The Leadership Exit

Making the decision to leave is never easy.

It’s easily doubled when you’re the Leader of a team because not only are you now leaving an organization, you’re now leaving a group of people that you have invested an incredible amount of energy into their own personal and team growth and development that to leave feels like betrayal.

They bought into the story.

They listened to everything you had to say.

They jumped higher than you asked.

They believed.

And now you are leaving them. Or rather that’s what you’re made to feel like when you make this hard decision to do so.

“You’re abandoning us”

“You’re leaving us behind”

“Why aren’t you taking us with you”

“How could you?”

There are many emotions at play here when you decide to leave and most are coming at you.

Let’s dissect a few of the most prominent ones here.

You’re Not Leaving Your Team

It’s time for you to move on to new challenges and opportunities. Leading a team is like being a parent, there is a moment when you know it’s time to let your kids go, spread their wings and start leading themselves.

Every Leader knows when they’ve hit this point with a team – “I’ve done enough here and what comes next will only be incremental. You need more, you need a different approach, you need someone else.”. This isn’t an easy realization for a leader to come to, but it’s one that is realized from the view that they want their team to continue to grow, become stronger, better and share that wisdom with others.

When the Leader’s involvement is only going to result in incremental returns, it’s time for them to make the exit.

It’s Not a Betrayal

And if your team thinks it is, then you should have left much sooner. Your team is now dependent on you for more than you had originally hoped and they are fearful that without you, they will fall apart.

Fear is a powerful emotion and a Leader should never stay if the team is fearful they cannot survive without them (the Leader). If this is the case, then you haven’t done the proper work in preparing your exit strategy and ensuring they are setup for success for when you leave. A well organized team should be able to survive in the short-term without their Leader and keep things going through what has been taught to them.

Don’t fall into the trap of being made to feel you are disloyal or have betrayed your team, you are giving them the opportunity to grow and develop.

The Bought Into You

Great.

Fantastic.

Your team bought into your plan, they executed and delivered on what you asked them to do, what you inspired and motivated them to do, what they raised up their own games to do.

This isn’t a bait and switch or a pulling of the rug from underneath their feet, this is your team trusting you to lead them, you leading them and no matter where you are in the delivery of your plan, they are being successful and continue and will continue to be successful.

What everyone tends to forget when you are leading a team or a project is that this IS THE ONLY  team and/or project that you will EVER lead.

But it isn’t and will never be and for you to continue growing, you will need to work with different people, validate different approaches with a new group of people.

In the end, you might end up working with some or all of these people and that is the best experience because not only did they buy into you at this moment, but they are ready to do it again, this time without having to go through all the Interviewing and Identifying and get right to Delivering.

Don’t fall into the trap of changing your mind about leaving because your team doesn’t want you to leave.

Focus your energies on setting them up to take over from you with the remaining time that you are working them. Over that period of time, their emotions will subside and will turn to being happy, excited and proud of the tough decision you’ve made. You’ll inevitably have many one-on-one conversations that will turn out to be some of the most encouraging conversations you or they have had during your tenure, enjoy them and know that you’re making the right decision.

But don’t change your mind, over time you will resent the decision you made and depending on your team, their attitudes might change or shift as they realize you will always be there to catch them if anything goes wrong and they’ll slowly start to question what your level of commitment truly is when faced with tough decisions.

 

Collaboration’s Biggest Challenge

A few years ago, SLACK was the messaging darling, enabling quick, simplified messaging with minimal setup and management for administrators.  In addition, it boasted a robust API/Integration framework which let it do what so many collaboration applications to date had struggled with – get inside everything you work with.

Or rather, you get inside SLACK with everything you work with.

Fast forward to today and there are not only a number of challengers to SLACK but also SLACK has been hit by a few complaints about being “too much”, “always on”, “never able to get away”, etc, etc, the list goes on.

This isn’t a SLACK problem though, this problem has been in existence since the first iteration of that green jellybean icon came to represent your availability – you are here, you are available, let’s get to work.  That little icon came to represent not only your availability to get work done but also an indicator of when you are available to get work done (read: how much work are you putting in, how later are you up).

Collaboration’s biggest challenge to autonomy and not micromanaging your team has always been that little green icon.

How do I know where they are if it’s not green?

They’ve been away for so long, they must be doing something else?

Why aren’t they answering when they are green?

It’s the perceived notification that someone is available and ready to do work for you – that’s how it is interpreted but what it was never meant to show.

Want to know how pervasive the colour schemes are in messaging tools?  Look no further than them all using similar schemes – green – available, yellow – maybe, red – busy – they flow between different systems so we don’t need to relearn anything.  And just like a traffic light, they mean exactly the same things to a user.

But the question for the traffic light – Would you leave it on green all day long? – probably not, because eventually, it’d burn out.

When email took on the collaboration challenge it did so without presence, asynchronous communication – “I’ll get back to you when I can because I could get busy” – which unfortunately turned into the simplest of messaging protocols that allowed and enabled people to SPAM us with updates on everything and anything.

As much as we want to make it, Collaboration’s biggest challenge will never be the technology, the protocols, the AI to reduce message flow, where it’s hosted, whose hosting it, etc, etc, etc.  It will be the trust we put in each other around presence and messaging to ensure that those boundaries are preserved and supported.

Think that’s an easy way out?  Then here’s a question for you – What is your company’s collaboration policy and does everyone know what it is and how it works?

Doubtful, if you do fantastic and if you do, that means this post wasn’t meant for you, it’s for the rest of us that are working against that little green jellybean trying to find the right way out.

 

Bad Renovations in Software

Recently, while doing some work in my basement, I had to remove a vertical bulkhead.  Actually, I didn’t have to remove but wanted to see what was behind it after staring at it for so many years.

When I opened it up, it was empty, there was nothing of use behind it – no vents, no water lines, no electrical, nothing – just empty space.

Well, not just empty space, it was filled with scraps from when it was first built, leftover pieces of drywall, wood and whatever else could fill in that cavity.

It was Technical Debt in all its physical glory.

Code that we have pushed to the side because no one’s ever going to see it.

Code that’s so bad, we don’t even try to hide what it is, we just add it to the pile.

Code that serves no other purpose, except to make work for the next person that comes along.

How many times have you had to go into a project that was rife with bad code that was pure bad debt that now you had to fix?

Bad Debt, if you think back to the mortgage and housing crisis of 2008 and watch the movie “The Short” you know what Technical Debt truly is, bad code, hidden within even more bad code, hidden within even more bad code that somehow works so we call it great and leave it for later or until it blows up.

Good Leaders know when to take on Debt, they take on the good debt, debt that will help their company and team grow.  And they don’t leave it behind, in the next release, the next beta, three sprints down the line when everyone is happy with the results, they go back and do it right, make it better and fix it so the next person that comes along isn’t saddled with a gargantuan problem that blows their project out of the water.

The Good Leaders fix Technical Debt but working on it.  If it’s going to add two weeks to their delivery timeline, they figure out a way to do it and make it happen.  If the team is overloaded and can’t spare the week involved in testing thereafter, they find a way to coordinate with QA and get it done.

We only have Technical Debt because we let it get there, but we all know the answer to fixing it.

You don’t have to be the one to put your hand up and announce you’re going to tackle it and get it done, you need to be the one to start doing it.

Finding your Non-Leadership Style

Leadership Styles are a tricky conversation primarily because no one wants to be pigeonholed being “that” type of Leader (when no one cares for having “that” type of Leader in their organization).

But it gets worse, as you start to work with other leaders (maybe you have a group of Team Leads you are mentoring) they want to understand what style you teach and employ because this is more important than the results you create.

To be a Great Leader, you don’t need to have a Leadership style. 

If you want to be better then having a particular style, I would urge you instead to focus on having a Non-Leadership style which essentially says – who you aren’t.

Having a Non-Leadership Style is what keeps you open to changes in the industry and lets you build your toolbox with a variety of tools, adding new ones, replacing old ones.  It prevents the conversation from with team members from going down a path of – “oh okay, so today we’re doing this?”

When you have a Non-Leadership Style you KNOW who you DON’T want to be, what you DON’T want to do and what you DON’T want to teach others.

You won’t find Non-Leadership Styles in a powerpoint deck because there are too many and only you can be the judge for what works for you and what doesn’t from your experience at trying them.

Non-Leadership Styles are typically unstructured and not driven by processes or perfect diagrams.  Instead they are composed of guiding concepts and goals that hold the leader to their path and direction but let them choose the route to get there.

Non-Leadership Styles are not for everyone – there is no handbook (except the one written by the leader) that says – “when this, do that, then do this, followed by that” which can frustrate those that are looking for a step-by-step manual to leadership.  They are free-flowing, evolving and natural in their development, growth, and escalation as they are implemented, tweaked and twisted.  They are the leadership styles that we come to admire for these exact qualities of flexibility and growth.

The next time you get asked what’s your Leadership Style, flip the conversation and start by saying what your Leadership style isn’t.  In that instant, the conversation will change as people here what you will not do and when you start doing what you set out to do they will not be fearful for what comes but instead be relaxed in knowing what it will not be.

 

Conference Season is Upon Us

We’re in the thick of it now – Conference aka “Drinking from the Firehose” Season is upon us.

From now until October, the conversation around the water cooler and SLACK channel’s are going to be focused on one thing.

What conference are you going to this year?

And if you didn’t get your first pick or your choice was assigned to you – the follow-up questions might include…

Where is it?

Is there anything to do there?

Who are you going with?

I don’t have anything against Conferences, as a means to disseminate large amounts of information to a group of individuals they are great.  They are the firehoses of communication to get an idea out to as many people as possible and try to do it in an intimate way as possible.

They are meant to get you excited about doing work when you leave the conference, when you come back to the office with this new found information and want to try something new, change the world, put a dent it, etc, etc.

But.

How many times have you done that?

How many times have you watched all the sessions you missed?

How many times have you implemented what you saw in a conference into a shipping product for release in the next few months?

With the above questions in mind, if Conferences are your primary source of training and you’re not implementing what you have learned into your work in the next 2 – 3 weeks from when you’ve returned from the conference then what value has it brought to your growth.

(I emphasize growth and learning here because I know conference trips serve other values such as team bonding and enjoyment).

If you were to take the funds to be used on you attending that conference what would you do differently to ensure you apply them to your growth path?

Buy twenty Udemy courses?

Register for a year-long Plural Sight subscription.

Sign up for a developer cloud account with all the cool features on it (not only the three ones).

Integrate that decaying “customer required” app into your main code base and get a feel for what it truly does?

The options are endless, I’m sure with half the funds available to you, you invariably take a different approach to your learning.

Conferences are about mass consumption where the other niche training options above are about learning.

Am I looking for Training or Mass Consumption?

What you hope to get out of each is vastly different and applying one goal (I want to learn) to the wrong implementation (firehose) will leave you feeling discouraged in the end.

Know what you want, ignore the hype and figure out the path you need to take to get there and make it happen.

But know that you have the power to make the right choice for your growth.

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