on authenticity


Non-authentic is a virus in anything you do in life.  Non-authentic is not benign. It metastasizes like a tumor. ~ @cookflix


Upside down. Authentic.When I first started people managing, I was given some simple advise: always find one personal thing from each person’s life and remember to ask them about it every week.

I’ve always remembered that.  I don’t recall how much I put it into practice but as I’m learning how to lean into my strengths, I keep coming back to that.

I’m a little embarrassed but it was probably a forced exercise back then. I was new to world of people managing and near clueless on coaching.

Contrast that to today where I still reach back out to those I used to work with – my Tribe. Except that it isn’t forced.

Authenticity builds trust.  Authenticity builds connections.


au·then·tic [aw-then-tik]
adjective: not false or copied;


True leaders come from a place of authenticity. They may look like a heretic or a crazy dancing guy but they are always coming from an Authentic Place.

As I delve into leadership – and really coaching those I work with – I try to always come from that place. Its easy to say this is part of my brand. I’m not sure it always was but my time at Mozilla helped me focus on being as open and transparent as possible.


trust [trəst]
noun: assured reliance on character, ability, strength; one in which confidence is placed


And then you have this trust thing.  And here’s the deal. If you come from an Authentic Place, you generate trust.

Kate Stull (@katestull) says it best in her blog post “Death to top-down leadership models“,

“Teams are no longer content to accept the overarching pronouncements from a shadowy boss figure that they never see, let alone speak to. Instead, people want to be led by someone they know. Someone they trust.”

There’s that word. Trust. I can’t get to that place of trust without being authentic. I can’t build a connection with you if I’m not authentic.

Otherwise you’re just a virus.

developing my brand (week 4) ~ LinkedIn & story telling

[This is fourth in a series I started three weeks ago on creating my personal brand. I missed my own publishing deadline for this past week and I apologize for that. I started a new job this week at Lookout and as any first week can do, shifted my learning priorities.]

Creating Your Personal Brand – Week 4

mrz-linkedinMy social media channels largely revolve around Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn wasn’t something I spent too much time cultivating.

That is, until this past August when I started interviewing. I completely understand the importance of LinkedIn but since, for the past seven years, I wasn’t job searching, it didn’t feel important.

Week 4 came at a good time.


“One of the biggest reasons to have a great personal brand is that when it comes to getting a job, having a well-defined, well-known version of your awesome professional self is extremely helpful. So that’s why today is all about taking your personal brand and using it to whip your tired old LinkedIn profile into shape! ~ @popforms


Building a LinkedIn Profile

As a hiring manager myself, LinkedIn was where I’d go to read someone’s story before I interviewed them.

I looked at my LinkedIn profile page – my story – as three parts:

  1. About me
  2. Where I’ve worked
  3. What matters to me

About me

I happened to be refreshing and moving my blog at the same time as I was updating my résumé/CV. Updating my LinkedIn profile went hand-in-hand with this. I focused first on my “about” page and then rolled that into versions I felt went best with LinkedIn or on a CV.

You should know what makes me me and who mrz is after reading this.

Where I’ve worked

This has always felt like a very tactical, bullet point-ish section but also an essential part of my story. I think a bulleted list is important but why not start off with a story?

For my role at Mozilla, I told a very short story in two sentences:

As Mozilla’s first Network Engineer, it was my responsibility to build Mozilla’s initial data center presence in San Jose, including building a network from scratch. In 2008 I took over management of a seven person IT/Ops team, including Desktop Support and over saw the build out of two international data center locations and eventually grew IT/Operations to a team of over 65 distributed around the globe.

I followed this with a short bullet list of highlights that every hiring manager – myself included – likes to look at.

What matters to me

I have to give an overdue hat tip to my wife. Her CV focused nearly entirely on her volunteer work at the grade school and other local groups. That inspired me.

Outside of my family and work there are a number of other things I do that matter to me. Without these, I am not me.

Reflecting on this actually made me edit my about page to include Causes that are dear to me.

One last thought

In Jake Wood’s article, “5 Lessons On How to Build High Impact Teams“, he mentions that one of the key areas to building a team is to build a brand that inspires.

That shouldn’t be limited to just teams. My personal brand should tell my story. It should inspire.

You can judge for yourself how well I did.

managing or leading?

“People want to be led by someone they know. Someone they trust.” ~ https://popforms.com/death-to-top-down-leadership/

More than five years ago I started managing a team. Five years later I wasn’t so much as managing a team of 60 as I was leading a team of 60.

There’s a big difference between the two words managing & leading. One is much harder than the other. One is tactical. A means to an end. Book knowledge.


Leader

lead·er [ˈlēdər]
noun: someone who knows where they’d like to go, but understands that they can’t get there without their tribe, without giving those they lead the tools to make something happen; takes responsibility

Manager

man·ag·er [ˈmanijər]
noun: someone who works to get their employees to do what they did yesterday, but a little faster and a little cheaper; wants authority


The other is empowering. It is a way of mentoring and teaching. It is about inspiring others to follow into the unknown. To take risks. To accept failure. To require failure.

For those who on paper I manage, it is more than simply a means to an end.

It’s about me focusing on you – my tribe – and only on you.

It’s about me being authentic & vulnerable. It’s about me trusting you.

It’s me helping you grow. It’s you helping us grow.

And in the process we get stuff done.

failure

“I’m not afraid to fall; it means i climbed up high
to fall is not to fail; you fail when you don’t try
~ Superchick “Get Up”

 In the middle of a long text message conversation on my way home on BART I made the comment, “Half the stuff I’m working on now I’ve never ever done. I picked it because I’m most likely to fail at it!

I blurted that out but was instantly reminded of something @MitchellBaker said (and I’m paraphrasing) ~ “If it makes you feel uncomfortable, you should probably do it.”

Stepping out

Over the past year I’ve spent a lot of time stepping outside my comfort zone. Way outside.

Each time is a total gamble.  Each time I risk failure, disgrace, embarrassment.

Because not doing so is absolute failure.

I fell. It hurt.

I understand that failure itself isn’t Failure.  “Failure is required” as @cookflix said.

It’s really no different than a child learning to walk.  You fall. You get up. You take a step and you fall again. You get up.  You keep at it, you keep at that which is important.

As a leader

Over the past year I’ve found myself developing my leadership style, my brand, my way of leading.  I’m honing in on who I am.  Who @mrz is.

I try very hard to empower others, to encourage, to aim to surround myself with people who can do a better job than I can.  People who can stand on my shoulders and do more than I could possibly do. In many ways, I try to delegate as much as I can, to hand off as much as I can.

And I’m more comfortable taking gambles. I know what matters to me (mission, empowerment). I know who matters to me (friends). And within those contexts I feel safe.

I take risks.  I put myself out there.  I iterate.  In the words of @msurman, Fuck it, ship it.”

You should too.

“Something comes from nothing if you’re willing to believe.”

~ Pillar, “Everything”

recovering from an email outage

If I could do this week over I would.  Too bad I can’t.

Email today is vital.  Not having it makes your heart palpitate. 

Monday morning, during a swap of a failed hard drive (something we’ve done countless times) the storage array we use for email went offline.  The whole thing.  And for various reasons, the last known good backup was from awhile ago. 

I painfully remember thinking “oh shit” when I realized what this meant.

[This isn’t a post about all the things I should have done to make sure I was never in this spot.  Everything’s obvious now.]

I learned a couple things this week:

  1. Hire the absolute best people (and geezus, hire people smarter than you!). You never know when you’ll need them.  You never know who will have the answer to the problem.  Hire people who care about each other.  You never know when you need them to look out for the one guy who, in 73 hours, forgot to sleep.  The same one guy who has to run point on The Next Big Step in 7 hours.
  2. Work somewhere where everyone realizes we’re all fighting the same fight. I’m surrounded by coders and when we needed coding, 1492 python coders lined up to help.  Not a single one of them reports to me.
  3. Get upset, yell, demand results.  But realize when it’s the right time to yell and when it’s not.  During a firefight, I need you to be on the best fucking game of your entire life.  It is not the time to be berating you.  It’s the time to treat you like a hero, a magician.  It’s when I do what you tell me to do for you.
  4. Communicate the heck out of everything.  Throughout this outage we found other tools to use to let users know what was going on and what to expect.  I’d post updates even when the information I had was incomplete.  I’d say so.  I hated having folks in the dark.  
  5. Expect criticism.  Some of it will be searing.
  6. Realize that the people working under me on this are collectively smarter than I am.  Offer help whenever but let them work.  Take point at handling communication.  Make sure #5 doesn’t get to them. Remind yourself of #3.

It took nearly two days to get things back to an okay state, a state where we had new emails.  Still recovering data from backups and reconstructing state from a now corrupt MySQL database.  

I’ll probably never be able to express my gratitude to the team I manage for their efforts this week.  Sucks we got here but without thinking, I’d go to battle with this team again.

We made mistakes that got us here but we can talk about that later and make sure it doesn’t happen again.