Week-Over-Week

Don’t you hate when you spend the day before the week to start and you meticulously lay out your week in front of you.  You’ve got your beautiful TODO lists all planned out, tasks, boards, charts, post-its, whatever it is you do to get organized and then…

BOOM

Monday starts and you’re already pushing pieces out to the next day, and then the next and next thing you know you’re starting to get ready for next week realizing you didn’t accomplish what you had initially intended to get done.

So what happened?

Did you not make the time?

Did the urgent take over the important?

Did someone’s priorities interfere with yours?

All of the above (and more).

It’s going to happen, some weeks are worse than others, there is no silver bullet to really get it done.  The best I can think of is to step back and look at my Week over Week (WOW?) and see what I did versus what I Intended versus what is on my plate for next week.  It might not get all my items done, but at least I have a better idea of what I did, where I went wrong or needed more time and if I really want to check all the boxes for next week where I really need to invest in my schedule.

It’s not a plan to check all the boxes, it’s a plan to figure out why you aren’t checking all the boxes, figure out which ones are noise (can be eliminated), which ones are valid (life happens) and which ones need refinement (I could have done that better).

 

What to look for in a Mentor

Tough topic, mentors, everyone (I think) wants one.  A guru of sage advice that probably resembles more Yoda then the Emperor.  I’ve read articles where people announced their mentors to the world and engaged them as a mentor early on in their careers even sought them out.  And still others who perhaps didn’t engage their mentor per se, but from afar read everything they had to offer, every book, post, tweet, etc and soaked it up like a sponge so they could never miss a beat.

But what do we really look for?

  • A listening ear.
  • Advice for when things go sideways.
  • The suggestion that this might not work, but give it a try anyway?
  • Perhaps some industry experience?
  • A desire to see you grow your career and be challenged on an ongoing basis?
  • The straight talk that wades through the noise to make you hear what you need to be hearing.
  • The push you need when the nights are long and the mornings come faster then they should.

Whatever it is, go find them and make it happen.

Senior Years but Junior Experience

There is a problem that arises when someone pivots in technology to a new platform, new language, new coding standard, etc.

They expect to jump into that same level of position, but with only junior experience behind them.

It’s a hard pivot – you’ve spent 10 years doing Oracle Databases and now you are a PHP programmer for 6 months?  Some of these pivots are complimentary where the skills carry over but sometimes they are not – i.e., going from Google Apps to SharePoint App Development.  The only thing you’re really leveraging is your ability to learn and try something new.  But if you were hoping to win that Senior SharePoint Developer job position at a new company with all the benefits you have now it’s probably not going to happen.

So how do you really pivot into something new where you are the new guy plain and simple?

You need a plan, reading books or blogs are great, but you need to have created something from nothing, installed it, broken it, built it back up, etc, etc.  Once you’ve done that you’ve then started to understand the innards of how it works and what it does.

So then what?

Find a niche, every new technology is a world unto itself, so instead of grazing over everything, focus on a few core pieces and own them, take them, learn everything about them before moving onto the next one.

The generalist knows a little bit about everything, but never gets hired when taking a leap.  The specialist, shows they can go deep, not give up, and understand a focussed area of work, before moving onto the next item.

Senior Years with Junior experience as a generalist has a harder road of convincing those of their skills then the specialist who owns different niches – especially when it comes to those oh so important technical questions on an interview.

Too much noise

There should be an app that tracks;

  • appointment reminders
  • calendar invites
  • emails
  • texts
  • tweets
  • pokes
  • tags
  • pings
  • pongs

The last one isn’t real – but you get the idea (or maybe it is).

How high would that number be?  Would it surprise you?

All of that is what surrounds us on a daily basis, we live it, breathe it and it gets in the way of getting all that we want to get it done.  It’s the outside noise that surrounds us now, that envelops and surrounds us, from morning to night.  We could turn it off, but then we might be worried about missing something OR actually miss something.

But when it’s all off and there isn’t even the slightest of hum, all of a sudden what you do during the day becomes plentiful.

If you’ve never played with the Do Not Disturb settings on your iPhone, you can now schedule your phone to sleep at a certain time and if needs be, allow for those emergency calls to come through from your favourites.

Go ahead, live it with for a week and see if you can survive without the noise.

 

Team Leadership for the Kids

I was trying to describe to someone a few weeks ago what it means when you are leading a team while at the same time fielding questions on how you deal with scenarios that might arise.  In it’s most simplest forms you need to think of your team as your kids and if you’re the leader of that team, congratulations you are now a single parent.

How does that translate into what you’re trying to do?

  1. Your kid is having trouble with their homework?  Are you going to fire them from 3rd grade?  Probably not, you’re going to put in the time to work with them and help them overcome this hurdle.
  2. Your kid disturbing other kids?  Are you going to kick this kid out of the park because of a couple of run-ins?  Probably not, you’re going to sit them down, figure out what’s really going on and tell them to stop throwing sand.
  3. Your kid isn’t doing their chores?  Are you going to start giving them less chores to do or better yet promote them to watching TV more?  Probably not, you’re going to ask them to do it again and again until it clicks.

I could write another 50+ examples without breaking a sweat – but at the end of the day – you’ll have faith in your family to keep helping where help is needed.  This isn’t about treating your team as kids, but rather reaching out to them in the say you would your own kids.

And that is the mindset you need to bring to leading a team;

  • It’s not easy.
  • You’re going to screw up.
  • What you hope is going to work for all, will probably only work for some and you are going to need to retool your message.
  • There will be last minute projects that will blow-up your own plans that you’ll need to step in and help out on.
  • How do you turn the frowns upside down?
  • When someone is stuck, don’t fire them, ignite them.
  • Did I say you’re going to screw it up?
  • What works for the many might now work for the few?
  • Are you going to be their biggest critic or their biggest cheerleader?

It might not work all the time, but twist the model next time something bad comes up and ask yourself whether what else you would do if it was your own kid, then give it a try and light it up.