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Posts by Marcus Blankenship

The mission

For the past five years, I’ve been working to help managers improve their work. Yet, there’s one question I continually hear:” Why?”   After all, I’m one guy in rural Klamath Falls, Oregon. A town where the biggest parade is at the Potato Festival. (It’s true, look it up.) Why would I care if you’re…

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Give transparency in small doses

When you’re honest about your struggles, it will connect you with some people. But it will surprise and confuse others. To them, your honesty might be seen as a lack of confidence, lack of skills, or lack of motivation — an admission of failure, or of giving up, or giving in. This is because transparency…

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”How can you get lucky more often?”

PRE-S: Software Leader Seminar returns in Jaunary 2020.  Start the new year by boosting your EQ, leadership, and communication skills. (Plus, you can write it off your 2019 taxes!) A friend of mine who’s Sr. VPEng at a mid-side SaaS company in a competitive market told me a story, and I’ll share it with their…

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Minesweeper and bad hires

Hiring programmers is hard, expensive, and takes forever. You spend countless hours on job descriptions, hiring rubrics, and checking references. You put candidates through the gauntlet: coding tests, whiteboard problems, panel interviews, culture interviews, and so on. If they make it through, then you roll the dice and make them an offer. Despite all your…

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13 questions to get more feedback from your team

“No one can see their own back.” Some of you wanted to know how to get more feedback from your team, so you don’t feel like you’re driving blind. So, I whipped up thirteen questions which will give you more insights into how your team perceives you: “What would you do in my situation?” “How…

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It’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength.

Last week Dan asked, “What advice do you have for addressing the insecurity I feel that my team can’t see the value I’m adding?” You sent in some answers, which I want to share. I also want to share my thoughts. But first, I’ll identify the two meanings of the question: How do I reduce…

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On cubicle and apple farms

I’m putting in a small apple orchard near my house. Not large, just 24 trees. But I’m new to farming, and so it’s got me thinking a lot about conditions for growth and change. In my orchard, I’m noticing many different conditions which I think will impact growth. These include: How much water is available?…

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No naughty or nice with nuts

PRE-S: Early bird pricing for the 4th cohort of Software Leader Seminar ends tomorrow. Apply today to lock in the early-bird price. One of my favorite snacks is a bowl of mixed nuts. It reminds me of software teams. The bowl is a container, holding them all together. All the nuts are in the bowl…

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Improvisational sketch leadership

The phrase “live workshop” contains two concepts. Most of us focus on the “workshop” part – reading the topics and activities to ensure it teaches what we want to learn. This engages our analytical brain which asks “what will I get out of this?” But it’s easy to overlook the importance of the “live” part,…

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Designing problems is harder than it looks…

“Today you’re going to learn lessons about delegation, communication, observation, and team alignment. More importantly, you’ll learn about yourself and the impact you have on those around you. You’ll receive the instructions once you’re in your learning groups.” The small learning groups move to their zoom videoconference rooms, where they receive their instructions. “It is…

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An audiobook, a workshop, and slack – oh my!

I’ve got a few updates for you, my fellow ruckus makers in tech. First, I’m excited to announce a 100% complete revamp of Software Leader Seminar into a hands-on, on-line workshop. No videos, no forums, no BS. This is unlike anything I’ve seen or done and is similar to my in-person workshops. It’s five weeks…

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Buy your toothpaste when you get there

When you’re heading into a new situation, it’s easy to overpack. The first time I went to Europe I packed my favorite heavy, long-sleeved flannel shirt, even though the trip was in the middle of summer. When I started a new coding project, I’d download a whole bunch of libraries just in case. When I…

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The leader’s blind-spot

Manager, leaders, and consultants all suffer from the same blind spot. We may recommend others do things which we’ve not done ourselves. This may make us blind to how difficult something actually is. For example, in the past, I’ve recommended that new people keep an ‘onboarding journal’ for the first month at the company. Now…

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Building good relationships are the key to everything you want

When it comes to building high-performing teams, your relationship with your developers is more important than their technical skills. While technical skills are important, strong developer–manager relationships are the keys to everything you want. Healthy relationships among employees and leaders produce high levels of engagement, motivation, trust, and transparency. These relational attributes are the foundation…

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