The Engineering Leadership Podscast · Episode 13

Part 1 - Coaching, Delegation and Trust

with Darian Shimy

Jun 18, 2020
Darian Shimy shares the lessons he’s learned as a longtime sports coach and engineering leader. You’ll learn coaching techniques he’s applied in his engineering teams you can leverage to increase the value and productivity of your teams. Plus how to scale your leadership through effective delegation and how to create environments of trust, ownership and accountability.
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SPEAKER

Darian Shimy - Engineering Lead @ Square

As an engineering leader who scales teams and products, Darian Shimy is an industry veteran with over 25 years of experience. He is currently at Square with prior leadership positions at Weebly, Attensity, and eHarmony.com. He received an MS in Computer Science from The University of Southern California and continues to code as a hobby. Outside the professional setting, Darian is a softball coach for various age levels from the recreation to competitive level.

“You should be a coach, not a referee. And the coach is the person who is there to help you improve. The referee is the one who is there to point out all the problems. They're not there to make you better."

- Darian Shimy


Shownotes

  • Darian's lessons from coaching sports applied to engineering leadership (1:29)
  • How to communicate when someone is doing well but can still improve (9:20)
  • How to leverage your time to create more productivity and value for your team (13:08)
  • How to elevate and scale productivity and learning in your junior “players” (18:22) (20:47)
  • How to handle the risk of failure when delegating (21:39)
  • Create consistent, good management by modeling the way (25:14)
  • The impact when you treat your team as humans (30:36)
  • Our key takeaways from the episode (33:20)

Transcript

Darian's lessons from coaching sports applied to engineering leadership

Jerry Li: Hey, Darian thanks so much for spending time with us! Really looking forward to this conversation for a long time. I'm really impressed with your experience with coaching a sport team and how that learning translated into your, your role as engineer leader. Can you tell us a little bit more on that, the story and, how you navigated the transition?

Darian Shimy: Of course, of course. First of all, thank you for having me. I've been looking forward to this for a while, so this is it's fun to be here.

So there's been about five takeaways I've had from coaching that has been related to my engineering experience and you know, the first one is...

and just a little historical... so I've coached, girls softball from, you know, people from like ages four and five all the way up to competitive high school at various levels. And I have two kids who have played. So I've been coaching for about 12 years and it's just really been a passion and love for me.

So the first thing is... you know, when you're, when you're coaching, you're not a player. You're not the one who's throwing the ball. You're not the one who's swinging the bat. You have to coach other people. You have to get them to perform. And management is the same way. And what I see a lot of times is when people move from an IC individual contributor over to a management role. They tend to just add activities, add work for themselves instead of transitioning.

And what I mean by that is if they are coding, doing code reviews and doing deployments, they'll continue to do that or continue to write design documents, but then they'll start managing the team as well, allowing them to become overwhelmed.

And the goal of the manager should really be to coach the team, not to be the player. They need to be the one who's getting the players to improve and need to be the one who is helping everyone grow. And that is the number one thing I see when people first move over.

The second thing is you need to develop everybody. And you know, when you get a team, you have some people who are really talented and some people who are what I'll call "rising stars" and not everyone's the same.

If you only play the top players, you may win a lot of games, but you're not developing your bench. You're not going to have the depth that you need. If someone's out. And it's the same thing with an engineering team. I'll give you a quick example. And this actually came up a week ago. Is that we have a company wide initiative, for an API committee and they wanted a representative from every team to attend.

And I went to my leads and I said, you know, "Hey guys, you know, this is what's going on. This is a time commitment. Can you give me a recommendation of some people we should put on?"

And I had one lead come up to me and said, "you know, here's this engineer. Very senior, very talented, lot of interest in API, a lot of experience in API has been doing it for years. He'd be a great fit."

And he was completely right. All star all the way. And I had another engineer or another lead come up to me and said, "here's this engineer. He's not a senior. He's trying really hard. He has a lot of passion for it. But he doesn't have the experience."

So, what do I do? if I send their senior person, he may not get that much better, but he'll be able to provide a lot of value. If I send a junior per person, he'll grow a lot, but he may not be able to contribute as much. So, and this is a problem I have all the time. And in this case, what I ended up doing was I broke the rules and I sent both. Why send one, when you can send two, right. Whereas the lead can now be a big contributor and then we also get experience coming up.

But it's the same thing. When you have anything going on, I always focus on giving... any tasks that comes up, I try and give it to the person who's its going to be a big challenge for. Even if having a senior person would knock it out of the park and give me a high confidence. I still want that rising star to be able to contribute to it as well.

The third thing is, there's a position for everybody. So when you get your team, you have specific positions, right? You have your pitcher. You have your shortstop. First base, first base has to have a great glove. They don't have to throw that well. Your third basemen has to have a good arm. So everybody has a different skillset. And it's the same thing with an engineering team.

I've had people that were this close to being put on a PIP, which is right before termination happens. And what happens was we moved them to a different position. And when we moved them, they excelled. And it wasn't that they were a bad engineer. It wasn't that the projects were too hard. It's just, we didn't have a good fit.

And a lot of engineering is finding the right fit. It is building out your team, having a well rounded team and having people fit in the position where they're going to excel. And the example I just gave that person is still with us. He's leading a very large team. And he is doing very well.

So it would have been a shame. It would've been a management failure for me to let him go. We just had to move him around.

Jerry Li: Yeah, I guess it happens a lot, like, engineering leaders don't see a good performance from one of the team members and then they will do the easy thing to say, "well, you are not a good fit."

And then, they have to that the person going instead of spending the time and, and finding another position. And really, not just getting the people on a bus, but also getting everyone to the right seat on the bus.

Darian Shimy: Super important. Hands down. So, The last thing is, you know, I remember when I was coaching my little one and she was probably seven. And she came off the field and I said, "good job! Good job!"

She looked at me and said, this is a seven year old. She looked at me and said, "what did I do that was good?"

I thought about it... and I said, "you know what, you didn't do anything that was good out there." I said, "I'm sorry for saying that." I said, "I will always give meaningful feedback in the future."

How many times has the manager said, "Good, you're doing good. You're doing well. Good job?"

Its empty feedback. It doesn't make people better. No matter... my best player on the team, they would come in. I said "that was a really good catch, but you could have thrown it faster to first base, or like you had a great hit, but you weren't running as fast as you cut around the bases." Right?

Everybody, when, even when they do something well, they can still do it better. And I think as a manager, you need to push the team to continually do better.

To find out. Like they may think that they've hit the top. They go," Hey, I'm the best I can't improve anymore."

And it's the job of a leader to go to them and say, "no, you can do better."

Do you think there's any professional athlete that thinks they are perfect? Absolutely not. They all have coaches. They all have trainers. They all watch game film. They all try and be better every single time, because there is no ceiling on how good you can be. And it's the same thing when you're leading a team. It's the same thing when you're coaching a team is trying to find out how they can be better.

And a lot of times, what's hard as a manager, you don't always know. You don't always know. Some people will blow your socks off. And you're like, "wow, I don't know how I can give this person feedback to be better."

And at that point, the best thing as a manager, what you can do is ask them a question. "What could you have done better?"

They'll know better than you. And I, I still think the number one tool for a manager is asking a question,. Getting people to think, right?

So my style is not to micromanage. My style is to delegate and let people grow. And I do that by asking questions. When someone makes a mistake. I don't tell them what they did wrong. I ask them what could they do to prevent it from happening again? Let them think about it.

Jerry Li: Yeah.

Darian Shimy: you know, it's the same thing. When you have people who are excelling. They did a great release maybe ahead of schedule with high quality. I'm like, "what could we have done differently to make that better?"

And a lot of people do this through retrospectives. It happens all the time, but I see a lot of people fail to do it on a one on one basis. When you're in the one on one meeting, if someone's doing well, push them to be better, push them to Excel. And, you'll see, true growth come in a lot of people.

It's hard to manage people who are at the top of their game. It's very hard. but I, I think that's where like a big challenge comes in for a lot of the leaders.

How to communicate when someone is doing well but can still improve

Jerry Li: Are there times when you're coaching the sport team that the player actually feels good. But you observe something, an area for improvement and the way you communicate it is that you provide that feedback.

Is there a case like that and how do you handle the, the difference in terms of interpretation? Like maybe expecting, you know, like praise from you or wanting to feel proud?

Darian Shimy: Yeah. So I'll give you a great example. In softball in the early years, batting is stronger than pitching.

So if you're a batter, you're going up there , you know, there's a pitcher up there. You can just, you don't have to swing the bat. You just sit there and wait. Ball, it'd be ball, ball two, ball three. You get a walk. You get an easy get to the base. You're on base percentage is really high from a statistical standpoint, you're doing well. Right?

But you're not getting better. You're not swinging that bat. You're not getting the double. So for me, what I tell my kids is, "Hey, good job getting on base. I appreciate you reading the pitches well." I say, "but wouldn't it be better if you got a double?" I say, "let's get the bat on the ball right? You know you're going to have a few pitches to swing at, you know, let's swing that bat and let's see what happens."

In engineering we have that same thing. Some people may take it easy and say, "Hey, I got all my tasks done for the sprint. My Velocity looks good. I'm great."

I'm like, "well, okay, can we do more?" Right?

When some people think that they're doing well and they're not the best way is to explain to them how other people see them and how it impacts them. I found a lot of times people, if they think they're in the right, they may not care if there's a disagreement, but once they start seeing how it impacts their job.

And I say, "you know, if you continue to do this, people may not want to work with you anymore.

Jerry Li: It's all about awareness, knowing that where you are, what you're actually performing what's the actual impact you're making to other people.

Darian Shimy: Yes.

Jerry Li: And that helps drive people to make a change.

Darian Shimy: Yeah. It's, it's like when the batter goes up and he hits it, you know, straight to second base and the first basement gets out and I'm like, "well, yeah, you got on base, but now we don't have, you know, a runner in scoring position, you know, to make the game interesting."

So, well, one thing I never want to do is deflate energy from a team. If I have somebody who is. You know, energetic on the team who's working well, but doing the wrong thing. It's very wrong to tell them "you're doing the wrong thing." What you want to do is just swing that energy over in the right direction, put some bumpers on them and just angle it. You can't get it perfect. But angle it in the right direction where you can get the most value out of it.

You know, getting someone motivated is super hard. At any level in any sport or engineering. Right. But if someone's already motivated, you don't want to, you don't want to chastise them. You don't want to parade them for saying like, "why did you work on that task? That wasn't a priority?" Right?

Say, "Hey, great, thank you. I appreciate the effort there." I'm like," it'd be a huge help if you can help me here as well." You just need to move it, but you never want to tell anyone they did anything wrong.

You know, if I told someone to bunt and they hit a home run, what am I going to do? I can't say bad hit. Right. You know, but I could tell them, like this was a strategy we had, and this is what ended up happening when you did that. Right. And this is what we were shooting for. So, you know, I think helping them understand the context, you know, and a lot of times they don't. You know, especially the players, they don't understand what the coach is thinking at the moment, because it's a game by game a minute by minute decision for the coaching.

And a lot of times on an engineering team, they not, may not fully understand the nuances of the strategy. They should have a good high level overview. I think they may not know the specifics of it. They may not know why this task is so important. And that's where it's really important to communicate as to why they're doing what they're doing, how important it is, how they're contributing to an overall win for the entire team.

How to leverage your time to create more productivity and value for your team

Jerry Li: When you have people on different levels in your team, and then you have a important project and there's a very tight timeline . At this point an easy decision for a lot of engineering managers is that, "well, let me put the most experienced person on the project so that I know this person has done well, is high quality with less time."

But what's going to happen if they do it over time, is they digging a hole for themselves? Like I'm going to have a single point of failure because they begin to overly rely on that person. Meanwhile, the learning opportunity for that person to improve is, getting, diminished over time. Do you see that happening? How do you combat with that?

Darian Shimy: yeah. I mean, there's definitely times look, , if you're in a playoff game, right. And you know, you're, you're in the seventh inning softball to go to seven innings and, you know, you need, you have your best batter coming up.

You're not going to sub them for, you know, someone who's been on the bench. Right. So they're definitely times like you have a production outage. You got to put your best people on it right away. There's no question about that, but you know, the, the question and then this gets a lot to delegation and ICs can delegate too. But you know, I, I always tell people, like, "are you providing unique value to the organization?"

There are certain things that in a top performer only they can do. And I'm like, that's what you should be focusing on. If there's anybody else who can do what you're doing right now, you should not be doing it.

And it's even , when I'm an engineering lead who says I created a doc, I'm like, should you have created that doc? Or should someone on your team have created the doc? Even there there's a lot of little nuances, even responding to Slack. Someone comes in or in our Slack room and said, "Hey, we're having this problem."

If the lead jumps in right away and says, "Oh, let me explain what's happening." They took away an opportunity from someone else to grow.

And it's a small thing. Right? But being able to respond to that requires critical thinking, requires confidence. There's a whole bunch of skills that they develop from doing that. And it's something that they need to hone in over and over again. They may get it wrong and that's totally okay. But if the manager is there, they can go in and correct it right away with no harm at all. Right? That's a great opportunity to let somebody grow .

It, it's the same thing. When, people are creating docs, when they're responding to Slack, when they're responding to an email, even if they get up in front of the company and, give a talk or give a little speech or present something, sometimes companies may have announcements that need to be made. These are all good opportunities to let other people take that on.

And it's the same thing with senior people. It's, you know, do you have to be working on that bug? Do you have to be fixing?

A lot of senior people love the firefighting. They love jumping in. When everything's broken. Cause they can fix it well... they're in the zone. When you have the pressure on like, that, it's easy to be motivated, right. I don't have to motivate someone like, can you get the site back up? Like, no, no, no, they're on it. They got it. But other people aren't learning. and this is also the times when they can't, you have your post game work, your chalk, talk, your retrospective, your post-mortem, if it's an outage, right.

And this is where, you know, your bench players should be learning from the senior people. This is an opportunity for your senior people to lead, and it's an opportunity for your bench people to grow, right?

So when you start talking to them and say, "look, we had an outage on Monday, this is what happened. This is what we did. This is how we attacked it."

Now everybody knows that cadence. And hopefully if it happens again, we can get someone else other than the senior person, to be working on it.

If it's, you know, if it's not customer impacting, but there's some, some issue going on, it's great to have a junior person do the work and have the senior person there to jump in when needed.

So you can think of the senior people as your relief pitcher. And as your, your new pitchers going in and they're getting their experience, once the game starts pulling away, you can swap them out. If they got, you know, a third or two thirds of an inning in that's great. That's more than they would have gotten. If you just went with your senior people. one of my senior engineers, came up to me early on. He said... you know, cause I asked him, you know, so I had one person. I'll give you a great example. So I don't know one great person. I was really struggling to give good feedback because this guy was killing it. He was the most productive person I had never had a complaint. Got shit done. Was just a great team player would do anything just didn't. He didn't have to get the flashy thing. He didn't need his name. Didn't have an ego. Did everything well. And he came to me and said, "how could I be better?"

And at that point, I was like, "wow, I'm really running out of ideas here. I can't ask him yet again. How could he be better?"

He's asking me... And the answer was, make other people better around you.. . Be the team captain. "

And he actually listed out eight things he did that made him as productive as he was and shared it with the team. And I don't know what the impact of that was, but that's where your senior people can really help lift the entire team.

And a lot of times, senior people like, especially if you have a legacy code base, their value is helping people find the area they need to work on fastest. What would take them maybe five or 10 minutes may take somebody three hours to find and that's where people can provide value. So it, it always, it varies on every team, but it's being able to say, "how can I make somebody else more productive? How can I help them level up? How can I help them grow?"

There's a lot of opportunities on the team to make that happen.

Jerry Li: Yeah. What is important is how do you leverage your time so that it creates more productivity or value for the entire team.

How to elevate and scale productivity and learning in your junior players

Darian Shimy: when we, when we do throwing drills, I like to take a strong player. And my rising star and have them throw. If I have the best players always throw together. It's not going to help... the younger players. Aren't going to be used to the speed. They're not going to be used to the velocity of the ball or the different angles that it comes in and they're going to watch them. And they're also going to say, "well, I'm going to want to be better."

Right. I, you know, someone told me when, when I was running a while ago, they said, "if you want to run faster, you have to run with faster people." And I think if you want to be better, you need to surround yourself with better people. And if you have, you know, some people who are starting off in their, in their career, working with senior people, they will see that. They will aspire to that.

You know, I remember being asked, "what is culture in a company? So it's a great question, but it's really hard to answer. Right? And for me, culture is "behavior that is rewarded in an organization." And people tend to emulate rewarded behavior.

So when they start seeing senior people doing things and getting praise and recognition and accolades for all their work, they'll start emulating that. What's great is it requires no work from the management. Right. It's just happening organically. They're going to see that go, "Well, I want to be like that. I feel like I can be better. Like how does that guy find these issues so quickly?" and they may go up to him and say, can you help me? Like, "where did you find that? How did you debug that?"

You know, a great question is... if you really want to increase team productivity is start sharing all the knowledge of how people debug. Apps are really complicated now with different services, different tiers, tracing is difficult... If you get someone to come in and say, "Hey, I've got it nailed. This is how I go find these problems. These are where I look for the logs." And that is a huge first step to get everybody productive, to level everybody up.

Jerry Li: Yep. And that's the magic of being a manager that you have the super power of doing a little thing, seemingly easy to do, spend very little amount of time, but the impact is humongous because you do something by inspiring one person and then in turn, maybe inspiring the entire organization to do something. So that's... I think that's the super power of being a manager. A lot of people don't realize that.

Darian Shimy: Absolutely. Absolutely. And just, like I said, the... you know, the IC wants to make himself scale, so does the manager. And you do that by having everybody work together as team. And this is why, and there's different styles of management. I'm not here to say one is better than the other. But you know, in a micromanagement culture where people are told what to do, told what they did wrong, you know, it's a very different relationship.

You know, there's, there's a great article that is saying that you should be a coach, not a referee. And the coach is the person who is there to help you to help you improve. The referee is the one who is there to point out all the problems . They're not there to make you better. And it's the same thing from a micromanager and a micromanagement standpoint you're going to tell them like, this is how you need to do your job without them actually finding the path.

And there are definitely situations where that is that works and is necessary. But what I have found to be more successful is when everyone is empowered to kind of lift everyone up together, Right.

You miss your pitch. It's like, "Hey, that's okay. There's another pitch coming." Like you got to, everyone has to kind of build everybody up. Everyone has to be there, you know, in some sense, as a cheerleader for everyone else to make them all better, make them motivated, make them feel confident so they can execute well.

How to handle the risk of failure when delegating

Jerry Li: Yeah. You talked about delegation in the past and I really liked the perspective you have on that. One concern when people are doing delegation is the risk of failing because delegation means you let other people take on somethings that are probably less efficient , then if you do it on your own.

So how do you handle that risk? What's your perspective around that?

Darian Shimy: Yeah, so, you know, and I think it's a lot of the word failure. And I think we need to get the word failure out of it.

So when, when someone's at bat and they strike out. They didn't get the outcome they wanted, but did they fail? Maybe they learned something for the next batter coming up. Maybe they learned how this pitcher operates or how the teams are moving in in the outfield. And they may be better to do that.

So I like to think of it as a learning, right? What did we learn from an outcome that was not what we were looking for? And how can we be better as a group?

Now from a management standpoint, there is risk, right? So you want to be careful of... you know, what tasks get assigned to people, the risk of failure and what will actually happen. But keep in mind that when people don't succeed, they learn and they grow, and this is a necessary part of it.

And a lot of the times it's, you know, I would say like the best way for a first time manager to think about it. The first time manager there's a lot of times they'll get like three to five people on our team and they can still exhibit a lot of control. And I tell people like, what if you had 50 people? If you had 50 people, your actions are very different, right? You're not going to be able to, you know, review every line of code. You're not going to be there for every deployment. You're not going to be there for every design review. Right? You're going to have to get the team to do this, and they're going to make mistakes and they're going to fail and they're going to grow from it.

And a lot of times when they make a mistake, they know it and you need to be there to make sure that they've learned from it and that we have necessarily controls. So it doesn't happen again. But they're the ones who didn't execute, not you. Right. And you can't be everywhere. So getting people, you know, to care, to execute to learn... is what needs to happen. I think when the, when the fear comes out of this, this concept of failing is when people really start to grow.

You know, I, I tell people, you know, when they're, when they're playing the game, they have to be relaxed. They have butterflies in their stomach. If they're nervous, they're playing with fear and that's a burden. It's like having a backpack on when you're running, you can't do it. You have to take that backpack off. You have to be free. You have to be like... enjoying it. And a lot of times you can just see the stress somebody goes up.

And this sounds absolutely crazy. But when I have batters come up and I see the terror in their eyes, I tell them to do one thing and it does... it works wonders. And that the one thing is smile.

I say you put the biggest smile on your face... and even when people are like exercising and working out they'll smile and they'll breathe in as quickly as they can. It does something with your endorphins and everything else. It gets you positive, gets you relaxed, gets you ready to go. So when things aren't going well, right? It's not that coming down and being angry . It's like, "Hey, like didn't go as planned, like, what did we learn? How can we be better next time? Right. You need to turn it into a positive moment. And then the failure isn't so bad.

Jerry Li: And in another sense that you have to have the mindset that it's okay for the task that is delegated to the other person to fail, because it creates a great learning opportunity that is not replaceable by a success story.

Darian Shimy: Yes.

Create consistent, good management by modeling the way

Patrick Gallagher: I was really just curious about how you impact the managers of managers to create that consistency of good management and good coaching?

Darian Shimy: Yeah. so a lot of it is lead. I mean, it sounds basic, but it's lead by example. So when the manager sees success elsewhere, they'll tend to emulate that as well. So when you start telling them, you know, we actually, we have this, w with the shelter in place that a lot of people are facing right now, we have a thing that we've noticed is a lot of people aren't taking vacation, right?

A lot of people will cancel their summer plans and things like that. And as a management, we're concerned about burnout. People are concerned about, "Hey, if I take time off, it's going to look like I'm not helping and contributing. Right."

So what we're trying to do is we're trying to, you know, highlight when a manager takes time off. And I say, "Hey, I'm taking some time off to be with my family, or I'm taking some time off because I need some mental health time"

And we're trying to make it... you know, change the culture so where they feel is okay to take a day off here and there, and they don't have to feel guilty when they do that. and I think from a, from a management standpoint, like how I try and impress my style upon everyone is I don't force it. I say, "look, you're the manager. You need to do what you know, works for you." Right? Because ultimately they have to feel in control that makes success. But I tell them like, "this is what I would do."

And generally, if it's reasonable, it tends to work. Even when I I've coached a lot of other coaches at times and told them, you know, this is how I help players, you know, who are casting when they, when they swing a bat, right? Or this is to help players who are throwing incorrectly.

And then. A lot of it is very reasonable to look at it. Go, yeah, that seems to work. It doesn't mean they're going to have success with it, but you're just giving them additional tools to use. And over time as a manager, if you keep leveling up your managers and keep giving them tools and giving them ideas and recipes, you know, and a playbook for how to do their job, it's going to tend to end up emulating your style. And that's where, you know, it tends to work.

And, and I've had managers that have been promoted from within which the job is super easy. Cause they're not really coming with much of a style and they're going to, it probably emulate what you have and have had other people who've come in who have been very seasoned, very experienced. Like "this is how I like to run things." I'm like, great. You need to be successful. I'm like, "this is how I want to handle that situation a little differently" and help them see that. but in the end you got to remember that everyone is going to make their own decisions. They're going to need to, you know, work on their gut instincts ...

You know, so I had a first time manager who came in and he was, he had a team and we had one engineer had been there for awhile who his performance started to go down and there's two things a manager could have done at this point.

He could have went up to him and said, "you know, I've noticed your performance isn't very good. You either need to make an improvement or we're going to have to let you go."

That would, would've been completely reasonable. Right. I wouldn't have, you know, I may have worded it differently, but I'm like, yeah. Okay. I see that.

The other side, right... was assuming positive intent, trying to see, "Hey, is every, you know, is, is this person okay?"

And he went up to him and said, "I noticed your work has kind of trailed off recently."

And he goes, "is everything okay?"

And this person was rather private. He didn't share a lot of his personal life or anything. He came, he finally came out and said, you know what... my cancer is back and I'm on chemo again. He goes "I'm having a really hard time focusing..."

I'm like "take some time off! Like, don't worry about it. We got it!"

You know, it was like, it's okay. You know?

He never would have said any I'm convinced to this day, if we would have said "you need to improve or you're outta her"

He wouldn't have said anything. He would have just tried and maybe failed, you know, if you work with people long... and I think this is also a problem in a lot of the tech is that people don't stay very long, they stay for 18 months, right? 12 months, 18 months, at most two years sometimes. I've had engineers with me who've been at the company for 12 years, 12 years! Right. I mean, I've been in my role for eight years. And a lot of people I work with have been there for that time or longer.

You think in eight years or 12 years, you're not going to have something in your personal life that's going to impact your professional performance? You're right. You're not going to have a family member that passes away. You know, a financial problem, a legal problem. Maybe there's a lot of things that can come up. Right. And I don't think you throw somebody away because of the first thing at home. It's this is important to understand that most people are good people. They're going to work hard. And when they have things and not, everyone's willing to share as much as others are, but when they have something at home that is affecting them, it's going to carry over to work. And it's important to recognize that, you know, sometimes they need a little latitude. Sometimes they need a little space.

And to that manager who was a first time manager, he said, the right thing. He said is everything okay. And they worked it out. And that engineer is still here today. And this, this was at least six years ago, he's doing a great job.

So it's one of those things that, you know, I think from a, from a style standpoint, right. You know, I tell stories a lot. So like I'm mentoring a couple people at work and they, you know, I said like, how can I help you? Right. I want, I want to hear from them what they want. And they said, they just want to hear the stories.

Because they want to see what the behavior is. They want to see the situational. Right. They don't want me to give them a recipe of, this is how you're doing one on one meeting. Right? There's a ton of content out there for that. But it's like, "Hey, when I did a 1:1 and my people keep coming to me and they don't have anything on the agenda, how did you handle that?"

Those are the stories they want to hear. Or how do you get people to really like speak up and open up?

The impact when you treat your team as humans

Patrick Gallagher: I really admire the thinking in stories and how that really resonates with people. Because even you just sharing this, this story, I'm going to remember that for a long time, about the importance of treating people as human and helping them deal with the things that are going on in their life and just the connection then that you then have as you're in your relationship, but also then the connection that they have to the organization as somebody, or as a source of support for them in hard times. I think that's really powerful.

Darian Shimy: Yeah. I think like right now there's a lot of managers out there who have, you know, a lot of people are working from home in our field. Not everybody has, you know, a good, a comfortable setup. Not every, you know, there's a lot of people who may have like a one bedroom apartment that they share with their spouse or partner. And they have a kid at home. They don't have a good environment to work. They don't have a place. Right. It's stressful for them. Right. So I think there's a lot of people understand that and the reaching out and say, "Hey, do the best you can."

You know, they, they, they know that they could have undo family stress right now. They're talking about it, but they didn't talk about it before the shelter in place before COVID-19. Right. But it's something that people I hope will continue. Doing the mental health check in. Like, are you doing okay? How are things right. Getting to know them a little bit better? it goes a long way kind of having that rapport.

You know, I had, I had one engineer. This is when I was at E-harmony a while ago. He was a really pro he had an, a, this is just dating a little bit mean he had his iPod with a ton of songs that have his headphones on.

He would come in in the morning, doesn't say anything, sits down, code away, go out and leave really didn't socialize or anything. And I needed to talk to him a few times. Anytime I went up, he would take it off. He'd roll the eyes. He'd be like what? You know, borderline disrespectful that's okay. Right. And I realized, you know, it took me a while.

And he was really into motorcycles. You know, he would joke that he would be able to put his knee down, leaning in like on the freeway and I'd be like, please wear a helmet. Right. so instead of coming up to him in the morning, going, "Hey, you know, how's this task coming?" You know. I went up to him and said, did you go riding this weekend? How's your bike? Yeah. Did you get that new part? Did you update this? You know, have you popped any wheelies with it...?"

I mean, I don't know anything about cycles, but I can at least strike a conversation with him. He opened up right away. He was like, Oh, he took it off. And it was like, cause I cared about him and he saw that.

Right. And it was genuine. I was like, I, I would literally look forward to talking about what he did on the weekend. He raced and all this other stuff. He showed me pictures. Like we started talking about that. That became our thing that we went through. And after that, it was so much easier for me to have a conversation with him.

And it really helped establish that bond of, you know, caring for people talking to them, like treating them as a human. Right. Not as a machine, as a robot.

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