Have you ever wondered why am I doing this? In this episode of Programming Leadership, Marcus discusses his vision for the future and how we can work together to change it. Are you with me?
- Consider your why and get on board with mine. @4:02
- I want to create a future that’s more productive and more valuable. @5:09
- This future will have lower turnover and higher productivity. @5:58
- Small ideas have to start somewhere and they grow. @6:53
- Bad management and leadership comes from somewhere above you with expectations that came into the company a long time ago. @7:43
- I feel small with a big idea and I need your help. @8:12
- Breaking old habits is hard, but it can start with us. @9:02
- Why do I do this podcast? @9:21
- Why do I write? @9:34
- Why do I speak at conferences? @9:52
- My book is coming out in March. @10:55
Announcer: Welcome to the Programming Leadership podcast where we help great coders become skilled leaders and build happy, high-performing software teams.
Marcus: Welcome to this episode of Programming Leadership. I am Marcus Blankenship, your host. If you enjoy this program would you go on iTunes, or Google Play, or Spotify, or wherever your fine podcasts are found and give us some love. Give us some stars, write a review. This helps get the word out. I don’t really know how it works to be honest. All I know is the sponsors of the show, and Apple, and Google love that stuff. So, we are depending on you to help get the word out, to build the next awesome generation of managers.
I want to take just a moment and thank my sponsor, GitPrime, GitPrime has sponsored this show, not just because they’re fantastic people but because they really believe that leadership in engineering is about people. It’s about conversations, and GitPrime is a platform that allows you to have better conversations with people. Yes, it has lots of other benefits. You can probably plan better, you could see metrics about individual performance, but let’s just take that one idea about individual performance.
Whenever I talk with a GitPrime user and, by the way, lots of my clients are GitPrime users, they always tell me how surprised they were at what was really happening on the team. See, it’s really easy for you as a manager to observe, generally, how people are working. You can look at PRs, you can look at who’s assigned what tickets, you as the CLM, the software engineering manager, you get a notion for what people are doing. But, there’s always these beautiful surprises about who is really performing well and who’s secretly struggling, about who’s the person that’s saving everybody’s Bacon through fixing a lot of stuff behind the scenes, and who is absolutely doing all the PRs. This kind of data lets you move from looking at people as just, well, they’re all engineers and they’re all kind of doing engineering work to seeing exactly where each one of them is strong and has opportunities to grow, and that’s why I love this tool so much.
I believe that new and surprising conversations come out of data, that when you can sit down with somebody and start to understand and intuit why things are happening you’re going to create even better quality of exchanges. And by the way, you know here on this show we talk about the fact that leadership is what keeps people connected to their work and prevents turnover and keeps them motivated. It’s about the relationship. I like to say that GitPrime not only lets you build better software, it lets you build a better relationship with your team members. Start a free trial today at gitprime.com.
Today on the show I want to talk about why I’m doing this. It is November of 2019 and I am going through a bit of reflection in my life, and some changes have recently happened which have caused me to ask the large questions, and I think everyone should do an end of year self-retrospective. Instead of just saying, “I’ll just drift along in this world and everything will be fine, as I’m like a leaf on the river floating down the current.” Instead, Marcus wants to suggest let’s be a little bit more intentional as leaders, and let’s ask why are we doing this? Now, I recently realized, thanks to my lovely wife, Amy, that I was doing a whole lot of stuff. In fact, we put on a board that I had about 24 distinct activities happening. She said, “It’s no wonder you keep coming to me saying, ‘I’m so busy, I’m overwhelmed,'” and I was like, “Well yeah.” And she says, “What is your focus? What are you trying to accomplish with all this?”
I’m sharing this with you today because two reasons. One, I want you to consider your why, and I want to use this as an example, but also I want you to get on board with my why, and I want you to be excited about it, and I want that to be our why together. Okay? So here’s what I realized. Everything in my world, all the activities, whether they made money or not, no longer make sense unless I can tie them together with a vision. And so, at a high level my vision is to change the world, to give every developer and every technical manager a great place to work. I am so saddened by programmers who feel like their boss just doesn’t get it and they never want to be a manager. I’m saddened by managers that feel trapped between teams that want to do well and executives which have unrealistic expectations. I’m sad that companies expect, and spend so much money on software development only to be repeatedly frustrated and disappointed with the results.
Once I broke this down, I realized that my vision is a future where every software development team is both incredibly valuable, incredibly productive, and incredibly joyful, that the managers who manage them find fulfillment and joy in their work, that they see that command and control structures are no longer appropriate, or even useful, in this day and age, that those old ideas which make up so much of what we think about work, like job descriptions and distinct titles, and like the idea that people are resources; that none of that fits anymore and that, instead, there is a new mindset that is more productive, that is more valuable. It becomes a different pattern for how we can work today.
I don’t quite have a name for this, but when I think about this future, turnover is lower, productivity is higher, hiring is easier, people love their work. And here’s the litmus test, I think, the people who work in these environments say, “I’m doing the best work of my life. I am connected with the reason my software is being built. I’m connected with the people I’m building it with, and I understand the value I bring upwards and the value my management brings downwards to me.”
In fact, frankly, I even violated my own idea right there. Did you notice it? Maybe we don’t need the idea so much of upwards and downwards. Alright? So as I envision this crazy new world I imagine a better place. Now, you might say, “Marcus, how can one nut on a podcast make a better place?” Yeah, it’s daunting, but small ideas have to start somewhere and they grow. They become bigger ideas, but they become bigger ideas when they go viral, right? When they become the thing that people get behind. And I truly believe that in the future we can create places to work where managers respect each other, work together, collaborate, remove competition, where they treat their employees in a way that makes those employees feel valued and empowered and not just like because of pay. In fact, I hate to say it, but what if pay went down industry-wide because job satisfaction had risen so much and turnover had gone down.
There’s all these crazy trends that I actually think are rooted in bad management and leadership, which does not come from you. If you’re listening to this podcast, you’re one of my people is my guess. It comes from someplace above you with expectations that came into the company a long time ago, but just like me, one guy yelling in the wilderness, “There’s a better way. We’ve got to change,” you can be that in your organization and that’s kind of the key I want to get through here to you today. It’s very hard to feel small and have a big idea and, honestly, that’s how I feel today. I feel small with a big idea that seems like there’s no way I could ever change the world, but I need you to help me. All the people I interview, they’re not just people I’ve met. They’re not random knuckleheads or authors. They are people that I think help embody various aspects and that’s what I want this show to be, the embodiment of various aspects of the new world.
You know we’re going to have more and more guests. We’re going to have leaders on who are going to talk about management and leadership, yes, but also about self-organizing teams, and learning teams, and how we do correction and discipline, and how we do hiring, and how we do a whole host of stuff in a new way. Like breaking old habits is really hard, but it can start today with us. So, let me rewind to all those activities I was doing before. It just dawned on me, literally two days ago, that all the activities I’ve been doing need to be focused in, and I’ve actually gotten rid of about half of them. So, for example, I do this podcast. Why? I do this podcast to spread the ideas about enlightened leadership, relational leadership, and better technical management. I write. I write. Why do I write? To spread those ideas and to help engage with you, the reader, into how can you actually be changing your mental model. That’s what my writing tries to do. I try and provoke you to change in a way that gets you to consider things differently.
So, we’ve got the podcast, writing. I’ve got the book coming out, the books with O’Reilly. It’s going to be coming out in March. I hope you buy it. I hope you tell people about it. I hope you buy it for your team. You know, and I don’t hope that because I hope to get rich because, frankly, I think I’ve kind of given up on the getting rich thing. All I really want is something a little smaller than that, I just want to change the world and I want you to help me change the world. By the way, if you’re listening to this, I have a slack room. It’s free. It’s called Software Manager Slack. If you want to join it, join in the conversation. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add you right into the slack.
My point is that all of these activities can be looked at as they’re revenue, they’re marketing, they’re sales, blah, blah, blah. You could look at them with that distinction, and I used to and things weren’t really working, but now, now I can look at them and I can say, “It’s about getting the message out. It’s about starting a movement. It’s about winning hearts and minds, and it’s about giving you new tools and new strategies to deal with the complexity that is inherent in managing development, and in being a developer.” You know that software engineering is abstract. You know that anything around performance evaluation, anything around absolutes of who’s better than who, there are very few absolutes. Those are gut kinds of decisions you have to make, and what I want to just do is invite you along for this ride. I’m telling you this because I feel that on the day I’ve re-clarified my mission for myself I want you to know it, as well. I mean frankly, I want you to be excited about it, and I hope that you drop me a line at email@example.com and give me your thoughts on it.
You’re not alone if you’re frustrated with how you’ve been managed, and you start to see that maybe there’s a better way, you realize that your own patterns aren’t helpful, and that your team is simply responding to the way you’ve been managing them. I just want to give you that last bit of encouragement, that you can grow and change, you can get a different mental model, you can be more transparent, you could get more done through vulnerability than through being a dictator. I don’t know how this is going to sit with you because that’s the problem with podcasts, I can’t see your smiling faces. But, I hope you want the same kind of future I do. I look forward to talking with you in upcoming episodes and thanks for listening today.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Programming Leadership. You can keep up with the latest on the podcast at www.programmingleadership.com and on iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or wherever fine podcasts are distributed. Thanks again for listening and we’ll see you next time.
Announcer: This has been a HumblePod production. Stay humble.