Resilient Management with Lara Hogan

I sit down with Lara Hogan to learn about how to give feedback that lands, Her management consulting practice, WhereWithAll; the styles of 1 on 1 leadership engineering leaders can use to improve their team; her book resilient management, and the similarities and differences between traditional style management with modern day management, and how to help teams retain talent that will help them build better software.
Show Notes

Rough Transcript (via )

George Stocker  0:00  
Welcome to the build better software podcast, the podcast for software leaders who want to enable their teams to build better software. I'm your host, George Stocker. And today I am joined by guest, Laura Hogan, to talk about resilient management. Laura, welcome to the show. Thank you so much. I'm so excited. I'm really excited. Now, for folks that who are just meeting you for the first time, could you share a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Lara Hogan  0:24  
Yeah, these days, I coach managers and leaders, fortunately, all over the world. Before I was doing this, I worked as the VP of Engineering at Kickstarter. And before that, I was an engineering director at sea and before that many other small startups in the tech space. I started out as a self taught front end developer and then figured out that management was definitely the place for me.

George Stocker  0:48  
Yeah, so you've worked at large companies, you've worked at startups, and they're, those are typically differently paced. So I want to go into that deeper. But after you after you did that, you've now started your own company.

Lara Hogan  1:07  
Yeah, it's called WhereWithAll . So I realized I had read this study eons ago now about firefighters and how they develop expertise. It turns out, you know, it was it was still basic expertise, but in this study, it was trying to figure out, okay, comparing firefighters in urban areas to firefighters in rural areas, which are the deeper experts just kind of controlling for number of fires and years experience. And the study showed that firefighters in this case in urban areas were deeper experts because of the diversity of fires. So different buildings, sizes, different materials, different you know, just like different kinds of population densities, it was diversity of experience kind of led to expertise building and I realized, I really wanted to get some more expertise in lots of different kinds of companies. And so now that I run my own business against a pretty managers and leaders of all kinds, different levels, also different kinds of organizations, ancient Organizations organizations with lots of hierarchy organizations with no hierarchy, distributed organizations co located you know, it's just the the diversity of organizations that get to support right now is is pretty cool. I'm definitely learning a lot very rapidly and it's been lovely.

George Stocker  2:14  
Okay, and what sort of offerings Do you have to help out leaders?

Lara Hogan  2:18  
So I kind of split my time between one on one coaching and group coaching and training. So I either go into companies and provide workshops or I offer like ticketed workshops which you have actually attended one of my in person workshops at the time now it's of course all remote. But it's it's been amazing to be able to go in and support all of these different heads leaders, both hands on application, skill based training for mentors because I don't know about you, but I didn't get any training when I became a manager.

George Stocker  2:44  
No, the only reason I ever had any managerial training was through the army which is a bit unlike everything else. Yeah. But there are 200 year organization and they do they have a an entire they've books upon books and manuals. about leadership and about running teams, and there's a lot that we could learn from it, but it is a completely different space.

Lara Hogan  3:07  
So many fields have actually developed management training curriculum, tech, I mean, classic engineers, like we get to, we're like, oh, we're gonna figure this out for ourselves, like, we know, we can reinvent. Yeah, precisely. It's been fascinating to try to support tech leaders, specifically, because I'm sure you've experienced this, like people are just so hungry to do right by their teams. And so it's been lovely to bring in not just management experience, but also, you know, I've done a lot of studying on how to be a good trainer, a good a good educator, a good facilitator. And that's also a whole new discipline. And so it's been really, it's been really nice to try to bring in these skills to tech organizations to try to help people out.

George Stocker  3:45  
You you run a at least the workshop I went to it was a one day workshop, I think might have been to at the lead dev conference. Now, if people who don't know the lead dev conferences, it's a conference for as it says on the tin lead developers, so it talks about so groups that are useful to tech leads, software managers and the like. And I, I loved it, I can't recommend it enough.

Lara Hogan  4:07  
And they're doing online right now. So they've got a whole bunch of amazing, they've got like a seven part series starting in this fall. It's all like three hour online events. It's gonna be just there. They're doing such great work

George Stocker  4:20  
and supporting so many people. I'm going to drop that in the show notes, because I think everybody can still hear about that.

Lara Hogan  4:27  
And I'm actually co hosting the first ones. The first one if folks are interested in this is all about how do we support our teammates as they grow? What are the skills that we need to use as lead devs to help our other teammates grow and develop?

George Stocker  4:39  
So I don't want to spoil the subject, but what are skills that we need to help our our teammates grow?

Lara Hogan  4:45  
So the thing that I've learned in doing this job for a while is that as knowledge workers, we're taught that the best way we can help our teammates is by teaching them pair programming or sharing with someone how we would do a thing They're working on mentoring them providing our perspective and our advice. And a bunch of research shows that those skill sets like the teaching, the mentoring skill sets, the advising skills, skill sets are really only helpful and getting someone unblocked or helping someone on board. That's it. If we actually want to help people grow, we need to use this whole other set of skills, which most of us are not equipped to use. And we've never been taught that they're important. Like, again, we've been taught that the best thing we can do is give our knowledge to other people, but actually not help people grow. So the three skills I really like to focus on, I'm missing like a broken record to you here is coaching. So helping people connect their own dots, introspect, reflect. This is when someone's like, Huh, like, what's important to you about this? What's hard about this? If you could change one thing right now what would you change those kinds of open questions really prompt like lightbulb moments in someone you know, it's it's so powerful to like, connect your own dots and be like, Oh, I know what I'm going to do next. And most of us have that in us already. So coaching is one big skill set. sponsoring is another big skill set. So sponsoring has to do with fighting to get someone to the next level by putting putting your name on the line for them your reputation on the line for them, giving them access to visible stretch projects, developmental assignments, putting the name in their name in the ring for a big leadership opportunities being in a company meeting time someone's manager that they're doing a great job. So sponsorship is, is the is the skill set that's most directly correlated to growth and career trajectory. So again, we never talked about this thing, but there's a huge power in this. And then the last one is feedback, which we already all know about. But most of us are pretty scared of doing. So I focus on that a lot.

George Stocker  6:35  
Yeah, so the the common or most common approach I've seen the feedback is what we like to think of is the feedback sandwich which is they did a good thing. Here's the bad thing you did, and I'm going to close with a good thing and at least personally for me, I never listened to the good parts. Once I realized that that feedback sandwich is coming back

Lara Hogan  6:55  

George Stocker  6:56  
Yeah, it will feel terrible for this. Today we'll focus only on the negative because I feel Like the good part was, it wasn't a lie. But it wasn't. It wasn't genuine, because it's set at a moment where they want to couch bad feet. Exactly.

Lara Hogan  7:10  
It wasn't designed to help you grow. It was designed to help soften the blow. So we're not going to like listen to the good stuff. If, if it's not there to help us learn. It's just there to help us hear the bad stuff. Yeah, it's awful. I mean, I think we've all done it, like no shame, I get it. This is a normal part of human behavior. But it really comes back to the to the six corners that humans have at work. There's these six core needs the acronym for which is biceps that I also love talking about, because these corneas are all about what are our brains need to feel safe and secure, like our fight or flight response will kick in, if any of these expressions are not met. So part of that feedback, the compliment sandwich, is to try to make sure that this person's amygdala doesn't come online or fight or flight responses and come online and in doing so, we actually totally activate that person's amygdala. It's just it's infuriating and frustrating.

George Stocker  7:59  
Yeah, so If we weren't doing the feedback sandwich what what should we do?

Lara Hogan  8:04  
So the way that I like to frame this is kind of like three parts here. It does a little bit from SBI situation behavior impact. The first part is observation. So what are just the facts? Again, just talk about just the facts, not your assumptions, not your judgments that helps keep someone's prefrontal cortex the rational, logical part of the brain online. Because you're like, Yeah, yes, I did speak for 20 minutes in the meeting last week, or yes, I do care about this project getting off the ground or whatever the facts are about this. It helps us sometimes they can still sense that feedback is coming into their amygdala still might come on but if you start out with assumptions like I think you're doing this because or judgments like man that email that you sent, it was super It was too short like that's what you know, those are not things are going to help someone's prefrontal cortex stay online are going to activate that fight or flight response. So we want to stay factory. So that's the first thing observations fact based

George Stocker  8:57  
and one of the things that you said in the workshop At least and then I've kind of stuck with is, you think of it like if there's a camera looking at this event, and there was there's no people interpreting but just a camera recorded sound recorded video and this is what it saw. What would it say?

Lara Hogan  9:14  
Precisely? I do like to caveat every time I send it out to cabinet by being like, please don't record your co workers just because it feels important. Exactly like what could what could a video camera record?

George Stocker  9:25  
Yeah, precisely. And so what's the next step?

Lara Hogan  9:28  
It's impact. So one of the weird parts about feedback is that we often describe why why we want someone else to change their behavior, like what's the impact to me, like, I care about this because it's ruining my day, or I care about this because it's disrupting our team meeting or I care about what could be anything. We're so rarely ever prompted to think about why should this feedback recipient care about this? And the thing is, every one of us cares about really different things. Like if I say to you, like, you should really care about this because this gonna really help you know your promotion. But you don't care about getting promoted, you're not going to care about this feedback. So what we've got to start to do is stop is remove our assumptions, remove our own reasons why we care. Instead, take a step back and say, what does this person care about? Maybe we do care about a promotion, maybe you care about being liked on the team. Maybe you care about getting his project done on time, it could be anything. So taking a step back saying what does this person care about just generally, and then reframing or translating the feedback into that thing that they care about? Usually, any behavior is going to have lots of different impacts to choose from. So just pick the one that feels it's going to resonate the most with this person. It doesn't have to be all about you the feedback giver, it should be about this feedback recipient and why they would be motivated to change this behavior.

George Stocker  10:44  
So as an example, during your presentation, it feels like you were nervous and stuttered. Yeah, the impact was I'm not sure people heard the really important idea that you gave

Lara Hogan  11:00  
Yeah, yeah. Well, so And the thing is,

it feels like you're nervous is an assumption. Oh,

George Stocker  11:09  
help me, make me better. How can we do that better?

Lara Hogan  11:11  
So like, if someone's stuttered, first of all, does this person have a stutter? That's probably something that they are already thinking about working on. Like, I'm not sure how this feedback is gonna make them better. But let's say they, let's say, they tripped over their words constantly. So for either for the duration of the of the talk, the presentation, the trigger for their words, I would say, Hey, I was posting an impact, like, Hey, I know you care about getting this to land with your audience, whatever the thing is, like, I know you care about getting practice delivering skills. I would like to start with an impact here. Then I'd be like, one thing I noticed is that at times, like it was, there were a lot of words that came out at once, or you started in stop sentences repeatedly. So like, again, I'm just like just fact base as much as I humanly can Then I would cap it off with a question. So, again, we've all been taught to, like, offer requests, like, therefore, could you please stop tripping over your words, it's like not a thing that's gonna be helpful to this person. And again, usually if you've, if you've gotten the observation, right, it's just fact based. And you've gotten the impact, right? Like, it's something they already care about at this stage in the game, they're already there. They know what they want to do, they're already motivated to change. So you think therefore, could you please speak more slowly or whatever? It's gonna short circuit, this whole process. This should be like a dialogue, not like a one way brain dump. So ask an open question. And I don't mean a question. It's like, what if you tried blob because it's still a request? Asking an open question means what are you genuinely curious about with this person? Like I might say? What do you want the audience to know? When they're done watching your talk? Like, again, like, what's the one number one takeaway you want to have? Or what's what's the number one skill that you want to be practicing For this because I genuinely do want to know is it? Is it word choice is a body language? Is it how much you're presenting? You're like speaking at volume, it could be anything. These kinds of genuinely open questions that start with the word What? really help make this feel less like a like a, like a feedback issue and more like okay, we're gonna build this together we're gonna we're gonna help change this behavior together.

George Stocker  13:21  
Oh, now, yeah, no, I'm I'm almost embarrassed because I wish I had I had known about that, you know, when I was started to be a manager A long time ago. Yeah, yeah.

Lara Hogan  13:36  
Because if you're eating right, reflecting back you're like, Oh, man.

George Stocker  13:39  
Oh, sorry. Edie reported me I'm really sorry.

Lara Hogan  13:43  
Yeah, yeah, I we also have like, wait like long term to go. Like we even even I still it's so hard to break out of the old feedback patterns. It's hard to remember this shouldn't be just like a big dump of information. This should feel like a two way dialogue and you should be framing it in terms of what this person cares, that's really easy to forget, because we're so driven to give us feedback. We're like, I know why I care about this. I bet they care about it, too.

George Stocker  14:09  
Yeah, I'm gonna make an assumption here, but it and it's just a connection I just made at this moment. But this sounds like this could be also good for teams in a retrospective format that are doing something like Scrum

Lara Hogan  14:22  
100%, the questions part in particular. So I think it's totally cool to say facts, like in a retrospective like, here's a fact based thing that happened is much better than here's what I'm assuming is happening, or here's my judgment about what's happening. So again, keep those keep those illegals offline, keep the prefrontal cortex online. But then questions are really really powerful, like, Hey, what's our number one a shared goal here? Or, if I could wave a magic wand and change one thing? What would it be? It could be anything any of these open questions can help to prompt that intersection help someone connect their own dots and figure out together a path forward

George Stocker  15:01  
Now, you've just finished writing a book,

Unknown Speaker  15:03  
haven't you? Yeah, resilient management? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  15:06  
Tell us about it.

Lara Hogan  15:09  
This was like the culmination of so many hours of coaching and training. You know, I, I found that the same topics were coming up consistently. And the managers that I was working with at all levels, like, this is a book, not just for people who are brand new or curious about management work, but people who've been doing it for a long time. Because there's stuff in here that just even senior leaders struggle with like, why is Why is no one getting on board with our new Okay, our process? Why is this person I try to keep delegating things to not picking up the slack. Like all of these are topics that we all have in common, regardless of level. And there's a lot in here in the book too, about adapting your leadership approach when things aren't working, because I think as managers we all kind of default to what to what we know or what's worked for us in the past or what we wish we had in a manager and we don't get a lot of practice. using other kinds of leadership styles or approaches, and it's really I think, as leaders, it's so critical for us to know how to use different kinds of styles, leadership styles and approaches more direct, more empowering, based on the context and what the people around us need and not just what we need.

George Stocker  16:13  
Hmm. Now in the army, they had they listed three and again, being in the army, they'd release things into you. So years later, I can still mention what they had three styles of leadership there was directing, effectively a dictator, there was delegation, where you have other people do it, you say, hey, go do X, they do x. And then there's participatory, where you work with the team to make things happen. Now, that's definitely a different words, maybe for the same thing, maybe for different things that you talk about resilience management. So let's talk about the ark of leadership that you bring up in your book.

Lara Hogan  16:46  
Yeah. Oh, that's so interesting, because when you said delegating, I was trying to piece together like how does that how is that distinctive from the other two styles because you could delegate in a directive way or you could delegate an opinion separatory away.

George Stocker  17:01  
That's true. That's true. I don't think that they I don't think that they ever made that distinction at least once. But you're right.

Lara Hogan  17:09  
It's interesting. So I kind of think about it as like a spectrum between two endpoints, which actually sounds mirrors that a little bit one is directive, like being really directive. You know, being really firm, blunt, clear, just setting the path forward. empowerment is the other end that I usually think about. And it sounds like that's probably closer to the participatory style that you mentioned, like coaching style and sponsoring style are totally on the empowerment end of the spectrum, like helping someone connect their own dots, bringing people along for the ride, not just telling them what to do. And strong leaders, I think, kind of bounce around the spectrum based on what the situation calls for. So like, we all have a default. Mind by default, is empowering. Like I'm just like, if I could coach all day, I would. But there's failure modes to either end like there will absolutely the circumstances in which they are defaults isn't useful. Like if I had if I was onboarding someone When new to my team, and they had no idea what to do, if I just ask them questions like what's important to you? They'd be so stressed out, they'd like to tell me, can you tell me what this job is supposed to keep the home supposed to talk to? You know? So there's, there's times you need to answer. And same on the directive side, if I constantly just telling people what to do, there'd be no growth, there'd be no learning, there'd be no stretching. So it's really important as leaders for us and as managers to kind of figure out what the situation calls for and get practice using not just each end of the spectrum, but all the spots in between to

George Stocker  18:32  
Okay, and you mentioned, sponsoring and coaching on the empowering end of the spectrum. Yeah, and coaching is asking people open ended questions.

Lara Hogan  18:44  
Yes. Bingo. Yeah, exactly. Asking people open ended questions again, helping them to kind of track their own dots and not telling them so not mentoring right, not advising but instead, reflecting back what you're hearing them say giving them time and space to introspect and asking them those beautiful open questions to help like process That kind of introspection,

George Stocker  19:01  
and once that most useful, you know, what was it success mode? I guess?

Lara Hogan  19:06  
Yeah, it's most useful when you're trying to help someone develop a new skill or just grow just in general grow as a human as coaching is the most powerful one to use them. So basically all the time, but the caveat like, I'm talking like 50 to 80% of the time coaching is the mode that we all should be and there's like a subset of cases in which you know, mentoring is going to be helpful, but otherwise coaching is coaching.

George Stocker  19:32  
Do you have Do you have any imagery that will help say, hey, an example of who'd coaches Well,

Lara Hogan  19:37  
yeah, other questions so I would say if you see someone at work, who's like hey, here's the outline of a project that I need I need help with it my my go to example for this is a blend of sponsorship that like giving someone a stretch goal and also coaching them through it. And coaching which was my boss was like, Hey, I don't I've got too much on my plate. If you're a director, I know you've never worked with corporate budgets before. But can you figure out the engineering budget for education? Like training, travel all this stuff? I was like, okay, where do I start? And he was like, Well, here's probably the people you need to talk to, here's the end outcome that I'm looking for. But like, it's totally up to you to figure out what that is that that sponsorship, like that's giving me the outline is the delegation. So here's a stretch project, I think you can be supportive with what I was missing was, hey, let's figure out where like, let me ask you some questions. Laura, what feels scariest about this for you? Where do you think you want to start? Who do you already know who's good at this you can rely on like those kinds of questions that prompt the intersection that would have been a beautiful coaching moment, if only I mean, I had a great coach the whole time was like actually a train coach. She was really helpful. But that's it kind of brings up the point that one person can't be your everything. Your manager is not going to be good at all these things. I think it's really important to build out a network of support that, you know, I like to call a manager Tron.

George Stocker  21:01  
You do talk about that in the workshop go deeper into that.

Lara Hogan  21:04  
Yeah. So I think I learned this the hard way. I think we've all learned this the hard way, like your managers, it is a subset of skills, you know, need more than just one person. So I started to think about this as like a group of people, a diverse group of people that I lean on as I grow as a as a, as a manager, as leader as a human. And they're each going to have different skills are each gonna have different defaults on that spectrum. they're each going to have different experiences and perspectives. Some people I lean on have like completely opposite leadership styles to me, some have way more experience in me in a completely different field than I do. So people are great at giving feedback. Some people are great at coaching, you know, it could be any of these set of skills actually have a bingo card. I don't know if we can link to stuff in the show notes at all, but like great, beautiful so you can link to the bingo card to help you kind of brainstorm who's already in your network of support for these kinds of skills and where are the gaps like where should you be adding people to your Voltron to help you grow?

George Stocker  21:57  
One of the issues I'm I struggle with is asking for help. We all need a manager. How do you like, if you're like me? How do you how do you get to that next step, which is asking for help.

Lara Hogan  22:13  
Right? And it's like the only advice out there is like, go out and network. Like, what does that even mean? It's not clear, especially though, right? It's absolutely like we're where everybody's so underwater. So even if you could find, let's say, a Slack channel to go find and meet some people in everybody's drowning. So, the best way I've seen to add people, to your Voltron is like someone in your extended network. It could be someone inside your company but kind of outside of your normal field of work like someone in a different department. It could be outside like, you know, friend of a friend, manager of a manager style. But once you kind of have an inkling that there's someone in your network that you already have a connection to. It can be the tiniest little connection in the world. I recommend coming up with like figuring out all of all the problems that you have What's one that this person can help with either provide their experience on, or maybe be a good coach to you for give you feedback, something specific, choose a specific skill that you would like them to use. And then reach out to them and ask them for that specific help. So the way that this first happened to me, and I really realized it for the first time was the former CTO of meetup event Pasqua she, I had, like, met her at something randomly. You know, we connected on LinkedIn or something. And she she reached out and said, Hey, I know that you run an infrastructure team at Etsy. I'm a, I'm currently thinking of reorganizing my infrastructure team, do you have any opinions on like, how how to do or how not to do rewards? And sure, it was a shot in the dark, but like, do I have opinions on reorg of infrastructure? So like, I was, like, immediately wrote back and was like, yeah, let's, in this case, it was in the before times, and I was like, let's get coffee. And it was, it was so it was such a beautiful example of what when you ask someone to give their opinion. And something that they may care about deeply, it's so easy to form that connection and genuinely get their help. And she she didn't make up that problem that was actually a thing that she was thinking about. And so it was it turned into a lovely two or three hour meeting in which we talked about so many things. And that was her way of adding me to her Voltron crew. And it goes both ways. Like now I lean on her for all sorts of things. And I have, you know, the honor of supporting her through a bunch of stuff too. And it's it I've seen this happen time and time again, if you just reach out to one person that you have, like a distant connection to ask them for specific help on a topic that they may be jazzed to share their knowledge, expertise on, it can lead to beautiful things.

George Stocker  24:36  
One of the things I don't want to skip it because it's, it's very interesting, but we almost skipped it is sponsorship. So you're coaching. Now, let's talk about sponsorship. What does that mean and what does that entail?

Lara Hogan  24:50  
So sponsorship, if you think about the times in your life and you as a person who have grown, like if you think about the times when you had a manager who really skyrocketed your growth And you think about what skill sets they used or what they did to help you with that growth. Nine times out of 10. It was not giving you advice. It was maybe giving you feedback, but most likely it was giving you the stretch opportunity. Like for some reason, this person trusted in me. They gave me this project, I didn't know how to do it. And that helped me grow so much. That's sponsorship. And again, it's so much more powerful than any of the other skills when it comes to actual career trajectory. There's a bunch of studies on this. And whenever I talk about sponsorship, I also like to bring up that members of minority groups are often over mentored but under sponsored which means that white people in my case actually white women are often get lots of unsolicited advice, but very rarely opportunities look sponsorship people going out of their way to provide those stretch goals and and support through meeting those stretch goals. So this is true for people of color. This is People with disabilities, trans folks, non binary people, there's just so many folks out there who really deserve sponsorship. But because of something called in group bias, the way that we network as humans often means that we are referring to people and referring people, for the people who we think about first, they are really similar to us in a variety of ways. And until I started learning about this, frankly, most of the people who I sponsored, were white cisgendered women like me. And so it just takes a lot of hard work to combat these very natural instincts of how we network and support each other to kind of break out of that shell and sponsor people with different backgrounds, different experiences, went to different colleges, you know, all the all that stuff, all the normal in group stuff to break out of that.

George Stocker  26:42  
Yeah, and I don't have to tell you that, you know, diverse teams will build better software all the time. 100% and we just have to sponsor and give people the chances that they might have otherwise gotten, I think then

Lara Hogan  26:56  
yeah, and the prime support to do so. You know too often we see people be like, here, person here's a huge stretch opportunity. Good luck I believe in you and then providing no extra support and they're gonna fail, you know. So yeah, I think that it's it's definitely needs it takes intention and then hard work to support those people and succeeding.

George Stocker  27:15  
Yeah. When you were bringing up sponsorship I remember the times where I've grown the fastest in my career have been when somebody sponsored me but didn't let me go out there on my own. Like they were they weren't, you know, they were behind the curtain. And they were helping me to pick up any pieces that I might have dropped, but they weren't visible to other people. And it's so so to other people. It was me. And when I look back, it was them.

Lara Hogan  27:44  
powerful is that Yeah. And like that, it's that that behind the curtain part is the critical part. Like we can't be sponsoring for ally ship cookies, right. That's like, that doesn't that's not what sponsorship. We need to be behind the curtain. We need to be allowing this person To be to really succeed in the in the spotlight. And I love what you just said. And it actually makes me think of the other skill that you mentioned about the army training, which is the delegation skill. And a good delegator is one that doesn't micromanage doesn't doesn't tell you what to do. But gives you the like, illustrates the end goal, like, here's the problem that we're here to solve, and then tells you how they can lean on you for support. So like, are you calling on them for support, rather, so like, you know, I expect that you'll want to get on the executive team agenda. Reach out to me when you're ready for that, and I'll help you get on there. Or I'm super happy to provide you feedback on any of your drafts before this goes live. Like just be really clear about the ways in which you want to support them so that they're not like worried about reaching out to you when it's time for some help.

George Stocker  28:43  
Yeah. And the funny thing is, is of course, the armies are focused on on fighting and winning wars, but there are there are takeaways. One of them, just like what you just said, is something called the commander's intent. So whenever there is a, hey, we need to take this hill for example. They started The battle plan with the commander's intent is by the end of this, whatever the outcome is, and that starts it, that ends it. And if at any point there is no communication or you know, the fog of war happens, then everybody every unit down to the individual platoons they know what was the commander's intent, what is the ultimate, you know, outcome that we are looking for. And so that allows for platoons and for companies that are outside of communication or when things break down, which they invariably do that allows them to take initiative on their own and get to the right outcome that they were looking for in the beginning.

Lara Hogan  29:38  
Yeah, it's almost like at the end of this what do we cross check? What do we what do we like triple check to make sure that we met the God at the intent? Yeah, yeah. I love that.

George Stocker  29:48  
I actually think I would be talking about the Army Today at all. So you right now with, as as we as we record, this show, live 14, California, Florida and Texas are on the rise. Other states are either on the rise slightly or a lot or holding steady at best. This is a tough time for even even if you have nothing else going on, this is a tough time. What is your advice for managers of teams at this time?

Lara Hogan  30:24  
It's just, it's just the worst. It's just it's really illustrating, illustrating what a lack of leadership looks like. Which means that it's in many ways falling two leaders with less power and less privilege to try to pick up the slack. So in the internal to a company sense, this means that lots of managers need to figure out how to support their teams, and their individual teammates, all of whom are dealing with different circumstances. One of the one of the pitfalls that I see happening a lot right now is managers and team leads are trying to create support in ways that they personally would benefit from them. They're projecting their own needs on to the rest of the team, like the beginning of corn times, I saw a lot of managers be like, let's create 6pm happy hours every day. So we can also feel connected and like, maybe that helped one person, most of us would have been like, I got these other I need to go take care of these other things. I cannot be on zoom any longer, you know, got three kids. Right, exactly, exactly. So I see a lot of managers falling into this very normal natural trap of like, let me do all that I can to help people and just take shots in the dark about what's going to be most helpful rather than taking a step back and listening. Asking, I don't recommend the What do you need right now question first. I recommend that later. I definitely recommend a few things for managers start with first tell them what you're optimizing for right now. I am optimizing for making sure psychological safety is happening on the team or I'm I'm optimizing for making sure everybody Has the energy that they need to get through this project, or I'm optimizing for making sure everybody has the information and clarity that they need, whatever the thing is, be really clear constantly about what's the number one goal for you, as a manager, the thing that you're optimizing for right now, that's a good example of like one way communication, which I'm going to emphasize a lot like, anytime you require there to be a two way communication, it requires synchronous communication, or even if it's async, you require a response to something makes it really hard for people to like, find the time and the energy to do so. So over index on doing lots of one way communication. In one on ones, though, be really clear about how you're planning to support people or how you're trying to support people say, Hey, here's a few things that I've realized we could use in the team. What are your thoughts on that? And that's when you can say, what else would be helpful to you right now? Like, it's only after you've gotten through this initial like, here's what I here's what I'm optimizing for. And here's the things that I'm trying in case they're helpful. What else do you need, kind of opens the door for people to be specific about what they might need. And then it's kind of circles back to something I mentioned at the top which is the six core needs that humans have At work, those things that are amygdalas are trying to, you know, keep us safe with they're all threatened right now. I mean, when we think about it, and they include things like how we belong to a group anytime you feel others are alienated or left behind, are muggles going to feel threatened?

George Stocker  33:16  
And is that they haven't biceps?

Lara Hogan  33:18  
That's the visa. Yes, yeah, biceps is the acronym. Thank you coined by Paula Medina. So blogging is the first one. improvement and progress is the eye. So we want to feel like we're making a sense of progress and forward motion or lives. And anytime we feel stagnant or like we're taking steps back, that cornea is going to feel friend, it's really obvious that's happening right now with the numbers that we're looking at. The cc stands for choice. So how much autonomy Do we have right now there's so we're being forced inside or being. I mean, as much as anybody else. I don't like wearing a mask, it's really important to do so. But for many people I'm seeing their need for choices is kind of showing up in that in the area of equality and fairness is the ease so we want to As humans, we want to believe that everybody's been doing Fairly and as they should be, and obviously a number of populations are being over impacted by this horrible pandemic. And it's a bunch of communities that need extra support right now, it's just unfair. Also, at the same time, the Black Lives Matter movement is really again shining yet another light on the lack of equality and fairness in our, in our communities. It's just, it's obviously a corny that we were taking to the streets over predictability is the P, we want to have some sense of the future, what's going to happen, so certainty. And then last, but not least, is significance, which is effectively status, like where am I in this informal or formal hierarchy. So when I think about the people that I support, as a manager, every single person's going to have a different combination of these core needs at play. And the trap that we need to not fall into is projecting our own core needs onto everybody else, like my core need right now is instability. I need it. I have a little, a little post it note. You can't see it, but George can on my laptop. This is predictability. Just to remind myself, hey, when you wake up in the morning, create as much stability as you can. So this is the corny that your amygdala your limbic Big system needs the most right now. Everybody's is going to be different. I can't project my need for predictability onto everybody around me I need to start to listen ask questions to figure out which of these their core needs is being threatened. on the blog, we can link to it on the blog, I've got a bunch of open ended questions that you can use with your teammates to kind of check in and how they're coordinating. They're doing to make sure that you're, you're correctly supporting them in the ways that they need.

George Stocker  35:22  
It's funny. We've talked about success and failure modes, and it feels like a failure mode of our current political system is, you know, of federalism is the fact that you have a large pandemic that affects the entire nation. And you can't like you have to have that leadership that strong leadership at the top which our system of federalism at least practiced by the current administration, administration. They're, you know, they're trying to practice that I think, but it is a failure mode right now. It's not going to help us succeed, and which is, unfortunately is devastating like, this has really Life consequences. And that's what we should remember whenever we're trying to vote for new leaders. Yeah. Now, who do you recommend? As far as you know, who do you lean on for? I don't want to say diversity inclusion, because it just puts, that puts like a label on something, it's so much more important, you know, making sure that the biceps model works for everyone in our organization, who do you lean on to understand how that can help with people of color? You know, with minorities? You know, who do you lean on? Who is your, your go to for more information on that?

Lara Hogan  36:36  
Totally. So there's a bunch of I mean, just everyday, there's a bunch of new resources out in the world that are being developed. There's this amazing spreadsheet that's going around that I can provide a link for in the show notes for black owned di consultants that are currently taking on new work, which is just incredible what an incredible like, group people that we can continue to invest in the support as they do this amazing work for Me personally, I've been leaning a lot on existing resources from project included when it comes to like tech workplaces and how we can continue to make our workplaces more inclusive. They got a bunch of good research and a bunch of really important frameworks that we can kind of lean on for all aspects of our business. And then the creator of the of the biceps core needs acronym Paloma Medina, she also has a bunch of resources on our website that have a lot to do with equity and inclusion work that I find myself often citing for lots of different parts of whether it's the hiring process, or the retention process promotion processes, just to really try to triple check and look at the research again, not just try to make it up like as we engineers are want to do, actually look at the studies and say okay, what works and what doesn't like there's a bunch of studies that show that different styles of unconscious bias training, make things worse, look better. So it's actually taking a look at like what works what's, what's real, what works and applying those things.

George Stocker  37:56  
Wonderful. Yeah, we only have a little while. left. But you know for a team that doesn't have psychological safety or maybe has less psychological safety then you know they need to be productive what you know what are the first steps you know for them is how do you figure out what you don't have a psychological safety into? How do you get yourself out of it?

Lara Hogan  38:22  
It's this stuff is so hard and there's so there's so much research on it. Amy Edmondson, if people are looking interested in doing a lot more on this, Amy Edmondson, has written so much about this. I'm far from an expert in it. When I start to think about this, this topic and trying to just figure out from the start, do we have it on our team? I start to pay attention to not just things like body language, but also how many questions are being asked in team meetings? Are people pushing back? When people push back? How does everybody else react? You know, how is that as how safe is it to be wrong? But how safe is it to ask questions? To provide other solutions, or just to say that something feels bad or wrong. If none of those things are happening, you don't have psychological safety on your team. A failure mode would be to think everything's fine because no one's saying anything. The opposite is true. So when I think about this stuff, I think a lot about using coaching skills and active listening skills to provide a sense of like, Hey, I'm listening, I want to I want to make things better here. I want to support you, as you grow as a person. And try to understand people as individuals, and then the most important thing for me as a manager is following through and they commit to, for me that like, you can't ask for trust, you got to like demonstrate that you deserve Trust has a lot to do with saying is doing the things that you say you're going to do. And for me, that's a huge core piece of creating psychological safety on a team.

George Stocker  39:47  
Nice. Now that, you know, it's not always good news. As a manager and leader, you know, how can I either How can I deliver that's a great news through their mind Boss or my team? And you know, what does that look like? What do you recommend?

Lara Hogan  40:03  
Yeah, so there's so many different ways to go about this for me, I just see so many failure modes here about trying to dance around a problem, or trying to over explain, there's a lot of a lot of things that I see when it comes to people leave managers being nervous, deliver bad news, as much as humanly possible. Bottom line, the news that you're that you're trying to deliver meaning in one sentence, what's the point? Then you can also add more context, especially if you give people time to ask questions. But I would say get practiced and bottom lining and being really, really clear. I don't mean being a dictator. I mean, just stating a fact or stating what the thing is happening. If you've got bad news delivered to your team, it's coming down from above you. It's really important to not just bottom line, what that news is, but also provide some context that's yours. So like, Okay, listen, here's the deal. layoffs are coming. My personal On this is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, that might be, here's what I think is going to happen or what's not going to happen, which is risky to say that might be, here's what I'm going to be doing to support you each as we move forward. That might be, hey, here's what I'm going to follow up on next to get some more clarity information on this, whatever, whatever the thing might be, give it give your perspective or your I'm not gonna say spin, because that's that means like making it false. But how are you feeling about this? Or what are you seeing about this, try not to make it at all about your feelings, because that's going to feel very weird. But the final thing to close with is when Can people hear from you next on this and in what medium? Mostly when people hear bad news, all they're doing every single day following that is waiting for the other shoe to drop. So letting people know hey, next Thursday, we'll have another update for you on this via slack or in our team meeting or whatever. Or hey, the next thing we'll do is talking one on ones about this. That's can be that can be so clarify and give people the certainty predictability they need about you know, in a very otherwise ambiguous, awful situation. One little

sliver of predictability going forward.

George Stocker  41:59  
You One of the things that we happens in tech in it, it feels like it happens in tech far more than other industries, although I have no data to back that up. His turnover is there's a lot of turnover in tech, from your perspective. And from the teams. You've worked with your Do you see that as a manager admin thing, are you so that's purely because of, you know, compensation and benefits, it's easier to get better if you jump? What does that mix look like from your perspective?

Lara Hogan  42:28  
You know, it's really interesting, the retention rate stuff, it's just mired a lot of complexity. Like I see some HR folks or executives bragging about how low turnover they have is actually I learned there's a healthy amount of turnover. If you've got too little turnover, it's actually unhealthy. So there's, there's like a, there's like a threshold. That's normal. I couldn't give you numbers on it, but like this, you got to ask yourself, Am I in the correct pressure, there should be some kind of healthy change internally. A lot. The folks that I coach, if they're leaving jobs, it's because they're perceiving things to be unfair. More often than not people who I coach are members of minoritized groups, and so they might be perceiving a wage gap or a promotion rate issue, when you look at minoritized groups compared to, you know, non minoritized groups. So it's been really interesting to support these folks, which is obviously a good niche of the population as they choose to change jobs because there's also a lot of risk involved. When you when you change organizations, that means you are introducing a bunch of numbers about how you're about to be treated and how fairly or not you're about to be approached. And so it's Yeah, it's, it's just layered in complexity. So I would say again, if you've got too little or too little turnover, take a little look at that, because probably it's time for some people to go. And you've got too much turnover if it feels like it's too much. Ask yourself, how do I know what can I look at to see See if this is a healthy amount, because the act of you believing is can be really healthy. So check triple check with yourself who's leaving? Is it kind of normalized across the board, there's an article that I wrote about wage equity and promotion equity that includes some tips on how to measure across different demographic groups, what your retention rates are and what your promotion rates are to triple check that nothing is, is wrong

across the board.

George Stocker  44:27  
The one of the things that I'll say to new managers is the first thing you should do as a manager from a numbers perspective is probably it's not the first thing you should do when you meet your team, at least my numbers perspective, you should see you should know what your people make, and you should make sure that you equalize it, you know, bring people up if they're not making what they should be making, try to bring them up immediately. Because that will, that will, that's a way of building trust. When you come in you say hey, look, this is what I see. I'm putting in for that. That's a fast way of building trust of showing them You care and of making sure that you do have justice, in equity and pay on your team, which we all want. We're in tech and one of the richest industries in the world. If we can't pay people what they're worth here, nobody can. And so we should be doing it. Yeah.

Lara Hogan  45:17  
It's amazing to me that the traps that people in mental traps if you volunteer around this, like they think there must be a reason why this person is being paid less. We default to like, what are the specific unique circumstances under which this person is being paid less rather than saying what you just said, which is, let me pay people equally first, and then we can figure out the rest later, which I think is going to save you a lot of heartache.

George Stocker  45:39  
Yeah. Maybe we maybe it's just a you know, a mental thing where we're like, Well, clearly they didn't do something right. And we'll I don't have enough information. So I shouldn't change things rather than wait a minute. These are my people. I'm responsible for them. I need to into your trust. I need to be their leader. And starting from there, which you might fail like, there might be Be a good reason why they're not being paid off. But that happens a lot less than, you know, all these assumptions that you talk about all these prejudices and these biases, that that stops someone from getting the money that they actually need and deserve, like,

Lara Hogan  46:14  
precisely. And if there's performance issues, you deal with that with performance management, do that with feedback. You don't deal with that with compensation, and inequity and compensation and so I maintain paying people the same for the same job is one of the most obvious things to me that still is causing a lot of issues in our industry.

George Stocker  46:34  
Yeah. Laura. So people, how can they find you on the internet? How can companies get in touch with you to do coaching and what do you want to leave us with?

Lara Hogan  46:45  
Yeah, Laura underscore Hogan on Twitter and we are for all your coaching and training needs.

George Stocker  46:52  
Buy the book and schedule a coaching call with Laura. Laura, thank you so much for joining me today. I really It's been a pleasure having you.

Lara Hogan  47:01  
Thanks so much for having me.

George Stocker  47:03  
All right, folks. That's it for this week. We'll see you next time on the build better software podcast. Thanks

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