#29 - Intentional Technical Leadership

Newsletter - Saturday, 29 October 2022

Good morning my friend!

Happy Saturday! 🎉

Welcome to another issue of the Intentional Technical Leadership newsletter.

How's your week been?

I've had another challenge this week as a team member has resigned from one of my teams. I've dealt with this many times before but it's always a really sad day when you lose talented software engineers.

I find that it's always important to understand why they're leaving and to use this to look at any changes needed within your team or processes. If the reasons are more company-wide then you can share those with your own manager or senior leadership team to ensure they're aware of any issues.

To take my mind off the challenges of the week, here are this week's intentional technical leadership articles that I've found interesting.

🔖 Interesting Reading

Tech leadership mistakes that ruin productivity (and how to fix them)

This post from Jason Lengstorf shows some great observations on the complexity of managing a team and showing clear technical leadership.

A lack of clarity from management means unclear goals for your team and a perceived lack of productivity. If a plan regularly changes, then nobody has a clear view of the expected outcomes.

This is definitely something which can be a struggle, especially if there is lack of, or regularly changing, strategy from higher up the organisation.

Have a read and learn how Jason avoids team ambiguity and enables autonomy in a team's work.

Brilliant Jerks in Engineering

One of my engineering manager peers used to work at Netflix and we were talking about how we ensure a culture of great teamwork. He shared one of their policies which was "do not tolerate brilliant jerks" which I'd never heard before.

In some companies they are called "rockstar developers". They are the software engineers who like to operate independently without involving their teams.

This is a great article which talks about the challenges of having a "brilliant jerk" in a team and how you could approach the situation to encourage better behaviour.

Scaling Engineering Teams via RFCs: Writing Things Down

I've you've subscribed to the newsletter for a while then you know that I talk about writing being a super power for technical leaders.

In this article from Gergely Orosz, he shares some insights from his time at Uber, Skyscanner, and Microsoft and talks about the culture of RFCs.

In you're not familiar with RFCs, or "Request For Comments", they are a way to capture the requirements of a new piece of work before starting it and allow others to comment or ask questions.

The most important part of this article is that he encouraged the team to share their RFCs with the rest of the company. This allowed the team to scale by gathering input from the wider development community and helped to eliminate knowledge silos. This is really important yet often hard to achieve.

Navigating power dynamics as a manager

Have you ever been on a video call or in a room with the most senior person in your company? Do you notice how sometimes people won't challenge their decisions even if they seem wrong?

In this blog post, Pat Kua explores the differences in power dynamics between technical leaders and their teams. We sometimes forget that in your management role, you wield more power to make decisions so people might not want to challenge them.

There are some simple tips in this article which suggest how you can take a step back and empower your team to make better decisions. Understanding how your team respond to the power dynamic can help them to do their best work without always deferring to you.

🌶️ Hot Take

Lauren Tan on Twitter

In this Twitter thread, Lauren Tan makes some really interesting points about being a manager.

I particularly liked this quote:

Stop trying to add value to demonstrate your worth. We are mostly a tax. Shut up and listen to what your team members are and aren't saying. Help them be heard. Managers work best in the boundaries of things. Work on the system.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that your role as a manager is to affect change and impact for your company. It's not about doing all of the work.

Listening to your team and having the network and relationships to change the culture and ways of working will be your super power.

It's not easy but you'll show real leadership if you can change things for the better.

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

Hit reply and let me know what you think.

Feel free to send me any interesting articles or podcasts you've found as I love hearing from my readers.

Have an amazing week and be excellent to each other!

Speak to you soon,

Senior Engineering Manager @ Netlify

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