How I Want My Team to Feel After Meeting with Me

gauges from Jeanne Masar
“Gauges” by Jeanne Masar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A few years ago, I went through some executive coaching individually and as a group. In one of the individual sessions, the coach and I were talking about my team and the meetings I had with them. The coach asked me how I wanted someone on my team to feel after meeting with me. I had to think about it because I had never been asked that question before. And yet, it was an incredibly important answer to have. After a minute or two, I came up with the following answer.
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Book Review: “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown

Essentialism book cover

Many of us have too much going on. Busy is the new status symbol. I’m no exception. And yet many of us also feel that while we do more and more, we actually accomplish less and less. I’m no exception on that point, either.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown is a response to that trend. It advocates for whittling down what we spend our time and energy on so we can focus on the few activities and efforts that will have the most impact. In truth, it should have been subtitled “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less but Better” (which is an actual quote from the book).

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.” (emphasis added)

If there is the concept of “essentialism”, there must be one of “nonessentialism”. In fact, the book contrasts the mindset, assumptions, decisions, and choices between “essentialism” and “nonessentialism”.
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Book Review: “Out of the Crisis” by W. Edwards Deming

Out of the Crisis book cover

I’ve spent some time around John Willis, one of the thought leaders in the DevOps movement. If you spend any time at all around John, you’re bound to hear him talk about W. Edwards Deming and the idea that Deming laid many of the foundational principles and practices of DevOps. After reading Deming’s book, Out of the Crisis, I have to agree. And now I’m a fan of Deming, too. Not at much as John (just look at his Twitter avatar), but a big fan nonetheless.
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ACT-IAC’s Legacy System Modernization Approach Too Legacy

Anchor from Kyle James
“Anchor” by Kyle James is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Federal Government has a lot of legacy systems and spends a lot of money on them. In fact, according to a white paper on legacy system modernization from The American Council for Technology (ACT) and Industry Advisory Council (IAC), the Federal Government plans to spend $37 billion on “legacy” IT in 2017.

Lots of organizations struggle with legacy systems. Or more to the point, they struggle to maintain and make changes to them in a way that provides the pace and value the organization wants. So given the scale of this issue in the Federal Government, ACT-IAC took a crack at providing a “best practice” approach for modernizing legacy systems in the white paper I just referenced.

I read the paper a couple of times. I definitely had some strong thoughts and feels as I read it. I couldn’t keep them bottled up so I suggested some changes to how the Government should think about legacy systems modernization on Excella’s blog. I could’ve written a lot more (like on the role of DevOps, which shouldn’t be in the “DevOps/Sustainment” phase — see page 20 in the white paper), but the post was already getting lengthy. Let’s consider this a good start for discussion and iterate from there.

My 6 Best Leadership Resources

charles bowling conducts westland orchestra from woodleywonderworks
“charles bowling conducts westland orchestra” by woodleywonderworks is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I started my career as a developer. My success was determined largely by how much I could produce and how fast I could produce it. I was an “individual contributor.” As I grew in my career and gained experience and perspective, I realized a couple of things. First, what I could produce was insignificant compared to what a high-performing team could produce. Second, what I most enjoyed was not producing stuff myself — it was creating opportunities for others to be happy and successful. (That’s now my personal mission statement.)

I decided I had to become a better leader because, regardless of what title I had, that was my real job. Becoming a better leader was the only way I was going to be successful — as defined by the success of the people, teams, and organizations I led.

I’m not that interested in the charismatic leaders or leaders who succeed by “force of personality.” I’m more interested in leaders who put systems in place and create environments for the people and organizations they lead to be successful. I can’t “be” anybody else — but I can learn the principles, values, and systems they used for their success and adopt what I think will work for me.

I’ve discovered some “go to” resources in my quest to become a better leader. These resources achieved that “go to” status based on how useful they are to me — measured primarily by how often I reference them and how much they’ve shaped how I think, speak, and act.
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Westrum’s Three Cultures Model

Hear speak see no evil Toshogu.jpg
“Hear speak see no evil Toshogu cropped enhanced.jpg” by Bobanny is licensed under CC BY-SA 1.0

“Performance more often comes down to a cultural challenge, rather than simply a technical one.”
Lara Hogan, Engineering Director, Etsy

Culture has a huge impact on the performance of an organization — for better or worse. In fact, some say culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage an organization can have. Despite culture’s importance, it has also been “fuzzy” and notoriously hard to quantify. The problem has been that we’ve had no good way of describing, assessing, or measuring culture. That changed when Dr. Ron Westrum, a sociologist, came up with his “Three Cultures Model”.

I wrote about Westrum’s three different types of culture on Excella’s blog.