October 30 - Grateful

Beautful Skyline over Villanova
I am starting  a series of posts that talk about how grateful I am. I am hoping to do this bit at least 2x per week.  I am not sure how this is going to work, let's just call it an experiment.

Today, I am grateful for woman I ran into at the Chipotle. The interaction was so small, but it has left me thinking over these last couple of days. Let me set the stage - My family and I had just order our wonderful food (Burrito and soda for me) and I was walking over to fill my cup with some Coke and there she was.  A tall, african american basketball player from Villanova University (The sweatshirt with Villanova basketball written on it and her height were a dead giveaway).

As I got closer, I noticed that she had only filled her cup part way. I waited as she finished filling her cup till it was full. As she finished, she apologized for taking so long - there really was no reason for her to apologize. You see, as with many soda machines, the setting for the CO2 (I like to call it the fizz factor) was too high.  So naturally, she would fill it to the top and then have to wait for the fizz to go down, rinse and repeat. My response was a typical, no worries, and then said, "the fizz makes it impossible to be fast".

And I am grateful that she laughed at my stupid joke and smiled.  While it seems silly to be grateful for something so simple, I knew by our short few interactions that she was a nice woman that cared about others, no matter who they were.  So thank you to that pleasant young woman, you made my day.

Building a Team - a lesson from ETSY

Photo by Eric Ziegler
As I was reading the blog post from the retired CTO, Kellan Elliot-McCrea, from Etsy, I became interested in more about who he was and what made him so special.  So I did some research and came across this awesome article.

How Etsy grew their number of female engineers by 500 % in one year

Yes, you read that title correct. Etsy grew the number of female engineers by 500% in one year. As part of their efforts, Etsy launched "Etsy Hacker Grants" to provide need-based scholarships to talented women engineers enrolling in Hacker School (a three-month hands-on course designed to teach people how to become better engineers).

As part of their hiring, they setup the parameters for success:
  • Be serious but inviting
  • look for balance
  • optimize for building together
  • optimize for data gathering
  • normalize within your organization
  • conduct your experiment publicly
What I found interesting was that these ideals and principals can be applied to people of all cultures and teams. You can apply this to engineering teams or teams doing operations work. And you can apply these principals to not only hiring and helping others, but you can apply these principals to how you team should and could work together. 

What I also found interesting was their philosphy that a team should either have 0 women on it, or 2+ women on the team. One woman on the team ends up making her a woman engineer vs just being an engineer.

Making False Assumptions

Most of what you see and think is a lie. When I first read the title of one of John Stepper's blog posts (John is of Working Out Loud book fame, I wasn't sure what I would find. The title, The man singing falsetto in the ladies' room, definitely attracted me to reading his blog post.  And when I read it, what I read was not what I expected, which is exactly what John was trying to do with the title of his blog.  If you have not read the article, go read it, it is totally worth the 5 minutes it will take you to read it.

In John's blog post, he highlights that most people will make assumptions about the intentions of an action by another person.  We take lots of little pieces of information in based on our observations and then fill in the rest with our imagination.  Basically, what we do is fill in all the missing pieces. And by filling in the pieces, we often get it wrong. 

While it is not possible in all situations, if you catch yourself making assumptions about someone else or guessing what someone is thinking based on their actions, take a step back and try to assess the full story, ask questions and be thoughtful before making a mistake based on false assumptions. 

Go read the article, it is worth it and the punchline is awesome.

Continuous Intelligence

Continuous Intelligence
Photo by Eric Ziegler

Where is business intelligence really going? Is it just about the data or the analytics or is it about the true business value that can be obtained by doing better and faster analytics in real time.  At the recent Amazon Web Service conference, re:Invent 2015, Sumo Logic talked about the idea of continuous Intelligence. This quote from the article highlights what I am referring to
 Shifting from rear-view insights to anticipating the insights to the questions not yet asked because those unknowns will make the difference between the next generation winners and losers.
The true business is all about getting ahead of where our customers might go and helping them by predicting ideas, thoughts that they might come up with. The goal is to look forward and anticipate our customers needs and desires. if you think of a sales organization, can you help them know who they should be talking with?  can you help them know what they should be talking to their clients about? What would it take to get there? And are you basing that information based on just the information you have or based on a broader view of the full client?

Visions - what are they and what to do with them

As you read my blog, I think everyone might be figuring out that I do a lot of reading and I like to highlight the things that I find most interesting. Mostly this writing is to help me synthesize my thoughts and to write down concepts I want to reference again later.  By posting them publicly, and sharing the blog posts openly, my hope is that others will gain something from it. Not only do I read a lot, I also listen to podcasts

One series of podcasts that I listen to is specific to leadership. While there are several very good podcasts, I like listening to Andy Stanley and his podcast,  Andy Stanley's Leadership Podcast. He has a perspective that is not unique but what I find to be very insightful. In a recently episode of his podcast, he talked with the former CEO of Home Depot, Frank Blake. In this episode they get into a deep conversation about visions of companies and what it means to the company and the employees.

A conversation with Frank Blake on Vision.

They did not get into what a vision is or how to create one, but rather, how to make a vision stick. how to get people to understand the vision and to make the vision the rallying call for the company. Andy has an entire book on how to create a vision, live the vision, and celebrate the vision. You can find his book, Making Vision Stick, on Amazon. I have not read the book yet, but if you do, please share your thoughts back here.

Becoming a more effective team

Best Friend
Photo by Eric Ziegler
Are you part of a team? I am guessing you might answer this question in the positive. Are you part of a great team? If not, why not? No matter how you answer that question, most likely your team become even more effective

3 Ways to Encourage Smarter Teamwork is great article from Harvard Business Review. The article shares 3 characteristics that that all individuals should embrace to ensure the entire team is more effective.
  • Active listening - pausing and listening to your peers and allow them to share their ideas and their perspectives. in addition, pausing to listen to understand, taking notes so you don't forget, etc. All good skills to embrace
  • Giving and receiving honest feedback - if you are going to truly collaborate with your peers, you need to be willing to share where you think their ideas are good and bad, and be open to receiving that feedback. And you know that idea of being "recognized" that often means getting a pat on the back or a thank you from a colleague, because recognition can come from anywhere.
  • Valuing team contributions, not stroking egos - you should be giving and serving your peers, on the team and in the community. if you do this, you will be recognized that you have influence and you will be seen as a leader.Remember my preivous post? you don't need to know all of the answers, and you should not expect others to have all of the answers. and if that is the case, then as a upstanding member of the community and the team, you should share and contirubte to the whole.

Leaders make mistakes - really

Photo by Eric Ziegler
3 Common Mistakes GOOD Leaders Make

Everyone makes mistakes. Managers, leaders, school teachers, police officers, clergy, etc. If you were to ask the question, what mistakes do you make, what would you say? In the blog post from "leader chat", they asked coaches and leaders, what mistakes do good leaders make. Based on the responses, they recognized three themes of mistakes. And the interesting part is that these are mistakes that anyone could make, not just a "leader" or not just a "manager".

What are the 3 most common misakes?
  • An over-focus on the people aspect and avoiding difficult conversations.
  • Trying to solve all of the problems of the people they work with or who work from them.
  • Neglecting your own personal growth - if you don't keep on growing you
While these on the surface might appear to be manager specific, they are not. These are great things to avoid if you are a leader or an aspiring leader. If you are not currently a manager but lead others and aspire to manage people, and if you avoid these pitfalls, you will end doing things that will enhance your ability to become the next great leader.

Successful Coaching Conversations

Bright Star at Sunset
Photo by Eric ziegler
Coaching is a technique to improve. You can improve in sports from good coaching. You can improve at school from good coaching (or teaching as they like to call it). You can improve at work from good coaching. And coaching can come from anyone. You can be coached by your kids. You can be coached by your peers. You can be coached by your manager or your managers manager. In fact, you can even coach others. Are you a developer? System Tester? BSA? Have you been asked to help others with their +1 skill? Have you helped others with their +1 skill? Then you are coaching.

For me, coaching is one of the most rewarding experiences. And for any person that is a coach or is being coached, there are some things you should keep in mind to ensure you each get the most out of the experience being shared. In this article, they highlight 12 things you should always do, and then some things you should avoid.

12 Secrets for Successful Coaching Conversations

For me, some of the items that struck a chord most include:
  • Relax. Lower defenses. Be your curious self.
  • Embrace silence. Don’t feel pressure to fill the silence. Wait a bit longer than feels comfortable. Allow coachees to fill the silence.
  • Develop next steps. Always identify next steps in behavioral terms. •What will you do? • How will you know you’re taking a next step? • How will colleagues know?
And then things to avoid:
  • Fixing and helping. Control your inner fixer. Successful coaches give responsibility and ownership. They don’t take it.
  • Interrupting.
  • Asking two questions at once (I do this one all the time, note to self, stop doing that)

Software Testing Club - go Join

Software Testing Club - Go Join
Photo by Eric Ziegler

Testing, Devops and Continuous delivery are all topics of interest for me as I have transitioned into a a software delivery role. How can we become more effective in how we deliver value to the clients, is a question you will very often hear me ask. So of course, because it is a topic of high interest to me, I have been keeping my eye for interesting content about these topics.

One great site that I found was the Software Testing Club website. In the site you can find a forums and some of the best blog posts about how to do testing well. You really do have to check out the blog posts on this site, they are pretty good.

Some of my favorites are:

If you are a tester or a developer or someone that interacts with building software, you should check this site on a regular basis. If you are so inclined, at to the community and share your insights about testing.

Its about the team, not the Individual

Who's accountable?
Photo by Eric Ziegler (@ericzigus)
When I first joined my latest team, I specifically went and met with each team that reported up to me. As I did my introductions, I let my teams all know that I am a big fan of soccer, so much so that I even play.

Because I am who I am, I read many different blogs and listen to many different podcasts that cover topics that span topics such as leadership, soccer, and technology. I read and listen to podcasts to stay up on the latest trends and to keep abreast of the latest things happening on things I am passionate about.

Recently, I was listening to the soccer podcast, Men in Blazers (@meninblazers +Men In Blazers) .(btw, I highly recommend listening to these gentlemen if you like soccer. Not only are they informative, they are rather funny). During a recent podcast, they were interviewing Jose Mourinho, the current manager of Chelsea. As I listened to the interview, he provided insights that I believe apply to any team anywhere, especially teams that in companies.

These insights were about how the team is the most important thing, and that individuals are important as part of the team. This sentiment is absolutely important for any long running successful teams.
"It's about the team, not the individual"
"The manager is no more or less important than the individuals on the team"
Why would he say these statements? He hints at holding the individuals accountable for their actions, even the manager.

He uses an example in the podcast to get his point across, There is a section in the podcast where he talks about the bus leaving on time. You could take it as a control from the top, but listen carefully on how he talks about the situation. He says that the team has agreed that at 9 am the bus will leave. And if you are not on the bus at 9 am, the bus leaves without you, because the team agreed it would leave at 9am. And if the manager is not on the bus at 9am? the bus leaves without the manager.

While you might think this is a power game for Jose, I look at it differently. What he is saying is that the team is important, and to hold the team back because someone was not holding themselves accountable to being on time is not acceptable. Hence, each person is accountable for their actions and accountable for making sure the team meets the team goals.