leader, you will problably feel that your judgement is better than the people below you, but you if you only let people operate autonomously as long as they do exactly what you would have done, maybe you are not that flexible.
People are going to make mistakes, and that's the whole point of it. Let them. If your staff feels that it's not allowed to make any errors of its own, the "I don't trust you" comes out loud and clear.
People that feel untrusted won't bond with the team. You are pushing them away. No matter how many barbecues you throw.
This kind of damage works by effectively demeaning the work and, demeaning the people who do it. As Tom de Marco says:
Every employee understands that quality is important for the organization, so every team adopt their own quality standards to distinguish themselfs. Without that factor, it's not a team; it's just a group.
They know that in order to succeed, they need to do more than what’s expected. If you systematically insist on that, you become an obstacle.
!Leaders use motivational accessories (murals, hashtags, pins) all the time:
"Here we work hard"
"Quality is job one".
Thanks boss, you really know what you are doing. I assumed that everybody here is lazy and quality was not important. Now I know. My mistake.
Overtime is like sprinting. If you start doing it in the first mile, you're just wasting time.
Let’s imagine an average team of 4 developers. Tom, Jenny, Mark and Louis. The team is 6 months late. It begs for a little overtime. You set up a plan of a few extra weekend hours but there’s a problem. Tom has children, Jenny has another weekend job to make a little extra money, Mark has to prepare for his last college exam and Louis…well, Louis just has better things to do, but he accepts anyway.
So Louis starts working 60 hours a week, instead of 40. Mark, who is part-time starts with 40 instead of 30. Tom and Jenny, can’t afford too much weekend work so they just send some prepared PRs that he finished on Friday afternoon.
Without knowing it, a perfectly glued up team, instantly breaks. Most policies cannot be applied uniformly through the whole team. Unfortunately, they have lifes outside the office.
!Leaders dream of reaching new levels of productivity by unpaid overtime. They probably divide whatever work is done by 40 hours, not by the real 80 or 90 hours the worker actually puts in.
What they don't realise is that for every hour of overtime, there is an hour of undertime; and it does not end there.
You must remember that if people are not motivated with what they do, won't be productive in any kind of way. Tasks that could be done in a few minutes could take hours. "Why not spending 30 minutes to make a cup of coffee? I have to be here 9 hours a day anyway."
Gossip is like inception.
Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed — fully understood — that sticks; right in there somewhere.
The exact moment people start talking, it’s all over. It doesn't matter if you have strong beliefs, if you start playing the gossip game you are out.
!Leaders tend to avoid face-to-face situations. They even sometimes become part of it. As I said before, it's easier. But in the long run, it hits you.
Keep in mind that people are always listening and when someone hears you gossiping, you will loose their trust. If your team feels that, they will not have your back. Their own protection comes first.
Even worse, accepting gossip won’t end by just picking a side. It will actually make you loose partiality over your team. Instead, you should provide your team with healthy enviroments to talk about their problems face-to-face. Everybody makes mistakes and you can help them fix them. Together, you keep going; as a team.
Culture defeats strategy, every time. Seth Godin
The first definition in the RAE says:
Knowledge that allows someone to develop critical judgement.
It sounds fair to me. The though side is that you can’t push it. There is no plug-and-play. You can’t touch it, neither write it down assuming people will follow.
Culture has to be exercised every single day because it does not exist apart from the company itself. And every time you backup your decision with culture, you are destroying it. Culture is about exercise and example. It does not need false gods.
If you want to make a culture out of nowhere, you will probably fail. There’s no t-shirt, no hastag, no wall mural, no podcast or whatever messed up method you choose to push it. It won't stand.
!Leaders tend to backup their decitions with culture. They do it because culture says that, not because they truly believe it's the right thing to do. Mostly because it’s safe. It’s not personal, it’s just business.
The worst part about !Leaders is they just don’t see it. Even though it’s in front of them. In most cases — quoting Peter Thiel —
Signaling that work is being done is better than actually doing the work. If this describes your company, you should quit right now.
No matter how much hard have you worked, if your managers choose not to see it, they won’t care about you. For me is normal to give your 100% at work. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend at the office. Productivity is a measure of efficiency in converting inputs into useful outputs. For average managers, it’s not. It’s easier to play safe. It’s easier to treat everybody as equals and if they get at least 60% of each employee, it’s enough. That’s why they shout when they have to effort just a little bit. To get noticed.
If your manager ignores you, distrusts you, takes credits for your work, blames you for his mistakes or disrespects you… then get out from under him. Fast.
If you don’t, you will soon find yourself dumped by your team and you won’t be able to get a new one. From one day to another, you will wake up being the lazy, the uncommitted, not a team player, against “The Culture.” Your possibilities to grow inside the company will be gone; and despite all your effort, it will never be enough.
As Marcus Buckingham says in his book (I personally love this paragraph):
We would like to be able to tell you, "Don't worry. Soldier on. Rely on the strength of your own talent and you will still excel." But we cannot. You might be able to survive your predicament for a while in the hope that the manager will prove his own undoing and get fired. But, lacking a good manager, you won't be able to last long. In your struggle to turn all of your talents into performance, your immediate manager is a very important partner. If you are cursed with a truly bad one, then you will never see the best of you. No matter how much you enjoy the job itself, get out, fast. You deserve better.
Fortunately, I could get out of there. Not in time, but better late than ever. There was nothing in there for me.
I enjoy what I do now. There are no big windows, no fruit basket every day, no free water and my lunch costs more than 25 pesos. I don’t need that.
We are who we are. Lotteries are stupid.