Are you being consistent as a tech lead? (No. 80)

Hey I haven't sent an update in a few months, so I'm owning MY inconsistency. What about YOU?

Hey Tech Leads—

It’s been a while! The last time we talked here, I guess it was before even the holidays. 👎 Almost three months. 😳👎👎👎

That’s why today’s topic (and Podcast No. 80) is focused on, wait for it… consistency. But first…

Distracted by “Blue Zone Leadership”

Before we get into today’s topic, I owe you at least a brief update on where I’ve been and what’s coming up. Over the holidays I worked on a book on professional services, which is pretty interesting topic. There’s a ton of overlap between what you face and what consultants deal with, so it was easy and fun to write. Think consultants need a lot of the same support you do too, so it seemed like another hole to fill!

Even more interesting, I went deep down a rabbit hole on a topic that I’m going to call Blue Zone Leadership. A lot more on this over the months to come because I think it can be really useful for your role. 

The main idea is that we’re not nearly as logical as we think we are. Our emotions color ever choice and act we take, even you and even in our deeply technical industry. And you can use that to your advantage. 

Almost everything we do, yes even while we’re writing code, is influenced by our emotional state, and as leads, there’s a lot we can do to contribute to, or detract from, our team’s effectiveness by helping them get, and stay, in right emotional state—even while they’re doing deeply technical, logical work. Big topic, so lots more to come on this. Watch for a series on Blue Zone Leadership.

Consistency in your tech leadership

Since I’ve been so inconsistent, I thought I’d pick this particular topic as a kind of mea culpa for being inconsistent myself. But I also think it could be really helpful to talk about your own inconsistency.

There are the Four Core skills I’m always putting on your head to be effective as a tech lead: listening (a/k/a “STFU and listen”), showing up, crafting visions, and tracking + adjusting. To my mind, these are things, activities, that you need to do consistently. 

I’m not about to break any new ground with what I’m about to say, but I’m going to remind you anyway because consistency doesn’t happen without reminders. Consistency, whether it’s in your Four Core skills or whatever area of life, has a ton of benefit.

  • It makes you reliable. If you show up in a predictable way, every day, your team knows they can rely on you, which is foundational for creating safety.

  • You have something to measure. I know you love data and measurements. Watch the impact as you consistently repeat the right behaviors. 

  • If one of your consistency focuses is growth, then you get that compounding effect, like the time value of money. This one is probably the one I can attest to the most because I’ve seen it go both directions: up and down in my own and people’s lives. 

  • If you’ve got a commitment to being consistent, then you need to be accountable for it. Being accountable makes you consistent. It’s a like a success cycle, if you can get that flywheel going.

If you’re reading this and saying to yourself, “Duh. Where is that unsubscribe button anyway?” Before you hit it, let me leave you with this question: if you already know it’s important, then why are you so inconsistent? I already own my own inconsistency. What about you? 

I have a few ideas. Consistency is hard, especially for new tech leads, for a few reasons:

  • It requires you to make a commitment. Some of you are inconsistent because you haven’t committed to being a great tech lead. If you’re not committed, you’re not even going to consider whether you’re consistent or not.

  • When you’re just getting started with something, it’s hard enough to get started, let alone be consistent. If you’ve ever tried to start running, you know this. The first few runs are painful. As you add mileage, it’s painful. It takes a long time to get consistent, if you can even survive the startup phase. 

  • … and worse, some of you are perpetually in “start” mode because you’re, well, inconsistent.

  • Finally, consistency requires patience, and it’s kind of boring. We don’t even have much of a vocabulary for it. We’re much more interested in the next shiny thing, especially in tech. Who wants to talk about what we did yesterday or, worse, a few years ago? But this is exactly where our focus needs to be.

So commit to being a great lead, get over the startup phase with the Four Core (or whatever skills are working for you), and do it today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.

Get that consistency flywheel going!

Took me too many decades, but I’m finally getting over myself

In the podcast, I hit on a really important point. I want share it with you again here.

I’ll start by being 100% transparent with you. When I very first started writing ideas and notes about tech leadership on Medium and LinkedIn years ago, I did it because I felt like I needed to do that stuff for my own career and brand. Later, when I started podcasting and even this letter, a huge motivator was to see if I could put myself out like this. It was thrilling.

I truly did want to help my tech leads, but as is clear from what I just told you, the source of the energy I was putting out was selfish. Which is part of why it was so easy to be so inconsistent. If I didn’t feel the personal need to turn on the mic, I didn’t.

But over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about this thing we’re doing together. This is a hobby for me, not even a “side project.” But now that I’m more comfortable with my voice and more certain of who I am, I’m freer to take the focus off of me and shift to you.

For real. I’m really worried about you. There’s so little support in the role you’re in, even for those of you who have mentors. You’re probably going through a lot of new challenges, wins, and setbacks as you’re faced with new demands, and you probably don’t have many places to go for help. I really do want to be that place for you.

But your problem is so much bigger than just you. If you’re a lousy tech lead (by that I mean unskillful; think “lousy driver,” they’re unskillful), then you’re probably wreaking havoc on your team and possibly their personal lives. So much of what’s wrong in any industry, including ours, is the lack of skill at your level of leadership.

On the flip side, if I can help you grow to be the great tech lead that you’re capable of being—if you work hard enough—think about what that can mean for your life and the lives of the people around you. That matters.

There’s a lot written about terrible tech leads and plenty of folks wagging their fingers at you, but there aren’t many voices telling you that you can be great at this and, most importantly, that you SHOULD.

Now that I’m getting over myself, I want to help you do just that.

Talk to you soon.


Thanks for reading!

The Tech Lead Coaching email list and podcast are written and recorded by Michael Rice to bring more clarity, certainty, and confidence to my tech leads.

Tips? Have something you’d like me to cover or someone you want to me talk to? Drop me an email to Hope you will. 🤞

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