How to Prepare for a One-on-one in Five Minutes

Only five minutes until your one-on-one

I believe that one-on-ones should be an essential part of a department's communication structure. They help to detect upcoming issues early. They are a good opportunity to build rapport with your colleagues. They are good for giving and asking for feedback in a safe environment. They are great for developing ideas. In short, they have a lot of unique strengths that are hard to emulate through other forms of communication, and therefore they deserve thoroughness and diligence both in preparation and in follow-up. However, sometimes you just cannot find the time to prepare. Read on to learn how, in only five minutes, you can prepare remarkably well. […]

7 Strategies to Increase Your Managerial Leverage

Levers: Which one to pull?

Emails. Incident reports. One-on-ones. Fine-tuning the new development process. Onboarding a newcomer. A request from another department. In the workplace, a lot of things can be calling for your attention at the same time, even more so as a manager or coordinator. It is not always clear what you should focus on first. You cannot do everything at the same time. Or, rather: You cannot do everything. Saying yes to one thing often means saying no to several others. By spending a lot of time on high-leverage activities, you can make the most impact given your limited time. […]

Still-Face: What an Experiment With Infants Can Teach You as a Manager

Don't still-face your children, but also not your employees

A baby boy, just a few months old, is sitting opposite his mum, and wants to communicate with her. He makes some sounds, tries to make eye contact, smiles, babbles. Usually, his mum smiles back lovingly, tickles him, and shows how happy she is to have him. However, this time is different. This time, his mum is there, but she is not. She does not react to his looks. She does not react to his smile. She does not react to his babbling, or to him pointing at an object. Something is wrong […]

Five Things to Remember When You Cannot Get Anything Done

Lots of work waiting...

A couple of days ago, I asked a friend: 'Do you know these days when your entire time is so fragmented that you don't even bother starting anything, because you know exactly that you will have to drop it anyway as soon as you start getting into some kind of flow?' His response: 'You mean like...every day?' We had a good laugh, but it was only half-jokingly that he said it. Meetings and other appointments can break your day up into useless micro-fragments of time where you cannot even get an email finished. However, there are ways to counteract. […]

How to Communicate Effectively as an Engineer Without Resorting to Management Speak

Don't resort to management speak!

I used to hate running meetings. I still don't particularly like it. Sometimes it feels like I am throwing words at people who would much rather get back to their work, and who are only in the room because their calendar is telling them to. Then I think it's my job to talk them out of their unwillingness, to motivate them, to get them engaged — only to find that I quickly run out of words. […]

Why Job Titles Are More Than a Necessary Evil

Badly designed job titles and promotions can make people angry

Many young companies are proud of their flat hierarchies, short decision paths, and of everybody having a say about the direction of the product. One of the means they employ to achieve this is the lack of formal titles. The reasoning is something like: 'If everyone is on the same level, then ideas will flow more freely. People will be more approachable, and new employees will be less intimidated.' However, it does not always work out like that in the real world. […]

Supervised Confrontation

Should Patrick intervene or not?

Patrick is an engineering manager and has twelve direct reports. These direct reports are members of several teams, so Patrick does not sit with all of them every day, and does not notice everything that is going on first-hand. One day, during a one-on-one with Robert, an engineer, there is a complaint: Robert says that he is not entirely happy with his teammate Christopher. Christopher picks arguments and his behaviour hurts the team atmosphere. Should Patrick intervene? […]

Telling Stories

Your story might be just one of many

Bob is angry. He was put on an important project with Natalie, and they agreed to communicate closely. But now, she keeps doing things on her own. First, she announced department-wide that they would postpone the launch date without telling him beforehand. Then, he learnt of two occasions when she reported to their supervisor, Steven, about the project alone, when they agreed they would always report together. […]

The Power of Nudging

Little ones instinctively know the power of nudging

Developers around me are usually pretty busy. There are features to implement, problems to solve, sprints to plan, infrastructure to maintain, emergencies to handle. They coordinate projects, align with business functions, think about strategy, and many more things. Many of them are high-priority or cannot be moved because they just belong to the day-to-day. This means that other jobs that are not day-to-day and non-urgent, but nevertheless important, suffer. Nobody ever gets around to actually doing them. […]

Output Orientation

Is making a deadline always worth it?

As a team lead, or engineering manager, you often read that you should be a shit umbrella for your team: Shield them against the bad stuff happening outside the team so that the developers can focus on their work. Protect the devs from political games, and ensure they have the long stretches of uninterrupted time that they need. Sounds reasonable, right? Sign me up! I want to be that guy! I want to be a shit umbrella! […]