After Working In and Leading Software Development Teams for 15 Years, Here’s How I Prefer To Work

The below is a copy of a document I created while working with in Amsterdam. Over many iterations, this is a summary of how I like to work. The list below is derived from various mistakes I have made, and lessons I have learnt over the last 15 years.

  • I like to do focussed work which creates measurable business value for our customers, while enhancing the ability of our people to do so. I have no interest in gossip, politics, ego games, etc. All that is NOISE, which I hate and stay away from.
  • When I work, it is as much about the people I work with, as about the business and tech stuff we are doing. I value good relationships with people around me, and strive to understand them beyond work. I believe the quality of my work improves due to this. And work becomes more fun.
  • I like honest and transparent communication. Don’t beat around the bush. Get to the point. But context matters. If there is a background / context I should know, don’t skip it and let me know.
  • In addition, I value simple communication. I avoid using jargons and complicated words. I think the smartest people can explain things to a child.
  • I prefer written communication (email, chat) to verbal. I like meetings with a small group of people who have done their homework to take quick and decisive action. I hate meetings without any agenda, or where I have no idea what my role is. I prefer reading meeting notes instead of attending an unnecessary meeting.
  • I like to work collaboratively, not against each other. I like an attitude of optimism, humility, empathy, and compassion when communicating with my peers. Over time I have learned to adapt my communication to suit different social styles. Let me know if what I say do not make sense to you.
  • I have strong opinions, but weakly held. I rely on Bayesian Inference based on probabilities to make my decisions and predictions. I love facts based discussions, and am open to change my mind given the evidence. I am often wrong, and that is ok as learning is a continuous process.
  • Our monkey mind always reacts with conditioned emotional responses to the way it thinks the world should be. This clouds our reality. If we want to see the truth and make sound decisions, we must take the ego out the way and be aware of our own cognitive biases.
  • I see failure as a learning opportunity, and to iterate. I will challenge you to try alternate pathways if our first approach doesn’t work as expected. I am not too fond of processes and rules, and I like creative and out of the box ideas. I like taking calculated risks, and it is ok to fail.
  • I take ownership and accountability for what I do. If you feel something is broken, speak up.
  • I am curious – about our industry, business, customers, technology, and about ourselves. I don’t talk much, but I can ask a lot of questions. And I read a lot. If you find something interesting I should know or read, send it my way 🙂

This Is Who I Am. This is How I Work

My Leadership Philosophy (if you report to me)

After leading many tech teams over the last decade, I have drafted my thoughts about leadership and how I like to work with others. Any thoughts and feedback on what follows are welcome.

What I Expect From You

  • I want you to express yourself fully; to be yourself without any pretensions. Share your thoughts, ideas, feedback and opinions when you have them. Of course, that means that you also listen and give others space to express themselves too. In short, Deploy Yourself
  • I follow a very simple approach to integrity – Do What You Say, Say What You Do. However, I understand that we work in a dynamic environment where things change very quickly and we might not meet every promise we make. In that case I expect you to reach out to all stakeholders in time.
  • Be Proactive. Don’t wait for something to happen to do what you know is the right thing to do. Act now. If something is within your area of responsibility, you do not need my permission. Use your sound judgement.
  • Always Provide the Context behind what you did, or plan to do. I am always interested in why you believe what you believe. Share your logic, it will help us understand each other and build trust.
  • Data driven decision making – back up your decisions with data and math. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a gut feeling or an intuition, but be willing to discuss or talk about how best can we validate the intuition by data.
  • Ask for help when you need it. I believe we all have “unique” talents / skills, but there will still be times when we mess up. When that happens, be humble enough to acknowledge that, and courageous enough to ask for support / coaching.

What You Can Expect From Me

  • I am here to serve you, and to make sure you can do work you are proud of. If there is anything that stands in the way, let’s work together to create an environment that allows you to do your best work.
  • I follow a hands off approach to leadership, based on listening, trust, fairness and accountability. When we start working together, I will ask a lot of questions – to understand you and your motivations. You should do the same. But soon enough, as we build trust, I will step aside and give you the space to do what you do. If you want me to be more or less involved, let me know.
  • As companies get big, new processes are often required and introduced. With time however, adherence to (and avoiding errors in) the process becomes the objective, rather than achieving the objective that was the reason for the process in the first place. I always try to improve or remove archaic processes in my capacity, but it is not always easy. Dealing with archaic processes can be frustrating, and I know that.
  • Lastly, I believe the best way to lead is by example. There is no point of this document if I don’t follow what I have written above. If you feel I am slipping up on any of the above points, you can (and should) bring it to my attention and hold me accountable for that. Give me direct feedback on how I can better support you and the company.

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