- They’d love for you to start today (ship is on fire/sinking)
- QA/Dev/Ops refuse to work together on problems
- Small things like coffee, first-aid kits, etc start getting cut. Saving pennies at the expense of worker general satisfaction
- People get upset that you’re not working outside of your 8 hours a day. This includes checking email, answering phone calls (outside of on-call)
- Free food/pop is not a replacement for cash (if they cut back, or the food sucks, you’re paying twice). “Perks” can get yanked at any time, and generally aren’t written into contracts - get cash or time.
Questions you should have a ready answer for
- Why do you want to work there?
- Why should you be hired?
- Why are you leaving the job you’re at now?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- What are your hobbies outside of work?
- What are your strengths/weaknesses
Questions to ask new employers
- How is good work rewarded?
- What do you do to ensure people don’t burnout?
- What is the process for replacing/acquiring equipment?
If you aren’t familiar with the term “vertical integration” it is the MBA term for “if you want something done right, do it yourself.”
Imagine trying to drive a car with someone else controlling the steering wheel. Now imagine that their incentives are perversely the opposite of yours. They get paid by how many turns they make. You get paid by how fast you get there. It just doesn’t work. They control the wheel.
Wisdom pulled from a variety of sources
- Always have the technology installed and comprehended before making estimates
- Don’t reinvent the wheel.
- If the customer has given you full access to the site, straight up mirror it. Download everything and just change the configuration file that connects the database.
- When taking on a project, first write down all the steps necessary. Figure out what the Minimum Viable Product is with the customer and go from there.
- Never have the live site on your terminal unless you are entirely awake.
- If the customer says “it takes me 1 hour to do…”, they mean it actually takes 4 hours
- Get actual deadlines in writing. Verify them with the customer throughout the project.
- No matter how small the project, always put it in Git
- Only work on the things you’ve agreed on with the customer. If they want the extras, they’ll say so.
- If you patched anything, try to send that upstream. It shows familiarity with project to potential employers.
- Always ask for double or more the rate you would get working full-time at a company
- Documentation, documentation, documentation
- If you think you offer $100/hr service, then CHARGE $100/hr service
- Automation, automation, automation - just keep your standard forms (quotes, bills) in Google Docs, have them do the number crunching for you.
- Don’t do support - it’s not worth the hassle, not worth the headache, not worth the money
- Just because they’re your friend, doesn’t mean you have to charge them less.
- Always have the hourly rate in your mind. Don’t compromise. If they can’t pay it, you don’t want it. Really.
- Set a reputation for quality, not cost.
- Have a precise system for clocking your hours. Only give freebies for screw-ups. Easy work is still work.
- Don’t have more than 2 gigs plus full-time - there is no room for balance after that. Mental well-being is more valuable than money.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew - if an opportunity comes along but you’re too busy/tired, get the rest. There’s always more opportunities.
- You cannot do real work in front of a television. Work, or watch TV.
- Neil Gaiman’s rule: be easy to work with, make really good stuff, deliver on time (just 2 out of 3 is enough)
- A really good lawyer is essential to professional contracting. Interview several and find the right one.
- Make internal allies within the customer when you can.
- Try to resolve conflicts in person. Often a cup of coffee is enough to sort out issues.
- When firing a client, it is important that you do it in writing and mention which part of the contract has been violated.
- Set clear expectations and clear definitions. Put them in a contract.
- If the customer refuses to pay, don’t appeal to emotion. Get a lawyer, instead.
- If the project changes, either amend the existing contract or settle up the existing contract and create a new one.
- In the contract, state non-failure to pay means inclusion of attorney costs if they lose lawsuit.
- A contract is in place to protect both parties. Negotiation makes it fair.
- Don’t start work before you’ve signed a contract. You will lose critical leverage.
- Don’t blindly accept the client’s terms. Often they are just boilerplate, and sometimes just wrong.
- Don’t back down on the important stuff:
- IP transfers on full payment (if they use your work before full payment, you can sue for that).
- A kill fee for project termination (amount the client will have to pay for an unreasonable termination of project - ensures no wasted time) - be sure to have multiple phases written in the contract.
- Liability (transferred after project acceptance by client)
- Have the project deemed ‘accepted’ after the deliverable has been given for 5-10 business days
- Be specific and confident about money. Sound like you know what you’re talking about, even when you don’t.
- Have penalties after non-payment (net-d)
Start of the meeting
- Give at least 30m notice, in addition to any extra time people might need to gather information
- Everything on the table, no surprises
- Don’t start just before your lunch or before the end of the business day when people will be leaving
- Have an agenda with stated goals and a scheduled end time
- If you’re going to use the projector or teleconferencing, come in 5m earlier than start time so you don’t bungle the first critical minutes
During the meeting
- Don’t marry your ideas - be open to suitable alternatives
- Keep a list of actionable items
- Be objective
- When it seems that a conversation is going into technical details best handled outside of the meeting, say so, try to get back to the agenda
End of the meeting
- At scheduled endtime, decide if you need to continue. Let people who need to leave go, and maybe take a 5 minute breather to clear your head. Set a new end time.
- Do a quick overview of the action items, confirm you’ve hit all agenda points.
Meetings, Bloody Meetings
- plan - be precise about the objectives and why you need the meeting
- inform - what people need to bring to the meeting
- prepare - the logical sequence of items (prioritizing the important)
- structure and control - present evidence first, then discuss without jumping around
- summarize and record - write down the who/what of action items, decisions
- The Manager as Debugger
Does Management Matter? (paper)
- factory operations
- regular maintenance and recording reasons for breakdowns
- standard procedures for operations
- quality control
- quality problems by type
- formalizing procedures to address defects
- determining optimal inventory
- human resources management
- performance based incentives
- sales and order management
Building A Learning Organization
Knowing how is partial knowledge; it is rooted in norms of behavior, standards of practice, and settings of equipment. Knowing why is more fundamental: it captures underlying cause-and-effect relationships and accommodates exceptions, adaptations, and unforeseen events.
Deming’s “Plan, Do, Check, Act”
Peter Senge’s 5 component technologies
- systems thinking
- personal mastery
- mental models
- shared vision
- team learning
Most discussions of learning organizations finesse these issues. Their focus is high philosophy and grand themes, sweeping metaphors rather than the gritty details of practice. Three critical issues are left unresolved; yet each is essential for effective implementation. First is the question of meaning. We need a plausible, well-grounded definition of learning organizations; it must be actionable and easy to apply. Second is the question of management. We need clearer guidelines for practice, filled with operational advice rather than high aspirations. And third is the question of measurement. We need better tools for assessing an organization’s rate and level of learning to ensure that gains have in fact been made.
Delivering bad news
- Start by listening. “How are you doing?” Don’t go straight to business.
- Explore perceptions. “How do you think you’re doing?”
- Legitimize emotions. Their feelings are valid.
- Don’t let your own emotions cloud the message.
Crucial Accountability by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler, Maxfield
How do I speak up about infractions so that dangerous behaviour is avoided
Find a polite way to interject - positive deviance
Know what convo to hold and if you should hold it
If you find yourself having the same convo again and again, there’s another, larger violation that needs to be addressed.
”.. [S]peed rarely leads to careful thought.”
You have to distill the issue to a single sentence. Lengthy descriptions of violated expectations only obscure the real issue. If you can’t reduce a violation to a clear sentence before you talk, the issue almost never becomes more understandable and focused as a conversation unfolds.
- Content - ‘You did x,y,z’
- Pattern - ‘This is Nth occurrence’
Relationship - ‘This is putting a strain on our (work friendship marriage)’
Do you actually know the intention? Don’t leap to conclusions
By: Kerry Patterson; Joseph Grenny; Ron McMillan; Al Switzler
What’s a crucial convo?
- different opinions
- stakes are high
- emotions run strong
The results of a crucial conversation have high impact on quality of life
Given choices on approach, we can:
- avoid them
- face them, handle poorly
- face them, handle well
(I suspect there’s actually a larger spectrum than 3 choices ;-)
Crucial conversations are frequently spontaneous, catching you off-guard
Common crucial conversations include:
- Ending a relationship
- Talking to a coworker who behaves offensively or makes suggestive comments
- Asking a friend to repay a loan
- Giving the boss feedback about her behavior
- Approaching a boss who is breaking his own safety or quality policies
- Critiquing a colleague’s work
- Asking a roommate to move out
- Resolving custody or visitation issues with an ex-spouse
- Dealing with a rebellious teen
- Talking to a team member who isn’t keeping commitments
- Discussing problems with sexual intimacy
- Confronting a loved one about a substance abuse problem
- Talking to a colleague who is hoarding information or resources
- Giving an unfavorable performance review
- Asking in-laws to quit interfering
- Talking to a coworker about a personal hygiene problem
“How can I be 100 percent honest with
At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information. People openly and honestly express their opinions, share their feelings, and articulate their theories. They willingly and capably share their views, even when their ideas are controversial or unpopular.
Pool of shared meaning -> everyone should feel comfortable adding to it
Hints, sarcasm, caustic humor, innuendo, and looks of disgust are not effective sharing of meaning.
Maintain your focus:
- What are your motives? What do you actually want?
- Don’t make an either/or choice - talk until you find another option.
Killers of honest dialogue:
- trying to “win”
- keeping the peace (ie silence)
When a conversation turns crucial, ask “What do I really want here?”
Also, as the conversation unfolds and you find yourself starting to, say, defer to the boss or give your spouse the cold shoulder, pay attention to what’s happening to your objectives. Are you starting to change your goal to save face, avoid embarrassment, win, be right, or punish others? Here’s the tricky part. Our motives usually change without any conscious thought on our part. When adrenaline does our thinking for us, our motives flow with the chemical tide.
“We assume we have to choose between getting results and keeping a relationship. In our dumbed-down condition, we don’t even consider the option of achieving both.”
Know what you want and what you don’t want, ie want to voice concerns AND not hurt feelings.
Watch for content and conditions
You want to be alert for the moment a convo goes from routine to Crucial
Signs that a conversation is about to get Crucial
- physical signals (stomach gets tight, shoulders tense, hairs stand up)
- emotions (feel hurt, scared, angry)
- behaviour (raise voice, point a finger, become quiet)
Look for safety problems. Safe conversations let the things that need to be said be said. Unsafe convos are ugly.
masking (sarcasm, sugarcoating)
avoiding (steering away from sensitive subjects)
withdrawing (running away altogether)
Conversely, when people aren’t involved, when they sit back quietly during touchy conversations, they’re rarely committed to the final decision. Since their ideas remain in their heads and their opinions never make it into the pool, they end up quietly criticizing and passively resisting. Worse still, when others force their ideas into the pool, people have a harder time accepting the information.
- controlling (coercion, using directive questions)
- labeling (stereotyping)
The best don’t play games. Period. They know that in order to solve their problem, they’ll need to talk about their problem—with no pretending, sugarcoating, or faking. So they do something completely different. They step out of the content of the conversation, make it safe, and then step back in. Once safety is restored, they can talk about nearly anything.
Remember the last time someone gave you difficult feedback and you didn’t become defensive? Say a friend said some things to you that most people might get upset over. In order for this person to be able to deliver the delicate message, you must have believed he or she cared about you or about your goals and objectives. That means you trusted his or her purposes so you were willing to listen to some pretty tough feedback.
Crucial conversations often go awry not because others dislike the content of the conversation, but because they believe the content (even if it’s delivered in a gentle way) suggests that you have a malicious intent. How can others feel safe when they believe you’re out to harm them? Soon, every word out of your mouth is suspect. You can’t utter a harmless “good morning” without others interpreting it in a negative way.
Consequently, the first condition of safety is Mutual Purpose. Mutual Purpose means that others perceive that you’re working toward a common outcome in the conversation, that you care about their goals, interests, and values. And vice versa. You believe they care about yours. Consequently, Mutual Purpose is the entry condition of dialogue. Find a shared goal, and you have both a good reason and a healthy climate for talking.
Here are two crucial questions to help us determine when Mutual Purpose is at risk:
- Do others believe I care about their goals in this conversation?
Do they trust my motives?
If your only reason for approaching the boss is to get what you want, the boss will hear you as critical and selfish—which is what you are. In contrast, if you try to see the other person’s point of view, you can often find a way to draw the other person willingly into even very sensitive conversations. For example, if the boss’s behavior is causing you to miss deadlines he cares about, or incur costs he frets over, or lose productivity that he worries about, then you’re onto a possible Mutual Purpose.
Imagine raising the topic this way: “I’ve got some ideas for how I can be much more reliable and even reduce costs by a few thousand dollars in preparing the report each month. It’s going to be a bit of a sensitive conversation—but I think it will help a great deal if we can talk about it.”
The instant people perceive disrespect in a conversation, the interaction is no longer about the original purpose—it is now about defending dignity.
Telltale signs. To spot when respect is violated and safety takes a turn south, watch for signs that people are defending their dignity. Emotions are the key. When people feel disrespected, they become highly charged. Their emotions turn from fear to anger. Then they resort to pouting, name-calling, yelling, and making threats. Ask the following question to determine when Mutual Respect is at risk: Do others believe I respect them?
Three good skills that the best dialogues use:
- create a mutual purpose
contrasting provides context, proportion, and can fix misunderstandings of scope or severity
Agree to agree. Focus on your purpose, and be open to alternatives. Find the higher objective which you agree on.
- Commit to seek Mutual Purpose
- Recognize the purpose behind the strategy
- Invent a Mutual Purpose
- Brainstorm New Strategies
Don’t treat your emotions as if they are the only valid response.
See + Hear -> Tell a Story -> Feel -> Act
If we can find a way to control the stories we tell, by rethinking or retelling them, we can master our emotions and, therefore, master our crucial conversations.
“Any set of facts can be used to tell an infinite number of stories.”
Expand your emotional vocabulary
Question your feelings and stories - is it the right feeling?
Don’t confuse stories with facts
- victim stories (exaggeration of own innocence)
- villain stories (overemphasize other’s guilt/stupidity)
- helpless (‘there’s nothing I could do’)
watch for double standard with victim/villain
clever stories can:
- match reality (it does sometimes happen)
- get us off the hook (still partially responsible)
- keep us from acknowledging our own sellouts
- You believe you should help someone, but don’t.
- You believe you should apologize, but don’t.
- You believe you should stay late to finish up on a commitment, but go home instead.
- You say yes when you know you should say no, then hope no one follows up to see if you keep your commitment.
- You believe you should talk to someone about concerns you have with him or her, but don’t.
- You do less than your share and think you should acknowledge it, but say nothing knowing no one else will bring it up either.
- You believe you should listen respectfully to feedback, but become defensive instead.
- You see problems with a plan someone presents and think you should speak up, but don’t.
- You fail to complete an assignment on time and believe you should let others know, but don’t.
- You know you have information a coworker could use, but keep it to yourself.
Clever stories omit crucial information about us, about others
Broaching uncomfortable topics requires:
- Share your facts
- Tell your story
- Ask for others’ paths
- Talk tentatively
- Encourage testing
Facts are the least controversial, and they are the most persuasive
When we start with shocking or offensive conclusions (“Quit groping me with your eyes!” or “I think we should declare bankruptcy”), we actually encourage others to tell Villain Stories about us. Since we’ve given them no facts to support our conclusion, they make up reasons we’re saying these things. They’re likely to believe we’re either stupid or evil.
So if your goal is to help others see how a reasonable, rational, and decent person could think what you’re thinking, start with your facts.
And if you aren’t sure what your facts are (your story is absolutely filling your brain), take the time to think them through before you enter the crucial conversation. Take the time to sort out facts from conclusions. Gathering the facts is the homework required for crucial conversations.
Always start with facts. “Facts lay the groundwork for all delicate conversations.”
“be willing to abandon or reshape your story as more information pours into the Pool of Shared Meaning.”
Soften the message, be tentative (not wimpy).
Invite opposing views, and mean it.
Don’t launch into monologues. Avoid harsh, conclusive language.
Hold to your belief, but be nice about it.
Look for opportunities to be curious about others
When others are acting out their feelings and opinions through silence or violence, it’s a good bet they’re starting to feel the effects of adrenaline. Even if we do our best to safely and effectively respond to the other person’s verbal attack, we still have to face up to the fact that it’s going to take a little while for him or her to settle down. Say, for example, that a friend dumps out an ugly story and you treat it with respect and continue on with the conversation. Even if the two of you now share a similar view, it may seem like your friend is still pushing too hard. While it’s natural to move quickly from one thought to the next, strong emotions take a while to subside. Once the chemicals that fuel emotions are released, they hang around in the bloodstream for a time—in some cases, long after thoughts have changed.
Every sentence has a history - find out what’s lead to this
Break the cycle, encourage other person to step away from their harsh feelings, anger
Ask to get things rolling -> Mirror to confirm feelings -> Paraphrase to acknowledge the story -> Prime when you’re getting nowhere
To keep ourselves from feeling nervous while exploring others’ paths—no matter how different or wrong they seem—remember we’re trying to understand their point of view, not necessarily agree with it or support it. Understanding doesn’t equate with agreement. Sensitivity does equate to acquiescence. By taking steps to understand another person’s Path to Action, we are promising that we’ll accept their point of view.
Agree -> Build -> Compare
Most arguments consist of battles over the 5 to 10 percent of the facts and stories that people disagree over. And while it’s true that people eventually need to work through differences, you shouldn’t start there. Start with an area of agreement.
So here’s the take-away. If you completely agree with the other person’s path, say so and move on. Agree when you agree. Don’t turn an agreement into an argument.
Don’t get caught up in trivial differences, making a mole hill into a mountain. Say “I agree,” and then build.
If you agree with what has been said but the information is incomplete, build. Point out areas of agreement, and then add elements that were left out of the discussion.
Compare your path with the other person, determine what they’re trying to accomplish
Dialogue is not decision making
Before making a decision, decide how to decide
Decision Making styles
- Command (outside forces)
- Consult (1 person decides, fills pool)
- Vote (consensus with 2 or more options)
- Consensus (talk until everyone honestly agrees to one decision)
Before making decisions: Who cares? Who knows? Who must agree? How many people is it worth involving?
When making decisions: Who? Does what? By when? How will you follow up? If multiple people share a task, who’s responsible? Spell out exact deliverables, no fuzziness. Use contrasting. Prototypes/examples are good. Write down the details of conclusions, decisions, and assignments.
Don’t get pulled into any one instance or your concern will seem trivial. Talk about overall pattern.
Look for those areas that are most grievous to you and might not be all that hard to talk about. Pick one element and work on it. Establish Mutual Purpose. Frame the conversation in a way that the other person will care about.
What is your Style under Stress? Your family? Coworkers?
Trust is not binary, there are degrees of trust
Have a clear ‘no surprises’ rule, that folks should let you know of snags ASAP.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
- Inattention to results - status and ego
- Avoidance of accountability - low standards
- Lack of commitment - ambiguity
- Fear of conflict - artificial harmony
- Absence of trust - invulnerability
Google Understanding Team Effectiveness
The researchers found that what really mattered was less about who is on the team, and more about how the team worked together. In order of importance:
Psychological safety: Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk or a belief that a team is safe for risk taking in the face of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.
Dependability: On dependable teams, members reliably complete quality work on time (vs the opposite - shirking responsibilities).
Structure and clarity: An individual’s understanding of job expectations, the process for fulfilling these expectations, and the consequences of one’s performance are important for team effectiveness. Goals can be set at the individual or group level, and must be specific, challenging, and attainable. Google often uses Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to help set and communicate short and long term goals.
Meaning: Finding a sense of purpose in either the work itself or the output is important for team effectiveness. The meaning of work is personal and can vary: financial security, supporting family, helping the team succeed, or self-expression for each individual, for example.
Impact: The results of one’s work, the subjective judgement that your work is making a difference, is important for teams. Seeing that one’s work is contributing to the organization’s goals can help reveal impact.
The researchers also discovered which variables were not significantly connected with team effectiveness at Google:
- Colocation of teammates (sitting together in the same office)
- Consensus-driven decision making
- Extroversion of team members
- Individual performance of team members
- Workload size
- Team size