Tag: motivation

Resolutions: Why Have Them and How to be Successful

Resolutions

What’s Up With Resolutions?

It’s that time of year! You know, where everyone is thinking back on all of the things they wish they had actually accomplished this year and they’re convincing themselves they’ll get it done next year. It’s time to set some New Year’s resolutions!

But what’s up with that? Why does it take people a whole year to reflect on what’s going right or wrong in their life and try to change their direction? Why does it take you a year to realize your diet and exercise regime is something you couldn’t stick to and you’re no better off than you were last year? Why were you still unmotivated in your career doing the same old thing? Why didn’t you get your head in the game for school? Why did you continue to pursue toxic relationships?

Continuous Improvement

Resolutions are all about trying to get better; we’re trying to continuously improve. Often when I talk to people about “agile” software development, all that I really try to drive at is that “continuous improvement”, in my own personal opinion, is really the important part.

So to continuously try to improve, you need to analyze what’s going well and what’s going not so well, set some goals, try things out, and re-evaluate. It’s a nice iterative cycle. It’s kind of like setting mini resolutions for yourself (or in the case of software development, maybe for your team or teams).

The big difference is the amount of time between measuring whether or not your change is having an effect! Waiting an entire year to try and measure your success would be absolute insanity in a fast moving software environment… why haven’t we gotten better at realizing this for our own personal continuous improvement?

Mark Manson

I’ve been reading a ton of Mark Manson material lately because of events going on in my life and the fact that the way he writes really aligns with how I often talk to my close friends. There’s analysis, there’s some humour, but it’s often a bit blunt and to the point. It’s actually a really nice change from many leadership, self help, or similar content where everything almost feels impossibly positive. This just feels like a real person talking to you.

Mark talks about setting goals in this blog post, and it got me motivated to reflect on my own goals and even write this post. In Mark’s post, he talks about our identities being built up by a bunch of habits, and goes on to state that some research shows that often habits only take about 30 days to form. In his opinion, using a whole year to set a goal of changing, adding, or dropping a habit just allows us to procrastinate for the entire year and then ultimately we fail.

His suggestion? Shorten the time frame.

If it takes on average 30 days to make a habit, why not have a “New Month’s Resolution”? Setting resolutions this way should then allow you to establish a new habit and then at the end of the month reflect on whether or not it worked well. You have less time to procrastinate. Your iteration is much shorter. Interesting.

My Own Goals

I figured I’d wrap this up by sharing some of my own goals publicly. I have a few things I’d like to work on coming up for the year, so I’ll outline them briefly:

  • Read more:
    • I’ve definitely dropped the ball on this one. I always had the excuse for myself that I don’t have time to do it. However, I found when I read the most consistently was when I found a decent book that I could read for a few minutes before I fell asleep every night. No pressure to get through it, but the books were there if I felt intrigued or needed to relax my brain a bit.
  • Try meditation:
    • I’ve always associated meditation with being spiritual or religious. Both of these things don’t really mesh well with me, personally. Mark Manson mentioned meditation in his post that I mentioned earlier, and it gave me a different perspective. I know I get stressed easily and I used to have pretty bad anxiety problems. Maybe this is something I could try out?
  • Write more:
    • I used to blog a lot. Between this blog, my fitness blog, and my car blog, I used to write content multiple times per week. It was always a bit of a social media experiment to get a better feel for how internet traffic works and where different types of content get the best visibility, but it also let me express myself. My content production has been almost nothing over the past year, and it’s something I’d like to look at more of.
  • Try public speaking:
    • This was something my HR Director had a chat with me about as a potentially cool opportunity. We were discussing getting more involved with the community and pushing boundaries, and she proposed speaking to students at local colleges or similar. I was turned off by it at first because I don’t like public speaking. But then the more I thought about it, I don’t know what public speaking is because I’ve never really done it. So why not try it?

But those aren’t my resolutions! Those are all just ideas for things I’m interested in improving. So taking some of Manson’s advice, I’m going to take ONE of those things and try to form a habit out of it for a month. Focusing on one thing at a time allows you to really give yourself an opportunity to establish the habit without worrying about too many other things, and ultimately setting yourself up for failure.

My first resolution is going to be to try out meditation. So for the first month, I’m going to try meditating four times per week for about 10 minutes at a time. I should be able to easily do this for two days on Saturday and Sunday where I don’t really have any external commitments, and then during the week I should be able to find at least two days before work where I can give this a shot.

Small steps, but small steps still take you forward.


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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Nick’s CodeProject Articles


Recognition – Weekly Article Dump

Recognition - Weekly Article Dump (Image from http://www.sxc.hu/)

Recognition – Weekly Article Dump

Not all of the articles this week touch on recognition, and to be honest, I didn’t pick it as a theme for the articles either. Recognition is more a topic of discussion that’s come up over the last week at Magnet Forensics, where I work. Being a team lead and part of the management team at Magnet, I’m often part of conversations about motivation. Providing recognition is an excellent way to motivate your staff and shows that you truly appreciate them. We’ve been trying to get better at recognizing staff for doing an awesome job–especially because we have so many awesome people working with us. It’s pretty obvious with our Profit Hot 50 placement that we’ve got some kick-ass people.

Recognition, whether it’s one-on-one or in a public setting, has a huge impact. I don’t even mean recognition in the form of compensation (e.g. bonus or salary raise). Just giving someone recognition for the awesome work they’ve done–plain and simple. It’s a great way to let someone know that their hard work and commitment isn’t going unnoticed. Sure, if they’re developing products, making sales, or acquiring leads there are certain metrics that indicate they’re doing a great job, but recognition is that additional feedback you can provide to really drive the point home. It motivates people and often has a bigger impact than providing compensation.

I want to make a conscious effort to try and recognize some of my colleagues on Dev Leader, going forward, when the opportunity presents itself. I’m always learning from the people I work with and there’s always something great I can say about them. Why not give them a public acknowledgement?

I also have a little surprise coming from a friend and colleague of mine, Tayfun Uzun, early next week, so keep your eyes open for that!

Articles

  • Job Titles and Responsibilities: Last week I wrote about my thoughts on the true role of job titles. As soon as you start to look at your job title as something that defines your limits, you’re on the wrong path. Your job title should define what you’re responsible for, but it’s by no means supposed to put limits on what you can do. Check it out and let me know what you think! Do you feel like job titles should keep people to only a certain set of tasks? Do you feel like having set responsibilities is useful at all?
  • How Strong Is Your Bench: Having a successful company is all about having the right people on board. Sylvia Hewlett writes about what it means to have a rock solid roster within your company. Some of the things include avoiding hiring clones of people exactly like yourself and instead trying to diversify the skill sets within your company. Absolutely true!
  • 8 Steps for Engineering Leaders to Keep the Peace: There seems to be a natural tendency for engineers or people implementing components of a product to push back on product managers or people who decide how a product/service should be. Steven Sinofsky discusses the importance of being an effective engineering leader and ensuring proper communication between engineering leaders and people like PMs or founders. Open and transparent communication is key and helps remind the other party that you do in fact have the same end-goal.
  • Top Tips To Being a Great Mentor: In this article, James Caan provides four key points for being a better mentor. Patience, honesty, positivity, and focus are the four pillars that James describes. Patience and honesty, in my opinion, are the most important but I certainly agree with all four!
  • Leading a Customer-Centric Transformation: Hopefully it’s not surprising, but customers are what your business should be geared toward. As a result, it makes sense that leading customer-centric employees would be beneficial. Don Peppers outlines six things to focus on to make this transformation necessary. It ties in with my post on avoiding organizational silos.
  • The Dark Side Of Software Development That No One Talks About: Don’t be scared that this article mentions software development if you’re not a programmer! It touches on some great points about having a career in software development, so even if you’re not a developer yourself, it sheds some light on some more broad issues. John Sonmez writes about why software developers seem like jerks sometimes and what you can do about it. It seems to boil down to intelligence being a deciding factor for how well you program, so lording your intelligence over other people makes you superior. And because our own intelligence is something we all hold personally, we can get defensive about it pretty easily. John suggests that part of the solution is trying to simplify aspects of software development.
  • How to Win Loyalty From Other People: To be a successful leader, the people you lead need to be loyal to you. Deepak Chopra writes about seven suggestions for building up loyalty and among them “abstaining from disloyalty” is one of my favourites. If you act differently behind people’s backs compared to when you’re leading them, it may come back to bite you later. It’s also crucial to pay attention to each individual’s personal differences to ensure they feel understood.
  • Strategies for Dealing with Randomness in BusinessDon Peppers twice on the list this week! Things in life and business aren’t always predictable for us. It’s just how things are. Are you properly set up to deal with uncertainty in your business though? Remain agile!
  • 10 Quotes All Entrepreneurs Should Memorize: How about some quotes to motivate you? Joel Peterson lists 10 great quotes for entrepreneurs, but I think they carry over to anyone working in a startup. Don’t be afraid to fail and keep moving forward to improve!
  • The Two Biggest Distractions – And What to Do About Them: Distractions are ever-increasing in the workplace, but have you ever considered the differences between the different types of distractions? Daniel Goleman discusses two very different types of distractions: sensory and emotional. I hadn’t really noticed it, but often we find ourselves consciously trying to avoid sensory distractions. If our phone lights up or we get an email notification, we either give in or we make an effort to try and reduce the effect of these distractions. But an emotional distraction is much worse. If something tweaks your emotions the wrong way at work, it often has a bigger impact and it’s usually unexpected.

My take away point for this week regarding recognition: Do it early and do it often. Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week!

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Burnout – Weekly Article Dump

Burnout - Image Provided By Stock.XCHNG

Burnout

The trend in the articles this week is all about burnout. Burnout is a serious issue that can affect a wide variety of people. When an individual becomes so dedicated to something and starts devoting all of their time to accomplish a goal, burnout can set in. This is especially noticeable in startup companies where it’s typical to work longer-than normal hours. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with loving the work you do and wanting to put in more time! The problem ends up being when all of your waking time is geared toward one thing and everything else (including sleep!) starts to take the back seat. This is where burnout can set in.

Articles

  • The Six Deadly Sins of Leadership: Leadership isn’t always easy, but there’s definitely a few things you should avoid doing as a leader. Jack Welch and his wife Suzy do an excellent job of describing six things you should not do. Ignoring values for the sake of results and forgetting to have fun along the way are two of my favourite points.
  • 11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader: Having lists makes for having good references, and Dave Kerpen certainly has a great list for leadership tips. Number one on his list is of course listening. It’s that thing that every good leader should be doing more of. Being a team player, being passionate, and being adaptive are also up there on the list.
  • 3 Key Reasons to be Optimistic Like Steve Case: Julia Boorstin touches on an excellent point in her article: by remaining optimistic, you can view all of your challenges as opportunities to get better. Leaders need to learn from their mistakes (and we all make them) but those challenges are really just self-improvement opportunities.
  • Avoiding Burnout: Take it from an entrepreneur, burnout is serious business. Andrew Dumont talks about his experiences as an entrepreneur and how burnout set in. The best part of Andrew’s post is that in the end he gives a great list of tips for how you can help avoid burnout in your own work/life. Highly recommended read!
  • How to Prevent Employee Burnout: KISSmetrics has a huge list of tips for how you can help keep employees from running into burnout problems. They start off by defining what burnout is and how you can detect it among your employees. By knowing what causes burnout, it’s a lot easier to try and address solutions for it.
  • It’s Time to Dream for a Living: Whitney Johnson talks about how being a dreamer lets you achieve a psychological pay-off similar to a well designed game. Be social, go above and beyond by tackling things that aren’t always necessary, and immerse yourself in epic scale.
  • 6 Ways to Put the ‘Good’ in Goodbye: Read this article by Chester Elton that gives an awesome example of how you should treat departures of good employees from your company. When a good employee leaves your company, it’s probably for a good reason. Try to celebrate their work and encourage success for them when they’re leaving. There’s not much worse than trying to spin things around and make a potentially great opportunity for them a poisonous experience.
  • Burnout: The Disease of Our Civilization: Arianna Huffington put’s it elegantly that most of us have  “the misguided belief that overwork is the route to high performance and great results”. It’s exactly why many people fall into the doom that is burnout. It’s a longer read than some of the articles I’ve shared, but I do recommend it!
  • Find Leadership Inspiration in Your Everyday Encounters: You don’t need to look much further than ever-day life to be able to pick up on some great examples of inspiration for leadership. Simply work on rule #1: Listen. John Ryan (and I don’t know if it’s just me, but I can’t stop thinking of Wedding Crashers when I read his name) details his experience on a plane and how he was able to draw inspiration from one of the passengers he was sitting with. Always try to learn something from the situations you find yourself in–It’s an excellent way to develop yourself.
  • Want to Save Your Life?: “Rest is not a luxury. It’s part of survival” are some powerful words from Erica Fox. She discusses what the effects of overwork are on our mind and body and in the end offers up lots of great examples for how you can avoid burnout. Another solid read.

Hope you enjoyed! It’s great to be driven to accomplish your goals, but don’t become so narrow sighted that you lose track of the rest of the things that matter. Remember to follow on popular social media outlets to get these updates through the week!

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  • 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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