The wide-ranging impact of scrambling at work

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“Everyday I’m Brusselin’” by Yipptee Shirts

A few years ago I had a young engineer working in my team.

He was bright, a quick learner, and made an impact. When an opportunity came up to work for a few weeks in our San Francisco office, we managed to secure a spot for him. So with another engineer, he packed his bags, and spend the next four weeks working on a short-duration, high-impact project.

And the results were great. Not only did they manage to deliver, but they also returned full of excitement and motivation.

Fast forward to this year, and we once again decided to scramble on a project at short notice. …

Change is hard and takes time

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“Bonsai Thinking” by zomboy

We get wiser as we age, because we get different and more varied experiences. And one thing I thoroughly enjoy is that it allows me to crystallise things down to underlying principles.

Almost a year ago, I shared my first life principle: Everything requires a balance.

Because for every situation, there is always a choice. Not in the binary sense, but a lot of grey in between two extremes. And more often than not, the extreme ends of the scale are not the ideal approach.

That belief held true for me. And I have been able to apply it in lots of situations — at work and at home. …

Group influencing done right

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“Japanese Red Crown Crane by Ogata Korin 1658–1716” by IslandArt

I love it when a single article ‘accidentally’ turns into a mini-series. And since three is a great number, let me add one more piece to the team health collection.

So far we have talked about indicators for team health, as well as an approach to influencing change.

This article is once again about influencing, but a different kind. Whereas part 2 focused on the individual, this time I will cover groups. The need for this distinction became clear to me the more I thought about this topic.

So the target audience is different, but most of the foundations remain the…

Two dimensions of motivation and how they show up in people

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“Hang In There” by AndyWestface

Living through a restructure is a fascinating time. Especially if you are into observing people and understanding what drives them.

One of the things that often happens in a restructure is the shuffling of folks. Some will end up in different roles. Some in new teams. A few will have more responsibilities. Others have to understand what their place is going forward.

This — of course — leads to a lot of emotions, ranging from excitement to frustration. It also gives an insight into the underlying motivation and satisfaction factors of individuals.

When we talk about motivation, two terms are well known and accepted: intrinsic and…

Influencing done right

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“Bubu the Guinea Pig, Knitting” by Miri-Noristudio

In the first part of this mini-series I shared some pitfalls we can encounter as managers — especially when joining a new team:

A lot is going on in a managerial role. More responsibilities. More things to keep an eye on. More context switching.

The first focus for new managers is usually delivery. How can I make sure my team is performing? We worry about delivery because we will be evaluated against it.

And that is understandable — it is a big part of leading a team. The question is how to achieve it.

I would argue that anyone can enable quick sprints of high productivity. Creating a deadline. Directing people down to the smallest detail. Exerting pressure and instilling urgency. …

Health indicators when managing and leading a team

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“Heartbeat Rowing” by melia321

A few weeks ago we underwent a significant restructure. We shuffled people around, merged teams, and — unfortunately — let some folks go.

But when some doors close, others open, and we were able to give a couple of people their first true management role. Starting in a new role is hard no matter what — being new to management, the domain, and the team. But it is especially tough in a global pandemic while working remotely.

To give them a head start we had to work through our approach to set up our newbies for success. How can we support them through the first 3–6 months? …

Change is not over after the first wave and adjustment

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“Evolution — Go back we screwed up everything” by goodtogotees

Change is constant.

This year though (2020), it feels like it has been particularly intense. At least for folks living in the usually calm and stable ‘developed’ countries.

COVID happened, which forced us to change how we live and work. It meant kids had to stay home together with remote-working adults. Our social lives have been limited to Zoom and FaceTime. And a lot of people lost their jobs.

Lots of change, for a lot of people.

Change is constant. We cannot prevent it from happening, but we have to react to it. Work through it. …

Most of our behaviour is out of selfishness and it is not a bad thing

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“selfish” by pirminio

This article covers a topic I have been thinking about for a long time — almost a year. It is also my first article that dives into this area which I am no expert in. Quite the opposite.

But I am keen to share my thinking because writing is a way for me to gain clarity. And I would love to hear from folks that have more experience on this topic and hear their thoughts.

Let us go straight to my hypothesis:

Most of our conscious, intentional behaviour is based on selfish reasons.

Now, before you write angry comments and violently disagree, hear me out. Because selfish behaviour is not inherently bad. …

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I disagree with the ongoing and institutionalised racism which has been happening in many countries for a long time, including my chosen home Australia.

More influential and more eloquent people were able to describe how I feel about this better than I ever could. And I am certainly not going to propose solutions on how to help.

But I would like to show my support for the Black Lives Matter movement and other, similar movements through this article:

[I] stand with those who have long been marginalized and oppressed. If a better and more just society is to emerge out of this rage and anguish, then the underlying causes that led America here must be addressed. A critical first step is the acknowledgement of the profound injustice and institutionalized racism that is still destroying communities to this day. Another step is to listen to the people who have gone unheard, and support them in creating real change. …

Continuous Improvement is a great mindset, but unrealistic

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“Bumbles Bounce!” by JohnBealDesign

We have all been there.

Something — whether it is a process, tool, or relationship — is broken and needs fixing. We come up with a plan, pour energy into it, and see results. We also swear to ourselves that this will never happen again.

But more often than not, it does not work that way. Yes, things might get back in shape for a while, only to go bust again sooner or later — often worse than before.

I have seen this quite often during my career and still do now, for example:

  • Recruitment. A few years back we spent a significant amount of time to revamp our recruitment process. Revamping the type of interviews as well as the questions we ask. Only to realise a couple years later that it has once again degraded and is not up to industry-standard. …


Tom Sommer

Writing about Leadership and Personal Development. Director of Engineering @ Redbubble.

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