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Your choice: go big, or get real

I’ve been a jittery, nervous wreck for a week because of the workshop which starts on Wednesday. It reminds me of singing a solo in a Junior High musical – I’m terrified that I’ll forget the words, look like an idiot… or pee my pants on stage. Yeah – you get it: I’m nervous. I…

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The painful truth I need to admit to you

Most people feel the leader’s #1 job is to get people to follow them. After all, they might think, a leader without followers is… just a dude (or dudette) standing out in a field, all alone. Thus, most leadership ideas relate to the acquisition and use of power, influence, and manipulation. At one extreme you…

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Four interview mistakes (and what to do instead)

I’ve been helping a client hire Engineering Managers the past few months, so interviewing (on both sides of the table) is on my mind. Here are four mistakes to avoid when interviewing for a job. Oh, and if you’re the one conducting interviews, ask yourself how you feel when people do these things. Mistake 1:…

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This space intentionally left blank

I didn’t write to you yesterday because I had nothing interesting to say. As a young Team Lead, I would not have done this. Back then I believed that saying something was always better than saying nothing. Even when I had no specific ideas to contribute, I would open my mouth and fill the void…

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The Insane Beast

The Beast roamed the office hallways; always seeing, always watching, always devouring. My first encounter with the Beast took place a few months after I joined the company. I didn’t recognize it immediately, due to my youth and inexperience. This was, after all, my first job as a programmer. One Tuesday I needed to leave…

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A slightly silly history of leading programmers – Part 2

Computer, enter stage left… (Miss part 1?  Read it here.) When computers made their debut, the mathematicians were called in to handle these complex machines. But soon enough the mathematicians became bored and went back to doing whatever mathematicians do, leaving the computers to be dealt with by the electrical engineers. It didn’t take long…

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A slightly silly history of leading programmers – Part 1

Long, long ago in a place far, far away the Managers told people what to do. This seemed perfectly natural because the Managers were smarter and knew more than the Workers. Few Workers contested this, having been trained since infants by the “domestic managers” (aka ‘parents’), at school by the “classroom managers” (aka ‘Teachers’), and…

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Who’s your Bob?

At my last job, Bob was the DBA, SysAdmin and SAN Manager. Bob had been there forever, mostly kept to himself, and knew how most everything worked. He’d worked for many different bosses, outlasting them all. One day about 14 years ago, I asked Bob, “What would we do if you ever quit, Bob?” “It…

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A new meeting goal

Back in the day, when I gathered my team for a meeting, it was because I had something to tell them. A new project, direction, technology, or idea I’d conceived behind closed doors that I wanted to announce. As we discussed it as a group, my idea would change. Morph into something better, or possibly…

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Tech Lead Talk, a Community of Practice

A few months ago I started www.TechLeadTalk.com. It’s a free forum where tech leaders can swap ideas and help each other with real problems. We’re taking it one step farther to turn it into a Community of Practice. One of our moderators, Peter, wrote up a summary that explains it nicely. Check it out, and…

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OUTER JOIN or INNER JOIN?

The day people join your team, they show up on time, dressed appropriately, and ready to work. Think of this as the OUTER JOIN – the outward sign of their joining. We record this as their “start date.” The OUTER JOIN is a great start, but it can’t stop there. You must strive for the…

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Where do software engineers want to work?

What if we set out to create a place that software engineers want to work? Where might we begin? We might begin with constructing the most beautiful building and providing unlimited, top of the line equipment. We might begin with a problem previously thought impossible to solve. We might begin with an idea so important it…

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Key Three: The relationship with your team as a group

Thus far we’ve discussed getting your footing with yourself and taking the first step with your team. Now it’s time to get your team together. Though you’ll be building individual relationships with each person, you need to see how the group interacts. We don’t act the same in a group as we do in 1:1…

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