Tag: Complain

Halloween – Weekly Article Dump

Halloween at Magnet Forensics

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope those of you who were out and about with your own little ghouls and ghosts had a safe Halloween this year.

Halloween costumes were pretty creative again this year at Magnet Forensics. I tried going with my own Horse Lime attempt, but it’s difficult when not many people know what the Horse Lime actually is. Regardless, my awesome mother put together the lime portion of my costume, and I was extremely grateful for that (and yes, I’m in my mid 20’s. No judging). I think it turned out pretty damn good.

This year, Saige won our Halloween costume contest. As Old Gregg, it was hard for that to not be a sure-fire win. Complete with Bailey’s in hand, I think the only thing that could have made it better was a set of watercolours to go with it. Absolutely awesome job.

On behalf of Team Magnet, Happy Halloween!

Articles

  • Kenneth Cole’s 10 Keys to Success: In this article by Teresa Rodriguez, we get a list of 10 tips from Kenneth Cole on success. While I don’t think there’s anything groundbreakind about them, I do think they’re all relatively straight forward. My main take aways are being innovative, being passionate about what you do, and create value. This article also has a bit of background on Mr. Cole that I wasn’t even aware of, so that was pretty interesting.
  • Community is Everything: How to Build Your Tribe: This article was kind of unique. It doesn’t necessarily apply directly to startups or business, but I see lots of parallels. Miki Agrawal writes about creating a “tribe” or a community of people around you. It’s really about placing positive people in your life, or go-getters in your business for the parallel. Again, no monumental secret tips in here, but it’s a great topic.
  • Performance Recognition: Cutting the Cost of Disengagement: This one is an infographic (and not really an article) about engagement and performance recognition. There are a lot of stats in there, but regardless of whether or not I trust the accuracy, I think the general points made are sound. Essentially, there are a lot of disengaged employeed in the global work force and it hurts productivity. By creating a culture of recognizing performance, you can help boost engagement which has all sorts of positive effects.
  • Code Review Like You Mean It: The first programming article for this week. Phil Haack discusses how to actually code review effectively. One of the key topics is taking breaks from long code reviews so you can maintain focus. Another is forgetting about the author when reviewiing and focusing solely on the code. Phil even put up his own code review checklist and suggests you have your own. Personally, I think I’ve kept a mental one but it probably would help to have it solidified.
  • Converse, Don’t Complain: This article by Hiroshi Mikitani had the most buzz from the things I shared this week. It really seemed to hit home with people, and I imagine it’s for a couple reasons. First of all, if you’re honest with yourself, you probably complain. You probably chat with at least one colleague you’re really close with and just flat out complain with them. You both don’t like something, so you vent. That’s definitely a comforting activity, and sometimes we need it. The flip side is you have authority or responsibility over something that people have problems with. Nobody is voicing any concerns to you (since they are just complaining among themselves) and if they are, there aren’t solutions being brought forward.The first of this two part solution to this is instead of whining, start coming up with potential solutions. It doesn’t matter how big or small your ideas are, start thinking about what a solution might be. The second part is communication. If you want something to get resolved, you need to bring your concerns with potential solutions forward. If you only complain and vent to one person, your concerns won’t be heard. If you only ever whine about something not being correct, then you’re doing a half-assed job at trying to come to a solution.
  • Lead by Example and Emulate Ideal: This one is a plug for my own article. I decided I’d write about why leading by example is actually more powerful than some people think. You have a lot of eyes on you as a leader, and you may not realize it. By leading by example and emulating the attributes you consider ideal, people will catch on to it.
  • Keys to Productivity: I’ve sort of noticed this through my own experiences so far, but early morning and late at night are great times to be productive. When there are a lot of stresses on you during the day, sometimes it feels like you’re not being productive. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t, but it’s your own perception. Getting a head start on the ay by getting into the office early, or staying up late for your own creative endeavours can prove to feel really rewarding.
  • Build Trust Through Training, Transparency and Trials: I’ve shared articles from this series by Jake Wood before, but this is another standout one for me. Trust isn’t something you can just put into your company values or your mission statement. Trust is something you have to live out each and every day in your organization. We can all say we value it, but if you aren’t willing to live it out, then it’s not something you truly value. One quote I really like from the article is:

    Transparency cannot happen unless your leadership regularly visits the “front lines,” wherever that may be in your business.

  • Here Is What Smart Companies Get That Others Don’t: The first of the three points offered in this article is that smart companies think differently. They are leaders and not followers when it comes to everything they do. The second is that they sell their culture. Their culture is actually core to their business and their organization, not some after thought. The third is that they help others become smarter. Provide value and become something that other people and business want and need to use.
  • Why Good Strategies Often Fall Apart: Ron Ashkenas highlights a few reasons why strategies that look great sometimes just don’t work. The first two points he makes in his article are the ones I want to highlight. The first is passive aggressive disagreement. Not everyone is going to be on board with all parts of all changes, so you’re going to have people that disagree. If the culture does not actively embrace people being able to voice their concerns, it’s difficult to carry out a successful strategy. Individuals might complain, but they wont end up doing anything about it. The second is something along the lines of “being too nice”. Trying to avoid confrontation because you’re afraid of it is a recipe for disaster. If you actually encourage open communication and trust, then being able to have hard discussions about something can be really powerful.
  • Three Things that Actually Motivate Employees: This probably isn’t new to a lot of people, but money (after a certain point) isn’t the driving force for employee motivation. The three things outline in this article are mastery, membership, and meaning. Employees want to be able to mastery their skill sets, learn, and get better at the things they do. Individuals within the organization want to have a sense of community. They want to feel like they align with the people they work with and their working toward a common goal. Employees also want to work on something that has meaning. Work that has a large positive impact is extremely motivating.

Happy Halloween! Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week.

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The Problem With “There’s a Problem”

"There's a Problem! (Image from http://www.sxc.hu/)

Problem?

If you’ve ever had a job, as I’m sure anyone reading this has, you’ve probably been on the one side of this situation before. You tell your supervisor/leader/manager/someone-responsible-for-the-thing-with-the-problem that simply, “There’s a problem”. If you’re in or have been in one of those positions I just listed, I’m sure you’ve been on the receiving end of it. But as I said, you probably did the same thing at one point so don’t go holding it against anyone just yet.

What’s the big deal with telling someone there’s a problem? I mean, don’t you think someone should know if something is going wrong? Especially if they’re the one in charge of it! We can’t continue operation with this problem. We can’t release the product to the customer with this thing missing or broken. We can’t sell our product or service with this part of the process being dysfunctional or unreliable. Someone needs to know.

The problem is not sharing the fact that something is wrong. The underlying issue is simply stopping at “there’s a problem”.

Leader’s Perspective: Keep Focus

You’re in a leadership or management position. Without getting into a big leadership vs management debate, one of your primary functions is delegating tasks out to team members. You’re ultimately going to be responsible for project if it fails, so hearing about issues isn’t necessarily a bad thing. So what’s the concern?

Problem?

When someone comes up to you to let you know that there’s an issue, the next logical step is finding out what needs to be done. Now, if you only know that there’s an issue and there’s no additional information or plan of attack provided, it’s all on you to find out how to approach it. Realistically, that’s not so bad. After all, you’re likely in your current position because you’re good at this kind of stuff. However, there are two things to be concerned about:

  • Do you pull yourself off from whatever you’re doing and try to address the problem?
  • Do you need to go find someone to delegate this issue to?

I mentioned delegation is one of your primary functions, so the reason these two things are a concern is because they conflict. They both take up your time. When you’re told that something goes wrong, your brain likely spins up and starts thinking about the how and the why. Then you start thinking about how to fix it. You know the project, the system, or the process inside and out. You could probably find a way to fix it if you put your nose to the grindstone for a bit. But is it the most effective use of time?

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. If it’s not, now you need to start thinking of your team’s status. You know John and Jane are both on something else that’s mission critical for the project to be delivered on time, and they’re your number one and two options for the skill sets required to tackle this. Do you pull one of them off? Do you maybe ask Tim who has some experience with this and is working on something that’s a low priority? Hold on… How can you even know who’s best suited for the problem if you don’t actually even know anything more than the fact that there’s an issue!

Someone–either you or a team member–is going to have to investigate this problem. Why wasn’t any of this done already?

Team Member’s Perspective: Bad Habits

You’re the member of a team and you play a critical role (as do your teammates). Everyone’s time is valuable, so you and everyone else should be keeping this in mind. You’ve stumbled upon an issue and it’s looking like it’s pretty nasty.

Being on the development team, you remember from your standup meeting that John had recently fixed a bug in a similar area. You should go talk to him because he likely has some insight as to what’s going on. On the sales team, you know that Tim had to try and work with a customer from the same country last week, so maybe he can offer some assistance with some of the legalities. Regardless of what team you’re on or what your core role is, having knowledge of what people are doing around you can certainly benefit in this kind of scenario.

But what should you do even before that? Here’s a little list:

  • Is the problem reproducible? Was it just off-chance that it happened? Did you try again?
  • What other things do you think are affected by this? Have you investigated?
  • Do you know what’s wrong? Do you know what’s completely expected, or do you just know that something isn’t completely right?
  • Have you come up with a potential solution? What about a secondary solution?
  • Did you try searching the Internet, a knowledge base, or any other easily-accessible resource as a first step?

What’s great about the items in this list? These are all things you can do or consider on your own before involving anyone else. As soon as you drag someone else into it, now it’s the time of multiple people. Acquire the information that you can and analyze the situation before going to other people. It’s a bad habit to get into where you see a warning sign, toss your hands up in despair, and go tell someone else so they can deal with it.

It may not be in your job title, but taking this kind of responsibility when approaching problems makes it so much easier on everyone that gets involved. It increases the efficiency of the team when you can provide information and context when looking for a solution.

Summary

Things go wrong. It sucks, but nothing is perfect. It affects the staff responsible for projects, processes, and teams. It can teach you to avoid analyzing problems if you simply notify someone without digging a bit deeper.

Consider being on the receiving end of just being told of a problem. What are the first things you’re going to ask to get more information? Try answering these questions yourself before escalating the issue.

Finally, as a leader, it’s your responsibility to identify this type of behaviour. Don’t get mad at your teammates for doing it. They might not even realize that they’re doing it! Have the conversation with them where you tell them that in the future, things will go much more smoothly if they can provide a bit more context to you. Of course, don’t just tell them that there’s a problem.


  • Nick Cosentino

    Nick Cosentino

    I work as a team lead of software engineering at Magnet Forensics (http://www.magnetforensics.com). I'm into powerlifting, bodybuilding, and blogging about leadership/development topics over at http://www.devleader.ca.

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