Clearing the swarf

Over the last few days I have learned that sometimes the change that most delights a client can be a small one: removing friction in daily handover between support teams by moving it by an hour. If all parties agree it’s a really simple change but has a huge impact on daily lives.

Inspiring continuous improvement within a self organising team can be tricky when everything seems broken. There’s no authority figure to decide for you so how do you choose what to fix first? I’ve found a lot of value in fixing something that happens repeatedly, every day, every increment, every release, every build. This not only improves the thing you’ve fixed, giving back repeated blocks of time, it relieves the grind on cognitive load and morale. This in turn releases more energy to see and then tackle the next set of improvements. Just like clearing the swarf from your workbench to better see the thing you are creating.

Wood carving & shavings – image from

Also this last Friday I learned more about a different kind of grind: micro-aggressions. The company I work for stages weekly showcases by anyone; these regularly bolster a sense of belonging for us consultants scattered among clients the rest of the week. Inclusivity is a big part of our culture so talking about lived experiences from our colleagues is an important theme. It’s opened my eyes to spotting micro-aggressions in new places, in my own life and with others, but learning how to challenge them positively and with compassion was the key lesson. Very few people will intend to be malicious so sharing the impact of a micro aggression can sometimes be enough to help both parties learn, grow and have a better day. In addition, there will be days when I won’t have the spoons to challenge and critically, that’s ok too. 

Take time when travelling

This week has been a travelling week, choosing office interactions over time at home. The challenge is balancing the benefits of seeing colleagues in person with the (quite literal) pain of unfamiliar sleeping conditions. Ad hoc conversations have solved a few frictions quickly, chance meetings have given an unexpected opportunity to get ahead of potential problems and start on a good footing, the recovery time has been an additional days cost at the weekend.

When I’m working under tiredness or stress it’s important to take extra time to pause. Overreacting to surprises is not going to help anyone. This week, taking time to mull over a new situation with delicious food and time to myself was a good chance to step back and choose openminded curiosity over knee-jerk angry resentment.

This reminds me that although I am more extroverted I still have my limits. It also reminds me how many social cues and conversational opportunities I pick up by observing and overhearing. Many of the same good relationship outcomes can be achieved remotely if we commit on all sides to work together deliberately and directly.

Seniors need feedback too

If you ever ask yourself at work, “should I give this person feedback” the answer is always yes. What and how you deliver it is between you and that person. Hopefully you work in a company that openly values feedback and I do recommend Kim Scott’s Radical Candor as a good read to help you be clear around perspective and intent, but I maintain that the answer to “should I?” is yes.

This week I was involved in a meeting that scared me in its intensity, I believed I was not a warrior type or strong advocate. Still, I was myself and asked the questions I needed to for my situation and my reports. Afterwards I received some clear, specific (and positive) feedback on the impact I’ve made on other folks, even those I don’t normally directly interact with. I was honoured that they took the time, especially as being a senior I apparently appear like “I’ve got this nailed”. On the inside, I sometimes don’t feel like I’ve nailed anything much.

This new data has helped me switch and centre my internal world view. Knowing that others value what I do is massively heartening and knowing exactly what it was that helped, allows me to focus on improving that too.

So, receiving feedback is for everyone, not just those at the start of their career. Giving feedback is for everyone, not just those in leading roles. We’re all travellers on a journey, let’s keep talking along the way.

Begin with the balance

It’s been a mixed week back at work with some great feedback on how I’ve been leading a team of out of hours support engineers but also some new situations to deal with as a line manager.

To combat feeling disconnected from the consultancy company I work for I’ve embraced some new networking opportunities. Focusing on clients is really important but there must be balance. On top of community of practice discussions and regular showcase events, the donut app on slack is a great way to stay in touch and stay fresh!

Planning has started for some more coaching sessions; I’m excited to review these with an unexpected new collaborator and develop them more in the coming weeks.

One major highlight has been rediscovering a coding joy: a simple review session with some users of a common code library I’ve been working with brought a meaningful refactor. This turned an addition for use by a single app into a helpful update for everyone to use, reducing the specialist knowledge needed to get the same bunch of improvements. It was a great reminder of how a small change now can save hours of developer time in the future and how developer experience is an important part of high performing teams.

Snacks & candlelight

All work and no play would have made for a very dull Tess indeed so it was good to balance all the work with feeling rooted at home, reading letters from friends, enjoying walks and bird watching with new binoculars. Rainy days also inspire inside exercise and reading pulp novels hygge style. To keep this going, I absolutely reserve the right to keep the fairy lights up in the house until February!