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Let’s get this out of the way. Both you and I are not fans of the status report.

Unfortunately, there is a point in time where, lacking any reasonable alternative to keep people informed, the need for a status report is inflicted upon the organization.

I wish there was an easy way to kill off the status report once and for all. I’ve certainly tried. Even when you have an Engineering RFC process or are implementing Thoughtwork’s ADRs, you will likely find yourself needing to write a status report.

As an engineer, the tedium of writing status reports means we often put off creating one until the absolute last minute. …


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Prior to 1995, the idea of a “Type 2” decision didn’t exist. In a letter that year to Amazon shareholders, Jeff Bezos explained that all decisions at his company fell into one of two buckets. The first bucket he labeled “Type 1” and reserved for decisions that are irreversible (or nearly irreversible) and frequently have an outsized impact on a company. Everything else he defined as a Type 2 decision.

Type 1 decisions do exist, and they must be considered carefully. But that wasn’t his concern; rather, Bezos was afraid that innovation at Amazon would stagnate and the company would lose momentum if they went down a path of applying Type 1 processes to every decision, including the reversible ones. The reality is that most decisions do not require extreme scrutiny, nor do most decisions put companies at risk based on their outcome. …


The Foundations of Engineering Leadership series is built to help new engineering managers and technical leaders ramp up their effectiveness quickly. Until you’ve developed your leadership style, these templates and tools help you create effective leadership habits. (view all posts in the series)

Intent

Communicating changes at scale is a challenge for even the most seasoned leaders. With every interaction, there’s a chance for someone to misinterpret the change, its motivation, or its impact. Great leaders make sure they’ve written down their plan, keeping everyone on the same page.

“If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.” ー Gilbert Amelio, President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp. …


The Foundations of Engineering Leadership series is built to help new engineering managers and technical leaders ramp up their effectiveness quickly. Until you’ve developed your leadership style, these templates and tools help you create effective leadership habits. (view all posts in the series)

Intent

Advocating for the team ensures visibility into the team’s work through thoughtful and intentional sharing of impact, objectives, and issues. This visibility pays back dividends to the team in recognition, opportunity, and development. For any team, its leaders serve as the team’s principal advocates and champions. …


As a company grows, senior engineers are asked to be lead developers on key projects. You might even be one of these Accidental Lead Developers who has unknowingly dipped their toe into the world of engineering management. When the company grows again, you may be called upon to make the single biggest change of your engineering career.

A change where you stop engineering.

Engineering management is daunting. Suddenly, you’re no longer writing code. You’re the one overseeing the team. As an engineering manager, in addition to project planning and resourcing challenges, it’s your job to make sure everything and everyone is working at their best. …


A question I frequently get, both in person and on the Lead SV List, is about the relationship and the differences between coaching and training. I don’t believe coaching and training are either/or solutions to most engineering leadership problems. When used in the right context, both coaching and training can be powerful tools for building leadership skills. The critical difference is that coaching focuses on attitude, while training develops adeptness.

Coaching Develops Attitude

Coaching helps employees overcome obstacles caused by attitude. In other words, when a leader’s behavior is creating issues, a great coach provides a mirror that allows the leader to reflect on their actions, motivations, and impact on others. Through well-timed questions, thoughtful suggestions, and sharp insights, a coach helps leaders change their behavior through self-awareness. …


The Foundations of Engineering Leadership series is built to help new engineering managers and technical leaders ramp up their effectiveness quickly. Until you’ve developed your leadership style, these templates and tools help you create effective habits. (view all posts in the series)

Intent

The Team Meeting is the regular occurrence where you and your staff come together to discuss issues as a collective unit. A good team meeting requires a good facilitator, but that facilitator doesn’t need to be the manager. Anyone can unlock better staff meetings using this playbook.

“You know, I really believe that everything in life begins in the huddle. The best teams run the best huddles.” …


The way many companies approach Learning and Development (L&D) today is ineffective. In an attempt to bring development to the workplace, L&D and human resource teams frequently apply generic training in the form of offsite programs and seminars. These outdated methods of instruction are hurting companies. Employees retain less than half of all instruction and training they receive, and in engineering, where I focus my training efforts, retention is even worse.

Over the years, I’ve found that there are three distinct reasons for low retention and failed training.

First, there is little attention paid to the relevance of materials. When materials are not rooted in the company’s culture and norms, employees assume that the materials were not intended for them. Second, materials are rarely real or based on pragmatic examples. When content is abstract, it not only has lower relevance but it frequently contains no practical examples or situations to which learners can relate. Finally, instruction is not designed to be repeated. Many companies create training only to perform it once, failing to do additional training as new employees join the company. …


Mike spent three days agonizing over the critical feedback. When I caught up with him for coffee, he told me that “giving folks difficult news is awful” and that he often loses sleep over these kinds of feedback sessions during his company’s yearly review. To take his mind off of the negative feedback, I asked about Sarah, one of the engineers on his team who performed well above the expectations for her level. “What are you going to tell Sarah?” I asked.

He hadn’t thought about what to tell the folks he valued most.

The Absence of Positive Feedback

Positive feedback is missing in the workplace. In an HBR self-assessment survey, the researchers discovered that one in three managers don’t give positive feedback at all. In that same report, researchers demonstrated that managers who felt they gave “honest” feedback strongly correlated with managers who gave any negative feedback. A reasonable conclusion is that, like Mike, most leaders believe that their job is to be critical. …


The Foundations of Engineering Management series is built to help new engineering managers and technical leaders ramp up their effectiveness quickly. Until you’ve developed your leadership style, these templates and tools help you create effective leadership habits.

Intent

One on ones (1:1s) are the most critical meeting of your week as a leader. These 2-person meetings between you and another employee create opportunities to coach, mentor, and grow for both individuals. …

About

Jakob Heuser

Engineering Leadership

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