One of the struggles a developer faces when moving up the ladder, is how to keep their technical skills?
If they are used to being a high-performing, individual contributor, and a technical go-to resource, this is especially challenging.
Because the job is different, now.
It’s no longer about how awesome your developer skills are. Now it’s about bringing out the best from the people you manage, and hopefully *lead.* Your job is now about creating a high-performing team. It’s about growing more leaders. It’s about being the oil and the glue. The oil so that the team can work effectively, as friction-free as possible, and the glue, so that all the work connects together.
There’s a good book called What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith. The book title sort of says it all, but the big idea is that if you take on a new management role, but continue to perform like an individual contributor, or at a lower level, don’t expect to be successful.
The irony is that most people will quickly default to doing what they do best, which is what got them to where they are. But now the rules have changed, and they don’t adapt. And as the saying goes, adapt or die. It’s how a lot of careers end.
But not you.
While you will want to keep up your skills that got you to where you are, the real challenge is about adding new ones. And, at first blush, they might just seem like “soft skills”, while you are used to learning “technical skills.” Well, treat these at your new technical skills to learn.
Your new technical skills are:
- Building EQ (Emotional Intelligence) in teams
- Building High-Performance Teams
- Putting vision/mission/values in place
- Putting the execution model in place
- Directing and inspiring as appropriate – situational leadership – per employee
- Creating and leverage leadership opportunities and teachable moments
- Creating the right decision frameworks and flows and empowerment models
- Building a better business
- And doing thought-work in the space for the industry
I’ll leave this list at 9, so that it doesn’t become a 10 Top Skills to Learn to Advance Your Career post.Emotional Intelligence as a Technical Skill
If you wonder how Emotional Intelligence can be a technical skill, I wish I could show you all the Mind Maps, the taxonomies, the techniques, the hard-core debates over the underlying principles, patterns, and practices, that I have seen many developers dive into over the years.
The good news is that Emotional Intelligence is a skill you can build. I’ve seen many developers become first time managers and then work on their Emotional Intelligence skills and everything changes. They become a better manager. They become more influential. They read a room better and know how to adapt themselves more effectively in any situation. They know how to manage their emotions. And they know how to inspire and delight others, instead of tick them off.
Along the lines of Emotional Intelligence, I should add Financial Intelligence to the mix. So many developers and technologists would be more effective in the business arena, if they mastered the basics of Financial Intelligence. There is actually a book called Financial Intelligence for IT Professionals. It breaks down the basics of how to think in financial terms. Innovation doesn’t fund itself. Cool projects don’t fund themselves. Technology is all fun and games until the money runs out. But if you can show how technology helps the business, all of a sudden instead of being a cost or overhead, you are now part of the value chain, or at least the business can appreciate what you bring to the table.Building High-Performance Teams as a Technical Skill
Building High-Performance Teams takes a lot of know-how. It helps if you are already well grounded in how to ship stuff. It really helps if you have some basic project management skills and you know how to see how the parts of the project come together as a whole. It especially helps if you have a strong background in Agile methodologies like Kanban, Scrum, XP, etc. While you don’t need to create Kanbans, its certainly helps if you get the idea of visualizing the workflow and reducing open work. And, while you may not need to do Scrum per se, it helps if you get the idea behind a Product Backlog, a Sprint Backlog, and Sprints. And while you may not need to do XP, it helps if you get the idea of sustainable pace, test-driven development, pairing, collective ownership, and an on-site customer.
But the real key to building high-performance teams is actually about trust.
Not trust as in “I trust that you’ll do that.”
No. It’s vulnerability-based trust, as in “I’ve got your back.” This is what enables individuals on a team to go out on a limb, to try more, to do more, to become more.
Otherwise, they everybody has to watch out for their own backs, and they spend their days making sure they don’t get pushed off the boat or hanging from a limb, while somebody saws it off. (See 10 Things Great Managers Do.)
And nothing beats a self-organizing team, where people sign-up for work (vs. get assigned work), where people play their position well, and help others play theirs.Vision, Mission, Values as a Technical Skill
Vision, mission, and values are actually some of the greatest technical skills you can master, for yourself and for any people or teams you might lead, now or in the future. So many people mix up vision and mission.
Here’s the deal:
Mission is the job.
Vision is where you want to go, now that you know what the job is.
And Values are what you express in actions in terms of what you reward. Notice how I said actions, not words. Too many people and teams say they value one thing, but their actions value another.
It’s one thing to go off and craft a vision, mission, and values that you want everybody to adhere to. It’s another thing to co-create the future with a team, and create your vision, mission, and values, with everybody’s fingerprints on it. But that’s how you get buy-in. And getting buy-in, usually involves dealing with conflict (which is a whole other set of technical skills you can master.)
When a leader can express a vision, mission, and values with clarity, they can inspire the people around them, bring out the best in people, create a high-performance culture, and accelerate results.Execution as a Technical Skill
This is where the rubber meets the road. There are so many great books on how to execute with skill. One of my favorites is Flawless Execution. And of the most insightful books on creating an effective execution model is Managing the Design Factory.
The main thing to master here is to be able to easily create a release schedule that optimizes resources and people, while flowing value to customers and stakeholders.
I know that’s boiling a lot down, but that’s the point. To master execution, you need to be able to easily think about the challenges you are up against: not enough time, not enough resources, not enough budget, not enough clarity, not enough customers, etc.
It’s a powerful thing when you can turn chaos into clarity and get the train leaving the station in a reliable way.
It’s hard to beat smart people shipping on a cadence, if they are always learning and always improving.Situational Leadership as a Technical Skill
Sadly, this is one of the most common mistakes of new managers. Seasoned ones, too. They treat everybody on the team the same. And they usually default to whatever they learned. They either focus on motivating or they focus on directing. And directing to the extreme, very quickly becomes micro-managing.
The big idea of Situational Leadership is to consider whether each person needs direction or motivation, or both.
If you try to motivate somebody who is really looking for direction, you will both be frustrated. Similarly, if you try to direct somebody who really is looking for motivation, it’s a quick spiral down.
There are many very good books on Situational Leadership and how to apply it in the real world.Decision Making as a Technical Skill
This is where a lot of blood-shed happens. This is where conflict thrives or dies. Decision making is the bread-and-butter of today’s knowledge worker. That’s what makes insight so valuable in a Digital Economy. After all, what do you use the insight for? To make better decisions.
It’s one thing for you to just make decisions.
But the real key here is how to create simple ways to deal with conflict and how to make better decisions as a group. This includes how to avoid the pitfalls of groupthink. It includes the ability to leverage the wisdom of the crowds. It also includes the ability to influence and persuade with skill. It includes the ability to balance connection with conviction. It includes the ability to balance your Conflict Management Style with the Conflict Management Style of others.Business as a Technical Skill
Business can be hard-core. This isn’t so obvious if you deal with mediocre business people. But when you interact with serious business leaders, you quickly understand how complicated, and technical, running a business and changing a business really is.
At the most fundamental level, the purpose of a business is to create a customer.
But even who you choose to serve as your “customer” is a strategic choice.
You can learn a lot about business by studying some of the great business challenges in the book, Case Interview Secrets, which is written by a former McKinsey consultant.
You can also learn a lot about business by studying which KPIs and business outcomes matter, in each industry, and by each business function.
It also helps to be able to quickly know how to whiteboard a value chain and be able to use some simple tools like SWOT analysis. If you can really internalize Michael Porter’s mental models and toolset, then you will be ahead of many people in the business world.Thoughtwork as a Technical Skill
There are many books and guides on how to be a leader in your field. One of my favorites is, Lead the Field, by Earl Nightingale. It’s an oldie, but goodie.
The real key is to be able to master ideation. You need to be able to come up with ideas. Probably the best technique I learned was long ago. I simply set an idea quota. In the book, ThinkerToys, by Michael Michalko, I learned that Thomas Edison set a quote to think up new ideas. Success really is a numbers game. Anyway, I started by writing one idea per note in my little yellow sticky pad. The first week, I had a handful of ideas. But once my mind was cleared by writing my ideas down, I was soon filling up multiple yellow sticky pads per week.
I very quickly went from having an innovation challenge to having an execution challenge.
So then I went back to the drawing board and focused on mastering execution as a technical skill
Hopefully, if you are worried about how to keep growing your skills as you climb your corporate ladder, this will give you some food for thought.
“Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.” -- Gustave Flaubert
An important aspect of personal effectiveness and career development is learning business skills for a technology-centric world.
I know a lot of developers figuring out how to share their expertise in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. Some are creating software services, some are selling online courses, some are selling books, and some are building digital products. It’s how they are sharing and scaling their expertise with the world, while doing what they love.
In each case, the underlying pattern is the same:
"Write once, share many."
It’s how you scale. It’s how you amplify your impact. It’s a simple way to combine passion + purpose + profit.
With our mobile-first, cloud-first world, and so much technology at your fingertips to help with automation, it’s time to learn better business skills and how to stay relevant in in an ever-changing market.
But the challenge is, how do you actually start?
On the consumer side ...
In a mobile-first, cloud-first world, users want the ability to consume information anywhere, anytime, from any device.
On the produce side ...
Producers want the ability to easily create digital products that they can share with the world -- and automate the process as much as possible.
I've researched and tested a lot of ways to share your experience in a way that works in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. I’ve went through a lot of people, programs, processes, and tools. Ultimately, the proven practice for building high-end digital products is building courses. And teaching courses is the easiest way to get started. And Dr. Cha~zay is one of the best in the world at teaching people how to teach the world what they love.
I have a brilliant and deep guest post by Dr. Cha~zay on how to teach courses in a mobile-first, cloud-first world:
You could very much change your future, or your kid’s future, or your friend’s future, or whoever you know that needs to figure out new ways to teach in a mobile first, cloud-first world.
The sooner you start doing, testing, and experimenting, the sooner you start figuring out what works in a Digital Economy could mean to you, your family, your friends, in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.
The world changes.
“Private Victory precedes Public Victory. Algebra comes before calculus.” – Stephen Covey
At last. It’s here. It’s my Personal Effectiveness Toolbox:
It’s the real deal. This is my hand-picked collection of principles, patterns, practices, and tools to help you make the most of what you’ve got.
My Personal Effectiveness Toolbox is a roundup of the best-of-the-best resources that help you in key areas of your life, including the following Hot Spots:
If you want to get an edge in work and life, Personal Effectiveness Toolbox will help you do exactly that. I mentor a lot of people inside and outside of Microsoft, so I am always looking for the best resources and tools that actually work. I’ve personally spent many, many thousands of dollars on programs and tested them in the real-world against extreme challenges.
I wasted a lot of money.
But I also found a lot of incredible and amazing products that actually worked. I found people and products and tools that provide real insight and led to real breakthroughs.The Best Personal Effectiveness Resources in the World
My Personal Effectiveness Toolbox is the ultimate collection of programs, tools, and books that help you succeed in all areas of your life. I’ve organized the resources into the following categories:
Achievement Systems, Beliefs / Limits / Mindsets, Blogging, Body / Fitness / Health, Book Writing, Business / Startups / Passive Income, Career, Confidence, Creativity, Finance, Goals, Emotional Intelligence, Interpersonal Skills, Leadership, Mind / Intellectual Horsepower, Motivation, Personal Development, Productivity, Relationships.
I’ve also tried to address some common scenarios and issues.Build Passive Income Skills for a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World
One scenario I see a lot is people are looking to achieve financial freedom. They either want to have a backup for their day job, or perhaps pursuit other opportunities on their own terms. Or they want to simply try their hand at generating passive income. The beauty is that in today’s world, you can combine your purpose, passion, and profit, and sell what you know to the world.
But the challenge is it can be a confusing path, and there is a lot to learn. I want through a lot of books, courses, and programs that were a big let down. But, along the way, I did find some resources that really did help. For example, I regularly recommend SBI! (Site Build It) to friends and family as a way to get started. I also recommend Teleseminar Mastery Course as an effective way to create an online course on your favorite subject and get paid for doing what you love. To give them a handle on how to think about passive income, financial freedom, and building businesses in today’s mobile-first, cloud-first world, I have them start with Six-Figure Second Income. It’s one of the best books I’ve read that puts it all together and really explains things in plain English, and puts things like digital information products and a digital economy in perspective.Improve Your Personal Effectiveness with a Personal Achievement System
Another scenario I see is that too many people struggles with goals, motivation, and productivity. While you can attack these individually, I’m a fan of building a strong foundation by putting a personal achievement system in place. If you have an achievement system you can count on, you amplify your chance for success. It also helps you with continuous learning. And a good personal achievement system helps you get much better over time.
While there are a lot of systems out there, if I had to pick the best starting point, I would say it’s Tony Robbins’ Personal Power II. It’s the most hard-core personal development program and personal excellence program I know. You’ll learn more about your body, brains, and emotions than a lifetime of reading. You’ll learn how to rapidly model success, and accelerate your learning curve. It’s the same program I used to go from nearly last in a class of 197 students, to #3. I still can’t believe it. Just about every day I recall some aspect of Personal Power II, and apply it in some shape or form. It’s one of Tony’s greatest gifts to the world, ever.
Note that just because I’m talking about Tony Robbins particular program doesn’t mean I limited myself to his programs. In fact, I also included a reference to Brian Tracy’s Success Master Academy. It’s also one of the best programs available that really gives you a well-rounded foundation for achieving your dreams.Master Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is often the difference that makes the difference in work and life. While Emotional Intelligence won’t guarantee your success, the absence of it can almost guarantee you will struggle. You will have a disadvantage compared to those with EQ. But the very good news is that Emotional Intelligence is a skill you can learn. You can practice it every day. And you can learn it on your own. The place to start is Daniel Goleman’s classic book, Emotional Intelligence.
If you are wondering what Stephen Covey meant when he wanted us to increase the gap between stimulus and response, and to respond to our challenges vs. react, that’s exactly where Emotional Intelligence comes in.Achieve Your Goals
Believe it or not, goals are your friend. If your goals aren’t working for you, the problem is you have “impotent goals”, as Tony Robbins would say. Or, perhaps, maybe Zig Ziglar said it best when he said, "People do not wander around and then find themselves at the top of Mount Everest."
Goals help you prioritize, focus, and know when you are done. They help you make trade-offs in how much time to spend on something, or even when to spend time on something. They also help you establish markers along the way so you can feel a sense of progress and they help you with your motivation.
But all of the goodness of goals depends on knowing how to really set them and achieve them with skill. The good news is, goals have been around a very long time, way longer than you or me. And many people before us have learned how to really use goals to their advantage.
And the beauty is nothing stops us from using all those lessons learned from goal setting. The art and science of effective goal setting is well-known and well published. You just need to know where to look. While I have gone through many, many goal setting courses and exercises, I would say that one of the best, most thorough programs that really gives you a rock-solid foundation is Brian Tracy’s Goal Mastery for Personal and Financial Achievement. It is an advanced system that not only covers the basics, it dives deep into how to really create compelling goals and make them happen.Write Your Book
One goal a lot of people have is to write a book. In fact, many people I know want to write their first book. I’ve included a link to Brian Tracy’s 20-Step Author Quick Start Guide, which is one of the most thorough guides that walks you through the process of writing and publishing your book. Brian Tracy is a world-renowned author and is one of the best to learn from.
You can write your book to share your experience. You can also use books as a way to help your career or to establish your expertise. You can also use your book as a way to help build your financial fitness. And you can use your book writing process as a way to dive much deeper into a topic you love.Call to Action
I could go on, but at this point, I’m just going to ask you to do three things:
- Bookmark my Personal Effectiveness Toolbox. It will serve you for years to come (and I will continue to update it.)
- Review the programs and tools and test which ones you think will help you the most.
- Last, but not least (and perhaps most important), share the Personal Effectiveness Toolbox with 10 of your friends. Karma just might surprise you with a big fat kiss. But all Karma aside, you can really help your friends and family the same way I do with some of the best tools in the world.
Here’s to getting everything you want, and then some, as well as helping more people achieve their dreams.
“Sometimes the prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”
― Brandon Sanderson
Every day presents us with new challenges. Whether it’s a personal struggle, or a challenge at work, or something that requires you to stand and deliver.
To find your strength.
To summon your courage, or find your motivation, or to dig deep and give it your all.Adapt, Adjust, Or Avoid Situations
Sometimes you wonder whether the struggle is worth it. Then other times you breakthrough. And, other times you wonder why it was even a struggle at all.
The struggle is your growth. And every struggle is a chance for personal growth and self-actualization. It’s also a chance to really build your self-awareness.
For example, how well can you read a situation and anticipate how well you will do? In every situation, you can either Adapt, Adjust, or Avoid the situation. Adapt means you change yourself for the situation. Adjust means you change the situation to better suite you. And Avoid means, stay away from it. You will be like a fish out of water. If you don’t like roller coasters, then don’t get on them.
So every situation is a great opportunity to gain insight into yourself as well as to learn how to read situation, and people, much better. And the faster you adapt, the more fit you will be to survive, and ultimately thrive.
Nature favors the flexible.The 3 Fights We Fight Each Day
But aside from Adapting, Adjusting, and Avoiding situations, it also helps to have a simple mental model to frame your challenges each day. A former Navy Seal frames it for us really well. He says we fight 3 fights each day:
- Inside you
- The enemy
- The “system”
Maybe you can relate? Each day you wake up, your first fight is with yourself. Can you summon your best energy? Can you get in your most resourceful state? Can you find your motivation? Can you drop a bad habit, or add a good one? Can you get into your best frame of mind to tackle the challenges before you?
Winning this fight sets the stage for the rest.
The second fight is what most people would consider the actual fight. It’s the challenge you are up against. Maybe it’s winning a deal. Maybe it’s doing your workout. Maybe it’s completing an assignment or task at work. Either way, this is where if you lost your first fight, this is going to be even tougher now.
The third fight is with the “system.” Everybody operates within a system. It might be your politics, policies, or procedures. You might be in a school or a corporation or an institution, or on a team, or within an organization. Either way, there are rules and expectations. There are ways for things to be done. Sometimes they work with you. Sometimes they work against you. And herein lies the fight.
In my latest post, I share some simple ways from our Navy Seal friends how you can survive and thrive against these 3 fights:
You can read it quickly. But use the tools inside to actually practice and prepare so you can respond better to your most challenging situations. If you practice the breathing techniques and the techniques for visualization, you will be using the same tools that the world’s best athletes, the Navy Seals, the best execs, and the highest achievers use … to do more, be more, and achieve more … in work and life.
I’ve put together a massive collection of the best-of-the-best blogging resources so they are at your fingertips:
- Blogging Resources at a Glance (Cheat Sheet)
It’s a serious collection of blogging resources including:
- Getting Started Blogging
- Start Your Blog
- Articles on Blogging
- Books on Blogging
- Checklists for Blogging
- Courses for Blogging (Free + Paid)
- Guides for Blogging (Free + Paid)
- How They Got Started
- Podcasts on Blogging
- Success Stories of Bloggers
- Videos on Blogging
And by serious, I mean serious. It’s a hard-core collection of some of the best blogging resources that will help you succeed where others fail.
I will continue to add blogging resources, but you will already find a treasure trove of great articles, books, podcasts, videos and more to help you start your blog, improve your blog, or bring an old blog back to life.
I help a lot of people start blogs. I shave years of potentially painful lessons off of their learning curve, so they can get started doing more of what they love, avoid some of the many pitfalls, and build a blog they love (if it feels like a chore, you’re doing it wrong.)
If you haven’t already started a blog, this might be just the resource roundup you need to help you get started and to help you leap frog ahead.
There are lots of reasons why you might start a blog, if you haven't already. Maybe you want to start a movement. Maybe you want to land your next dream job. Maybe you want to make friends around the world. Maybe you want to explore your creativity. Maybe you want to launch a writing career and build your next book. Maybe you want to build an online business, one post at a time.
The thing that I try to teach people is that working on your blog, is working on your life. You learn a lot about your personal productivity, your values, your ability to ship ideas, your ability to connect with people, and ultimately, what you want to spend more time doing. A blog is a great way to build a personal platform for giving your best, where you have your best to give in the service for others.
And if you monetize your blog, and if you master creating and capturing value, it can be one of the smartest ways to combine passion and profit. The key to keep in mind is, do what you would do for free, but blend it with doing what people will pay you for, in a way that uses your unique strengths, makes you come alive, adds value, and helps change the world in your way.
Everybody has ideas. Some share them. Some shape them. Some ship them. Some productize them. Some let them die.
Put a little dent in the universe, a post at a time.