When asked what bad advice he’s heard floating around the industry, author Tom Peters answered:
They say: “Think big! Have a compelling vision!” I say: Think small. Do something super cool by the end of the day! I write about “excellence.” Most see excellence as some grand aspiration. Wrong. Dead wrong. My two cents: Excellence is the next five minutes or nothing at all. It’s the quality of your next five-minute conversation. It’s the quality of, yes, your next email. Forget the long term. Make the next five minutes rock!
Too often we fail to realize that the “long term” is nothing more than an unbroken chain of “short terms”. If those short, immediate steps are not good, the long run cannot possibly amount to much.
Think less of the far future and obsess instead with what’s right here, right now. The reality is we have no control over what will happen in 5 years, but we absolutely can and should shape what (and how) we do in the next 5 minutes.
“But at its core, this instinct to mentor plays into the idea that minoritized people aren’t already skilled enough, smart enough, or ready for more responsibility or leadership. What members of underrepresented groups in tech often need most is opportunity and visibility, not advice.”
The always insightful Lara Hogan sheds light on the crucial difference between mentoring and sponsoring. An eye-opener which I’ll be mindful to follow through in my upcoming role.
Checking tasks off a daily to-do list is not enough to make meaningful progress in life and work. While a weekly review may seem like additional work, it’s a great safeguard against productivity for the sake of productivity. It has the power drive better decision making by clarifying your thinking.
Being a very intuitive person on my day-to-day, I suck at having this level of planning and structure. Anne-Laure Le Cunff’s simple approach is something I’m actually going to give a honest shot for myself.
“The degree to which other people want to work with you is a direct indication on how successful you’ll be in your career as an engineer.”
Almost a decade later, John Allspaw's take on what it means to be a (truly) senior engineer is still the all-time classic for me. No post has influenced my thinking about tech seniority more than this one.
2 Twitter Threads
To refresh the format a bit, this week I’m sharing two Twitter threads that caught my attention. Click each of them below to see the full thing.
💈Charity Majors addresses the elephant in the room: no company can afford everyone every opportunity. And that’s not the end of the world.
💈The dark flip side of my continuous improvement drive is that I fall way too much into this trap right here. Mark Manson doesn't give much in the way of solutions here, but sometimes simply acknowledging the issue is a big step. After all, trying the same thing over and over expecting different results is the definition of insanity...
📚 The Challenge Culture, by Nigel Travis
When looking back at my career, one thing I don’t regret is having frequently challenged the status quo. There’s certainly been upside and downside to doing so, but to me there’s no question it’s the right thing to do. The real question is how to do it right.
This week’s book got me reflecting on this. We all have ideas and opinions about things, and the vast majority of people has good intent. But how we come across is a different story. Unfortunately, that’s what makes all the difference because that’s what others see.
The Challenge Culture showed me that having the will to challenge is good but not sufficient — there’s an essential skill set to do it well. Through many stories of his time leading Dunkin Brands’, Nigel Travis illuminates some of what those skills are. And he highlights how it’s management’s job to coach people into developing them.
Leaders, however, must also be open to being challenged every step of the way. Before Dunkin’, Travis was President and COO at Blockbuster during its heyday. We all know how that turned out, Netflix and all. While taking his share of responsibility for that outcome, he uses the example to highlight the perils of not promoting a challenge culture. Most once successful companies meet their demise while the issues were well known internally all along. People just didn’t speak up, and management lived in its own bubble. I’ve seen that with my own eyes. It’s awful.
I recommend The Challege Culture to anyone who both likes reading business memoirs and is a student of organizational culture. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from it:
When two parties share a higher objective but disagree on how best to attain it, what unites them is stronger than what divides them.
How many heated arguments could be avoided by contemplating and acting on this simple truth?
🙌🏽 Thank you for reading! Enjoyed this week’s edition? Have feedback on how I can make this more valuable to you? I’d love to hear it — my DMs are open on Twitter or just write a comment below.
✍️ Find some of my own ramblings on tech and org stuff over at The Evolutionary Manager.
👉 You can also follow me on Twitter @prla