S2E16 – Misleader Majority

Show Notes

The lack of exceptional leadership in tech companies is far from ideal, and this issue is exacerbated by the widespread presence of poor leaders. The situation becomes particularly troubling when these inadequate leaders believe they are competent or even exceptional.

Join Andy and Mon-Chaio in their conversation as they explore the reasons behind the prevalence of ineffective leaders, how current perceptions of leadership contribute to this imbalance, and the ways in which we, as leaders of individuals and organizations, can contribute to changing this trend.



Mon-Chaio: Here we are again, together for another episode of The TTL Podcast. I have since returned to the States, so we are not subjected to yet another VacationCast episode, which I think both Andy and I enjoy doing for the most part, but that’s not really why we started this podcast is to a bunch of VacationCast episodes, is it Andy?

Andy: No, and I have to admit, I find, personally, the VacationCast even harder than our regular episodes. They’re shorter, there’s not as much to talk about, but I find it much harder because we don’t have each other to play off of. I’m entirely in my own head and that was hard for me. Coming up with this last VacationCast, I struggled. Um, so, yeah.

Mon-Chaio: Well, and I think that’s what I enjoy about having two people on a single podcast, too, is that ability to banter off of each other. And beyond banter, kind of hear what each other has to think and say, oh, I hadn’t really thought about it that way before.

Andy: Yeah, I mean, and overall, that is a, just a great way of learning and working your way through an idea.

Mon-Chaio: Absolutely! And so hopefully that’s also why you all enjoy it. If so, you’re in luck. We’re back. To talk with each other and with you about a topic that you could say spawned this podcast: why are there so many bad engineering leaders? I mean this podcast wouldn’t exist if say 80 or 90% of the engineering leaders out in the world were good leaders, would they?

I mean, maybe it would, but I don’t think it would, at least not in its current format.

Andy: It probably wouldn’t. It probably also wouldn’t exist if we had experience of mediocre or bad leadership. Sometimes it’s very personal experience. I feel like I did not start all that great, and so I went through a lot of the lessons of how to not be a necessarily so bad leader. I’d like to think that I’m a fairly good one now, but that’s partly for others to judge, but not entirely.

Not entirely. We’ll get to that.

Mon-Chaio: Yeah. And you only know how good you are compared to others ’cause you can’t determine whether you’re at the pinnacle or whatnot without having something to compare to. But I would say that the way we think about leadership, and as we talk through the podcast, is about really digging into what makes a good leader based on evidence-based research, as well as what we’ve seen play out.

And there appears to have been a dearth of that. And so, as we talk through this idea of why do we think this podcast even has to exist? Why are there so many bad leaders? Perhaps we can come up with some tactics around what should you do to become a better leader? And how should just the general profession behave such that we move forward with spotting fewer bad leaders?

Andy: Mmm hmm.

Mon-Chaio: Umm, I would say first, just continue to listen to this podcast. That’s probably the best way, wouldn’t you, Andy? Just as long as you listen, you’re going to become a better leader?

Andy: Well actually, I think one of the biggest bits of evidence that our listeners are going to be better leaders is simply that they’re listening to the podcast. This isn’t like because we are the only ones who know, and you are listening to the experts on this. No, it’s not that, it’s that you have already taken one of the important steps, which is the belief that you can learn and get better at it.

Mon-Chaio: Mmm hmm.

Andy: I assume that’s why people would be listening to this. I hope that they’re not listening to it for our great eggnog recipes, ’cause that’s only gonna be once a year.

Mon-Chaio: I do know that there’s some people who’ve only listened to that episode. But, I agree there’s this concept of just putting in the effort, right? As we talked about in our Sabotaging Learning episode, there’s way more to it than that in order to action that learning and bed that learning such that it actually does good. But hey, if you’re at least taking the effort to learn you’re already better off than everybody that doesn’t. So let’s just get into it and before that I will say that I am going to tease something that Andy and I will be doing, other than this podcast, to try to help out and make better engineering leaders and help people grow in that way.

So stay tuned throughout the podcast, we’ll talk a little bit more about that.

Andy: Yep. So, Mon-Chaio, I want to bring up this idea of a terrible manager or a terrible leader, and the question of, can you even know? So …

Mon-Chaio: Can you even know?

Andy: … I was looking around, I was trying to find things. Like, what kind of advice do people get? And a little bit different from the way that I normally do research for a podcast.

Normally I’m on like Google Scholar or JSTOR or PubMed , looking for scientific articles. This time I went about it a little bit differently. Now I’m not on TikTok, just has never caught my attention, but I am, I am on YouTube. And so I decided to look for what advice on YouTube is there for people who are going to try to get into management or to figure out, do you have a good manager?

What are they looking for? And it was pretty variable. Some of them were completely dodging the question and answering something completely different. A few of them, actually, I thought were reasonable. The basic behaviors were pretty good. A few of them to me referenced what we value, which is the learning, putting the learning into practice, gaining that experience, getting foundational knowledge through theory, as well as practice.

I did find one person who I agreed with almost a lot of what they were saying and then they said, ” theory’s just theory.” I can’t remember the exact quote, but it was along the lines of “theory’s just theory, it’s practice that matters.” To me, theory informs practice. Practice informs theory. They go hand in hand.

But there’s one that I found in particular that it just left me a little puzzled, but I also think that it provides a glimpse of the way that people think about becoming a leader or an engineering manager or along those lines. It was a video titled “How to Tell if You Have a Terrible Manager”, ” from a principal at Amazon. It boils down to basically, they said, ” eh, the scientific literature is pretty unclear, they haven’t really come to a conclusion about how to identify someone who’s a bad manager, and so the best you can do is really kind of go off of the way that you feel about it and the way that the team is reacting.”

They came down to three questions: how long has the team existed, what is the manager’s tenure, and what is the attrition rate for senior people? And they felt that the answers to those questions would define whether or not someone’s a bad manager. And, I don’t know, that seems like pretty naive advice to me.

Mon-Chaio: It may well be naive advice. I will say that I have been at a number of companies where their manager evaluation rubrics start there, if not end there. Now, sorry, that’s a little bit of hyperbole. I’ve never seen a rubric that simply ended That said, those are the three questions, and whatever the results are, inform your performance rating.

But I have definitely seen performance rubrics that start there and weigh that pretty heavily insofar as it informs the conversation.

Andy: Yeah, to me that informs the conversation, absolutely. It is definitely tied to it, there’s a correlation there. But it’s not necessarily causation. And I’ll give a quote that I wrote down from the video, which is, “if you’re the best engineer on your team, you are the arbiter of whether the manager is good.”

Mon-Chaio: OK now, I think we can both agree that that is pretty problematic. Right? The thing that immediately comes to my mind is, there are so many words in there that are difficult to quantify. But let’s start with best engineer.

So rewind back a little bit. You remember when we talked about leadership styles? And we talked about there’s all these leadership styles and there’s ones that are not often used because, at least in the Western world, they tend to be seen as less, less effective leadership styles. But we said we should dig into them and there are good things to take away from that. And the obviously toxic leadership styles were ones where you’re committing atrocities against …

Andy: Atrocities against humanity. Yeah.

Mon-Chaio: That’s right. So, I think it’s the same way with teams and with leaders, but let’s go into the senior leader example. Just because you’re the best senior engineer on your team doesn’t make you objectively a good engineer Teams have many different demands and as teams change what their demands are, what a good engineer looks like is very different.

The easiest way to think about this is, if you’re the first hire at a seed stage company, what good looks like is going to be very different than if you’re the lead engineer on Microsoft Office.

Andy: Absolutely. In fact, the lead engineer on Microsoft Office would probably really struggle to really get a startup off the ground because the trade offs are just completely different. The timelines, the resources available, the questions that you need to answer and you’re going to get asked are all just completely different.

Mon-Chaio: That’s absolutely true. And so if we take that and extend that to this video author’s comment that if you’re the senior-most, highest-performing engineer on your team, you’re the only arbiter of whether your manager is good or not. Consider your manager coming in and deciding, well, you are currently operating as if you were the principal engineer of Office, but this team really needs to act more like a seed stage company.

Andy: Mmm. Mm hmm.

Mon-Chaio: Well, all of a sudden, your impressions of the way that that leader is working are probably now less valid than some of the other engineers that quote-unquote weren’t as high performing or aren’t as senior, whatever that bar looks like. So at least for me, that’s the thing that immediately comes up in my mind.

Andy: Yeah, and I think that’s part of what I had in mind when I said it’s a fairly naive understanding. I think the other part of it is that there appears to me to be an inherent belief based in this, which is that the best engineer understands leadership and management, understands the trade offs that are having to happen in that realm and in that domain.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andy: And so they are an arbiter of whether the person is a good manager. And I think it’s that same belief, getting onto the why do we have so many bad leaders, if that same belief then gets taken into management, then you have this view that the best managers will somehow magically come from, you can tell my bias in that, will somehow magically come from your best engineers.

Now the thing is, and I think we’ve talked about this before, it doesn’t work that way. And I think many organizations are realizing that, and that’s why you’ll hear management is not a promotion. Management is a different profession. And part of it is because it’s to break this connection between, oh, if you’re good at engineering, that means you’ll be good at management. But another part of that is that it is a different knowledge domain. Which means that if you’re good at engineering, it doesn’t mean you know anything about management.

Now, there is a truth to what he said as well, which is that what the manager does has an impact on that engineer, on that supposedly best engineer. And that impact, they are the judge of. That engineer can be the judge of what is this manager’s impact on me. And that is very real, and that’s valid. But they have to understand that it’s not their ability to manage that necessarily is what they’re judging there.

Mon-Chaio: Playing off that thought, one of the things that I often think about is this concept of global effectiveness versus local effectiveness. And we didn’t really have time to touch on this, I don’t believe, in our remote work series. But I think one of the challenges with global team effectiveness is a lot of people think that it’s the sum of local individual effectiveness. And so if I make every individual on my team the best that they can be, then my team itself will therefore be the best that it can be. Now hopefully, at least some people don’t believe that. And if you do, well, I think this is not quite the forum to talk why or why not that might be the case.

Let’s take for the fact that this is a tautology that that’s not the case. If you’re a single engineer on a team, you are often looking out for your local maxima in effectiveness and comfort and whatnot. That is not and should not be your manager’s concern. Your manager’s concern or your leader’s concern should be global effectiveness, and that often means making an individual person locally less effective.

And so to say that that individual person can then judge that leader, that they are the final arbiter to that leader’s effectiveness and performance, I think is quite problematic. Unless of course, and I’ve seen these people and I don’t think that they’re rare, I don’t think that they’re not rare, but I don’t think that they’re rare, these people that can subsume a little bit of their individual ambitions and individual comfort to say yes, I do agree that I, as a senior engineer, need to do the job of an entry-level grad for six months for the betterment of the team. I have seen those people and like I said, they’re not rare.

But it does require an individual to be able to think that way to at least start to be able to say that individual can be an arbiter of a team’s leadership and how well they’re performing

Andy: And right there, you’re getting to one of the things about why are there so many bad leaders? Although you said it’s not rare, I feel like it is a bit more rare. Which is the ability to see the whole system. Now, I think a lot of software engineers are okay at seeing the whole software system, but really stuggle when they start needing to deal with the whole socio-technical system. Because the software system is one part of a much larger system, and the managers are dealing with that much larger system.

An example of this from a completely different domain, I was asking my wife about this. She’s a social worker. And this is not just in software engineering that we have this problem, this issue of the best individual contributor is expected to become a really good manager. And there, social work, you might think, oh, well, of course, there’s even more overlap in some of the skills of a manager, an individual contributor. Specifically she called out empathy, they are trained on empathy and trained on empathetic techniques, understand how this person is dealing with the world. You might think, oh, person going into management might do much better.

The name of the skill may be the same, but the way they practice it is very different. They don’t use the same empathetic techniques on clients that they would on employees.

Mon-Chaio: Hmm.

Andy: And it doesn’t translate to good management. In fact, I’ve seen this from people who are more like psychologists, where they think that because they’re a psychologist, they understand people. And they may be a great psychologist, and they may be great when they have that client-doctor relationship.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm.

Andy: But then they try to translate that into the employee-manager relationship. And it doesn’t work. The techniques don’t work the same. The issues aren’t the same. The relationship isn’t the same. And so you need to understand that there are those differences, and you need to understand the psychology of what’s going on, the complete system, the socio-technical system that’s happening, and how that is just different in the relationship that you’re now in.

And if you don’t have that understanding, if you don’t do that right, it doesn’t matter that, yes, technically you are trained and skilled in these techniques. It still won’t work.

Mon-Chaio: And the social technical system is such an important part of that. I believe the last season you did a VacationCast episode on that.

Andy: Yes!

Mon-Chaio: And I don’t think, we use the term quite enough because it is both social and technical.

Andy: Yeah, we should probably do a full episode digging into what this is and what it means, and where it came from. It’s got a fascinating history, which I did go over a little bit in my VacationCast. ,

Mon-Chaio: But sticking on topic here for at least the time being, I think one of the challenges with why we have so many bad leaders is this concept of leader and manager at different organizations and different groups differs.

Andy: Yes.

Mon-Chaio: And I don’t think that we do a good enough job as a profession saying that, look, there are, I’m going to make up a number here, seven different types of leaders.

Whether that’s, you know, there’s a tactical leader, there’s a strategic leader, there’s a caring leader, or whatever the case may be. I’m just coming up with these off the top of my head. But I have certainly seen companies that want to bring in a leader, and what they want that person to do, I think this is your term, Andy, is be an administrator …

Andy: Mmm, mmm hmm.

Mon-Chaio: … right?

They brought them in because they can’t write all the performance reviews of their team anymore. It’s too many for them to do. They need a person to come in and do that. And they need a person to come in and make sure that their Scrum is performing well. And to add up all the spreadsheet numbers to figure out whether they can move a project along or whether it needs to be behind something else. And understand the bug inflow, outflow.

And that, yes, that’s an important role. But I don’t think for us, that’s not what we would categorize as a leader. And I think a lot of people grow in these roles and get promoted in these roles and they think they are good leaders because perhaps that’s even what the CTO of that particular organization does just at a larger scale.

And so I think that there are so many different types of leaders and without categorizing and understanding them, that also contributes to the fact that people think they’re a good leader because they’ve only emulated or seen leaders in that sphere and they don’t actually know what’s possible in terms of taking leadership to the level at which they are actually multiplying, the effectiveness and impact of their teams.

Andy: And I think there’s a really good, distinction that was starting to show up in what you were talking about, Mon-Chaio, which is this difference between a leader and a manager. They’re not mutually exclusive, but they are not the same thing. And that a senior engineer can be a leader just as much as a VP of Engineering can be a leader. They’ll exercise that leadership in different forms, which is really important to understand how you within your place within an organization can exercise leadership. But we don’t often make that clear distinction. We don’t often, as you said, have a taxonomy of what do these different leaders do? What do they look like?

And it means that also we start conflating terms. We start conflating manager with leader, or we start conflating principal with leader, tech lead with leader. And when we start doing that I think we look to the wrong attributes when trying to find role models. We start saying, ah, I want to be a really good senior engineer that can lead things. And so you start looking to just senior engineers. Whereas what you need to be thinking about is how do people lead from within a team? You need to look for a role model who has that ability to do something from within the team. You might be thinking of, I want to be someone who can reorganize a large department. Well, now you need to be looking for a role model who seems to be able to influence and lead across multiple groups. Get the buy in of peers that all have their own big groups around them as well.

And so, I think one of the big things here is why does bad leadership exist?

Either we have no role models or we choose role models based on the wrong attributes.

Mon-Chaio: Or there might even be a third one. Which is because leadership is so complex, we choose a role model based on our primary and secondary attributes. But then they are our role model. And perhaps their tertiary and below attributes are bad, right? Maybe they are great at doing reorganization, and so you look at them as they’re great at organizational design, but perhaps their employee growth is not as good. But maybe their employee growth is the best in your organization, and so you think that that is the ceiling for how you go about growing employees. And because of some of the other things we’ve talked about, YouTube isn’t going to inform you any different.

Andy: Yep.

Mon-Chaio: So you say, look, this is the person, right? This is the person I’m going to emulate. Where probably, to what you were talking about Andy, is really you should be finding a different mentor for each attribute.

That’s tiring! How do you go about doing that?

Andy: I think you’d need a group to help you find mentors and role models.

Hint hint.

Mon-Chaio: Hint hint, hmm.

Andy: And actually this is a little bit like putting together a stock portfolio, each one of them has various attributes and they’ll do fine, but you can’t predict the future. And so to have a well diversified portfolio, you need to have a whole bunch of different things in your portfolio.

You might need stocks from a few different industries and maybe even different countries, depending on the risks you want to deal with. You’ll want bonds in there, and you’ll want maybe even commodities if you want to get really adventurous. Get in some gold and silver. You might even start thinking that I’m on the cutting edge, and so I need to get Bitcoin in here, or Ethereum, or something like that.

But the idea is that any one of those can lead you down a very risky path because they can’t cover everything. They will have their ups and downs. And so to do this well, you need access to a range of, well, going back to people, a range of people to help you flesh out all of those blind spots.

Mon-Chaio: And like stock portfolios, the stuff that’s in the public isn’t always the one thing that’s going to get you to where you need to go. You might hear a specific stock or a specific type of stock dominating all the news coverage, tech is blowing up or whatnot. And that happens also with leadership.

Think about all the leaders that have been brought into your organizations over time and how they’re introduced to you, about why they’re brought in. I brought in a new VP or I brought in a new CTO because … Have you ever heard they brought them in because they did a good job of working themselves out of a job and therefore they weren’t needed at their last company anymore?

I would say generally in my experience, people are brought in because they’ve done great things. They’ve launched great products, and they have built large organizations, and they have created millions of dollars, and they’re on the board this or that …

Andy: Oh yeah. They’re on the board of a big tech company, which means that they’ll know what they’re doing. Yeah, there’s this cargo cult on things. On the topic of cargo cult and big name companies, I saw a thing where a guy created a resume of a made up person. Made up jobs and made it so that they were at Amazon and Google and Meta.

Mon-Chaio: Mmm hmm.

Andy: And then the things that they did at the job were completely red flags of, you do not want this person anywhere near your organization. Sent it out to a hundred companies and got invited in for something like 20 or 30 interviews. The cargo cult there is, it’s not that this person had any basis, not that they had any big grounding from their CV. It was purely that there’s this implied excellence that comes from those particular companies. And that’s cargo culting. You see that that’s what someone is doing. And so you say, I need to imitate that.

Mon-Chaio: Right. And that example is funny. I would say that it’s not entirely accurate, given that you might say that if they were actually at those companies, they could have never performed those red flag things. And there’s this concept those companies do great screening, which we can argue about how great their screening is and all of that sort of thing But the cargo culting part is really real and I’m glad you use that language.

Because leadership is so difficult and so multifaceted, and also because the runways are so long, right, a lot of good leadership takes years to realize If I say i’m a strategic leader, it’s going to take me years to realize that strategy often because it’s so complex. And so a lot of times that gets segmented down into just these quips and these summaries of what they’ve done over time. And combine that with the fact that an individual can only have so long of a career, right?

I mean, your career is only 20, 30 years. If you’re being hired for CTO, maybe 30 years long or whatever. If you’re being hired for a CTO of a big company, That doesn’t give you time to say, look, I’ve done enough and I failed at enough and I’ve succeeded enough to tell me that I’m a good leader. Perhaps I just ran into a string of good luck. Right? Maybe my product partners at the previous three companies I’ve been in were actually way better than I was and way better than the average product partner. And it was their massaging of the marketplace and it was their strategy around how we market that really got the product to where it needed to be.

And the engineering effort could have been less than stellar. Even if it was stellar, it could have been less than stellar and it would have still succeeded. So I think taking those small sample size and then saying, well, these are the leaders that accomplish these small sample-size goals, and therefore it is important to model myself after them.

When leadership is so multifaceted, I think all comes together into this weird ball of, well, if I’m not Steve Jobs, then I’m not a good leader.

Andy: I think we should just all go into the Himalayas for a nice yoga retreat. We’ll come back clarity of mind and know what to do. It will glorious!

Mon-Chaio: Okay. But that’s not, that’s not the worst advice, but perhaps we can talk about, yes, we can’t all do that. But what do we do, right? If we’re saying, look, we can’t just emulate a Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos, or Zuckerberg and say, those are our leadership mentors. We can’t emulate them because of the multifacetedness of leaders because of small sample sizes, and we can’t just cargo cult what they do. How can we identify, what do we know about good leadership? Is there objective good leadership that we should be learning about knowing?

Andy: I think there’s …

I want …

Okay, I’ll put it this way. I want to believe that there is And I’m on a continuous search for where it might be. And I think that’s the best that we can do. And the continuous search for where it might be is going to be taking a look at Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos and even Elon Musk, probably. Possibly as a negative example.

Mon-Chaio: Well remember that there’s multifaceted. So maybe there’s a facet of what he does …

Andy: That’s the point is taking that and understanding what’s going on there. And using that to build for myself and build for others a theory about leadership. Connecting it to studies, empirical evidence, reflecting on my own practice, finding those role models and mentors and others that I can learn from and get their take on how to interpret what’s going on and continually build.

To me, is there an objective best leadership? Ooh, I really doubt it. Because one of the things we’ve said, there’s so many different situations and so many different ways that you might need to approach it that I don’t think any one of us can actually embody all of the different possibilities. And so we build ourselves into the leaders that we want to be by following a process of scientific knowledge and improvement … and I’ll say self discovery, but I don’t mean it in like the woo-woo, you just kind of know this mystical aura thing, but in reflection on your own philosophy and way of thinking. This action science approach, which is that my values and beliefs will affect the actions I take. And to change the actions I take, I need to change my values and beliefs.

And it’s that. It’s creating a community and connections that help me do that. What do you think, Mon-Chiao?

I, I think that was, it was a very long complicated explanation of the way I view this.

Mon-Chaio: I think you’re absolutely right and I agree with everything you said. You made me think though, we use the term cargo culting and , correct me if I’m wrong here, Andy, I believe the original phrase came from natives on an island where supplies were being dropped off by cargo planes, correct?

Andy: Yep, during the Second World War, the U.S. Army or Navy or Air Force or whatever it was, was dropping cargo to supply soldiers on the island.

Mon-Chaio: And the natives didn’t understand how that cargo got there, but they emulated the observable behaviors without knowing the whys behind the behaviors, hoping that they would get the same result. Hence, cargo culting.

Andy: That, that’s the story. It’s a great story. I really want to find out if it’s true.

Mon-Chaio: As we do, as the two of us tend to do. And I think the why is so important. But humans are complex, right? It’s very difficult to say, does Scrum work and why? Should I be doing Scrum?

Andy: We’re also great at rationalizing things, coming up with after the fact, why I decided to do something. We’re great coming up with the reason.

Mon-Chaio: And why that was the thing that made it successful above all else. And so I think that journey of discovery is really important because of trying to understand the why. And that’s the only way you get past cargo culting, to me, is by really digging into, okay, but why did that work? Is there evidence to show why that worked?

Andy: Mm hmm.

Mon-Chaio: And it doesn’t have to be scientific evidence, but I think we both like scientific evidence because it’s replicable. And remember that small sample size problem. If I say that doing three week Scrums are the way to success, and I point at my 13 different examples of how that might be, well, how many different teams and Scrums and, are running out in the world, right?

And so being able to use something scientific to say, hey, here is a AB study that was done on three weeks Scrums versus one week Scrums. Here is a thing where they took 13,000 companies out in the world and looked at them. I think that’s really the only way to start to get a foundation for the whys. Because if you’re taking a look at a leader and you’re saying given their past accomplishments, can you project what their future accomplishments are going to be? Because of small sample size and cargo culting. I think the only way that you can do a reasonable job of that, in my opinion, Is to look at their foundational whys and to figure out whether those whys have basis in fact.

Andy: Is it that they have a defensible approach to things? Or is it that they would give you the reason of “this is just what I was taught.”

Mon-Chaio: And in some ways to me that’s this process over outcome. If i’m interviewing a leader, my personality and what I personally believe in terms of leadership excellence I would much rather interview a leader that said look, I’ve never been able to develop a successful product. But here’s the basis by which I go about it, and why it’s failed three times. Versus a leader that said I was able to develop three multi-billion dollar products and here’s the way I go about it without really understanding the whys of it.

Now again, that rationalization will come back and they will definitely give you whys. But do those whys have foundational merit in something that’s replicable that allows you to say, well, yes, I can see that in a different situation that foundation will also lead us to success.

Andy: And how much are people, I don’t know if we’ve talked about this before, how much are people willing to admit that randomness is a dominant factor in many things?

Mon-Chaio: Agreed. No one will ever say this, right? And I won’t ever say it if I go back out interview, but I wish I would hear more people say, look, I built this billion dollar product, and I think it was probably 50/50, I think I contributed a lot to it, but man, the market was just ready for it …

Andy: Yeah, it just happened that we were at the right time, and you know what? Everyone was buying it, which really gave us the runway to iterate on it and get it to the point where, and it looks like a great product now. But when we started, it was chance. It was pure chance. Like, in fact, I was looking at our competitor and they were somehow better, but people liked our name more.

Mon-Chaio: Right. Or, because we have reach, we were able to develop a really crappy product that the market wasn’t ready for. And we had the reach that it appeared on everyone’s mobile device, because we have that reach. And so we created a market out of nothing, but it wasn’t because of anything we did as a product group, other than put it on the main app of something that had reach, right? So, yeah, I think you’re right, there’s a lot of randomness to it.

Andy: Yeah. So, let’s wrap this up. What can we leave people with? Yes, there’s lots of bad leaders out there. We think it’s because they’re not actively looking to expand their knowledge and education on leadership. That they’re seeking out either no or the inappropriate role models. That, we really want people to instill in themselves a belief of how to acquire knowledge and how to improve. And that there’s a lot of chance involved in success. I think it’s the last one we got to.

Mon-Chaio: I’ll start with, I think, what we started with at the beginning. Which is just be willing to learn.

Andy: Mm hmm.

Mon-Chaio: Be willing to understand that there may be leaders out there that you haven’t even seen before that are great. Be willing to consider ideas that to you are like, What?

You don’t do iterations or Scrums at all? You just pick something to work on? How could that possibly be true? And really consider it, because there is a lot to learn.

Andy: You just … something to work on, commit and push to master, and it deploys automatically?

Mon-Chaio: No, no, no. You can’t work without branches. Come on. I mean, we’re talking about the realm of reality.

Andy: I guess I’ve been doing it wrong for 20 years.

Mon-Chaio: Um, but no, like, like, commit to learning, right? And this is not just a I read a leadership book once every year, one book a year, but really commit to learning. And for companies, I would suggest help out developing the new age of leaders. Remember our learning episode though. That’s not just that formalized learning thing.

It’s space for people to practice those ideas beyond just their day to day work. So that’s, I think, the first thing that I would say.

Andy: Yeah, that having those informal learning moments and informal learning approaches. Because you can bring someone in the outside who can provide quite a bit of formal learning. If they structure it right, they can also provide a set of informal learning.

But that formal learning really beds in when they get a chance to practice it as an informal activity where it becomes real and they’ve actually now got that muscle memory, that fingerfertigkeit.

Mon-Chaio: That’s a fancy word, sir. You’re going to have to put that in the show notes. Yeah, but that practice is important. That practice is really important, and just thinking that serendipity is going to give you enough situations to practice what you learned formally, that’s never going to be true. So you’ve got to find those discrete moments that allow you to bed that learning in.

Andy: And then also don’t forget to find mentors from different backgrounds, different educations, different stages in their career, because each one will have a different take on what’s going on and might be the one that you’re needing at that time. So you need to cultivate having several different mentors, different people that you can listen to.

And I think one thing, when I first heard the term mentor, I felt like it was this very formal relationship. Which it can be. You can hire mentors. But it doesn’t have to be that very formal relationship. It can be just the person that you might go to and ask a question of. And that would be great. Just someone that you appreciate their advice.

Mon-Chaio: Mm hmm. But that can be challenging, Andy, right? With our work lives dominating our time.

Andy: Mm hmm.

Mon-Chaio: And how do we even go about finding these mentors? Other than listening to this podcast, really, are we really going to spend all our time on JSTOR and PubMed searching for the proof that certain concepts work or don’t work? Or how many blogs do we possibly have to read to get one nugget of, oh, here’s an interesting practice that I hadn’t thought about yet?

Andy: That’s where we really need some sort of mentorship group that would help us take each other through this, to come up with those articles, debate those articles, get the take on it from different perspectives, different interpretations of what’s happening and different explanations for how to understand your own situation. So I think what we need is we need mentoring and coaching groups where you can come in and you can learn from yourself and others and have someone help guide you and the whole group through that.

Mon-Chaio: Mmm hmm. I would agree. And I think that is something that Andy and I are both very passionate about And I hope real soon you’ll see that that’s something that we are going to make available to the community, developing a community of leaders that really want to get better, want to become the best versions of themselves So stay tuned for that. We’re not quite ready to announce exactly what we’re talking about yet But when we do, we’ll let you know. And hopefully y’all are going to be excited to come and join us.

But until that’s up and running, continue listening to The TTL Podcast. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please give it a like, or give us a comment. Let us know what you think. You can also send us your feedback at hosts@thettlpodcast.com. Anything from what you think about the topics that we present to what you hope we will cover in future episodes.

But, until next time, be kind and stay curious.


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