This is the last of our CTO Craft Smells series, this time focusing on how leaders can trip themselves up through not managing themselves well enough.
It's important to add, after these articles, that it's easy to see lists like these and feel overwhelmed or disheartened - that's not at all the intention, and these pitfalls are ones we've chosen precisely because they're so common, from first-time leaders all the way up to corporate CTOs. Nobody is infallible, and everybody has the ability to turn things around.
If you're struggling with any of the issues in the CTO Smells series, CTO Craft is the first place to come - whether you just want to calibrate with thousands of other engineering leaders, learn from experts in our Bytes series or join one of our Circles, we're able to help you. Drop us a line.
Andy @ CTO Craft
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How to identify and address CTO smells - Self-management
Process, tick. People management, tick. So, what is there left to learn? Well, more about you and the way you manage. It’s easy to forget that leadership is as much about supervision of others as it is about supervising yourself. Looking at the behaviours you exhibit when managing on a day-to-day basis helps confront the mistakes you make that will indirectly (but negatively) impact your team and the business as a whole. Here are seven of the most common:
1. Making knee-jerk decisions — As a leader, you’re often asked to make quick decisions based on the information readily available. But sometimes stress, lack of time or external distractions cause some people to behave reactively and make decisions that are at best thoughtless and at worst, harmful. Acting this way can induce feelings of fear and disrespect among a team and may breed resentment.
2. Not asking for help — Leaders who can’t or won’t ask for help are walking a thin line. A stressed-out manager who has taken on too many tasks (when many are ripe for delegating) or is out of their depth. risks making ill-informed decisions, missing deadlines and neglecting their teams.
3. Can’t stop coding — Taking a step back from code can be difficult for a first time tech lead, especially if you love it. But continuing to code full-time means that you’ll have less time to propagate and nurture your technological vision, and other areas of the business, including your team, may lack direction.
4. Poor time management — Juggling the demands of your workload with the demands of your team can leave little time for much else and risks either the former or latter suffering neglect.
5. Being too attached to the company / product — As a company scales and a product is delivered, the challenges faced change with it. And there will come a time when it’s right for a leader to start stepping back before ultimately, passing the reins and moving on. But there remain leaders who are too emotionally attached and don’t change and grow. This is typical of entrepreneurs who consider their startup as extension of themselves, but this often leads to reactionary decisions and loss of perspective.
6. Avoiding responsibility — The title doth not the leader make. Feeling out of their depth or fearing failure can sometimes cause new tech leads to make decisions too slowly or not at all. Shirking management duties can also lead a lack of direction and alliance, and inconsistent (and sometimes conflicting) action being taken.
7. Refusing to listen — EVERYTHING involves discussion; from learning what motivates your team, through understanding the pressures faced by other parts of the business, to creating the best end product. None of this can happen efficiently or effectively without a leader who is willing to sit down, be quiet and take what they are told on board.
‘People leave bad managers, not bad companies.’
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