Tag: leader

Failure – Weekly Article Dump

Failure: Weekly Article Dump (Image provided by http://www.stockfreeimages.com/)

Failure: Should You Fear It?

Thanks for checking out this weekly article dump, and sorry it didn’t make it out on Friday. I was out visiting family in Alberta and I didn’t have enough time to get this post all set up. Better late than never!

The theme for this past week seemed to be articles about failure. Not all of them, of course, but a lot of authors are writing about what it means to fail and why that’s not always such a bad thing. Do we need to avoid all failures in order to be successful?

Articles

  • Stepping Away, So Others Can Step Up: In this article, Jonathan Bush discusses something that’s often hard for leaders to do… Step away. It’s difficult for many people to disconnect and have trust in their team to get things done. Trust should be at the center of any highly functional team. At Magnet Forensics, we embrace trust as our core value because we know we’re working with talented people we can rely on. It’s crucial for ensuring that people can operate effectively to the best of their ability.
  • HELP! I Hired the Wrong Guy: In this article, an individual has written in and gets some advice on how to handle a bad hire. Liz Ryan makes some great points on how to address the issue, including a nice segue for the person that wasn’t such a great fit. This first example of “failure” to hire properly offers a lot of learning. Know what warning signs you ignored this time around. Know how you can detect it before the hire happens and worse case, how you can detect a bad fit early on.
  • Negotiate Great Deals, Without a Fight: Firstly, I’m sharing this not because it might be a good sales tactic or business tactic in the perspective of making money. Forget that for now. In my opinion, this is a great tactic for you to take when you’re trying to pitch your idea. Next time you’re working in your team and analyzing the pros and cons of some decision, remember that you’re not out to make your opinion the only one and everyone else a loser in the outcome. Fight for the win-win, which is often a combination of multiple perspectives. Great article, Joel Peterson.
  • Why We Should All Embrace the F-Word (Failure): Arguably the article with the most eye-catching title this time around, Amy Chen discusses failure and why so many people fear it.
  • Vulnerability Makes You a Better Leader: This article by Brad Smith discusses why a perfect leader is actually less than ideal. In order to make people really look up to you, it’s important to show them that what you’re modelling is attainable for them. Chasing perfection isn’t realistic, but chasing awesome certainly is.
  • 7 Signs You’re Working in a Toxic Office: Definitely one of my favourites this week, this article addresses some key signs that your place of work is a crappy place to work, from a work culture perspective. Not only that, the author discusses how to go about solving the problem if you’re the victim or if you’re the perpetrator! Great stuff.
  • Don’t Write Off the Coaching Leadership Style: Daniel Goleman discusses why leaders that act as coaches shouldn’t be forgotten. A leader that can coach is familiar with their teammates’ individual strengths and weaknesses. This let’s them delegate effectively and help address the weak areas of their team.

Hope you enjoyed, and remember that failure isn’t always a bad thing! Remember to follow on popular social media outlets to get these updates through the week!

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Listen First: The Human Sounding Board

Background

In the company I work at, Magnet Forensics, I’ve gotten myself into a leadership role. I wasn’t hired for this position (I’m a programmer at heart) but I’ve managed to stumble my way into it! As a young leader, I think one thing is really obvious for me in my daily leadership tasks: I don’t have all of the answers. Hell, I don’t even have a lot of the answers! So what keeps me from being entirely useless as a leader then?

I know who has the answers. My team.

The most important leadership lesson that I’ve learned (and I’m glad I learned it early) is to listen. The benefits to listening, and I mean actually listening, can be beneficial to the person asking as well as yourself as the leader.

How Can Listening Help Me?

Let’s be honest here. You’re a leader. You have things to do. How is sitting around listening to other people going to help you?

I briefly mentioned it already, but as a leader, I don’t have all of the answers. I’m also willing to bet that you don’t have all of the answers. In the end, probably nobody has all of them. The group of people you lead, collectively, probably have the best bet at having the answers though. Your team is not only core to production at work, but they’re also a great source of insight. Provided you have hired people from a variety of backgrounds, everyone has different experiences and perspectives to share.

Say you’ve run into a problem where developers can’t code things in parallel because everyone has different versions of the source code. Someone on your team suggests source control software. Cool. What the heck is it? Let’s ask a couple other people for their perspective on it. Now you know that some people have used Subversion, some Git, and others CVS. You still may not know what they are, but you know that introducing one of these could solve the problem at hand. But which one? Ask. What are people comfortable with? What are the pros and cons? What are people’s person experiences with these? Use the information provided by your team to guide your decision making process.

That’s Great, But… I Knew That. What Else?

If you’re a leader in your place of work, you may have encountered a situation like the following. You have a junior staff member come to you to ask questions. Like anyone else, you’re busy with your own stuff to do, but it’s your responsibility to help out your staff (and junior staff need the most assistance)! So, you do the obvious thing: give them the answer.

Sound familiar? It’s a common situation and it probably doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. Sometimes after a handful of questions, these junior staff members get up to speed and the questions cease or slow down. Other times, you might notice a bigger problem. That junior staff member becomes a bit more of a familiar face. You actually see a lot more of him or her now. And the questions? Don’t you worry. He or she has tons of them. In fact, they have an unlimited list of them.

If you listen to what these people are asking you, you can better shift the solution to long term. Don’t instinctively spit out the right answer. Let them ask you. Then ask them some questions back. Listen to their responses. If listen to what their problem is, you can find out where their pain points are. Guide them through it by asking them more questions and using their responses to steer the conversation.

This is beneficial for you because you’ll start seeing less of this person for asking questions. But why? What have you started doing?

Benefiting The Person With The Questions

And now we’ve arrived at the other core point: become the human sounding board. By listening (and listening well) you can actually let other people answer their own problems. They really just need some guidance in the whole process. It’s really similar to rubber duck problem solving (from the programming world). People often come to you with questions, and they’re on the verge of arriving at the answer.

You end up conditioning people on your team (that sounds king of wrong I guess, but let’s roll with it) to think first. People won’t come to you because they know they can get a quick answer from you. It’s not like doing a search on The Internet and relying on the first result anymore. Problem solving often doesn’t have a simple instant answer so don’t teach people to use you for that.

How Can I Listen Better?

Stop talking. It’s that easy. When someone comes to you with a question, don’t interrupt them with the answer before they’re done. Shush your lips. Besides, nobody likes being interrupted. You’re also demonstrating you’re not listening if you wan to interrupt them to answer. They could throw in a curve ball at the end that completely changes the context. So… hold your horses, zip your lips, and open your ears. If you find it hard to do this, actually shut up and count to 3 before you respond. You might get some funny looks for a week or so, but you’ll be listening a lot better after that.

Give your full attention to the person asking you questions. If you’re typing 3 emails, checking your facebook and twitter accounts, programming and interrupting the person asking you questions, you’re doing it wrong. When someone comes up to ask you a question, provided you aren’t in the middle of something that you can’t get away form momentarily, lock your computer. Lock it, turn to the person, and give them your full attention. You certainly aren’t listening well if you’re multi-tasking while someone is asking you questions. How do I know? Well, I guess I don’t. But I’d be confident in saying that you could listen better if you gave him or her your undivided attention. This also makes the person asking you feel more engaged. They know that you’re listening.

Reword people’s questions back to them. When someone asks you something, paraphrase it and ask it back. Confirm that what you’re hearing is what they’re asking. Why does this matter? It ensures you that you’re not misinterpreting something and it ensures him or her that you know what they are asking. It engages the person asking the question and it forces you to actually listen. It’s pretty hard to paraphrase something if you’re only hearing words and not getting any meaning from it.

Summary

By acting as a human sounding board, you:

  • Need to listen to what people are saying. Actually listen to the meaning.
  • Need to practice giving full attention.
  • Need to bite your tongue. Just. Stop. Talking.
  • Paraphrase what people ask. Boost engagement from both sides of the conversation.
  • Empower other people to make decisions better.
  • Utilize your number one information resource: your own team.

There are many benefits to listening. Start now to help yourself and help your team. You’ll see the results of this immediately. Try it out!


Weekly Article Dump

Weekend Motivation Reading!

Here’s a collection of things I shared over the week. Lot’s of motivation, tips, and leadership pointers!

  • 10 Leadership Nuggets From Nelson Mandela: Some inspiring words to lead by!
  • 5 Public Speaking Tips That’ll Prepare You for Any Interview: Several basic interview tips that are related to public speaking. Being better at interviewing never hurt anyone 🙂
  • A Foolproof Tool for Motivating Your Team (and Yourself): I’m always looking for different approaches to motivate. This article offered a pretty good approach that’s worth checking out.
  • Shiny objects: tips for using both sides of your brain: Some tips for boosting creativity, mostly aimed at those that may not be that creative 🙂
  • Are You Coachable?: An interesting article about being “coachable”. The best part, I thought, was addressing whether or not you’re actually seeking help or if you’re seeking validation. Big difference.
  • 10 Ways That Small Businesses Can Enchant Their Customers:
  • One Strategy for Workplace Happiness: Meet Others Where They Are: A great article about increasing and maintaining engagement from your customers.
  • Get Out of Your Own Way: You might be your biggest burden. Try to take a deep breath and stop letting others bring you down.
  • Should Colleges Charge Engineering Students More?: I’m not a fan of online debates, but this one churned my stomach a bit. In my opinion, if the program costs the institution more to offer it, then there is no reason it couldn’t cost a student more to take it. If the demand for people with these degrees is high, then perhaps the costs should actually be subsidized more (That doesn’t actually mean making it cheaper than other degrees necessarily, just putting in more effort to bring the cost down comparatively). If the whole reason is to balance out salary potential then I think people need to get a grip (Hi, I pay taxes based on my income). If you’re going to start charging more based on potential salaries, you might as well bust out the statistics and start charging a person’s tuition based on gender, race, age, and any other obscure metric you can attach to potential salaries. That would be cool too, right? Maybe I should start overly sarcastic rant posts…
  • Consider My Happiness Manifesto: It’s important to be happy! Do you have your own list of things that you use to gauge your happiness? Have you ever considered it?
  • The Unexpectedly High Cost of a Bad Hire: Having someone on your team who doesn’t fit the bill (technically, from a company culture perspective, or any other reason) can be pretty costly. It’s not even a matter of paying their salary while they are ramping up, but consider the impact it has on the effectiveness of other employees on the team.
  • The First Thing You Must Do On Monday Morning: I bet this is actually difficult for a lot of people… Do nothing?! I can’t even imagine how tricky this would be, despite the fact it’s only 5-10 minutes. I think I can afford the time, and I think I’d like to try it on Monday!
  • Name the Elephant in the Room: I thought this article was excellent. As a young professional in a leadership position, I get to see all sorts of awesome things in the startup I work at. Sometimes these things aren’t so awesome though, and they can be really hard to address. Having a well-lubed and smooth-running company culture means being able to be transparent and trust-worthy. Having those hard discussions is crucial for ensuring things don’t get bogged down by the elephant in the room.
  • Get Anxious Speaking Up At Meetings?: I can personally say that I’ve been there, but not so much anymore! It’s important that you can voice your opinions at meetings–That’s why you’re there!
  • Quiz: Do You Make Other People Happy?: A quick one, but it should provide some good indications that you actually do make others happy!
  • Praise or Criticism: Which is better?: An interesting article for sure. I’m sure we all think being praised is great, and surely we can’t all be wrong. But criticism can’t be all that bad for us, can it? Is there a right and a wrong way?

  • 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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