4 min read

The Leadership Garden Newsletter – 50

The Leadership Garden Newsletter – 50

Hello friend, I’m Csaba from Leadership Garden, and this is a weekly list of interesting articles that I come across that help me grow my thinking.

I hope you find something new to think about and share it with your friends.

And, if you forgot, this is in your inbox because you asked me to send it to you. You can always unsubscribe by clicking the link at the bottom of this email.

When is Learning Worth the Effort?

  • 💡 Learning something new often doesn't make immediate sense from a cost-benefit perspective, especially if there are alternatives like outsourcing or avoiding the task altogether.
  • 💡 The optimal decision to learn or delegate depends on your prior expertise and how regularly you expect to use the skill.
  • 💡 Our short-term focus and inclination towards immediate costs and payoffs typically leads to underinvestment in learning, even if it would be profitable in the long run.
  • 💡 Practice reduces the costs of learning and can make skills easier over time, leading to the Matthew Effects in learning, where skills beget skills and knowledge begets knowledge.
  • 💡 Specialization is important for abundance in today's world, as focusing on one skill allows us to delegate others. However, there are instances where skills can't easily be delegated and are worth mastering.
  • 💡 When deciding whether to learn something, consider factors such as how much easier the skill will become with practice, how frequently you'll use it, and how much personal satisfaction you'll derive from it.

Building personal and organizational prestige

There is a distinction between building prestige, building a brand, and building an audience.

  • 📌 Building personal and organizational prestige is seen as valuable for engineering leaders and companies during periods of tech industry expansion.
  • 📌 Personal brand and engineering brand are often not heavily relied upon for external communication in companies, and specialists are usually brought in for such roles.
  • 📌 Brand building is overemphasized, while enhancing prestige is underrated and can be achieved with a relatively straightforward playbook.
  • 📌 Prestige is the passive-awareness counterpart to brand, and can be easily discovered if someone looks for it.
  • 📌 Prestige opens doors to senior roles and recruiting senior candidates, and it expands one's network across the industry.
  • 📌 It is worthwhile to invest in building prestige if it helps start the interview process for desired jobs, attracts interesting roles through executive recruiters, enables hiring senior candidates, invites seeking career advice beyond the immediate scope, and expands one's network.
  • 📌 Prestige can be manufactured with infrequent, high-quality content that focuses on timeless topics with atypical perspectives.
  • 📌 Building prestige requires identifying meaningful insights, choosing a comfortable format (e.g., blog post or conference talk), creating content, developing a distribution plan, and collecting content on personal websites and online profiles.

How To Make Hard Decisions: Even / Over Statements

We face decisions every single day, big and small. Every so often those decisions have tradeoffs that feel impossible to decide between, which naturally will feel particularly hard to settle on.

In order to [thing], I’m choosing [x important thing] even over [y important thing].

  • 💡 When faced with competing core needs, you have to decide what to prioritize and accept that some fires may need to burn while you address a different issue.
  • 💡 The “even/over statements” tool can help in making hard decisions. It involves choosing one important thing even over another important thing to achieve a specific goal.
  • 💡 To use the tool, start by identifying what you're trying to accomplish and flip a coin to assign priorities. Consider how each version of the statement feels and choose the one that resonates more.
  • 💡 The exercise is time-bound and not meant to be a permanent decision. Setting a reminder to revisit the statement in the future can help alleviate concerns.
  • 💡 Summarize the even/over statement on a Post-it note for easy reference. Place it somewhere visible to remind yourself of your current focus.

Emotional Self Control Probably Doesn’t Mean What You Think…

But it’s an essential skill for Leaders

  • 😮 Emotional self-control is often misunderstood as not displaying any emotions, but it actually means remaining calm and clear-headed during stressful situations.
  • 🧠 The amygdala, responsible for sensing and responding to danger, can hijack the prefrontal cortex, impairing our ability to think clearly and manage emotions.
  • 🙌 Developing emotional self-control can help create a calm work environment, improve decision-making, accept feedback, and adapt to changes.
  • 💪 Emotional self-control is linked to resilience, enabling individuals to bounce back from negative situations and demonstrate agency in their responses.
  • 📝 To improve emotional self-control, it's important to identify triggers, name emotions, describe physical sensations, and examine thoughts during challenging situations.
  • ⏸️ Practicing pausing and taking deep breaths before responding can help de-escalate tense situations.
  • 🏆 Letting go of the need to win every argument and stepping away from stressful situations can be beneficial.

On levelling, learning and development

“It takes 1,000 days to forge the spirit and 10,000 days to polish it." - Miyamoto Musashi, 17th century samurai

  • 💡 Learning models are an important aspect to consider in career development frameworks.
  • 💡 The “four stages of competence” model describes the progression from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence.
  • 💡 The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition explains the stages of learning from novice to expert.
  • 💡 The Radford model focuses on career leveling, with stages like Entry, Developing, Career, Advanced, Expert, and Principal.
  • 💡 Charlie Munger suggests applying multiple models to problem-solving to find weaknesses and seek overlap for a way forward.
  • 💡 Career development frameworks should consider the three phases of a profession: entry, seniority, and mastery.

Better Software Engineering teams

Structures, roles, responsibilities, and comparison with common approaches.

  • 🔑 Clearly defined roles are essential in a good software engineering team.
  • 🔑 Balancing seniority within a team is important to ensure meaningful work and avoid poor results.
  • 🔑 Responsibility and ownership are crucial for every team member, promoting accountability.
  • 🔑 The size of a team should be reasonable to avoid complex communication and maintain productivity.
  • 🔑 Trust among team members is crucial for honest and constructive discussions.
  • 🔑 Transparency in the team's work and goals is essential to keep everyone informed and aligned.
  • 🔑 Strong leadership is a key predictor of a team's success.
  • 🔑 Single-discipline teams with software managers can lead to tribalism and silos within the organization.
  • 🔑 Cross-functional teams with software managers can create confusion and lack of technical expertise.
  • 🔑 Self-managed cross-functional teams based on trust and responsibility can lead to independent and agile teams.
  • 🔑 Counter-productive practices in software engineering teams include dedicated and siloed teams, relying only on generalists, and enforcing a one-size-fits-all agile methodology.
  • 🔑 Engineering delivery teams led by non-engineers and product-obsessed companies can lead to inefficiencies.

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