#17 - Intentional Technical Leadership

Newsletter - Saturday, 30 July 2022

Hello my friend!

Happy Saturday! 🎉

Welcome to another issue of the Intentional Technical Leadership newsletter.

I hope you've had a wonderful week.

I've been at Netlify for 2 months now so I'm starting to gain a good working knowledge of the company and the challenges we face.

This week I've started some growth conversations with my team. Part of your role as a technical leader is to help your team to thrive in their career and find opportunities to do so.

Preparing your team members for promotion means giving them honest feedback and helping them to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

In this newsletter, I've picked a few interesting articles which discuss asking for, and giving, feedback.

I hope you find them useful.

👋🏻 One From Me

Asking for feedback as a leader

I wrote this article last year after a great conversation with a friend.

I found that engineering managers often don't receive enough feedback and wondered how I could change that for my own career.

As a technical leader, your job is centred around the work that your team does and how you provide feedback on that or to the individual. But as an engineering manager who isn't necessarily delivering actionable work items, it's harder to know if you're doing a good job.

In my post, I break down some ideas for how you can get better at asking for feedback as a technical leader which you should find helpful.

🔖 Interesting Reading

How do I get better at giving feedback?

I love self reflection and having a growth mindset. I know that I don't know everything and it's helpful to get advice from others, especially on something like giving effective feedback.

This article from James Stanier, the Director of Engineering at Shopify, shares some useful ideas for getting better at giving feedback.

In it, he shares ideas for a model for delivering high quality feedback which is easily replicated with your own team.

It's a long article but well worth reading and taking notes.

Giving Critical Feedback Is Even Harder Remotely

This is an interesting take on giving feedback.

The article suggests that it's harder to deliver critical feedback via a video call rather than in-office.

I've worked in a remote-friendly or hybrid manner since 2015 and managed teams across multiple cities. I've given both in-person feedback, and had discussions via Zoom or Skype.

In either way, I think it's important that you've built a psychologically safe environment for the team and that any expectations were made clear. In my experience, most people want to do the right thing but sometimes a lack of clarity on expectations lets them down.

This article discusses some approaches you can take which I think are applicable whether giving in-person feedback or not.

Do you think it's harder to give constructive feedback in a remote world?

What to do when your feedback doesn't land

So you've given one of your team some feedback but it's not been taken onboard by them.

What now?

This is another fantastic blog post by Lara Hogan where she shares a strategy for ensuring that the individual understands the feedback given to them and can start to make changes to correct their course.

It might be awkward, but your job as a technical leader is to ensure your team are cared for but challenged where necessary.

Lara's post lays out a process which you can adopt which will make difficult feedback conversations easier. She also shares a great PDF with 20 open questions which you can use to coach your team to success.

🌶️ Hot Take

The Product Owner Engineer: What if there were no PMs?

This week's hot take is really interesting.

It discuss the idea of not having product managers and instead taking a product owner role within the engineering team.

I've had similar discussions over the years as to what the engineering and product relationship looks like in various companies I've worked for.

I've worked with some fantastic product managers who help to drive the ideas and vision for what the team are building. However, I've had some challenges where the product ideas are non-existent or simply a list of features that the team just have to go and implement.

Sometimes an engineering leader has to take the driving seat and wear both engineering and product manager hats and help to move the team's work in the right direction.

What do you think?

What does the product and engineering relationship look like in your company?

Do you always need product managers?

I hope you enjoyed this week's selection of intentional technical leadership articles.

What do you think about the more focused approach to this week's newsletter?

Is concentrating on one topic each week better than a range of different links?

Hit reply and let me know what you think.

Feel free to send me any interesting articles, videos, or podcasts you've found. I'd love to learn from you!

Have an amazing week and be excellent to each other!

Speak to you soon,

Senior Engineering Manager @ Netlify

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