How Entrepreneurs Choose What to Delegate and Outsource

When it’s your business on the line, it makes sense to want to control every aspect of it. However, taking on too much or doing everything yourself are good ways to get burnt out. Once you do, you are no longer effective, and your business could suffer.

Owning or running a business is a big responsibility, but you don’t have to do it alone. You can choose what you want to focus on and then delegate other tasks to staff members. When you learn to delegate, everything runs smoother.

So how do you find that balance? Here are some tips on how to decide what you want to control and what you want to delegate to others.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

As children, we are taught we have to work ourselves to death to be successful. Later in life, we find out that is not really the case. A better way is to work smarter, not harder.

Before you start your day, identify a few priorities that you need to get done. Don’t make a big list, just the top five. Focus on each one for 90 minutes and then take a break to recharge.

Use good management software and mobile apps to help you collaborate and communicate easily with your team. Software like Slack, Asana, and Google can help you to share the load. Let technology take some of the burden off of you.

Effectively Managing Staff

You’ve hired your superstar team of high-performers now it’s time to put them to the test. Instead of babysitting their every move, train them well and give them the resources and support to do their job effectively. Giving them responsibility frees you up to manage your business.

Your focus needs to be on strategy and keeping all the pieces together. You oversee a lot of departments, and if you are doing all the work, you will not be able to see the big picture. Take a step back and delegate to your staff all those little tasks that eat up your day.

Put into place checkpoints and milestones where your employees update you, so you know where they are regarding progress. The simple act of setting expectations ensures you will have the information you need when you need it. Removing worry from the equation will help you clarify what your job should be.

Hand Over the Keys

Highlight employees skills and motivate them with praise on the things they are doing well. Minimize their shortcomings and try not to dwell on them as much. You do not want a demoralized workforce.

Once you hand over the keys and let someone else drive, you’ll be able to survey the landscape and brainstorm new ideas. You will also have the time and energy to manage your teams more effectively without finite thinking. Expand your horizon by delegating and get more than you ever expected.

Until you take the plunge and try handing over some of your daily tasks, you won’t believe how freeing it can be. You have a mental list already of the things you would like to do someday if you had the time. Make the time today by delegating those pesky jobs that get in the way of progress.

Train Your People Well

Nothing can replace a good training program. If you want your staff to excel, train them well and provide useful resources and support. Give them wings to fly, and they will surprise you by taking off and soaring with your business goals in hand.

It’s hard to trust others with something you know you do the best. So, train them to do it exactly the way you do and how you want it done. Monitor their progress in the beginning and, when you are satisfied, let them take over that task without micromanaging them.

Make common tasks repeatable, so they are easy for anyone to take over. Document and create video instructions to make it easy for new hires to follow the process. Implement systems so you can trust your people will do things the way you want them.

Balancing Delegation With Cash Flow Expectations

A harsh reality of being a small business owner is dealing with cash flow. When it’s just you, it is easier, but when you are paying a staff, things can get more complicated. The good news is that this can help you determine what to delegate or outsource.

The key to managing finances for your business is to know where you stand at any given moment. You don’t have to dig deep into every number, but you should be aware of the big picture and what you need to pay and what you expect for revenue.

In some cases, it might make more fiscal sense for you to take on some tasks rather than delegate them. If you can do it cheaper without compromising your efficiency, then save the money. However, if you struggle with certain jobs, it might be better to outsource them and spend the money to get them right.

Benefits of Delegating

Delegating frees you up to focus on the larger issues of moving your business forward. Growth is where you should be putting your energy. Leave the day-to-day minutia to the people you hired to handle it.

Delegation and trust build confidence and commitment in employees. People like to be involved and trusted to do their jobs well. Positive reinforcement to employees is like honey to flies.

You as the boss are the big picture thinker and strategist. When you share the work, you demand the respect of those working for you. Delegation shows you are a team player and trust your employees to work with you, not just for you.

What Business Women Should Consider When Finding a Mentor

Navigating the road to your career is not always easy —  especially as a woman. Although we have been pointedly fighting for gender equality in the workplace for decades, if not centuries, there is still a long way to go.

Finding a mentor can help alleviate some of the challenges that come along with finding out how to get where you wanna go. However, finding a mentor can be a challenging process itself. Here is what you need to know as a business woman looking for a mentor.

Workplace Discrimination

It’s vital to keep workplace discrimination in mind when looking for a mentor, especially if you’re a woman of color. Plenty of bias, prejudice, and stereotyping go on in the workplace, including persistent pay gaps between men and women. In order to avoid, tackle, and overcome discrimination issues, you must learn to recognize sexism in the office. Examples of gender discrimination include:

  • Unequal pay
  • Biased interview questions (i.e. do you have kids?)
  • Confirmation bias
  • Diminished responsibility
  • Gender roles and stereotypes i.e. men are strong, women are emotionally intelligent
  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Unlawful termination

Hopefully, there are no major signs of gender discrimination in your office, but if there are, know your rights and speak up. You can always talk to the Human Resources department to discuss  your options.

When thinking about who you want to be your mentor, keep in mind the people who are doing the discriminating, and take note of who is speaking up. Perhaps a male manager checks the person saying something that can be offensive, perhaps a female manager takes action to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Obviously, you don’t want to have a mentor who will discriminate against you or other women, so try to find someone who can guide you in standing up for workplace rights.

Gender and Female Empowerment

In a mentor, you will want to find someone who does more than stand up for others when they need help. You want someone who will not see you as just a woman, but as a strong, skilled employee. Of course, being a woman is also powerful, so you should look for someone who will help empower you.

According to the findings from research on hostile work environments, “a whopping 84 percent of women have been told that they behave too aggressively, while 47 percent report being asked to do lower level tasks not asked of their male counterparts, like taking notes or ordering food.”

Due to this type of gender discrimination, you should consider gender as a factor in who you choose to be a mentor. If you choose a male mentor, they can potentially help you go after what you want more. The Wall Street Journal reports that “men are more likely than women to feel confident they are en route to an executive role.” In their study they found that men win more promotions, challenging assignments, and access to top leaders than their female coworkers.

Finding a male mentor can help you adopt a strong, confident attitude in the office that can help you further progress in your career. On the other hand, there are definitely major benefits to having a female mentor.

A female mentor is more likely to understand your perspective. They are likely to have experienced workplace discrimination at at least one point or another, and they can help you find ways to conquer it; having a female mentor can help you become the strong career woman you are striving to be.

Regardless of gender, you should look for a mentor who encourages employee development. This can be someone who pushes you and others to look for new opportunities in the office, such as applying for other positions within the company and helping you advance your career. They will be the ones to give you the push you need to get where you want to go, even if it means exploring paths you hadn’t really considered, such as getting a Master’s of Business Administration or another degree relevant to your career.

Being a Good Leader for Other Women

There is no question that the business world needs more women in it, especially in positions of authority. Hopefully, your mentor will help you rise to meet and surpass your goals in your career. This way, you can become a leader, and eventually a mentor, for other employees looking for guidance.

Of course, you should do everything you can to use your position of leadership and power in the workplace to be a good boss to other women and lift up female employees in particular. Washington State University states that being a good leader to other women means fostering “a business environment that invites and involves women in business to gain respect and to feel valued for their contributions, leaders and managers can work to overcome the roadblocks on the way toward building fulfilling careers.”

On your path to finding a mentor and learning where you want to go in your career, make sure to learn from women leaders other than your mentor. Look for inspirational readings from other women, like Inna Rosputnia and Mariellie Rodriguez Mundy. With consideration, patience, and confidence, you can find the right mentor to help you be your best self in the workplace.

The Importance of Mentorship for Young Women in STEM

Enjoy this guest post, written by Avery Phillips. – Kimberly

There’s a very big, and very important, conversation happening right now around the technology sector. Women are embracing their truths, speaking out, and bringing awareness to the various serious problems that plague male-majority industries.

It’s a conversation that has been long overdue, and it’s bound to lead to some overwhelming changes within the technology (and any other) industry. And it’s certainly true that dismantling the toxic behavior embedding within Silicon Valley culture will help reshape the diversity of the workplace. However, there are other issues still preventing women and people of color from joining the technology field. Continue reading

Young Community Volunteer Makes a Difference with Autistic Children through Music by Nithya Tippireddy


Whenever we would go to India, my mom would take us to her friend’s house. That friend, who was affected with a form of muscular dystrophy, could only move her feet. I remember first visiting her 10 years ago when she was a shy and naive seven-year-old. I hid behind my mom, staring mortified at her distorted features.

Concerned about the resistance I showed towards this friend, my mother encouraged me at fourteen to volunteer at FCSN, a special needs center, hoping to increase my exposure to the disabled community. I recall being nervous my first day, completely unsure how to react when engulfed by meandering kids who were flapping their wrists and incoherently asking my name. Asked one day to help a young autistic girl use the restroom, I stifled my initial horror at this request and led her inside, soon realizing that yelling instructions from outside the stall doesn’t work. Continue reading

Time Management Quiz: Do You Have Time for This? Rate Yourself by Kathryn McKinnon

Time Management Quiz: Do You Have Time for This?
Rate yourself on your ability to accomplish the following:

I have time for creative or strategic thinking.
I stay focused on one thing at a time.
I have time to do what I enjoy most.
There is meaning and significance to my work and my life.

I feel connected to my company’s mission and purpose.
I am connected to my own life’s purpose.
I have opportunities for learning and growth.
I have time to do my best work.
I minimize interruptions and distractions.
I schedule time for my highest priorities.
I have systems in place to manage my time successfully.
I stay positive throughout the day.
I maintain a sense of energy throughout the day.
I understand what it takes to be successful at my job.
I balance my work and personal life.
I disengage from work.
I build healthy boundaries with my time.
I manage perfectionism and minimize procrastination.

If you don’t have the ability to accomplish the items from this Quiz, then what do you have time for and how do you spend your time?

Demand for our time is exceeding our capacity, draining us of the energy we need to bring our skills, talents and sense of purpose to our lives. Increased competitiveness, a leaner work force and a requirement to do more with less are adding to the pressures. The rise of digital technology is exposing us to an unprecedented flood of information and requests we feel compelled to respond to 24/7.

The truth is that we always have time for what’s most important to us. How do you  prioritize your day?

If you can’t accomplish as much as you want, especially when time and quality are of the essence, begin by tracking your time to notice how you’re prioritizing your work and tasks. You’ll start to notice patterns and unproductive habits, what distracts you, what interrupts you, the choices you’re making with your time and what gets you off track. Once you know this, you can begin to make better choices with your time. If you don’t track your time, you’ll never know what’s getting in the way of your productivity.

Or if you’re Stressed, Frustrated and Overwhelmed…

…You’re not sure how to get started, and you’re ready for executive coaching, I’d love to be the one you reach out to for help solving your time management issues and challenges.

Contact me at support@Kathryn-McKinnon.com for a complimentary Discovery Session to identify your biggest time management issue and uncover steps you can take to solve your issue.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathryn McKinnon, a Harvard Business School and Fortune 500 Executive Coach, Time Management Expert, Bestselling Author of Triple Your Time Today on Amazon, Speaker, Seminar Leader and CEO of McKinnon & Company dedicated to helping executives, professionals and business owners reduce the chaos and stress, add order and structure to the day, boost energy and explode productivity to achieve the best results with your time. https://www.Kathryn-McKinnon.com

 

 

Body Intelligence – A New Competitive Advantage for Leaders and Decision Making

Written by: Marie-Jeanne Juilland

 

I remember this scenario all too vividly: After a year of intense effort and anticipation, our company painfully pulled the plug on its IPO bid in 2001. The “bubble” had burst.  We had missed the window.

As a member of the executive team, I sat in an offsite turning things upside down, mapping out our stay-alive strategy. All the data had pointed to an IPO win. Was it just a case of bad market timing? Or was there something we could have done differently – some information we had missed along the way?

Along with most leaders who’ve experienced anything on the magnitude of an IPO “miss,” I’d have to say the answer was a bit of both. However, in the years since that IPO experience – as a leader and then as an executive coach – I’ve discovered an additional factor that I feel was sorely missing in our team’s decision making.  I call it “body intelligence,” aka “BQ.”

Common belief says focus on the facts and data.  That’s leveraging “IQ.”  Common belief also says “trust your gut,” or “it’s gut check time.”  That’s BQ. Continue reading

My Scrappy and Resilient – Driving Strong Results Discovery by Mariellie Rodriguez Mundy

 

A few months back I received an invitation to explore an opportunity (I call it my “shiny object”) to join a Private Equity firm’s platform company as their Chief Financial Officer. The role seemed to meet many of my criteria for great jobs in my career, but most importantly it also had a very high degree of challenge and learning opportunities. I felt that my entire career had led me to this opportunity, and I was confident enough to give it my all.

The first step was an interview with the CEO and several key stakeholders. This was a lengthy process that included several phone interviews, in-person meetings and traveling to meet several board of director members at the firm’s headquarters.

As part of the process I completed various assessments. I’ve done many of these in the past, and have embraced the opportunities for self-awareness that they offer.  But something was different this time. This was the first time that I was scheduled to meet with a consultant as part of the assessment, “the guy from Boston” hired to form an opinion about my ability to meet the requirements of the CFO role.

It makes sense that an investment firm would want to do this kind of research before they make a substantial investment in such a key position. Naturally they’d want to know what kind of professional they are getting.

Fast forward a couple of months . . . on a Friday afternoon I was advised that the investment firm decided to pass on both of the two final candidates, including myself.  Ouch! The “shiny object” was gone. Gone, gone, gone. It was a moment where rejection and self-doubt overwhelmed me.

I was alone in my car driving around aimlessly when I decided to just park. As I sat there I decided to challenge my thinking and acknowledge my emotions. The great thing about embracing the fact that I felt rejected and incompetent was the deeper connection to the many “Why’s?”. I felt an irresistable need to find wisdom in this experience.

Days later, after I had time to process and understand how this experience was going to add value to my journey, I decided to reach out to “the guy from Boston” for feedback. He had met with me in Florida a month prior, and after four and a half hours of intense questioning about my life journey, he had drafted a report for the investment firm. He agreed to a call to debrief with me his assessment.

And this is where my scrappy discovery took place. The headline of his report to the investment firm described me as: “Scrappy and Resilient – driving strong results, will deliver against all odds”

Scrappy, what did he just called me? I’m scrappy? I was referred to as “scrappy” by a perfect stranger, and this was his professional opinion that he shared with a group of investment professionals! Is that even professional?!!

This man just met me, and after four and a half hours he concluded that I was scrappy. “Scrappy” was not what I had in mind as I put on my business jacket, my best watch, and arrived with confidence to meet the consultant from Boston sent to assess my ability to deliver results.

Many experiences have had a great impact in my life and the day I was called a “scrappy one” is one of those. The more I thought about it the more wisdom I found in this scrappy word. A quick google search for the definition of scrappy yielded synonyms such as feisty, tenacious, determined, persistent, dogged, aggressive, and forceful. Dictionary’s provided the following definitions:

“Having a strong, determined character, and willing to argue or fight for what you want” – Cambridge English Dictionary

“A person who is little, but can really kick some ass” – Urban Dictionary (Yikes!)

I thought I would be clever and write about how impactful this word was to me, but then I discovered an entire website with the intention of connecting scrappy women to each other. Led by Kimberly Wiefling, the founder of scrappywomen.biz, here I found a bunch of women who were unapologetic about being scrappy! I couldn’t stop smiling when I found an entire community of other remarkable, inspirational businesswomen who are not afraid to share their scrappy wisdom with others.

During the past few years I have spent a significant amount of time learning about my role as a servant leader and my effectiveness as a conscious leader. I’ve deeply considered my ability to understand the world around me and my ability to make an impact. Here’s what I am absolutely sure of . . . that there is so much more I still have to learn! And nothing excites me more than looking forward to spending the rest of my life learning – learning from others, learning from past struggles, from success, and most importantly from failures. There is so much wisdom in each moment, and every experience we are given is an opportunity for growth.

I am a businesswoman, and an entrepreneur at heart. I’m sure I was born with a shovel in my hand so that I would be ready to assist my father in mixing concrete when necessary. Ever since I can remember I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. It was simple to me, “I love construction and playing with the cash register.” I wanted to be a top financial executive of a construction firm! I lived my dream for many years, and my heart still wears a hard hat. That heart with a hard hat is eager to explore the next steps and bigger challenges.

After 20 years of a successful progressive career as a finance executive in the construction industry, and most recently CFO of a large national electrical contractor, I have decided to pause for a moment. I am determined to take the time I need to search deep within myself in order to align the second half of my career with my personal values and purpose. As someone in a field and a role where certainty and risks are constantly being evaluated, defined, measured and accounted for, I have decided to embrace uncertainty and take a risk in order to build a legacy of which my children will be proud. This journey is not shaped by a new job or even a well-defined business plan at the moment. It is a fluid process filled with wisdom and inspiration from many sources.

Today I have chosen to challenge my lifelong thinking of what I had previously assumed success looks like. I’m not sure what the future holds, but one thing is certain in a world full of uncertainty – when you are scrappy, you work very hard and will deliver against all odds! I am committed to continue to be a scrappy woman in business with a big servant heart. And I’m thankful to “the guy from Boston” for sharing his feedback.

For many years now I set my intentions for the year around three words to live by.

In 2017 I’m committed to these 2 words: Create, Connect and be Inspired.

I look forward to continuing to serve the industry I love while creating a legacy for my children, intentionally connecting with the community around me, and finding the wisdom and inspiration in each moment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marielle Rodriguez Mundy was the former CFO of Miller Electric Company.  She is a business professional, who is scrappy and resilient – driving strong results, will deliver against all odds!!  Currently, she started her new venture, she consults for a family own business assisting with strategy oversight, exit and ownership transition from the CFO perspective.

Mariellie R. Mundy, CPA, MBA
The Mariellie Mundy Company
Mmundy@marielliemundy.com
904-608-0080 

 

How to Extract Prejudicial Data from a Political Survey by Yael Ben-Shachar?

How can you extract prejudicial data from a political survey? That was the challenge I faced when I began my summer internship with Tobias Konitzer of the Stanford Communications Department. At first, I was unsure about how a mathematician like myself could contribute to a study about politics. But I was both surprised and delighted to find out that math was the secret ingredient in solving the problem.

Before digging into the work itself, I first had to master a challenging statistical program called “R”, which would play a major role in helping us squeeze bias out of existing poll results.  I also had to learn the ins-and-outs of a proprietary algorithm that Tobi had developed for collecting and organizing large-scale data quickly and accurately.

Still, I had my questions about what we were attempting to do. I asked the project head: “How can polls be biased when the data is a reflection of the people being polled? And, if there is bias, how are we supposed to ferret it out?”

“Most people view polls or surveys as sources of scientifically-developed data,” Tobi explained. However, the history of political polling tells us otherwise because results frequently underperform our expectations. For example, pollsters were far off-base in the recent Brexit vote by British citizens. Furthermore, while the average national results of the Obama vs. Romney presidential election were largely accurate, many individual polls were consistently wrong.”

“If polling is a science, how could so many polls provide contradictory results, and how could polls such as those in the United Kingdom be so far off the mark?” I asked.

Tobi had the answer: “Bias of one form or another is often built into the polling instruments themselves,” he told me. “Such bias can result from the choice of questions posed by pollsters, how those questions are phrased, the groups that are selected for the sample, the size of the sample, and whether polls are self-selected or randomly selected in a scientific manner by a third party.”

Now, this project was getting interesting, and Tobi had my full attention.

The goal of my summer internship at Stanford was to use “R” to mathematically strip all possible bias out of a poll for the upcoming presidential election, and thus produce a more accurate result. The data we used was biased towards one side of the political spectrum because the poll was published on a website viewed almost exclusively by voters who shared that point of view. I used the algorithm to manipulate big data sets containing demographic data for both Republicans and Democrats. Then, I put my math skills to work, using the “R” program to squeeze out biases. After a substantial amount of work, we began to see different results, and my concerns about our ability to actually find and remove bias faded.

Several weeks into the project, I was thrilled to find that the polling data began to shed its built-in favoritism and actually lean towards the opposite side of the political spectrum, as was reflected in more well-regarded polls. With additional work, the data would eventually contain almost no bias, making the polling much more objective and reliable.

Although the results we were seeking seemed anti-intuitive at first, it turned out that the meticulous process we used, helped along by my love of and expertise in math, could achieve what had seemed impossible when we began. Additionally, I realized that I had developed a new skill set using the “R” program and Tobi’s algorithm for data collection and analysis. These skills could have applications in many other areas, including data gathering for school assignments, or analyzing future polling results.

I now realize that our work could have a genuine impact on the accuracy of critical information and that math could be even more powerful than I thought. Meanwhile, I’ve personally learned to take most polling data with a grain of salt.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Yael Ben-Shachar is a senior at a Silicon Valley High School. Volunteers for Boys and Girls Club teaching students math and reading skills and training other volunteers. Works with special needs children, specifically a boy with autism all year.
Learned how to squeeze prejudicial data out of large polls using sophisticated statistical programs at Stanford.
She is a Journalist for her school newspaper.

Never give up! by Inna Rosputnia

SS 2016 KW Inna Rosputnia pic2

Inna Rosputnia was born and growing up in Ukraine at a time when it was a battleground between communism and democracy. A personal experience of this conflict, including poverty, struggling and intolerance — as well as a personal fascination with philosophy shaped Inna’s thinking in later years and influenced her successful strategies in both finance and philanthropy.

Inna graduated from 2 Universities and have Master Degree in Economy and International Relations. She began her career in finance field in 2007. In 2008 Inna became a Head of Financial Risk Insurance Department at Alfa Insurance IC (Ukraine) that is a part of Alfa Group Consortium – one of Russia’s largest privately owned investment groups, with interests in oil and gas, commercial and investment banking, asset management, insurance, retail trade, telecommunications, water utilities and special situation investments. Inna began trading futures, commodities, and stocks in 2009. She is working with individuals and families as well as institutions and corporate clients. Inna also makes investments in commercial real estate in different countries. Her real estate portfolio includes office centers and hotels.

Inna has been active as a philanthropist since 2013, when she began providing funds to help women in Africa to attend Universities and start own business. In 2016 Inna joined Cherie Blair Foundation for women, where she is working to promote gender equity, the values of open society, human rights, transparency and empower women.

Inna is the author of a book “Basic Instinct of Woman-Trader”, published in Russian and English languages in 2016. Her articles and essays on markets, financial planning, politics, society, and economics regularly appear in newspapers and magazines, like The Business Woman Media, Financial Magnates and other.

Here is the link for online sale of the Russian version:  https://www.amazon.com/x41E-x441-x43D-x43E-Russian-ebook/dp/B01I1PCR3S#nav-subnav

The English version will be available in late September 2016. You can pre-order the book on her website:  http://ladyf-trader.com/my-book/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Inna Rosputnia – A futures trader and wealth manager, working with individual and institutional clients; founder and CEO of Lady F Wealth Management. I graduated from two universities and has a Master degree in Economy and International Relations.

Smart People + Smart Leadership = Happy Customers? by Lucy Freedman

Interpersonal Intelligence for Technical Organizations

By Lucy Freedman, developer of the SYNTAX of Influence, co-author of Smart Work (the second edition of Smart Work: The Syntax Guide to Influence, is available at HappyAbout.com or Amazon. ).

Originally published at http://svforumelsig.blogspot.jp/

When I first started my business, a mentor quizzed me about what it meant to have a business. Does coming up with a great idea make it a business? Clearly no. Does having a product make it a business? What about an office, employees, marketing? No, no, and no, he said. You have a business when you have a customer.  Aha.

lucyfreedman

In the world of technology, we can get so focused on the product or process that the relationship part of the business receives a minimal amount of mindshare. Sure, when we need to make a funding pitch, attract a key executive, or give a customer presentation, we put attention into those relationships. Even then, it’s typical of technologists to be mostly content-oriented and not so focused on tuning into the interests of their audience.  There’s room for growth.

While the ability to relate well with funders, talent, and customers is important for business success, the internal communication in a company is equally important. What customers and VC’s really want is for the product to work and meet their needs in a timely and cost-effective way.  For that to happen, managers and teams need to be able to get on the same page and come up with solutions and answers. Knowledge needs to be mobilized. Deadlines need to be met. Problems need to be solved. All this takes communication that is both focused and flexible.

The Challenge

The kinds of interpersonal intelligence that allow people and teams to collaborate well tend to be underdeveloped in engineering organizations for three main reasons.

  • Engineers are generally not drawn to learning “soft skills”
  • Engineering leadership is mostly made up of engineers
  • Most interpersonal skills training is oriented more toward personal growth than practical business interactions.

As a result, efficiency, accurate and relevant sharing of knowledge, and delivery to the customer are often hampered by turf battles, planning disconnects, and just plain miscommunication.

Is this just a depressing downer, condemning engineering organizations and their customers to clunky communication, relieved only by those special high-tech + high-touch individuals who can navigate well both technically and interpersonally? Although many are resigned to this state of affairs, there are lights flickering here and there.

Bright Lights and Good Books

In fact, at a past Silicon Valley Engineering Leadership Community meeting, Ron Lichty presented a “Crash Course” based on his new book with co-author Mickey W. Mantle, Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams  (Addison-Wesley, www.ManagingTheUnmanageable.net ). They address important considerations for people who move up the technical ladder from writing code to managing people.

Another new and highly recommended book on this subject is Team Geek: A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman (O’Reilly Media, 2012). It’s very entertaining reading and addresses expanding circles of influence, from your own team to the organization to the user community.

A few years back,  Michael Lopp wrote the insightful and humorous book, Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager (Apress, 2007). Michael gives practical advice for many of the situations that recur in software development. He names some of the types of people you’ll run across – such as Mr. Irrelevant, Laptop Larry, Curveball Kurt, the Snake, and Free Electrons. Cleverly written, full of useful homilies.

What all of these books have in common is the practical experience of the authors, who have lived what they are writing about.  They share illustrative stories that those who follow in their footsteps will easily relate to.

De-coding How People Work

As an outsider who can’t code my way out of a paper bag, I have been taking a different approach for the past few decades of working as a consultant, coach, and facilitator for high tech companies.  Programmers understand the structure, or syntax, that is required for code to work. I have studied the structure, or syntax, that is required for human communication to work.

What I have discovered is that the smart people who know how to code have an easier time learning interpersonal skills when they have access to the proper syntax for communicating. Hundreds of engineers have experienced and applied the SYNTAX model to their workplaces. People who considered themselves non-people-oriented have shown that with several relatively small changes in their communication, they can achieve great improvements in their working relationships.

This is not about sentence structure or grammar. If you consider that people are pretty systematic in how we organize our perceptions and our behavior, it makes sense that you can detect each person’s syntax, and hence, get more predictable results with them. There’s also a structure, a syntax derived from studying outstanding performers, that makes communication work better. Our model, SYNTAX, represents that architecture so that people can easily learn it.

It’s explained in detail in the book Smart Work, which I co-authored with Lisa Marshall. If you are interested in getting a look at it, or even writing a review, please contact me at syntaxoffice@syntx.com and I will gladly share it with you.

Smart Leadership

When leaders in an organization start practicing SYNTAX principles, or some of the other excellent suggestions in the books listed above, they create a climate where it is much more natural for others to collaborate productively as well. It’s a matter of good design of human systems – whether writing effective, clean code for applications that will benefit people, or holding effective, clean meetings where work gets done and agreements are solid, it’s about designing intelligent human systems.

Whether through the stories and rules of the road derived from experience, or through applying a systematic, structured approach to interpersonal behavior, everyone benefits when a technical organization develops its conscious competence at communicating.

Engineering is about solving real-world problems and creating innovations that make a difference.  It takes smart people working well together to do this successfully. With smart people, smart leadership, and outstanding communication, you get happy customers. That, plus your satisfaction at meeting your own high standards, makes it worthwhile to master the softer skills.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lucy Freedman is Founder and CEO of Syntax for Change, working with change leaders in technology companies to spread collaborative leadership throughout their organizations and to their strategic partners. Lucy has trained and certified both internal and external facilitators who have implemented Syntax programs in companies such as Agilent, HP, Sun, Oracle, EDS, Tokyo Electron, Intel, National Semiconductor, and Cisco Systems. Visit SyntaxforChange.com for an explanatory video and to request a complimentary sample chapter of Smart Work: The Syntax Guide to Influence. Direct email is lucy@syntaxforchange.com.