370: Resilient Management with Lara Hogan

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We're chatting with Lara Hogan about her awesome new book, Resilient Management. Lots of great advice in this episode for people who are managers, becoming managers, or who are managed by someone - so almost everyone.



Lara Hogan

Web · Social

Management/Leadership coach and trainer at Wherewithall. Author of bestselling book Resilient Management. Former VPE, forever an engineering manager.

Time Jump Links

  • 00:55 Chris didn't go to London
  • 02:13 Guest introduction
  • 03:27 Why did you write this book?
  • 06:10 Working on biceps
  • 16:43 Do I have to change what I do if I also manage?
  • 21:27 Sponsor: Front Conference
  • 22:44 What's beyond coaching and mentoring?
  • 28:07 How to deal with a 10x engineer
  • 36:17 Sponsor: Netlify
  • 39:05 How does this work at scale?
  • 43:12 What makes you grumpy?
  • 48:45 Treat yo self
  • 52:49 Advice for people who are being moved to management?
  • 58:58 Should there be more certifications for management?


[Banjo music]

MANTRA: Just Build Websites!

Dave Rupert: Hey there, Shop-o-maniacs. You're listening to another episode of the ShopTalk Show. I'm Dave--Vice President of Global Operations--Rupert and with me is Chris--The Boss Man CEO with the Most, Going Toe-to-Toe--Coyier.

Chris Coyier: Ha! Indeed! I'm okay. I have two broken arms. That's not super great. [Laughter]

Dave: What, dude?! Unbelievable.


Dave: We should say, the last podcast, you were--

A little bit of housekeeping here before the show. The whole show was like, "Yeah! I'm going to London, and I'm going to talk at the JAMstack conference," but that didn't exactly happen, did it?

Chris: Yeah. No, I didn't go to London, and I didn't talk at the JAMstack conference. Although, if you had a ticket to that, you will still hear my talk. I just need to record it for you and send it to you. I'll be doing that, of course.

I'm really excited about it because I spent a ton of time preparing this talk just for that conference. I mean I'll be giving it again because I did a bunch of work and I'm all about sharing the love with more than one audience. I will be doing a special recording just for you and getting it to you. It's about that same kind of stuff we talked about last week, so enjoy. Yeah. But, of course, more stuff that I didn't say because -- whatever. You know what I'm saying.

Dave: You've got unlimited time. We should say, you had a bike accident. I'm so sorry, Chris.

Chris: Oh, it's okay.

Dave: Breaking two arms is terrible. But if we miss any shows, dear listener, just know we have literal broken arms over here. [Laughter]

Chris: Yeah. I've got to take it slow a little bit.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: It happens, but I can still move my wrists and my wife is amazing, so she helps me get to where I need to go and do my thing. Podcasting is not a stretch and I'm happy to do it.

This episode is absolutely amazing because it's a personal hero of mine is on the show to talk about her new book. It's about management, but we're not speaking to just managers. Isn't that right, Lara Hogan? Hey, Lara.

Lara Hogan: [Laughter] Hello. That sure is right, Chris. Yeah, it's funny. When I was writing this book, obviously, it's called "Resilient Management" so the audience is managers, right?

Chris: Yeah. Right.

Lara: But as I was writing it, it came to me. Almost all of the stuff that I write about, it could be really helpful to people in any role. Any time you're communicating to someone else or need to give feedback, any of this stuff. Actually, anybody can use it; not just managers.

Chris: Right. Right. Dave was saying that before the show, and I'm sure you've heard that feedback from lots of people. A lot of the stuff in here is about communication and good and professional communication and empathy.

Lara: Healthy. [Laughter]

Chris: Yeah. Right.

Dave: Well, and I just come at it from the standpoint of, if you are a manager or you are being managed, which covers almost 100% of people in the workforce, you need to know what to expect. You need to know how to communicate. You need to know maybe even a pathway.

I have so much to talk about in this show, but I kind of just want to hear what you think. What made you write a book on management here for A Book Apart.

Chris: The book again is "Resilient Management," available now from A Book Apart. Yeah, like Dave said, what made you write it? What's up?

Lara: Where did this come from? Yeah, so I used to be a director of engineering at Etsy, so I led a whole team of infrastructure platform engineers. Then, from there, I went to Kickstarter where I was a VP of engineering, and so I got to lead the whole engineering team there. There was something about those experiences that I was like, "You know what?"

I read this report about firefighters getting expertise. If you are firefighting and you experience the same kind of fire over and over again, you don't become an expert in firefighting. You become an expert in firefighting for that one kind of fire. If you gain a diversity of experiences like different building heights, different population densities, different whatever, you become a much deeper expert.

I was like, I want to get to be better at management and I think that that means working with a lot of different companies, a lot of different ages of the company, rounds of funding, the kind of hierarchy, size of company, and so I started to work for myself. Now I lead a bunch of coaches, actually, at a company called Wherewithal. We coach and we also give workshops for training managers and emerging leaders in tech about how to be good humans to the other humans around.

As I became a coach, I started to hear the same things over and over again, like the same challenges, the same problems no matter the company, no matter the level that someone was at, no matter whether or not they were a manager. How do I give feedback to this person who is driving me up a wall? How do I manage up? [Laughter] How do I communicate this piece of news that's really scary to my team in a way that doesn't scare them so much?

Also, the big one is like, how do I support the people around me and help them to grow?

All of these things were so core to everybody's experiences. I found myself saying the same things over and over again, which is really where the book came from. I wanted to write down in one place the stuff that seems pretty common to all of these experiences, just to give people some new frameworks, tips, tactics, or just different things they can experiment with to see if it might help them in their role or at their organization.

Chris: There is so much good stuff in here. I've read it as well. There are a whole bunch of acronyms and stuff in here, which are nice because they give you a little framework to think about, refer back to, and stuff. I think that's nice. Acronyms work pretty much everywhere in the world, I'd say, regardless of industry.

One of them early on that you use is BICEPS--

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Chris: --which is funny because my biceps are freakin' killing me today. It's crazy.

Lara: Oh!


Chris: It's like different needs that people have and expect. It's tempting to talk about more stuff in the book, but it's nice that you talk about this first because it turns out, so much other things in the book end up referring back to that in those kind of core needs.

Lara: Yeah!

Chris: We don't need you to read the book for everybody, but maybe that's worth covering.

Lara: Oh, absolutely. I love talking about this because, okay, the first thing to ask is, when have you in your life recently hulked out at work?

Dave: Yesterday. Go ahead. Next question.


Lara: It's funny because everybody has a different story about that. For mine, my recent one is less of a workplace hulking out but more of a subway, you know, like a tourist getting in my way hulking out. I live in New York City. There's a whole, you know, people get in the way and it can get really frustrating.

Everybody has a different hulking out moment that they can probably think of. Usually, these six core needs that make up the acronym BICEPS, one of them, sometimes multiple of them was the reason because we have these six core needs at work specifically. If one of these core needs is threatened or undernourished, we're going to hulk out about it because our amygdala, our lizard brain, it feels like a threat to our safety even if it's not actually a threat.

As an example, BICEPS. The first one is a sense of belonging. How do I relate to this group? Obviously, we needed access to groups to survive as animals and as human beings, now. Any time we're left out or when everybody goes out to lunch without us, it doesn't feel that serious. But to our amygdala, to our lizard brain, it's actually really serious. Belonging is the B.

I is a sense of improvement or progress towards a goal. That can be for your career, your team, or whatever. If we feel like we're not seeing progress in the things that matter to us, that's going to feel threatened.

C is for choice. We want to have some level of autonomy over our work life.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Lara: E stands for equality and fairness. We want to believe that everybody is being treated fairly, that we're being treated fairly. Everybody has equal access to what they need and stuff like that.

The P is for predictability, like when things feel like there is change happening all of the time or things are really unpredictable. That's going to feel scary and hard.

Then the S stands for significance, which is, effectively, status. Where do I fit in the hierarchy?

Every one of these is different for everybody. Meaning, for me, significance is the one that -- yeah.

Chris: It's funny that even if one of them goes wrong, it's like [explicit used].

Lara: Yeah. Exactly.

Chris: You know?

Lara: Exactly!

Dave: I feel like you just read my diary. Did you just read my diary and find all my struggles?

Lara: Yeah. Dave, you joked. Maybe not joked. You said that yesterday you had a hulk moment. One of the core needs may have been going on for you?

Dave: Oh, man. I think it's a mix, right? In the moment, you can never -- because you're blood raging, right?

Lara: Right.

Dave: You just don't know--

Lara: No.

Dave: --what you're feeling. You're just pissed. That's probably the best way to describe it. Yeah, but it comes down to, like in the profs (phonetic) processing phase. It's those predictability things. It's like, oh, every day I just wake up and fight fires.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Dave: That's annoying. I don't understand; I know I'm being paid, but I don't know what I'm being paid for. It's things like that. You're just kind of like, what's my role in the organization? That significance thing.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Dave: Maybe that's miscommunicated. Maybe, over time, it shifts and then you don't know. Then no one is there to provide that.

Lara: Totally.

Dave: Just a frame, I think I've been frustrated with management over the course of the year.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Dave: I think I'm the type of person who is like, whenever I encounter the bad version of something, like Agile or whatever management--


Dave: --I spend a lot of brain cycles trying to figure out what--

Chris: You have such a weird situation, too, because it's almost like you're double managed, right? You don't really work for the company. You do, but not directly, right?

Dave: Yeah, in like a client service situation. Well, I kind of took a step back. I was like, "Whoa! I have seven managers," just through the various teams I'm touching and involved with. It was just kind of like, again, maybe that's the belonging or predictability. It was just like I don't understand what is supposed to be happening on that end because it's all just seven shades of management. I was just trying to figure that out.

I've been reading a lot of management books. Yours is great!

Lara: Thank you.

Dave: I just have to say that. I should say, a lot of management books are kind of just weird CEO power fantasies and stuff like that. [Laughter]

Lara: Yeah. Yeah.

Dave: Your book seems very, I'll say, science-based, but you kind of base it on studies. You're like, okay, this psychological study sort of says we want this. I really appreciate that as a reader because it's like, okay, now we're kind of getting to the mechanics of humans and management and how that works.

Lara: Yeah.

Dave: I like that more.

Lara: My friend calls the other kinds of management books "Business Erotica," which cracks me up.

Chris: [Laughter]

Lara: Right? Yeah. No, those can be. I really tried hard to not make that.

Dave: "Radical Candor" is a really great one. It's a really great book. After I read it, I was like, did she write this? She's just kind of a brash person.

Lara: [Laughter] Right.

Dave: Just a brassy lady who is just like, "Whatever. I'm just going to tell you what I'm thinking," and so she wrote a whole book to justify her personality. I sort of wondered that at the end.

It's a really good book, I should say. People should read it. You know a lot of it is this sort of like -- yeah, not quite erotica on that one, but it is like that.

Lara: Yeah. So many of these books, they work for one kind of person. Usually, it's an older white dude who is writing these books, and so their advice probably works for white dudes but maybe not for everybody. I've read so much management advice and leadership advice that really works for one substantive people.

My whole goal with this book was really to write a book that wasn't just written for the overrepresented part of the population. It's actually written for everybody. Everybody can pick and choose based on what they want to experiment with, what might work in their organization, what may work for them as a person. It's not prescriptive in that there's a bunch of stuff in here that you can play with and see what works for you and what doesn't.

It's not like, "Here is the thing that works, everybody." It's more like, "Here is how our brains work. Here are some ways to choose your path forward." [Laughter]

Dave: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.

Chris: I feel like I've heard you talk about this a number of times. It's definitely one of my favorite ways of framing not only the BICEPS stuff, but just everything in general. You say that you'd think that some of the most stressful, emotional stuff would be like, "Hey, everybody. Our company just got acquired."

Lara: [Laughter] Right.

Chris: Or, "Hey, we hired somebody," or fired somebody or something. Those are big deal things.

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: I found, probably you found too, that sometimes people are like, "Oh, really? Cool."

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Chris: Like, "I don't know. Whatever. Do I get a raise?"

Lara: "It doesn't affect me." Right.

Chris: Yeah. [Laughter] But what really matters, and I've been a benefactor and a, "What did you just do to me," type of employee is when the desk move thing that you've mentioned.

I've been in a situation where they moved my desk to a corner window where nobody could see my screen. I was like, "Oh, sick! Thanks, everybody."

Lara: Right. [Laughter]

Chris: [Laughter]

Lara: Right.

Chris: I've been in one where I was in the middle of a row on a busy strip kind of thing and I've been just like, "You know what? I actually quit. Bye."


Lara: I hate this. Right, because again, when you come back to all of those BICEPS core needs, a desk move is a perfect example of how any of the six core needs could feel threatened or undernourished, but everybody is also different. The same stimulus, in this case desk moves, I might be freaked out by the fact that I had no choice in where I sat. You might be freaked out at the surprise. Dave might be freaked out as, like, he doesn't get to sit next to his people anymore. That's belonging. That's significance. It's choice. It could be any, any of the BICEPS core needs, but it's the same change that's happened.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, amazing.

Dave: I saw. I was working with a company and they put four different teams in one giant conference room and set up these mega desks. I just was like, "You're going to lose so many people."


Dave: I was like, "This is a bad decision. All the talent is going to leave."

Chris: Well, it's one thing to understand what the acronym BICEPS means and be like, "Oh, yeah, I get that conceptually." But then as you connect it to this desk metaphor thing, it's not even a metaphor; it's a real situation.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Chris: It starts to make a lot more sense. Then you go through more examples with that connection. I think that's the strength of the book.

I read tech books, sometimes. Not super often these days because everybody learns in different ways.

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: Sometimes that's not my favorite way. But if I am reading a tech book, sometimes I'm just like, "Okay, blabity-blah, dot four each. I get it. The first param is this." You're like, "Okay. I have some deeper understanding of this thing that I read," but I don't intimately connect it to my life and what I do so much as just random praise for the book. It's like every sentence, you almost stop, think about yourself, and then read the next sentence.


Chris: Then stop.

Lara: Thank you.

Chris: Then think about yourself because that's kind of the point, right? You're supposed to be connecting it to yourself. Sometimes, it makes me feel good, in a way, because I'm learning and appreciating this book. Sometimes, I'm like, "I'm the worst manager."

Lara: [Laughter]

Chris: I shouldn't even be allowed to read this book.

Lara: No! That's not -- I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful that you got to introspect and be like, "Cool. Sounds like I need to get curious about what else I should be doing instead." [Laughter]

Chris: Yeah. Not to make this about me, but I also think about companies with a flat structure. I feel like I don't have time to be a manager. Is that a stupid mistake of me or is that just the nature of the beast of where we are right now?

Are there some pre-reqs to be a manager? Do you have to stop writing code for eight hours a day if you're in the tech industry?

Lara: Oh, that's a great question.

Chris: Yeah.

Lara: Yeah, so it's funny. I get this question a lot. I can see it coming from a place of fear, like, "Oh, no! I have to change. The thing that I'm enjoying the most, I suddenly need to give up in order to do this other thing."

I wish that this wasn't the case, but every single company is different. Some companies do require you to stop coding in order to become a manager. Other companies actually require that you continue to ship and be just as productive as you were and also be responsible for these human beings' careers.

Chris: Really? It goes either way.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Chris: Seem as far away as can be.

Lara: I know! It's so infuriating because that means that there's no one answer, right? There's no answer that's like, "Yes, here is the simple, straightforward way for you to figure out what you should do with code and shipping as a manager."

Chris: Right.

Lara: No. It's all different. Even within the same organization, there are going to be some managers that flourish when they're able to contribute in that way and also manager. There are going to be other managers that flourish when they don't have to have that context switching happen anymore. It's not even an organizational uniqueness. It's also going to be kind of person-by-person.

Chris: Okay. Okay. It can be done, you're saying.

Lara: Oh, totally. Totally.

Chris: You can be a pretty productive coder person and a productive manager at the same time.

Lara: Absolutely. When I get this question and I am coaching the person, usually, my number one question that I'll ask them is, "Okay, what do you want to optimize for in this role?" The answer could be so widely varied.

By the way, this is my favorite coaching question of all time. It works in so many different circumstances. In this circumstance, what are you optimizing for? Are you optimizing for supporting the people around you and growing your team? Are you optimizing for making more money? Are you optimizing for helping the team make even better business decisions? Are you optimizing for just gaining a bunch of new experiences? The sky is the limit. The answer to that question might inform how you want to go about this balance of coding and managing.

Chris: Right. I'd say, if it had to be one thing -- unfortunately, it's kind of like--I don't know--all that stuff.

Lara: Right. Right, but what are you optimizing for?

Chris: Yeah, if you have to pick exactly one.

Lara: Right.

Chris: At least, for me, it's like team clarity.

Lara: Yeah. Ooh, that's good.

Chris: Making sure everybody is on the same page, they know why, they know what to do next. There's no moments where they're like, "Meh. I don't know. I guess I'll work on this thing."

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: I kind of take it as a personal failing, like, "Oh, my God. I did a terrible job." Then I'm like, do I even know? [Laughter]

Lara: [Laughter]

Chris: You know.

Lara: Right. Well, the cool thing about that answer is, okay, you're optimizing for team clarity. That means that, a lot of the time, I bet you're going to be spending time communicating, asking questions, and gut checking stuff. Also, it might mean that you're still shipping some stuff so that other people have clarity about their role and they don't have to do everything.

You're probably taking a chunk of work so that other people can have more clarity about what they're doing every day. That's my guess.

Chris: Yeah. Not wrong.

Dave: Wow. [Laughter] Are you some kind of palm reader as well?


Lara: I talk about palm reading a little bit in the book in the act of coaching, right? Coaching, it's weird. Mentoring is giving advice and sharing your perspective.

Chris: Yep.

Lara: Chris, if you were to come to me and you were like, "Hey, what would you do in my situation?" I would answer based on my personality and based on what I like doing. I'd be like, "Manage all the way. That's what I would do. I'm just all managing all the time because that's my favorite thing in the world."

Chris: Yeah.

Lara: But that's not helpful to you, Chris, because that's me projecting. Mentorship actually isn't helpful. It's helpful in getting someone unblocked, and it's helpful in getting someone onboarded. Pairing is really helpful for helping someone get unstuck. That's mentorship.

When you want to help someone grow or if they're wrestling with a really deep, meaty challenge, coaching, which is in many ways palm reading, is the way to go. Coaching is the act of asking open questions to help someone come to their own conclusions.

That question, "What are you optimizing for?" is a beautiful coaching question because it's open and it's genuinely curious. The whole goal is to make the other person sit back and be like, "Huh." That's it. That's all we're going for and that's the beauty.

My job is so easy. All I'm doing is asking open questions and them throwing some spaghetti on the wall and seeing if it sticks.

[Banjo music]

Chris: This episode of ShopTalk Show is brought to you in part by Front Conference. Literally a conference. Great name for a conference, Front Conference, and URL. It's literally It's coming up August 29th and 30th in Zurich. I've never been to Zurich but guess what; I'm going to now. First time ever in Switzerland because I'll be at Front Conference and I can't wait. It's going to be awesome.

Of course, the first day, like many conferences, is workshops. Check those out. Harry Roberts, Andy Budd, some great people teaching great stuff. Then a full day of talks the next day. There are a ton of speakers there, people I'm really looking forward to meeting. Not the normal names, actually, of conferences that we've had. I feel like there are a lot of fresh voices and a lot of really strong, traditional -- I don't know why I would call them traditional speakers, but the conferences that I go to, familiar names. A good mix of box. I absolutely can't wait.

Just go to the URL and see if it's for you, If you live in Zurich, I wouldn't miss it. If you live in Switzerland or anywhere over there in Europe, I assume it's a lot easier for you to get to, so get your butt there. I can't wait to meet you there. Or you could come over from the States and hang out with me. We'll drink PBRs at some pub. Oh, I'm just kidding. We won't do that. We'll have fun in some other way.

You know what? If you absolutely can't make it, this is cool of them, too. They're recording all the talks, but they're going to live stream it as well. Mark it on your calendar and follow them on Twitter. If you want to just see what people are talking about at this fantastic conference, you just can, for free, by doing the streaming thing. It's pretty rad of them. Check it out.

[Banjo music]

Chris: That's a nice segue because you connect both of those concepts and to say that there's another step beyond both of them--

Lara: Yes.

Chris: --coaching and mentoring, that's even more powerful. It's brought up and I've heard this talked about in other contexts too, like, what can we do? In, like, diversity, "How can we fix the world?" kind of conversations. That word is "sponsorship," right? Why is that one so powerful?

Lara: Oh, my goodness. It's the best. If mentorship is good for unblocking and coaching is good for helping someone connect their own dots and grow, sponsorship is really the only one that's directly related to a career trajectory. It's the only one that actually will improve someone's career.

Sponsorship is feeling on the hook to help this other person get to the next level, and that's giving them visible assignments to increase their visibility. It's giving them leadership and stretch assignments to help them grow. They should be a little bit painful. They shouldn't already know how to do it. Otherwise, it's not a stretch assignment.

That sponsorship, the active sponsorship of giving them these developmental and visible leadership assignments is leaps and bounds the ones that help people get promoted and help people get to the next level, help other people see the good work that they're doing that would get even more opportunities to grow and develop. It's amazing. If you start being intentional about sponsorship, it's amazing the affect that it has on the people around you.

Chris: Yeah, that seems like a big deal. Putting yourself on the hook, as you put it, is a good way there.

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: It's like a personal leap as well. It's not just like, "Oh, I've got to go the extra mile for this person."

Lara: Right.

Chris: It's like you're not even willing to go that extra mile unless you yourself really believe in them.

Lara: Right.

Chris: It's kind of on you to start believing in people.

Lara: Giving advice to someone, that can be believing in someone, but you're not. There's no stakes for you. You're just giving them advice, right?

Chris: Yeah.

Lara: That's why sponsorship is so different. The important thing to call out about sponsorship is that, when you think about the people that you've sponsored, so the people that you have given opportunities to grow, the people that you've told their manager that they're doing a good job, the people who you bring on the podcast, which is an active sponsorship, right? When you think about the people that you sponsor, usually, unless we work really hard at it, those people look like us.

It has to do with anger bias. It's the way that we all network and associate with other humans. It's like a natural part of how we learn and grow. It's unfortunate because that means that before I started learning about this stuff, most of the people who I sponsored were white cisgender women like me.

It takes a lot of intention and hard work to just combat this way that we humans kind of interact with each other. It's really important to sponsor people with less power and less privilege than you do to actually create those opportunities for a more diverse group of people to grow.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, you can wish for that world as much as you want.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Chris: The answer to it is sponsorship.

Lara: Right. Technically, marginalized groups are over mentored and under-sponsored. Meaning, we get lots of people offering to give us advice, even unsolicited advice.

Chris: Let me tell you what to do!

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: You get yourself a URL!

Lara: Right.

Chris: You put all your accomplishments on there!

Dave: Welcome to Dave's mansplaining podcast. I'd like to tell women how to do their job!

Lara: They believe that they're helping, right? Which is so sad because that actually has nothing to do with career trajectory.

Chris: I feel like I cut you off there earlier on something, Dave.

Dave: No, I think you said we sponsor people on the podcast here just by bringing them on. I think we do feel that way. I do think we haven't done -- you know, Chris and I are pretty honest. We're like, "Well, we've done pretty good on the male to female ratio, but there are a lot of other groups that we're maybe not supporting.

Lara: Yeah.

Dave: People of color.

Lara: Nonbinary people, trans folks. Totally, yeah.

Dave: Nonbinary people, trans folks, and we try to include, but I think we also try to make this like it's not, "Oh, any transgender folks want to come on our show?"

Lara: No.

Dave: It's not like tokenism.

Lara: Right.

Dave: We try to not do that, but I think that is something we think about when we plan shows and try to have that kind of diversity in there just because we think it makes a better show to get more opinions from across the board.

Lara: Totally. Yeah, and as you said, it just takes lots of hard work. It's not easy to go outside of whatever your in group is. It takes effort, intention, and usually it's a long road to make the connections to form those relationships in order to know people well enough to be able to be a sponsor for them.

Chris: Speaking of maybe some questionable, problematic takes on stuff and things that should be fixed in the world--

Lara: [Laughter]

Chris: Did you--?

Dave: [Laughter] Just a softball here.


Chris: Yeah. Did you catch the latest round of all this 10x developer stuff? Did that hit your circles?

Lara: It's funny. This feels like it happens to me a lot on Twitter. I miss whatever the first thing is and then I see the aftermath.

Chris: Wow. Tell me about it.

Lara: I saw all the jokes about the 10x developer. I was like, "Where is this coming from?" because I missed the original. It took me--I don't know--four or five days to find….

Chris: For the developers in here, that's happened to me twice and I've written about it twice in the last month. One day I woke up and every joke was about toast. It took me forever to figure out what the heck everybody was talking about toast about. Then one day it was micro front-ends and I had no idea what anybody was talking about.

Lara: What?!

Chris: Had to research that one. I wrote about it both times. I'm like, if anybody heard about 50 jokes about toast, this is the deal with toast.

Lara: [Laughter]

Chris: The same thing with micro front-ends. With 10x developers, it was a little bit easier to trace the root because it originated as a Twitter thread. If you heard about it on Twitter, you could just follow it. It was one guy just being like, "Here is what a 10x developer is. They're amazing people, and you need to grab and hold onto them." Then went on to explain that they don't take manager well. They only use dark themes. They don't document anything because documentation is just in their head. They don't work well with others." I can't remember all the stuff in there, but--

Dave: The I, F, and K keys are all worn down.

Lara: Wow.

Chris: Oh, because … something.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: It felt like a parody because it was so spot on in how, like, oh, my God.

Lara: [Laughter]

Chris: If you have any feeling for the zeitgeist of where the development world is at right now, you know that every word of this is off that.

Lara: Garbage, yeah.

Chris: Right, so it was kind of garbage. It was an unfortunate take. But, at the same time, the reason things like this get so fired up is because there's always some tiny little nugget of I don't want say truth but a relatable spirit to that.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Chris: I don't know. I'm sure there are some people out there that were defensive of this and that maybe they know they have their own little 10x developer in their back pocket and find that they're extremely useful to their team or something. I'm sure there are plenty of people like this out there that are just like, "I work in a silo, man. Don't talk to me. I just ship code, bro."

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Chris: In some world, they are kind of successful and get things done, or at least they feel like it. For the rest of us reading that or somebody like me who has tried to run a single software product for going on a decade or longer in some cases, that just makes me shutter.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Chris: It's like I can't have you on this team. You're actually going to do more harm than good. All that stuff like, "I don't document things," is a disaster. It's like every line of code you've written is garbage now to me because if you're the only person that can maintain it and you actively push away other people, everything you've done is for not.

Lara: What a nightmare.

Chris: Anyway. I don't know. I didn't mean to make this thing all about that. You haven't read the tweet thread, perhaps.

Lara: No. Oh, my goodness, no. It sounds like I'm not going to because what a garbage take. Yeah.

No, so I think about this stuff a lot, though, because when I talk to managers, when I talk to leaders, they're often dealing with those kinds of folks. Not the people who write those Twitter threads, but the people who go into a cave, the people who don't communicate effectively, the people who whatever.

Actually, Camille Fournier in "The Manager's Path" wrote a whole section on a type of person that she refers to as The Brilliant Jerk, which I love as a term.

Chris: That's what this is. That's what I was describing.

Lara: Yeah.

Dave: Finally. Somebody understands me.

Lara: Right.

Chris: Yeah.


Lara: Oh, Dave.


Lara: Oh, no… But, right, so The Brilliant Jerk ships good, quality code, maybe. Right?

Chris: Maybe.

Lara: Or at least, you know, for one definition.

Chris: You're impressed. You're like, "Holy cow! Wow!"

Lara: Right.

Chris: "You really did get a lot done today."

Lara: Yeah, and then they're also ruining the team dynamic or they're ruining the future maintainability because, as you said, they're the only person who can answer these questions, or they're the only person that anybody goes to across the company to answer these kinds of questions. It's terrible.

I love her book, by the way, "The Manager's Path." If anybody is interested in more about this stuff, definitely check it out. Camille also wrote the forward to my book. She's just incredible.

Anyway, The Brilliant Jerk, how do you deal with a brilliant jerk and especially when they're this effective? If we care about business goals, shouldn't we also care about this person and their effectiveness? The answer is, well, it's time to run a cost benefit analyst and take a hard look, not just at the benefits of this person shipping, but the costs to the team, the environment, and the future state.

Chris: Yeah. You ship today. Are you going to ship tomorrow?

Lara: Right.

Chris: That's the thing. It seems like it's a good business choice right away but, long term, it isn't. I hope that's what she says because that's what it feels like.

Lara: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. Again, the cost to the rest of the team. When I'm coaching managers through this, I'm like, okay, let's go down all of the benefits and all of the costs of keeping this person around or letting the situation stay as is.

Often, there is a cost to retention of other teammates. There's a cost of future maintainability. There's a cost just in general to the team dynamic and people feeling comfortable, the psychological safety aspects of showing up at work. There are usually so many costs that it actually outweighs the benefits of keeping this person around.

Usually, it's time for a feedback conversation or maybe something more serious. I think it's really, really, really important to a 10x engineer to be like, okay, if I were to go back to that thread, which I'm definitely not going to because, eh.

Chris: Right.

Lara: I'd probably be asking, okay, for all of these benefits that this person is listening, what are the additional maybe hidden costs or the less tangible costs of this kind of behavior too?

Chris: Right. I would say that the answer maybe isn't like we're trying to say that these people are evil and that they should be fired immediately. Maybe if you're really a jerk, you do need to be. Maybe there is some corrective action here or maybe, perhaps, a really wonderful manager could point that out to these people and be like, "It's great that you ship this code, but look at how it's missing documentation. If you self-identify as 10x, documentation is 20x.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Chris: That means that people can read this documentation, understand what you did, and work on it after you've moved on to something else. That's a big deal. If what matters to you is a super high level of productivity and expanding the team's possibilities and how fast and how well they're able to work, that's a bigger deal than just actually writing the lines of code.

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: If that's how you self-identify, there are ways to do that. We've had conversations around here about what does it take to be senior versus junior or regular, whatever that middle one is.

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: Just regular developer, I guess.

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: That senior is a force multiplier. I've always liked that one. It means that you alone are useful, but you alone will never be as useful as five people. Help those other five people and you've multiplied the power of yourself.

Lara: Chris, you sound like a great manager.

Chris: Oh… I'm not, though.

Lara: [Laughter] Well, and I say that for two reasons. One because, totally, let's measure seniority in terms of how they're leveling up other people, not just how they themselves are being productive. I think that that's a really important signifier of who is senior and who is not.

The other thing that you did earlier was, you talked about framing this as feedback for that supposed 10x engineer in terms of what they care about. This is what people miss when they're giving feedback. So often we deliver feedback based on what we care about. Like, "Hey, you may be mad and I'm going to describe what you did because it made me mad and how mad it made me," rather than being like, "Okay. What does this person care about and how can I reframe the impact of their behavior based on what they care about?"

For the 10x engineers, you said cares about productivity. Reframe their behavior in terms of how it's actually making everybody less productive. I love that. Beautiful.

[Banjo music]

Chris: This episode of ShopTalk Show was brought to you in part by Netlify. Maybe you already know Netlify because it kicks butt. That might be a reason you know why.

I guess the default way I think of Netlify is, like, I have a site, whatever, some kind of website, a simple site that maybe I use a static site generator on. Maybe I don't. Maybe it's just flat files. Maybe I'm building it with a headless CMS or I'm building it in some kind of JAMstack style or some front-end JavaScript focused style. I don't know. There are lots of different sites you can build.

I have a repo for it on GitHub or GitLab or any other Git repo place. I need it to be deployed. I need to send it up to the Internet, a production worthy site, a super-fast, CDN-backed, beautiful deployment system, that's what I need. I don't want to write my own deployment. I don't want to use third party tools for the deployment. I want my host and my deployment to be together.

Maybe you don't even think in that way because you didn't even know it possible. That's Netlify. I got this repo. I want to deploy it. You know how I deploy it? I push to master. That's all I need to do and your site is up.

It's great. I use it for everything I possibly can because I just love Netlify. It's also so affordable, which is great. A lot of times you're just below the free tier and you can just use Netlify for free. There are just a few things they charge for.

Here's a brand new thing on Netlify that they just announced at JAMstack London, is Netlify Analytics. That's one of the things that costs a few bucks. You want to turn on analytics for your site? It's $9 a month, which is trivial for the good information that you get for it. It's amazing because, first of all, if you didn't have any analytics on your site before, you turn on analytics and you'll have your historical analytics too because it's based on server logs. They have the server logs anyway and they can kind of parse them and get the data together for your Netlify site.

It's incredible. The day that you turn it on, you have tons of data about the usage of your site. Server logs is the best possible way to do analytics. You don't even have to care how it works but, the point is, it's not slowing down your site for any reason because there is no client side JavaScript at all that's tracking anything. It's all handled after the fact and analyzed after the fact.

Nothing can block it, which is kind of nice. I bet--I don't know--maybe every single person listening to this runs an ad blocker of some kind and a lot of them have flipped on blocking Google stuff like Google Analytics. Just don't let it run at all. Google Analytics is the big player on the block. Now, that data is totally missing from that analytics. That's a big deal. People that just turned JavaScript off for any reason aren't tracked in that way. This data will be way more accurate. This is the most accurate analytics you can possibly have for a site because of how they've done it.

Anyway, it's great. It just feels really Netlify-y. You get good data from it for any reason you'd want to use analytics. I don't know. Just check it out, Netlify Analytics. Good job, team. Love it.

[Banjo music]

Dave: I guess my question is, how does this work at scale? I'm sure, at Kickstarter, you were the VP of engineering. You had dozens and dozens of developers. Did you build a spreadsheet with everyone's optimize column?

Lara: What did they care about? [Laughter]

Dave: Yeah. Do you have little cheater cards you walk around with? How does that work at scale?

Lara: It's important for me to have the answers to that question for the people who directly report to me. In that case, it was the five managers who reported to me. I wanted to know.

Actually, I have a list of my favorite one-on-one questions, my first one-on-one questions. If you Google it, you can find it online. This is like, "What makes you grumpy? How do I know when you're grumpy? How do you prefer to receive feedback?" and that kind of thing.

I actually do keep a little Google doc of each person's answers to those questions, which is handy. Then I'll try to level up their skill in asking their direct reports the same kinds of things. I believe that each manager at each level should also know what every person's deal is, whether it's the, "What are you optimizing for?" question or just, "What does this person care about? Does this person care about their reputation? Does this person care about delivering business value?"

Everybody is going to be so different, so I try to coach. At scale, I try to coach all of the levels of managers to get good at asking these questions, being curious, and putting on that coaching hat as a manager.

Dave: I know I was talking to my neighbor. He's an engineering director or manager of an engineering team. He was doing one-on-ones. He was telling me one of his reports said just straight up, "Money is my primary motivator."

Lara: Yeah.

Dave: He was just like, "Whoa! What do I do with that?" Also, it was actually very helpful because now he just has a very clear, like, I have to have very scheduled bonuses or very -- I don't know. I guess you could … in response to money or something like that.

Lara: Right.

Dave: He had an answer that he could start working with for this person.

Lara: That's beautiful.

Chris: It is kind of nice. It's also honest, but I would also wonder if that's 100% true. You already make good money.

Dave: True.

Chris: Deep down, is that really their for sure answer all the way? Maybe it is.

Lara: It can be. It can be, especially folks who are supporting extended family members or whatever, or huge amounts of student debt. Totally. Also, you're right. It could go either way. I've definitely worked with folks for whom money is the core of the answer and other folks for whom money is actually a symbol of being recognized.

A manager, it sounds like your neighbor, can do some gut checks by asking genuinely curious, open questions to make sure, like to triple check that, without sounding doubtful, but instead sounding genuinely curious. Is money the thing or is it a cover for something else?

Dave: Yeah, well, and it can change later on, I'm sure.

Lara: Totes.

Dave: I think if I ask myself that question or even some of the people I work with, I think productivity, feeling productive, which is totally subjective, I think that's a major thing. Right? That's major, like, that's what I want to feel. I want to feel productivity.

Even for me, I've just starting slashing meetings because I just was like, you know, I can't feel productive if I have a meeting every 25 minutes.

Lara: Right.

Dave: I need to just cut that out. I quit doing those. [Laughter]

Lara: Amazing. Good job.

Dave: Well, yeah, but I think it's figuring it out. I like that and I like the converse too. What makes you grumpy? That's all about the emotional state of the person. Yeah, if you get a grumpy employee, they're automatically less great.


Lara: I want to know--

Dave: They could take down the whole office.

Lara: Do they want to be left alone? That's why I have one of the follow-up questions. It's, "What makes you grumpy? How will I know when you're grumpy? What can I do to help when you're grumpy?"

Actually, I'll ask you both. What makes you grumpy?

Chris: I wasn't prepared for this. [Laughter] You know what. Can I answer, "Other people's grumpiness"? Is that unfair?

Lara: That's unfair. I'm holding you to this.

Chris: Okay. It's unfair. All right.

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: All right. Fair enough.

Lara: [Laughter]

Chris: Dave goes first.

Dave: I'm going to say what makes me grumpy is unnecessary bureaucracy. Can that be a thing?

Dave: Mm-hmm. Totally.

Dave: Meetings where we're just talking about things that we already decided or things like that. Those are just like, "Whoof, man. My YouTube finger is already going to YouTube."

Dave: Right. Right.

Dave: I'm just like, "I can't do this. I'm checking out mentally."

Lara: Yes.

Dave: That makes me grumpy.

Lara: Chris?

Chris: Yeah. I think, digging into my previous answer, surprises.

Lara: Oh, yeah.

Chris: It's like, "Oh, my God! Where did that come from?" I was not expecting that answer or response or this attitude came out of nowhere or whatever. It may be grumpiness or it may be something else. I don't know.

Lara: Totally.

Chris: I was taken aback by your response to that and now I'm grumpy because I'm like, "Well, crap!" You know?

Lara: Where did that come from? Yeah.

Chris: Yeah, and it kind of derails anything else I wanted to do, say, or work on today.

Lara: [Laughter] Right. I am also. That's also my answer. I get grumpy when I have surprises but also, specifically, surprise feedback makes me real grumpy.

Chris: Mm....

Lara: I'm not braced for it. In fact, I had a video call last week with someone who gave me some surprise feedback and some surprise feedback that they didn't mean it to hurt, but it hurt. This is someone who is also up to speed on brain stuff. I actually said to them, "Hey, listen. I'm really amygdala hijacked right now. I actually need to sign off of this video call. Can we talk later?" [Laughter]

Chris: That's kind of fair.

Dave: Ooh.

Lara: They were like, "Oh, yeah. Okay, cool. I didn't realize that was going to affect you." But pro tip: You can also--

Chris: I've been on the other side of that when I've given surprise feedback that was not taken particularly well. You have to be really careful when you're the boss, I guess.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Chris: Then it's like they don't get to -- I should probably give the team more permission to call amygdala hijacked or whatever.

Lara: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Chris: I feel like they may not be willing to sign off of that call because it feels a little bit like--

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: What's the fall out of you just leaving a call with your boss? Maybe that could be bad.

Lara: The other thing on this first one-on-one questions list I like to ask is, how do you prefer to receive feedback? Usually, the question has to do with the medium. I actually prefer to receive feedback written first so I can digest it and process it before then we talk about it with our mouth words. Other people would much prefer to have a conversation about it first. Everybody is different, which is why I try to ask this question early on in all my reporting relationships.

Chris: Yeah. I like that too.

Dave: I can't say I have a preference exactly but, similar, based on the unnecessary bureaucracy trigger, I've realized, as much as I hate it, I'm a meeting agenda person. Please don't get me into a meeting if we're just going to riff. Write out what we're going to talk about so I know what we're talking about. That, for me, is very important now, as I approach 40.

Lara: Mm-hmm.

Dave: Yeah, but in terms of getting feedback, I could do either one, but I think I just want it to be honest.

Lara: Fair.

Dave: Concise or actionable, even.

Lara: Oh, yeah, which is why I dedicate a whole section of the book to good feedback stuff. We mess up so much as humans. We are just so bad at feedback as humans. Yeah, I wanted to make sure we….

Chris: I'm the worst. I'm absolutely the worst at it in both ways.

Lara: [Laughter]

Chris: I don't like getting it even though it's necessary for improvement. I don't like giving it. Even when somebody comes up to me and says, "I need more feedback on my job," I'm like, "Pfft. Sorry."


Dave: Try VS code.


Chris: Yeah.

Dave: That's terrible feedback.

Chris: No, but it makes you think about that. You've got to just get over it and do it, especially if somebody is straight up asking for it. It's your job a lot of times. Even as a coworker, it's kind of your job.

Lara: Yeah. Yeah, and if it feels impossible, I think the place to start is to talk about a specific behavior that they're doing that you like and why you like it.

[Laughter] I just gave this feedback the other day to someone. They were writing me a lot of emails, but the emails include so much good status just to keep me updated proactively. I literally texted them. I was like, "Hey, just a heads up. I love the emails you're sending me. Please keep them coming. You are sending me emails that just make my brain feel so relaxed and chilled out because it's clear that you've got this stuff. Thank you." That was it.

That's feedback. You can do that.

Chris: Yep. That's good. I like the idea of asking people how they like it. That's pretty sweet.

Lara: Yeah. Pro tip.

Chris: Yep. Yep. The other one of that you have in here -- sorry to give away all the secrets from the book.

Lara: It's good. It's good.

Chris: Everybody has to buy it mandatorily anyway.

Lara: [Laughter]

Chris: Asking people how they -- the treat yourself one, like, "How do you treat yourself?" Maybe I can treat you like that when necessary. Now I have it in my back pocket. If you have a good day, I can give you something that you're actually going to like.

Lara: Right!

Chris: If you're not food motivated or something like this Chili's gift card isn't going to go a long way with you, but maybe taking the afternoon off would.

Lara: Right. Exactly. I've probably talked about this with you all before. Donuts used to be my thing, my way of treating myself. These days, it's a nice sushi dinner. It feels like a real celebration, like a real "treating myself" moment.

Again, as you said, not everybody's is food. My friend's way to treat himself is a hot tub and a margarita. [Laughter]

Dave: At the same time, that's dangerous.

Lara: At the same time.

Dave: That's dangerous.

Chris: Don't read the manual.

Dave: Lots of hot tub deaths. We can't support that here on the ShopTalk Show.

Lara: Yeah, keeping a list of that stuff in your back pocket of how people like to receive that kind of happy treat; it's really handy.

Dave: Do you still prescribe or celebrate, like the treat yourself reward? Do you still feel like that's a good kind of motivator?

Lara: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Dave: Good because I do milkshakes--

Lara: [Gasps]

Dave: --after every talk I give.

Chris: [Gasps]

Dave: That was my thing. I just was like, I'm Lara Hoganing my life right now--

Lara: Yes! Yes!

Dave: --and I'm getting a milkshake. Every time I do a demo, like on a call--

Lara: Yes!

Dave: --or I do a talk, it's milkshake time. Milkshake 30.

Lara: Oh, that's awesome. I'm so impressed. Milkshake is a good one, a really good one. Chris, did you not know this?

Chris: I know your donut thing.

Lara: Yeah, but about Dave's milkshakes?

Chris: No, that's new information to me.

Lara: That's awesome.

Chris: Yeah.

Lara: Now you know how to help Dave celebrate whenever he needs an extra little moment of celebration.

Chris: Yeah. Heck, yeah, I do. That's actually a very good point. Yes, I do.

I have a terrible one. I relate it to like your donut thing and this thing as something I need. I've thought this for years though because I have that problem where I accomplish something and it's a good feeling for literally like four minutes.

Lara: Right.

Chris: Then I'm just like, what other -- what next?

Lara: What's next?

Chris: Even while I say, "What's next?" I might still be flexing and being like, "Bring it on! I can do this," but it fades a lot faster because it's kind of like that feeling seeps in really quickly. Then it's just like, "All right. In what other ways am I failing this organization that I need to…?"

Lara: Yeah. That's why it's so important.

Chris: I'm very into the personal guilt situation.

Lara: Aw.

Chris: to some degree, it's like a motivator. That's what. That's what I need to do work is to feel like I'm not doing enough work. Then I'll do some more work.

Sometimes, once in a while, I'll reflect on the work that I've done and be like, "I do actually do a lot around here. I feel pretty good about that." It's not like I live in guilt forever, but it's probably not as healthy as it could be. [Laughter]

Lara: Yeah. Well, I'll be really honest. When the book launched, I have these coaching clients and often I'll ask coaching clients, like, what are they going to do to celebrate. They're like, "Ugh, Lara. Fine." I hold them accountable to celebrating.

This one coaching client on my book launch date emailed me and she said, "Hey, Lara. What are you doing to celebrate?" I was like, "I forgot." She, of course, got a kick out of the fact that she had to coach me in that moment.

Chris: [Chuckles]

Lara: Yeah, it's really, really important.

Chris: Yeah. I agree, especially the big ones.

Lara: Yeah.

Chris: Or what feels big to you. In no world is publishing a book and having it go out on launch date not a major celebration.

Lara: Right! Exactly. [Laughter] It's why you have a lead up to it. You can attest to this. The lead up to it takes such a long time that when it finally happens, you're like, oh, wait. Oh, huh. Now is the day, I guess. [Laughter]

Dave: Lara, I think we've all published books on A Book Apart, so we all get it. Okay?


Dave: We all do.

Lara: [Laughter]

Dave: Your book is great. I have already said I think it's good for people who are managing or being managed.

ShopTalk Show has been going on for seven years. I think a lot of people -- I've watched a lot of my friends start moving into or even guests from the show like yourself. I think of Yesenia Perez-Cruz or Sophie Sheppard, friends who have started moving from engineering roles or design roles into managing roles. What advice do you have for people who are kind of feeling that tug into management but they're still sort of in the middle zone?

Lara: Yeah.

Dave: What do you say to people in that situation?

Lara: I'll ask them a lot of questions to figure out what they're feeling, what's driving them, what are they optimizing for but, most importantly, I want to find out what are they getting out of it or what do they want to get out of it. That way we can have a yes/no, like, are you getting this thing from this experiment?

Maybe it's a title change. Maybe it's getting a new skillset or experience. Maybe it's just finding out if you want to do it or not. Whatever the thing is, I want to name the reason behind or what they want to get out of it. That way we can measure it or do a check-in on it later because everybody is going to be different and everybody who's dipping their toe into management is going to be different and have different reasons. I want to make sure we've got an external way of do an objective gut check on it after.

Then the other piece of advice is just, build your crew of support because your manager is just one person and that person is going to try to help you hopefully navigate this new role, see if you like it or not, or whatever. Again, they're just one person with one set of skills, one set of experiences, one set of advice that they could give you. Grow your crew support in a form that I refer to as your manager crew or your manager Voltron. I don't know if either of you two would feel comfortable defining what a Voltron is for your listeners.

Dave: A Voltron is a team of animal robots that come together. There's a red one, a green one, a blue one.


Lara: Yup, yup.

Dave: Yeah, so basically a team that assembles.

Chris: Once they have assembled, they get a big sword. The sum of their parts is more powerful.

Lara: Exactly.

Chris: Isn't that kind of the point of it?

Lara: Exactly.

Chris: Yeah.

Lara: By our powers combined. It's like Captain Planet style but with lions.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: Mm-hmm.

Lara: Instead of forming a big robot. Right. Totally.

Chris: It usually happens in space. Yeah.

Lara: [Laughter] If you take this metaphor back to the people in your life who support you, so maybe someone is really good at giving you feedback, maybe someone is really good at delegating stretch projects to you, someone is a good coach in your life, all of these people combined can be your ideal manager, including your actual manager. I think it's really important to focus on finding those people and then leaning on those people as you have these new experiences, grow these skillsets, and run into roadblocks or need some celebration time. It's so important to think about your Voltron and fill in the gaps. I've actually got a bingo card in the book to help you brainstorm who is already in your Voltron and where else you need to find some extra support.

Dave: How many people should be in my Voltron?

Lara: I think it should grow over time. Day-to-day, you probably lean on only a handful of people. At this stage, I have people that I will go to when I have a certain kind of problem that I've never seen before. I have a person that I'll go to when I just need some help getting unblocked because they've got a super, antithetical leadership style to mine, and just talking to them always blows my mind. You're going to amass a huge group of people, but you won't lean on them all consistently over time. You'll probably have a small crew of three to four that you routinely go to for help, feedback, or advice.

Dave: It seems like being a manager takes kind of a lot of emotional intelligence. Would you say that?

Lara: Yeah, I would. I think I would say that. [Laughter]

Dave: Yeah, I'm just hearing you, like, "Oh, if I'm having this problem." I feel like a lot of that is identifying the problem you have in the moment.

Lara: Yeah.

Dave: Is that something? Do you feel that's innate to you as a person or is that something you kind of learned over time?

Lara: I definitely learned it over time. I think it took me a lot of failing to figure out what was going on to start to connect some dots. Also, this is kind of what having a good coach in your life is for. I don't mean necessarily capital C, Coach, like you don't need hire a coach, necessarily, to help you figure out what on earth is going on for you. Having someone who is good at getting curious and asking lots of questions, so you can explore whatever, like the shape of the topic at hand or do some reflection on what's going on for you to help you come to those more specific conclusions can be really helpful. Definitely, as a coach, my whole job is to sit back. Someone comes to me.

Actually, I can tell you. Last week, I called my coach. I said, "Hey, Jen." We've been working together for five years. "I am feeling really weird and I don't know why," and I usually always know why. I can almost always put my finger on exactly what's going on even if I don't know what to do about it.

This time, I just don't know what's going on. I just feel weird. I spent 45 minutes with her just asking me lots of questions to help me introspect and figure out what it was that was at the core of this weird feeling. It was amazing.

Dave: Is that a high crossover to therapy? You know what I mean?

Lara: Yeah. It can be. Coaching tends to be more future focused and therapy tends to be more past focused. Coaching tends to be more workplace focused and therapy tends to be more about your inner life or your personal life.

Dave: Okay, more metaphysical.

Lara: Yeah, totally.

Dave: Yeah. Okay.

Lara: Coaching is totally -- there's a lot of overlap there. If I'm sitting there like, "Hey," person who I'm coaching, "What's important about this?" or, "What's scary about this?" obviously, those are pretty similar to therapy questions. My goal as a coach is to help this person look forward and figure out how they want to grow.

Dave: I have a million questions. Do you feel like -- [Laughter] Question one: Do you feel like management should be something that--? I just feel like it involves humans so much. It can affect human's lives. It can affect their productivity. It can affect how they feel about themselves. Do you think it needs to be something like a certification or something? I know there's Six Sigma management.

Lara: Right. Right.

Dave: It just seems like no idiot can be a therapist.

Lara: Right.

Dave: You've got to have some sort of certification. I don't know. What are your thoughts?

Lara: I wish there were better definitions, like within an organization, what managers are supposed to be doing every day and what good management looks like. It just doesn't really exist, which is why I think that your question is perfect, which is like, how do we make sure that managers know what they're doing? [Laughter]

Dave: Well, I think a lot of people are just like, "Hey, surprise! It's Tuesday. You have three direct reports now."

Lara: Right. That happens so often, which is absurd. Also, okay, here's the thing I'll say. As an engineer, I feel like I can say this confidently. We engineers, we often think that we can figure it out ourselves. We spend so much of our time Googling stuff, talking to other people, getting some advice, and we figure out. Right?

Management, we often approach the same way, like, all right, we can figure it out. I don't need to take a course or read a book. I'm just going to figure it out. I'm going to Google it. There's probably a Stack Overflow somewhere that will tell me what's going on.

Dave: [Laughter] I love it. It's the hubris of the engineer. Yeah.

Lara: I definitely fell into this trap. I didn't look at any other industries when I became a manager to be like, "How are they doing this? How do they think about it? How do they approach it?" I was just like, "Well, I'll figure it out. I'm just going to go to town. I'm going to tell people what to do, give them some feedback, and see how it goes." Obviously, that doesn't work. I failed miserably for so long. [Laughter]

That's a lot of the reason why I'm so focused right now on giving workshops to managers of all kinds, not just engineering managers but of all kinds, just because we're often thrown into the deep end and just get no training on it, like no resources on it. I think it's really important to start to explore that stuff and maybe do your own research on how managers in different industries think about this. How do they approach it?

Dave: It reminds me of when I did the JET Program in Japan and they send you to Japan. They're like, "Cool. Teach." You're like, "What?!"


Dave: I was a college kid six weeks ago, so what do I do here?

Lara: Right.

Dave: But I guess that's what I like about your book. Again, back to the tactical. Maybe that's a function of A Book Apart books. They kind of tend to give you a practical takeaway there. Yeah, I think it's really helpful because it is these take it or leave it kind of tools that you can use.

Lara: I really tried to make sure that this stuff was not just theoretical but applicable. I'm hopeful you can put all of this stuff into practice the hour after you read it.

Chris: [Chuckles] Maybe we could end with that word, resilient. Isn't that a big part of this? It's in the title.

Lara: Yeah. Yeah! We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to call this book. I am terrible at naming things, so thank goodness for my amazing editor, Lisa Maria Martin, who actually named my last book, "Demystifying Public Speaking," too. She's just really good at naming things.

We landed on that word, "resilient," because so much of management is just weathering storms of change that are not caused by you. They may be just because the company is changing or, as you all brought up in the beginning, we were required. This person was fired, hired, or whatever. It can also be from external forces like things beyond your company that also create change for you and for your teammates.

For me, management is about definitely growing your people, giving feedback, and communicating clearly. Healthy management, successful management, is about being resilient to all of those seasons of change and some really, really scary change, too. It's important to build up some thick skin, gain some experience, get lots of practice, but also, again, build that support network for yourself so you can be resilient to all of those scary changes that are in your future.

Chris: That's fantastic. Thanks so much.

Lara: Thank you.

Dave: Yeah. No, thank you so much for coming on the show. We really appreciate it. We will wrap here. For those who aren't following you and giving you money, how can they do that?

Lara: You can follow me on Twitter, @laura_hogan, or visit our website,

Dave: Awesome. The book, of course, is available over at Yeah, they don't have my book on the shelf yet, but what a huge mistake.


Dave: Gees. All right, well, thank you, dear listener, for downloading this in your podcatcher of choice. Be sure to star, heart, favorite it up. That's how people find out about the show. Send it to your manager friends. That'll be good. Yeah, if you want to follow us on Twitter, @ShopTalkShow, for tons of tweets a month.

If you hate your job, head over to and get a brand new one competent, resilient managers want to hire people like you.

Chris: Hey!

Dave: Chris, do you got anything else you'd like to say?