💼 Management ain’t so bad

  • Autonomy refers to the things you are trusted to make decisions about without asking others for permission. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include others in those decisions.
    • Increasing your autonomy probably means decreasing someone else’s.
    • In order to preserve autonomy, teams must learn to “disagree and commit”. This principle allows for autonomy and accountability, but must be accompanied by a learning environment that is tolerant of mistakes. If the learning environment can’t tolerate a mistake, the autonomy scope should be reviewed.
  • Boundaries are required in order to define things. Undefined things are ambiguous things, and quickly become useless, as they can be redefined at any point to suit any argument.
    • In particular, boundaries help define the remit of each person or team’s autonomy. A lack of boundaries will probably make most people confused or uncomfortable, adding unnecessary ambiguity and complexity to their day to day lives.
  • Facilitation is a skill that not everyone has. A well-facilitated meeting can be a more inclusive and equitable way to communicate in a complex power dynamic.
    • Conversely, poor facilitation can help to keep power in the hands of a privileged few, whether that’s those in positions of explicit authority or those with more outgoing personality types/communication styles.
    • Inclusive meetings help to extract important information from a diverse group, and helps those people have agency.
  • Authority can be generous. When you make your decision, it frees others from having to make it. You can create space for others to be creative by locking in some of the variables.
  • A lot of people do not want to lead strategy from the “bottom up”. Many people want to be able to do their job and know they are doing it well through a clear remit and great feedback. “Bottom up” strategy and organisational design is likely not going to be the fastest way to move forward or innovate as it makes decision making a democratic process, which is necessarily slower.
  • Great teams have fast decision making at the leadership level and fast execution at the implementation level. Both are difficult to do.
  • Feedback (especially constructive) is difficult to give. You should learn how to do it properly. You probably will need to learn how to withstand the receiver feeling uncomfortable while you give it. If you have given feedback well, they will recover and you will have given them a gift.
  • Active listening is a skill. Even if you can, it’s best not type notes while someone is speaking. Record the conversation, or write your notes afterwards.
    • “Feeling heard” and “being heard” are different. Both are useful.
  • It’s better to complete things than start them, usually. Try to complete three discrete tasks each day.
  • Trust is not a right or an expectation - it must be earned and maintained. It can be ruptured, and in some cases, repaired. High trust can be very efficient but also very challenging for many people.
  • Transparency is not a blunt instrument to be used without nuance. More transparency creates more information, which increases the amount of complexity.
  • Transparency and trust are deeply interrelated. Transparency typically helps where trust is low. Low transparency requires higher trust. Over time transparency can create trust.
  • Psychological safety can’t be created via any kind of ritual or setting, it is an emergent behaviour of a high trust team.

Leading through crisis

  • When people feel like they have a loss of agency in their lives, they may look to increase their agency at work. Even if they are already empowered and reasonably autonomous, this may manifest as reaching for or wanting input in decisions or changing things for the sake of expressing agency.
    • I saw this manifest specifically with a team who wanted to modify their scrum process (sprint length, standup days, meeting cadence and days, participants, etc) increasingly frequently during lockdown. Although in principle there’s nothing wrong with modifying process — in fact, it’s encouraged — doing it every few days becomes disruptive and makes it difficult to onboard new team members into.
    • Noticed that providing updates to the team about local COVID-19 news went from being helpful to being harmful quite quickly. The ongoing channel drew attention away
  • When the world outside of work is ambiguous, confusing and overwhelming, people may struggle with any ambiguity at work. The onus is on leaders to provide clarity.
  • In a widespread mental health crisis, drawing attention to feelings at work can be difficult, especially if leaders are ill-equipped to handle those conversations.
    • Similar to “R U OK Day” - don’t ask if someone’s OK if it’s not OK to be not OK.
    • Saw this manifest with retros becoming increasingly grim.