Geeky Communication book cover

Yours free: An ebook on effective communication!

Get Geeky Communication absolutely free, and learn about effective communication in a technical environment. Just enter your email address below. No spam ever, guaranteed.

Ownership or Why Don't You Come Visit Me?

“I left a comment in the ticket, what else am I supposed to do?” Jacob does not see his part in the delay of a new feature. After all, it was Rebecca, the designer, who did not react, and blocked him for two days. He wrote a comment, saying that he needed her to provide a different version of the image. But she did not get back to him.

[Read more]

Watch Your Words: Feedback Analysis

Giving critical feedback is an unpleasant situation for many new team leads. Let’s consider Robert. Not too long ago, Robert was “one of us”, a developer in the trenches who was producing high-quality code, and still found the time to help other developers solve hard problems. Now, he is supposed to do this thing called “managing”, but he does not see himself as a manager or as a boss. He sees himself more like what some people adequately call “programmer plus plus”: Still “one of the guys”, just with some extra 20%-or-so responsibility on top.

[Read more]

Tickling Out the Truth: Motivation

Effective one-on-one conversations should produce some insight. Either your employee should learn something he did not know before, or you, as his manager, should learn something you did not know before. Ideally, of course, both would learn something. This learning can be almost anything. Maybe the employee needs to find a new flat until the end of the month and is a bit stressed because of that. Maybe she plays with the thought of moving into a different technological field. Maybe you learn about your employee’s job satisfaction or future plans. Maybe your employee learns something new about the organization. The learning can be about things that happened at work, or, occasionally, about something entirely different.

[Read more]

If It Feels Awkward, It's Good

Robert is a newly promoted engineering manager. Not too long ago, he was “one of us”, a developer in the trenches who was producing high-quality code, and still found the time to help other developers solve hard problems. Now, he is supposed to do this thing called “managing”, but thinking about himself as a manager or boss makes him feel rather uncomfortable. He sees himself more like what some people adequately call “programmer plus plus”: Still “one of the guys”, just with some extra 20%-or-so responsibility on top.

[Read more]

Recalibrate Your Productivity Sensors

Becoming an engineering manager is a paradigm shift that many struggle with at first. I think that one of the psychological difficulties for new engineering managers, and certainly one that I was having, is that of perceived productivity. To a developer, managing people can feel mind-numbingly unproductive because you seemingly “cannot get anything done”.

[Read more]

One-on-Ones: Beyond Status Update

If you have been doing one-on-ones with your employees (or your boss), you might have experienced a certain kind of conversations. They drag along awkwardly, or feel a bit shallow. You do not make progress on anything meaningful. Instead, the conversation is little more than a status update. But status updates are not what one-on-ones are for, because you could have those “out in the open”, without meeting privately. The real value of one-on-ones is to make progress on the employee’s long-term goals, to build rapport, to identify problems that keep the employee from reaching her full potential, to toss half-baked ideas around, and so on.

[Read more]

Feedback: Open or Anonymous?

Providing timely feedback is one of the most important management tasks. Without feedback, we do not know if we are meeting the expectations of those around us, and it is harder to grow personally and professionally. In an ideal organization, every employee not only receives feedback about her performance, but also regularly gives feedback to several people.

[Read more]

Taking Notes During 1:1s

I am struggling a bit with a seemingly minor question, and that question is if, how and when to take notes during 1:1 meetings. Ok, I think the “if” part can be handled pretty swiftly: Yes, you should take notes during 1:1s, because it signals to your employee that you take seriously what he says, that it will not be forgotten, and that you can be held accountable in case you fail to follow up on the action points discussed.

[Read more]

Are We Growable Or Fixed?

I am confused. Some people say you can become everything you want if you just put in enough effort, hard work, and discipline. Others say that you should focus on your strengths, because you will not turn your weaknesses into strengths even in a hundred years of dedicated practice. Who is right? As with all complicated real-world questions, I guess the answer is not that clear or simple, so let’s try to define the two concepts a bit more thoroughly.

[Read more]

A Primer on Giving Critical Feedback

Giving feedback

Have you ever told an employee, or even a peer, that she is going against expectations, and that she should do something differently? To a lot of us, this can feel very uncomfortable. We do not know how the other person will react. Maybe she will become angry, or upset, or won’t want to be friends with us any more (my three year old son’s favourite these days). Last minute, we ask ourselves what gives us the right to tell people off, and somehow there is no good opportunity to have the conversation, and, in the end, we postpone giving the critical feedback indefinitely. Does this sound familiar? It certainly happened to me.

[Read more]