Skip to main content

Ego in Your Decision Making

Oxford dictionary defines Ego as: “a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance”. It says that it is “responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.” For a lot of us techies those were really important functions that probably served us very well early in our career.  We had to be assertive, we had to choose a coding style guide, pick our frameworks and “be decisive”.  However when it comes to engineering management the same things that used to help might be turning into a liability.

When my job changed from writing code to creating an environment where the best code is written - it took me a while to understand how my ego was holding me back.  I kept applying the old tricks - defining the architecture, the final design and task priority.  What ended up happening is those things led me to turn off a lot of the best and brightest people on my early teams.

I remember the feelings of being aggravated when I had to go over an explain my decisions and get buy in from my team.  My ego was screaming “I am here because I know what to do, can’t these guys just trust me and move on already?”  The sense of control and righteousness eagerly served by my ego didn’t allow me to create space for other people to grow or willingly get on board.

At one point I had a great engineer on my team who was really innovative and my attitude ultimately led him to leave.  In a couple of weeks he wrote a new application that would probably take several people several months to get done.  The problem was that he chose a different framework than what we were already using.  I remember that I was actually upset because I thought about the pain of maintaining this application in case this engineer left.  No one else knew how to work with that technology and I knew that as a manager the responsibility of keeping it running was ultimately up to me. My sense of needing to be in control started pushing this guy away and he ended up leaving a few months after.

Cases like that taught me that I had to reframe my thinking.  Instead of being right technologically I had to start being of service to the folks who reported to me. I started evaluating myself on the basis of the team I create instead of the software I create.  A few times folks took wrong turns and got us in trouble, however when they did they also felt responsible to make it right.  Most of the time the environment retained super stars and they surprised me with their innovation.

Dale Carnegie wanted this inscribed on his tombstone: “Here lies a man who knew how to enlist in his service better men than himself.”  If you are starting in engineering management or feel like you hit a plateau - put a permanent sticky note with those words on your monitor.

If you liked this you might also like:
2 Way to Treat Your Software Engineers
Emotional Intelligence in Software Teams


References:
https://www.carnegiehall.org/BlogPost.aspx?id=4294980110 
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/207642
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

SDET / QA Engineer Interview Checklist

After interviewing and hiring hundreds of engineers over the past 12+  years I have come up with a few checklists.  I wanted to share one of those with you so you could conduct comprehensive interviews of QA Engineers for your team.

I use this checklist when I review incoming resumes and during the interview.  It keeps me from missing areas that ensure a good team and technology fit.  I hope you make good use of them.  If you think there are good questions or topics that I have missed - get in touch with me!


SDE/T or QA Engineer interview checklist from Mike Borozdin
If you like this checklist you might want to check out these posts:
Emotional Intelligence in Software Teams  and Good-bye manual tester, hello crowdsourcing!

Chief Collaboration Officer

When you search for the word “collaboration” on the Internet, the top hits are mostly software packages you can buy.  Software can facilitate collaboration, but it doesn’t make people collaborate on its own.

One of the key functions of a technical leader is to bring a team together, help people share ideas, and facilitate team members helping each other.  When a software leader overlooks this key function, you end up with a group of individual contributing engineers instead of a cohesive team.
Before we get into tactics, we should ask “Why is collaboration important for an engineering team?” 
It’s critical to examine your assumptions, so here are my reasons for why a group of engineers working on their own are worse than a team working together: Smart people learn from each other.Getting your plans and designs reviewed by other people allows you to leverage their experience and check your assumptions.Collaboration produces artifacts that stay after collaboration has taken place (such…

Hire Fast, Fire Fast? Not so Fast.

Silicon Valley is full of advice and it frequently comes from people who have little experience on the subject matter.  A popular topic surrounds hiring and terminations with the king catch phrase being: “Hire Fast, Fire Fast.”  To me, what that usually means is lack of diligence, thought, communication and courage.

When hiring people love going with their gut feel, often with disastrous results.  There is an obvious subject of diversity of thought, appearance and background.  When thinking “fast” you are probably hiring people like yourself because humans quickly react to people who they believe are in their tribe.

A startup that lacks the resources of a big company often becomes so desperate to get technical staff that when a decent candidate comes along, excitement ensues and the employer doesn't slow down to put them through a more rigorous hiring process.

I highly encourage technical founders and engineering executives to write out their precise hiring process.  Of course, y…