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A 4-year old morality

4 year old

This quiz was given to a group of 4-year olds. See if you can guess how they answered.
Jimmy is running through the house after being told not to, and accidentally breaks one of his mother’s plates. Helen is helping her mother put away the dishes and accidentally drops four plates, breaking them all. Who was naughtier, Jimmy or Helen?

How would a 4-year old answer?
“Helen is naughtier because she broke more plates.”

See, moral reasoning is something that matures over time. Fast forward a couple of years, and the answer would change. A 7-year old will most likely answer “Jimmy is naughtier because he disobeyed.” Both are perfectly reasonable answers; they simply use different measurements to determine the outcome.

What does this have to do with being a technical leader?

It gives us an opportunity to pause and ask ourselves a few questions:
1. Do we measure the holistic performance of a team member with a metric that is too simple? If so, are we being fair in our measurement? Could we be missing the “soft” places where

2. Are we looking at the intention behind the decisions, or only the outcomes? Developers who fear taking chances might look good on paper (because they don’t have many failures), but they may be poor innovators due to their fear. As my boss told me, “It’s not the number of home runs we count, but the number of times at bat.” (I wasn’t a baseball fan, so I had to look that up too. <grin>)

3. Has our leadership decision making, and the way we viewed our team, progressed in the past 12 months? If not, we might be stuck in an old way of thinking and need some new ideas. We should continue to expose ourselves to new ideas, approaches, and tools (in the same way we want our developers too!)

About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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