Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Technical Leadership - Your Approach Matters


This writeup is not for those who don't want to do their part to be able to understand and grasp the knowledge. Leadership is not about what you know from reading, it's what you've experience that counts.


I remember the first time I joined the management circle, I was clueless about how I may drive the team to execute the tasks and accomplish the deliverables. Being the new kid in town, it took me a while to mix and match the leadership approach I know to the environment I was at. It wasn't easy! In every experimentation, someone has to pay the price -- either you as the leader or your people, sometimes it's both parties that have to deal with the consequences.

As I grow more people and one-by-one lift them up to the world of leadership, it's important that as early as now, they are introduced to the type of leadership available for them to embrace. Know that I am not here to tell people what to choose but instead, let them think which one works best for them, in the current environment they're at.

Before explaining the quadrants, as a little assignment to those who are reading this article -- can you tell me why too much on one side is bad? (See image 1.0)

image 1.0


The quadrants:
  • Autonomy - It's the fact that your people are doing things themselves without even you telling them to do it.
  • Order - It's the fact that your people know who are allowed to call the shots. Commanding your men to do things as required -- but not limited to the leader.
  • Authority - It's the fact that your people will only honor your words and won't take any tasks without your approval.
  • Control - It's the fact that your people fully depends on you and won't have the option to say what they have in mind.


The approach:

By just looking at the images, one should be able to comprehend the difference between the four approaches. It's better for me not to explain (spoonfeed) this to you, as I believe that exploring the in-depth answers to your questions, by yourself -- will lead you to more question that will somehow give you total satisfaction, once answers attained.

NOTE: I'm just here to give directions, not instructions. And trust me, it's more fulfilling when you find the answers yourself.

CLUE: In the images below, can you tell which one is Aristocracy, Bureaucracy, Micromanagement, and Democracy? Aside from the four types, you have to be aware that not all combination will work -- discover it yourself, why.

Type A

Type B

Type C

Type D

The bonus notes:
If you're working in the tech industry and is surrounded by a group of engineers, creatives, innovators, and leaders -- most likely you'll end up giving them the "free will" to do their job. As what the late Steve Jobs said: "We didn't hire smart people and tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do".

I'm not telling you that democracy is what you should go for, but in most cases, that is the approach that works best for a performing team. From the time I've been leading people, there are two things I keep in mind when thinking about work; (1) people love to be able to express themselves on what they do, so they value freedom the most and (2) people like to be trusted, so they value freedom the most.



Hope these notes will give you a sense of direction as you go along on your leadership journey. If you haven't read my blog about "measuring leadership", I suggest you check it out!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Measuring Leadership

It took me some time to realize how I made significance to the team as someone who's leading from behind. For a person who actively monitors and tracks daily performance, being unable to see my own progress is something unacceptable -- especially if no numbers are able to back up my claim (that I'm doing well on my job).

When you are in the leadership role, sometimes, the things you do don't always add up to the numbers. Sometimes, your routine is more into making sure everyone, being a part of a bigger machine is working harmoniously along with the rest. While searching for some key metrics I could set for myself, I bump into some realization that somewhat opened my eyes as to how and where to set the numbers.

The following details are primarily based on my personal opinion. If you find it useful, use it. If you don't agree to what I'm saying, let me know (email me at neil@onerent.co).


  • Good deeds should be credited to the team, mistakes, on the other hand, should be accounted to the leader. You might ask why? You have to understand that each one of your men is paid to work on things, their objective is to do it well. You as the leader is paid to make sure mistakes are avoided as much as possible. Being able to foresee what waits ahead for the team is one of the key abilities a leader should have, being able to tell the team what to prepare for is a  great asset of a leader. The more mistake the team incurred -- the more you should ask yourself why (as the number of mistakes progresses, the poorer your performance becomes). Possibilities are:
    • Instruction might not be clear enough to be understood. No proper training. No proper on-boarding or at least not given enough time to fully grasp the scope of work.
    • Lack of resources. Miscalculation of project estimates.
    • Assigning incapable people to the scope. Misjudgment of the workload and workforce.
    • Loopholes on the hiring process. Not a real culture/skill fit.
NOTE: Don't count how many things you've done well, that's what you're paid to do. Instead count the mistakes you've made and see if it resonates your pay grade.

  • Attrition rate matters, everyone is a resource. What about this? If the people that once served your team suddenly leaves, regardless of the reason, you might start asking yourself why (as the number of people leaving your leadership, the weaker you are as a leader). Possibilities are:
    • There's something wrong with them not being able to cope-up with your leadership approach. Or the other way around, where you as the leader, not being able to hone people the way that suits them.
    • You ended people's contract because of poor performance. Now the question is, have you trained them and helped them improve? Is your training approach effective? Were there any follow-ups being made after the training? Have you constantly reminding every individual you've coached?
NOTE: Don't just count the people you've on-boarded. Make sure those individuals stay, hopefully for a long time.

  • Less dependent, more trust, makes more leaders. How so? When you grow people, you teach them all the things they need to know in order for them to do well in their job. Not only limited to doing their scope, as much as possible, you as the leader also have to add more work on their plate if you can spot that the individual is capable of doing such. The less dependent your people becomes, the more you give them room for growth. The more they make decisions themselves, the more trust you build with them. The more you do this, the more leaders you have. If people can't decide and speak for themselves, then, probably -- there's something wrong and you might ask yourself why (as the more people dependent to you, the less effective you are in developing people). Possibilities are:
    • You are too insecure that one day, someone from the team will replace you as soon as they know how to do things (way better than you do).
    • You are too afraid that one day, someone might surpass your knowledge
    • You feel like the information you have is too vital for your survivability, thus, you hoard it to yourself.
NOTE: Don't just count the number of people you have on your team, also see if they are able to do things themselves and empowered to do things as necessary.

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. The more leaders you produce, the successful you are in your role.


As you step into the circle of leadership, you need to remind yourself that -- everything is no longer about you. You are no longer the best agent, coder, system admin, engineer or marketer. You are now a servant of the people that you're tasked to grow. Understand the meaning of leadership and you shall see yourself -- feeling the fulfillment every end of the day.


Sharpen-the-Axe Session, Boji talking about Building Mental Models


Saturday, January 26, 2019

An Instrumental Part of Onerent's Culture

Last year, the company committed to doubling the number of engineers in the Philippine office with a  focus on aiming for a faster performance that will help meet the demands from our investors and stakeholders, optimizing the time in addressing technical debts and being able to work on more initiatives as the idea comes by. While we are all excited for the tremendous growth, making sure that efficiency and collaboration are well-observed in the larger set of crew -- is something we need to add emphasis.

For 2019, we've rolled out a new way of spending the last Friday of the month for everyone in Engineering! It's called DND or Digital Nomadic Day.

So what is DND?
DND is a theme day with a twist. Rather than spending time in the office, the entire Engineering team will invade other places and have all activities be hosted in there. And guess what? The theme of the 1st DND is a Hackathon. Sounds exciting, right?



IDEA CRAFTING / PROBLEM SOLVING:

When we give out the instructions for the criteria of judging, we didn't narrow down the team's option in selecting which problem(s) they have to tackle but instead, we gave them the ability to really think of a problem themselves. We were surprised by what each team came up.




The Grinders, whose members are Kevin (Software Architect), Joy (Salesforce Team Lead) and Loren (Salesforce Developer) came up with a platform that aims to solve parking and traffic jams, named Parkie.

TEAM: The Grinders



Humble Kids, whose members are Jethro (Software Engineer), Diom (Software Engineer) and Elmer (Salesforce Developer) crafted an application that bridges people who are looking for work and those who need something to be done. The application Gotto primarily aims to solve the issue of unemployment.

TEAM: Humble Kids



Lord of the Flies, whose members are Sonito (Software Engineer), Boji (Software Engineer) and Emman (Salesforce Developer) targets the problem about waste management. The approach they introduced utilizes technology to better monitor waste collection and segregation, keeping the world a better and cleaner place. Receptacles is what they call it.

TEAM: Lord of the Flies



Geek Freaks, whose members are Kris (Software Engineer), Wilfred (Software Engineer) and Julian (VP of Engineering) came up with an app that helps people have proper education about different cultures in different regions around the globe. The Fit-In technology basically uses a speech to text mechanism that utilizes machine learning that scores the word you've said (based on how appropriate it is for a location).

TEAM: Geek Freaks


MENTORING SESSION:

While each idea is great, it's always important to have another pair of eyes look into the plans and see what are the things that could be improved, nailing down loopholes and making sure the idea is future proof. Our very own CTO, Rico, spent the whole day with the team, guiding each one to survive the pitching round.




Humble Kids ft. Rico (CTO)

Lord of the Flies ft. Rico (CTO)

The Grinders ft. Rico (CTO)

Geek Freaks ft. Rico (CTO)



PITCHING ROUND:

The pitching round is very crucial as everyone's work is optimum and so we asked our good friends from Product's team to decide who's making it to the top. Special thanks for Marx and Shannen (Growth's UX/UI Designer) for being there with us, making the hard decision on selecting the winner.


Criteria of Judgement:

  • Social Impact - 25%
  • Execution - 25%
  • Customer Viability - 25%
  • Business Model - 25%


Hackathon Winner:

  • Lord of the Flies with their platform Receptacles.


The Grinder, Parkie

Lord of the Flies, Receptacles

Geek Freaks, Fit-In

Humble Kids, Gotto



CONCLUSION:

It was a long day, too many things have been prepared -- but it was all worth it. Everyone had the chance to showcase their talent and had the chance to show off their entrepreneurial side.

As the event organizer, I've learned that:


  • People are generally great in their own way and uniquely equal at some point.
  • One's idea could be more polished if a team is working on it.
  • Teamwork is essential in any group activity, especially when dealing with limited time.
  • Everyone will step-up when they need to.