Every few weeks, I ask one question to a founder, CEO, manager, or business owner I respect…
The Heartbeat Podcast: A chat with Pooja Brown
Pooja Brown is the VP of Platform Engineering at Stitch Fix. We both spoke on the same panel here in San Francisco, and I so appreciated her incisive insights on building and managing teams, based on her experience over the past 10 years. And so, I had to invite her on the podcast. At the time I interviewed her, Pooja was the VP of Engineering at DocuSign – so you’ll notice us chat primarily about her experience there. It’s a real treat: We talk about how to stay sharp on your domain expertise, how to align teams, and how backing off is an important skill in management. Watch or listen to the full conversation below…
Have you been enjoying these Heartbeat episodes, lately? If so, it’d mean the world to me if you wrote us a review in iTunes. The more reviews we have, the more we’re able to share all our lessons from leaders. Thank you! <3
What I’ve been writing lately
When to give feedback to an employee?
“A perfect time to give feedback doesn’t exist – but some times are better than others. In deciding when to give feedback to a direct report, consider these 4 things.”
Our Operations Manager wrote this with me in mind 🙈:
How to impress your new boss in your first 30 days
“When you start a new job, your goal is to make a good impression. Here are 8 ways to impress your new boss in the first 30 days.”
What I’ve been reading lately
Everything you know about giving feedback at work could be wrong
“The best managers seem to know what the best neuroscientists know: We’ve got to get out of the advice business. It makes us feel helpful, it makes us feel confident and we feel useful. What we’ve got to remember is if you want to help someone grow, you’ve got to start with where they are and who they are.” Written by Jena McGregor, Washington Post
Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure
“If you’re trying to build resilience at work, you need adequate internal and external recovery periods. As researchers Zijlstra, Cropley and Rydstedt write in their 2014 paper: “Internal recovery refers to the shorter periods of relaxation that take place within the frames of the workday or the work setting in the form of short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, by shifting attention or changing to other work tasks when the mental or physical resources required for the initial task are temporarily depleted or exhausted. External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of work—e.g. in the free time between the workdays, and during weekends, holidays or vacations.”” Written by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan, Harvard Business Review
People are more trustworthy than you think
“Unfortunately, an attitude of mistrust turns out to be more dangerous that you’d think. First, it can cause you to tune out information you need to hear. If you think you know another’s intent (and you assume it is selfish), you will pay less attention to what he or she tells you. This can cause you to misread a situation and take the wrong actions in response.” Written by Elizabeth Doty, strategy+business
The Power of a Clear Leadership Narrative
“Yet, when asked what skill or behavior was the most important to leadership effectiveness, the answer was being able to articulate a clear sense of purpose, vision, and strategy. What at first seems old is new again: Clarity of communication in a hyper-speed world is a key difference maker in the eyes of current managers and leaders from around the world.” Written by Douglas A. Ready, MIT Sloan Management Review
A handy leadership tip
What to do when CEO / your manager is micromanager + bottleneck
- Diagnose the knowledge gap:
Your CEO isn’t delegating for a reason – and it’s often because they’ve
been burned by a time in the past when they did delegate, and it led to
a bad outcome. Your CEO has an intimate knowledge of the business, and
often times that isn’t translated well when delegated, thus leading to
the bad outcome.
- For example: The person being delegated to makes a decision in the absence of some piece of information that provides vital context, and the leader isn’t aware that piece of information is missing because it’s “common sense” (or rather, something the leader takes for granted because they’ve known it for a long time).
your CEO to talk about what decisions could be delegated in theory, and
to divide them into 3 categories: (1) “could in theory be delegated,”
(2) “could be shared,” or (3) “must be mine.”
- If not much lands in the first two piles, the visual alone might help the CEO externalize and discuss the burden they’ve taken on.
- When the CEO does put a decision in the “could in theory be delegated pile,” then you can have a discussion about what sort of understanding people need to have, what North Star people should steer toward, and what boundaries/constraints will mitigate risk.
- For many CEOs it is hard to let go of decisions. And until people understand the context, they may be right about risks. Work step-by-step to build capacity for other people to decide, and for them to see that other people will make good decisions when they have good information.
I wrote about what to do when you have a micromanaging boss here.
Just for fun
What Matters More Than Your Talents
Jeff Bezos’ 2010 commencement address to Princeton about gifts vs. choices.