Jonathan's Blog

Jonathan's Blog

Mindful Leadership and Technology


Leadership Technology Management Management

Manager - 2020

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You're my manager and a leader in my organization. Could you please:

  1. Understand my Work
  2. Recognize great work when it is done by myself and others
  3. Listen more, ask more questions, talk less
  4. Be willing to have hard conversations (with me and with other leaders), when necessary
  5. Be a defender of positive energy, in all situations
  6. Bring energy and enthusiasm to spare so that you can lift up the whole team, when things are difficult
  7. Help to find solutions in difficult situations
  8. Predict the Future
  9. Create a balanced space where I can be a whole person, but be protected from too many messy impacts from other people
  10. Allow me to innovate and create room for innovation within our organization
  11. Help non-specialists understand my special work and what makes me special
  12. Offer feedback at the right moment - hitting me with constructive criticism when I am walking out of successful meeting takes away from the success of the meeting, find a better time even if you have to wait
  13. Encourage me to stretch
  14. Pick me back up again, when I have failed, encourage me to try again.

I work in technology, so maybe some of this stuff is specific to the tech world, but I don't really think so.

I have been asked for number 8 on multiple occasions, and I've also been asked to help people get better at predicting the future. We came up with a system for it, but of course it was imperfect.

Number 9 may be the hardest one to do. This is more difficult than predicting the future (if you work in a rational organization people will understand that you're doing your best to predict the future and that it is hard).

Even rational organizations may struggle with understanding why we need to let people have rooms to be their whole selves at work.

We need whole people to show up at work because we need their energy and innovation and you get this most effectively when people feel comfortable being who they are. You also have to have some order and some sanitizing and professionalism. This can be a tricky balance. Sometimes people's whole person is messy.

There were several things I deleted off this list that fall under the category of hard conversations.

Setting realistic goals is one of those things. We are often put under pressure to pursue unrealistic goals, a manager needs to push back on the unrealistic and make sure other leaders understand the trade-offs.

Another thing I removed was focus on the long term. Long-term sacrifices in favor of short-term gains are something we should consider carefully. A good manager will daylight the long-term costs and push for what will make his teams lives better in the long run.

Five and Six are different. Defending positive energy may not be a completely positive act. Once the act of defending the positive energy is done, you need to then supply positive uplift to bring everyone back up. The defense and uplift require two different approaches.

Vision is not on the list because this is a list about management.

Almost all leaders are managers, and all managers are leaders in some fashion.

But not all managers are visionary leaders. That skill can be learned, but it isn't required to be a great leader of people.

Is this hard to do? It is very hard to do everything well on this list, but then many things worth doing well are hard.

Providing everything on this list as a team is OK - it may be too much for any one person to do all of it. If you work with a great leadership team it may be that

Even still, you will probably feel a bit like the leader in the picture, at times. That is, isolated. Seeking other managers and leaders with whom you can share your insights and challenges is critical.

You will probably stumble. You will make mistakes. Being resilient isn't on the list, because we all need that in the VUCA world, not just managers.

Managers have to be resilient for others, as well as themselves, that is why we have 14.


Positivity Bias Positive Behavioral Metrics Management

Positive Behavioral Metrics - How does it work?

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In my last post I jumped right into the fray of describing a whole system for data-driven software development that includes normal stuff (Business KPIs, OKRs, Software metrics) but also some weird stuff - what I call Positive Behavioral Metrics. I didn't describe what I meant, so I am going to do that now.

I also didn't describe what to do with the other half of that coin - negative feelings and behavior - but I am going to do that separately, in a future post.

Positive Behavioral Metrics is keeping track and counting all the good stuff that people do. A system to do this (could be software-based or not) should have the following characteristics:

  1. A means to create and track 'wins' or instances of people doing good stuff. This could be someone who gave a great presentation, won significant new business, or contributed to the positive roll-out of a new initiative. Really anything that is good (for individuals, teams, or the organization in general) - large or small does not matter. Concrete behavioral information is preferred - a specific good thing is better than a vague good thing. But honestly, even starting with vague is better than nothing.
  2. Notification - the person should always be notified when someone recognizes them.
  3. Notification of Others - the person's boss and their boss's boss (if applicable) should be notified about the good thing that was done.
  4. Reports - a person should be able to go in and see all the good things that they did in a time period (last month, this year, a certain year) so that it can be used in reviews.
  5. Track positive behavior to company values: any time that someone does something good and it is tracked, they person entering should have the ability to track this to some part of the company's values.
  6. Provide a report on people who consistently recognize other people. These are your energy fountains - the people producing energy in your organization. This is another key number, in addition to the people who get recognized the most.
  7. Organization-level Reports: should include reports on doers - those doing the good stuff and recognizers those doing the recognizing. For both you want to know how much of it is happening, where it is happening, and to be able to drill down and see who is doing it and who they work for.

This is really pretty straightforward - honestly this can be built for very little $$ and you could get away with 1,2, and 3 to get started. You don't need more than that.

Outside of the system, you need a program around the raw numbers and reports to really drive maximum effect. And I don't mean prizes or gift cards. I honestly think that tying it to rewards or awards isn't terribly interesting or effective.

I'm really talking about how this applies to people's growth, to their careers, and to their happiness. This is what will make it the most powerful. This should generally include:

  1. Personal recognition - by which I mean, if you're in charge and you get the emails about people doing awesome stuff, then walk around or visit the people and talk to them and show them that you are aware of what they do. You can take them to lunch if you want, or have a dinner or something, but do some form of recognition where their peers see you talking to them about what they did.
  2. Thank you notes - I'm personally terrible at this, but many people swear by it. Sending handwritten thank you notes to people (or their spouses) is something that can be very effective.
  3. Use of reports - encourage people to review their data, especially at review time to be sure that they use this data when filling in their reviews or 360 evaluations.
  4. Encourage managers to recognize - use the recognizer score to ensure that recognition is happening and that you have even consistent coverage in your organization.

There are many other things you can do. These are simple examplesthat you can start with that don't cost much but do build a lot of energy in your organization.

Next up: what to do with the negative stuff.


Technology Management Management Conflict

Managing Professional Conflict in the Workplace

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I was recently answering a couple questions about this for someone and I found I had a lot to say about it, so I'm going to try to encapsulate those thoughts in a blog post.

I've realized it's much more important to encourage people to solve their own problems. It's what most people want, anyway. Your job is to listen to them and to give them tools and encouragement they need. My first answer to 'Professional Conflict in the Workplace' - is that youneed to help people help themselves. It took me a long time to figure that out, but with help from a good mentor and from this book I've really tried to shift away from getting involved directly, as hard as that is sometimes.

To begin with, you need to understand what help you're being asked for. For any professional disagreements what's really being said is, "Please help me get better at working with this person." This can be true, even if they don't phrase it this way.

If someone is venting, you need to listen and ask why they're venting. Questions like - "What's really bothering you?" or "How do you think the situation could be resolved?" Can help them move away from their vent and focus on what they can actually do about it.

Once they begin to focus on problem solving for themselves, you can coach them through that - again questions are useful. "What else?" or "Do you want to rehearse what you will say?" are valuable here.

If they plan to talk to the person they're having a disagreement with, you should state your expectations for the interaction, “You’re going to speak to Ted this week? Let me know on Monday how it went.”, “Please listen to the other side of the argument and seek out a win/win.” Only get involved further if the sides seem unwilling or unable to reach a decision.

One other possible resolution strategy that I have used is to simply invite the other party to the meeting where the venting or other discussion is occurring. If someone is complaining or struggling with a workplace conflict, simply ask to bring the other party in. Then pick up the phone and say to the other party, "Can you come down here? I need your help resolving something."

Once both people are together I usually speak first and try to characterize the issue as I see it. Then the parties need to work together resolving a solution. This has the advantage of bringing both sides to the table and drawing forth quick resolutions.

You should be careful about when and how you employ this strategy and the different profession and emotional levels of the parties involved. It's effective if you feel the parties need supervision or if you simply want to make it clear that you want an answer now. It avoids all he said she said aspects. For manager-to-manager disputes or director-to-director level professional disagreements it can be an effective tool.

Most of the time, the two sides, when brought to the table in this fashion will see the expedience in working together to find the right solution.

There may be situations where you need to make the final decision. In that case, you make the decision.

In general I would still characterize this as a win/win to both sides if you can reasonably do so. But the 'loser' may not feel that way. Avoid overselling it. You can come across as dishonest if you don't realize that one of your employees just lost an argument.

Above all, you should make sure they know that you listened and that you appreciate their cooperation, you know they're a professional and will abide by the decision. Do your best to explain the business rationale of why you chose the way that you did. Avoid the urge to let them feel like they are owed one. In the future you need the latitude to continue to make the right business decision, based on who has made the best case.