Important Things to Say to Your Team

Leading a team means you’re context switching all the time.

One minute, you’re doing some planning for a project. Next, you’re chatting about someone’s career goals. Later, you might be scanning your roadmap, thinking over what needs to be tweaked. With all that swirling around each day, it’s difficult to keep the important messages in mind for your team.

Think of how your team feels. They do the work, and probably have more on their plate than you. How do they remember what’s important? I’m not talking about your company or team goals, but the messages that will motivate them and make them think deeper about things like company goals. My leadership coach, Akshay, calls these “campaigns.”

To make this easier, I wrote a list.

  1. We should be building the fire suppression system, not the putting out all the fires.
  2. How does it look on mobile?
  3. What problem are we solving here?
  4. We’re not just about themes anymore.
  5. Make the future.

I look at this list at least once a week, trying to work it into conversations and communications with my team when it fits. The list evolves over time, but the themes within stay similar. They range from the everyday details that translate the craft to broad messages that grant perspective.

How are you communicating with your team? And are you saying the important things?

James Dyson on Luck, Distance Running and Success

I heard a quote recently on an NPR podcast featuring James Dyson, the inventor known for his vacuum cleaners, that I love:

“…And I do believe, though, that you create your own luck. Because luck is around. You know, I’m a – I did long-distance running at school. And you only succeed by doing a huge amount of training and then having great stamina, understanding that other people are also feeling tired. So when you feel tired, you should accelerate. That’s when you start winning. So – and I’ve learnt that with developing new technology, that when you feel like giving up is precisely the point everybody else gives up. So it’s at that point that you must put in extra effort. And you do that, and then success is literally just around the corner.”

I relate to it since running has influenced a lot of my perspectives in life, even though I don’t run regularly these days.

Be the Leader You Wish You Had

Clark Scheffy wrote an insightful post about how he evolved into a better leader. My favorite quote:

This is about what I learned the hard way: That great creative leadership is about letting go of that nagging mental image you have of what you are supposed to do. It’s about believing in others, and focusing on fanning the flames of creative, weird, exothermic people, rather than on fixing problems.

I like the message on perspective. It’s all about your perspective.

Hat tip: Megs Fulton.

Coding with VS Code

I confess, I switched editors again. 🙂

I first heard about Visual Studio Code on the Toolsday podcast, but didn’t give it much attention. I had recently started coding with PHPStorm, and was trying to embrace working with an IDE. Before giving it a go with PHPStorm, I enjoyed using both Atom and Sublime.

But a few weeks ago, I started using VS Code every day. I haven’t looked back. Here’s why:

  • VS Code really does blend the best of both worlds: a code editor and IDE. I like how I have all the features of Atom and Sublime, with a dash of PHPStorm.
  • My favorite feature so far? The built-in console. I love that I can do a lot of tasks in one app.
  • It feels faster than Atom, and certainly less cumbersome than PHPStorm, my biggest criticisms of each of my last two editors.

I haven’t run into many challenges in the switch because I tend to keep my editors lightweight, not using dozens of extensions. I have encountered some on and off issues with my PHP CodeSniffer and PHP executable configuration lately. I think it may be related to an existing bug in the extension though.

My current extensions include:

We’ll see if I run into any more challenges the more I use the editor.

Work on the Right Thing

We always think we can do more than we can. Myself included. That hasn’t changed since taking on a leadership role.

Multiple bosses have told me that I “take on too much.” Recently, several members of my team said the same thing to me. Why do I do it? Lots of reasons. Like my team might already have a big to-do list so I don’t want to burden them. Or I want to contribute, and feel like I’ve knocked something off the list. I might even think I can do it quicker than anyone else.

No matter the intentions, many times those reasons end up being selfish. Especially if I fail to help my project, team or company.

Daily habits and routines build up from triggers – the thing that starts a habit forming. I’ve found two triggers that have started helping me make sure I’m working on the right thing:

  1. If I have the urge to add a task to my to-do list, I ask, “Will this help my team or a specific project?” If they answer isn’t “The team,” I try to delegate the task.
  2. When I start a task, I try to ask myself the same question. That way, I have a filtered process, meaning it’s harder for the wrong tasks to make it through to my day.

I’m not perfect, but using these triggers has meant delegating more and working on the right things for me. If I hesitate, I try to think of the advice my colleague, Brie shared – “Delegate until you’re uncomfortable. If that doesn’t work, I  can usually hear my team’s voices, “Delegate, DK!”

This is Water

Every so often, I read or listen to the commencement address, This is Water, by David Foster Wallace. You can get it in article form, book form or on YouTube. In it, he talks about truly learning how to think, and the freedom that provides.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the “rat race” – the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

– David Foster Wallace

It’s worth a read, especially as you begin a new year. I’ve blogged about this before, so these words have stuck with me.

2018

A new year starts tomorrow, so I’m going to keep up my tradition and set a few goals for the days and weeks ahead.

This year, I want to be all about focus. I recently read a post from Nathan Kontny about focusing, and its message was clear to me: set one priority, not many. The simplicity of the “one thing” resonated more when I discovered the Ivy Lee method for productivity, which boils down to doing the most important thing first each day. So these two approaches will drive my goals this year, both personally and professionally.

Last Year

In 2017, I wanted to:

Write more: I set out to write more, both on my blog and in my newsletter, Accessibility Weekly. I accomplished that goal with the newsletter, sending out 45 issues during 2017. I also wrote 31 blog posts, with a handful of those being photo posts. Even though I didn’t blog often, keeping up with Accessibility Weekly on a regular basis was an important goal, and one I’m proud to make.

Run personal/productivity experiments: I ended up doing a few of these. The main one ended up being completing bodyweight exercises for about eight months. I fell off this goal the last quarter of the year, but I still managed to make a lot of progress. Recently, I also uninstalled Facebook from my phone, creating extra time for hobbies like reading and more fun stuff like playing with my daughter.

This Year

This year, I’m setting one professional and one personal priority. Everything else will stem from there.

Professional: The priority for this year: Be a better leader. I recently became the lead of the Theme Team at Automattic. So this year, I want to focus on  activities and goals to help me be a better leader for my team. That means some leadership coaching, leadership training and more.

Personal: The priority for this year: Read more. Ditching most of social media on my phone has helped me find more time to read in the last month or so. I want to continue that. I read nine books in 2017, so if I can get to 12 this year, I’ll be happy.

Happy New Year!

Previous years: 201720162015201420122011.