leadingIn(tech)#12: Small things, Done well. Part I; taste the soup
Hi there! 👋🏽
Welcome to a new issue of the leadingIn.tech newsletter. I'm Roberto, and this is a place where I share ideas, practices, learnings towards the journey of becoming a better leader in technology.
This is the first issue of a series dedicated to the book The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well by Michael Lopp. On issue #9 I shared an overview about the Atomic Habits book. One thing I didn’t cover in that issue is about what kind of habits can make us better leaders. Fortunately Michael Lopp in his book shares a good list of small things that we can do which will compound over time to make us better.
The book is split in three acts, the first dedicated to managers or first time managers struggling to learn about the role which will be covered in this issue. The next issues will cover Act II dedicated to Directors or managers of managers and how do lead by delegating until it hurts. Finally Act III is for Executive leaders where he shares practices to help setting the vision of the company and the culture around it.
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The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well by Michael Lopp
What is it about?
The book is presented as a series of practices for leaders that will provide a compounding effect into helping us be better leaders.
What the key highlights?
Part I: For Managers
Meeting blur: We all know that feeling, you have been all day in meetings. By the end of the day you find your self struggling to get the context from them. This is a sign that you are over committing above your capacity to process that much information. As a leader you need to assure that you are able to deliver high quality throughput and that you are able to meet to all of your commitments. This is leading by example.
The situation: As a leader you will be often in the need to face with the situation. Situations are those things that happen that need a strategic approach to manage it and the team will look at you for managing it. As a leader there are a few questions that you should ask yourself before bringing your perspective to it.
Am I the right person to handle this Situation? Find who that person is.
Do I have complete context? If not, look for it.
What is the track record of my sources of information? Can it be trusted?
Do I understand the nature of those inconsistencies? Find that common ground.
Do I understand my biases relative to the Situation? Acknowledge them so you can take action to overcome them
Do I understand my emotional state relative to the issue at hand? Take your time to cool down if you need to or find a neutral party to help you.
Can I coherently explain multiple perspectives of the Situation? This will help you acknowledge the complexity of the situation.
Act Last: As a leader there are two main reasons to be the last to share your ideas in a discussion, first it will give you enough context to evolve your thinking and provide better input. Second if you are the first to provide your ideas you will be setting the tone for the conversation and probably shy away people from sharing their own thought to do not contradict you. Your job as a leader is to enable debate so the best ideas arise from confronting multiple perspectives.
Read the room: When you are part of any meeting you should be able to read the mood of the room. By reading the room you will gain context and insights about “What mood is this particular set of humans in?” which will give you the tools to best approach for you to take to maximise the value of the conversation.
Taste the soup: Your job as a leader is not to prescribe how to do things. Your job is to “taste the soup”. Based on your acquired experience you have developed the ability to identify what are the main components that build an idea. Your primary resource as a leader is your ability to ask critical questions to understand the ideas being discussed and the decisions made. This is the opportunity to exercise your curiosity. Which is the ingredient? Why did you choose A over B? Where is C? Why is it missing? etc.
Spidey-sense: As a leader you probably have built wisdom based on your experience, these experiences have helped you create your own judgment, opinions and learnings. You will probably experience similar situations again and you will be able to detect patterns from them. When you inevitably start seeing these patterns flashing saying that something might be “off” thats your “Spidey-sense” kicking in, “trust it”. Take your time, collect information, connect the dots and eventually you will be able take actions if needed.
Performance: Remember this, “It’s always performance season” for yourself or for your team. As a leader you need to have frequent touch points through the year with your team, identifying the aspects that where you can provide the necessary feedback, suggests alternative approaches and give and actionable insights. You should not wait for “Performance Season” to do so. Your primary job as a leader is to continuously ask yourself “How can I make this human better?”
The Art of Leadership - Interview with Michael Lopp | Supermanagers
The One About Small Things, Done Well – Rands in Repose
Act Last, Read the Room, and Taste the Soup – Rands in Repose
Q&A on the Book The Art of Leadership
The Art of Leadership, by Michael Lopp – Eric Nehrlich, Unrepentant Generalist