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SimpleLeadership Podcast

SimpleLeadership specifically focuses on improving the craft of software engineering leadership. As a VP of Engineering & CTO I am acutely aware of the lack of good resources available for new and existing software engineering managers. SimpleLeadership is designed for both new and experienced software & technology managers who want to build high-performing teams, better motivate & mentor their employees, reduce attrition and advance their career. It is for people who want to go beyond just being a manager and become a true leader. In this interview based show I ask each guest to share their journey from individual contributor to software engineering manager and provide any guidance on the transition. The SimpleLeadership Podcast will present real and actionable stories from people who have navigated their way from being an individual contributor into a software engineering manager. We will also hear from experts on specifics of team dynamics, motivation, feedback, leadership and many more aspects of being a successful engineering manager.
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Now displaying: April, 2019
Apr 29, 2019

There’s good news for all you tech leaders who feel you got thrown into management without much preparation - leadership can be learned. My guests on this episode of SimpleLeadership are Johnathan and Melissa Nightingale, the founders of Raw Signal Group - a company with a simple promise, “We Build Better Bosses.” They are also best-selling authors of the book, “How F*cked Up Is Your Management?: An Uncomfortable Conversation About Modern Leadership.”

I can't think of two people better suited to talk to about the challenges of tech leadership. Prior to founding Raw Signal Group, Johnathan and Melissa were both tech execs who spent their careers running large parts of companies (product, engineering, data, design, marketing, PR, etc.). It’s honestly hard to find a role that one of them has not taken on. Through their work with Raw Signal Group, they've helped thousands of leaders understand their roles, build their skills, and be better bosses. Join us for this great conversation and learn how great leadership can be learned.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:50] The winding path that brought Johnathan and Melissa to their current roles
  • [7:18] Leadership skills can be learned across disciplines
  • [13:19] The point Johnathan and Melissa realized a gap existed in tech leadership
  • [16:56] What are the mistakes that happen over and over in tech leadership?
  • [24:35] The most important thing for new managers to focus on the first 90 days
  • [36:00] Leadership is not about good intentions
  • [40:40] How can managers contribute more to family planning and maternity leave issues?
  • [43:15] How Raw Signal Group can build better bosses for tech companies

The same management leadership issues exist across disciplines and industries

There is a strange belief that exists among those who are in tech management roles - they think that leading engineers is somehow different than what other leaders within their organization deal with. It’s true that engineers can be a bit unique, but there is much more that can be learned from other leaders in different areas of your organization than you think. Even leaders in entirely different industries have something valuable to offer.

Johnathan and Melissa speak to the issue by pointing out how significantly tech leaders can be helped when they learn to humbly approach others they see doing things well to simply ask for insight into how they do it. Listen to hear how they coach leaders to build cohorts of help within their own organizations, across departments.

Have you identified the leadership skills you want to steal?

When it comes to learning leadership skills, every leader needs to be on the lookout for the things the leaders around them do well. It’s one way you can see things in others you admire and develop a list of leadership qualities or skills that you want to improve in yourself. Melissa refers to it as the “leadership skills you want to steal.”

But the truth is that you don’t really have to steal anything. Most leaders are eager to help others understand the things they do well. But it requires that you have the bravery to approach them to ask for help.

There are no natural leaders. You can learn good leadership

We’ve all heard someone described as a “natural born leader.” While we understand what is meant by the phrase, Johnathan and Melissa push back against the notion that some people are born with the skills needed to be leaders and others are not. Even casual observation proves it not to be true. None of us naturally know the critical skill of leading teams, having effective one on ones, conducting effective meetings, or firing someone. If that’s the case, then how did those who do those things well get that way?

They learned the skill over time. Melissa and Johnathan developed their company, Raw Signal Group after years of observing the terrible leadership practices being carried out in the tech industry. They felt that not only did they have a responsibility to ensure that their personal leadership was not guilty of the same abuses they saw going on around them, but that they also had an obligation to help solve the problem industry-wide. You’ll enjoy hearing their frank perspective on how leadership can be learned, why it’s important to grow as a leader, and how anyone can do it.

Leadership is not about good intentions

We’ve all done it. We misspeak or forget to respond in a way that is sensitive to the diverse people and backgrounds in the room. And when we’re told how we hurt someone, we often say, “But that was not my intent.” Johnathan says "intent" is something we fall back on as a defense when what we should be doing is accepting the correction, admitting our wrong, and committing to do better next time. When we say we didn’t “intend” to do what we did, we are attempting to avoid accountability.

We all have to learn how to be better humans, people who care enough to learn how to communicate with more inclusiveness and more sensitivity toward others. Leaders especially. It's a big part of what makes for a team that gels well and becomes powerfully effective - and it starts with the leader. Learn how you can and should grow in this area, on this episode.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Johnathan and Melissa

Connect With Christian McCarrick and SimpleLeadership


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Apr 8, 2019
Steph is the Head of Publications at Toptal, a serial maker, and a supporter of women in technology.  Outside of leading a remote team of a few dozen, she is a self-taught developer that builds projects related to women in technology, remote work, and self-improvement. 
 
She’s launched products that have hit #1 on Product Hunt, articles that have trended the top of Hacker News, and was nominated for Maker of the Year in 2018.  She actively supports women in technology by speaking about the psychology behind inclusion and through building resources like FeMake and is a judge for the Toptal Women’s Scholarship.
 
On today's episode we discuss some of the best practices for managing remote teams based on her recent blog post."Managing Remote Teams: A Psychological Perspective." Continue on for a great discussion with Steph.
 
Contact Info:
Personal website: https://stephsmith.io
 
 
Show Notes:
 
Steph's Awesome Book List
 
Best Practices for Managing Remote Teams: A Psychological Perspective
 
Thanks for the Feedback 
 
Radical Candor
 
Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions
 
Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success
 
The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too)
 
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