Career advice to younger me — #1 in a series

Three very important Es

  1. Empathy

Always listen to understand, not to wait for your turn to talk. Don’t be afraid to take thoughtful pauses.

Bounce back what you have heard for clarification “So if I heard you right you mean…” For bonus points connect it to something you know is happening specifically for the customer or for their industry in general.

As you dig down to the root “Why” for each stakeholder, don’t be afraid to lead the witness a bit. “Is that because…?” instead of just “why is that?”.

2. Expectations

Remember Scotty from Star Trek? He would always tell Captain Kirk that fixing something would take X hours, knowing full well that it would actually take half of X. When he delivers in half of his predicted estimate he’s a hero. ALWAYS give Scotty estimates to all stakeholders. As to why Kirk never caught on to Scotty’s shenanigans, we can only speculate.

Carefully consider the resources (people, systems etc.) you will need to get the work done. Walk away for an hour and then consider it again. Bet you missed something.

3. Execution

Become the CEO of GSD (getting shit done) It’s the best way to build a reputation and earn the right to make difficult asks later on.

Don’t ask for Feedback, ask for Advice. For multiple reasons, some people aren’t comfortable giving feedback. Everybody loves to give advice. It makes it feel more like working with a collaborator than being evaluated by a panel of judges.

Give up on perfection and strive for excellence. If it’s true that good is the enemy of great, then Perfection is the Lex Luthor to Excellence’s Superman.

“Good enough” gets a lot of bad press but it just ain’t so. If getting something fixed for a customer is good enough, then fix it. Don’t delay the fix to make sure it will surprise and delight the customer. Wanna know what delights a customer? Fixing her problem when you said you would.

“Good enough” doesn’t only mean that it could have been better. Everything could have been better. Everything. Good enough means that you have delivered exactly against requirements without using any additional resources. Good enough means that you can get the damn thing out the door and move on to the next thing. People remember the person who consistently delivered good enough, not the person who was brilliant a few times.

More flashes of Retrospective Genius to follow…