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Are you doing the hokey pokey?

“You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out.  You put your right foot in, and you shake it all about.”

That dance reminds me of the average day of a Technical Lead.  I was constantly jumping between everything that needs to get done right-the-hell-now, like…

  • Code reviews.
  • Coding.
  • One-on-ones.
  • Planning meetings.
  • Interviews.
  • Correcting bad behavior.
  • Onboarding new developers.
  • Writing specs.
  • Fixing production servers.

(Oh, and if you own the company it doesn’t get better.  You can double the size of that list because now you get fun items like accountingcleaning the bathroom and deciding where to have the Christmas party!)

Not a dance, just a distraction.

There’s a reason you never see the hokey-pokey on Dancing With The Stars.  It’s not a dance; it’s just a way to keep kids busy in a circle while the grown-up take a break.

And when I was doing the hokey-pokey at work, I wasn’t managing well, leading well or coding well.  Each drive home I thought, “What the heck did I get done today?”  I used to think about the missed opportunities to do great work because there just wasn’t enough of me to go around.

No magic pill

I’m not going to feed you some B.S and tell you there’s a simple solution to your problem.  If there was, you’d have found it by now.  You’re treading water as fast and hard as you can.  More effort was never the key for me.

What you might try instead

If this sounds like you, maybe you’ve had an epiphany about your work.  You might try reflecting on what you are doing by:

  • Keeping a work log, with how long you spent on each task.  This shows you a picture of the past.
  • Creating a to-do list for what needs to get done tomorrow.  This gives you a glimpse into the future.
  • Scan both your lists for items that maybe, just maybe, you could delegate.
  • Put those maybe delegate items on a list we’ll call the delegation opportunities list.  Write the person’s name who you might delegate to next to the each item.  If it could be more than one person, put them both down.
  • Write a few words about why you’re hesitating to delegate next to each item on the delegation opportunities list.  For example, my list might have said:
    • Needs training
    • Won’t do it right
    • Doesn’t pay attention to detail
    • Needs decision made by me
    • Too important
    • They will hate it
    • Don’t want to distract them

I’m sure you’ll come up with different reasons, but those were some I wrote.

Now stop dancing.

What did you learn about your recent past and your near future?

Do you see opportunities to invest in your team?

Do you see items that others could be doing?

Can you delegate any decisions?

Final list

The final list is a list of ideas for how to create a team that you can delegate to.  For example, if you noted that “Ron will hate doing that task”, you might make a note to talk to Ron about he actually feels about the task.  Or, if Jane doesn’t pay attention to detail, you should speak with her about how important that skill is, and collaborate on how she can grow into that skill.

Now you have a new list.  A list that will create an independent team, enabling you to focus on the leadership work that only you can do.

It’s not a magic pill, but it’s a list of investments that will pay a great return.

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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