Saturday, October 08, 2005

What attributes...

What attributes should we embody?  As technology people, as leaders, as implementers, as followers – what attributes should we have.  I believe at various times we are all one of the three – sometimes the leader, the implementer the follower.

I found a good starting list today.  I subscribe to a lot of different blogs these days – always looking for different opinions, different perspectives.  And occasionally I even find something that I agree with (well, more than occasionally). This blog entry was a case in point.

I liked the first point, it grabbed me – “Let Go”.  That reminded me of a moment about 15 years ago where I think I first learned that.  In the past, I could be pretty “aggressive” with my ideas – give me a white board and a marker and you’d have to be fairly outgoing to get them away from me.  Before I was in a lead position – this was an “ok” attribute – I wasn’t in charge.  Later however, this did become an impediment – it squashed ideas, it was assumed “my way or the highway” (it wasn’t, we just never got to hear the other ideas).  Some of the best advice I got was to “sit back for a while, take it in”.  I still have to remind myself of that sometimes – especially when I working on something I’m excited about.

“Let Go”, excellent advice.

The communication bits – all good as well.  Write clearly, write profusely.  Write as if your Mom was going to read it sometimes.  Remember the person reading it (your technical paper, your white paper, your idea) doesn’t have the closeness to the problem you have.  They haven’t been looking at it for hours, days, weeks, months – you have.  It might sound verbose to you but the person reading it will appreciate the detail.

I really liked the “be modest”.  There are many people with more and different experience than you have.  There will be people smarter than you, as smart as you, not as smart as you – but any of them could be smarter than you at some point in time.  Goes back to “Let Go” I think – let go and be modest go together.

Let me add some of my own though.

  • Do as you say.  Practice what you preach.

  • Accept criticism gracefully.  Even if it seemed to be delivered in a mean spirited way.  You want to throw someone off balance – thank them for giving you the advice, when they thought you would be really mad instead.

  • Learn outside your industry.  This is something I’m working on now.  

  • Be someone others want to be with.  That is – be approachable, be nice, treat everyone the same – regardless of their level.  Be fair.  


Anonymous Eddie Awad said....

Be patient and be focused. I believe that the older you are the more patience and concentration you have. The younger you are the more you want to get things done hastily and the more you are distracted by your surroundings. I have noticed that about myself.

Sat Oct 08, 06:54:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Aman Sharma said....

"learn outside your industry."
sir you said you are working upon it.Would you like to share what and how this is relevant in one's growth in his/her own industry/profession?
with best regards

Sun Oct 09, 03:15:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Noons said....

There is a quote attributed to Einstein which I find admirable and try to follow in all I write and do:

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. "

If only I could be as consistent as that!

Sun Oct 09, 06:44:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

"learn outside your industry."

science, history, politics. Doing that via reading and discussion.

How is it relevant? Certainly makes for better 'small talk' topics ;) But you also get different perspectives. That is what it is mostly about.

Sun Oct 09, 08:25:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I think the leader should make the team members feel that each of them are important. If the team lead can achieve that then other issues are easy.

Sun Oct 09, 08:27:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I think the leader should make the team members feel that each of them are important.

I disagree, the leader should recognize each contributor for what they are worth.

If someone actually is not contributing what they should - they need to know that. If someone is contributing much more than you expect, they should know that. If someone is doing precisely what they should, they should know that.

If the leader just makes everyone feel important - getting under performers removed becomes really hard. The under performers will create negative impact on the good people if they are all treated important.

I understand your sentiment, but the wording needs to be refined in my opinion :)

Sun Oct 09, 08:38:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Rahul said....

The leader may have ultimate accountability for the whole, but it is important to make each team member feel accountable for their chunk of work. It does motivate them to seek out ways to get better at their job.

Sun Oct 09, 10:00:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Aman Sharma said....

"learn outside"
:-)yes I thought so that it would be
"something" related to "everything" a little bit.Yes definately it helps.I read a book,"The Alchemist",story of a young boy who starts from nowhere and founds a treasure at the end.Really an interesting and motivating book.You are absolutely right Sir.

Sun Oct 09, 10:39:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Bundit said....

I think that the contribution should not only be wholely recognized as the worth, but the cause of contribution must be reckoned as well.

Sun Oct 09, 11:08:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Bundit - can you elaborate on what you mean by that?

Sun Oct 09, 11:19:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Bob B said....

Here's an article by Paul Graham that I think you'll enjoy.

What you'll wish you'd known

Sun Oct 09, 11:29:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Bundit said....


Follower A : Job well done and great contribution, but debasing someone without a leader's acknowledgement.
Follower B: Job satisfied 90% by way of virtue.
Which one should be worth of recognition ?


Sun Oct 09, 11:42:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

article by Paul Graham

hey, that was great. I liked this:

Now I know a number of people who do great work, and it's the same with all of them. They have little discipline. They're all terrible procrastinators and find it almost impossible to make themselves do anything they're not interested in. One still hasn't sent out his half of the thank-you notes from his wedding, four years ago. Another has 26,000 emails in her inbox.

I'm not saying you can get away with zero self-discipline. You probably need about the amount you need to go running. I'm often reluctant to go running, but once I do, I enjoy it. And if I don't run for several days, I feel ill. It's the same with people who do great things. They know they'll feel bad if they don't work, and they have enough discipline to get themselves to their desks to start working. But once they get started, interest takes over, and discipline is no longer necessary.

sounds like my approach to writing :)

and this:

It can take years to zero in on a productive question, because it can take years to figure out what a subject is really about. To take an extreme example, consider math. Most people think they hate math, but the boring stuff you do in school under the name "mathematics" is not at all like what mathematicians do.

The great mathematician G. H. Hardy said he didn't like math in high school either. He only took it up because he was better at it than the other students. Only later did he realize math was interesting-- only later did he start to ask questions instead of merely answering them correctly.

Guess how I picked my major in college? I got a D in my first semester Calculus class and that "annoyed" me. So, I went back and took the course over and got an A+ - found out "hey, I'm pretty good at this math stuff" and started in on that route. I was good at it, but it wasn't something that entirely captivated me - not until much later. I was a person people would come to with questions about the course, but it was not my 'passion'. It certainly gave me a good background for what I ended up doing (programming, database)....

Sun Oct 09, 11:53:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Follower A : Job well done and great contribution, but debasing someone without a leader's acknowledgement.
Follower B: Job satisfied 90% by way of virtue.
Which one should be worth of recognition ?

"by way of virtue"?

I'm not sure I understand the example. What does the "debasing" have to do with the contribution of person A?

Sun Oct 09, 11:54:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I second your explanation on "learn outside your industry" attribute. Being a consultant, I get very much involved in "small talk",accidental most of the time.

Although I am not even any close an expert as you are, I can still draw lines with your thinking that mirrors many of my thoughts.

Just so you know,, it is not just Oracle stuff that people are looking into you at now but also trying to understand the approach you take at everything, thanks to this blog. I'm enjoying it as well and makes me say "You Rock"

On a altogether different note, how do you so well organize your files/website links etc., Will you please share that information.


Sun Oct 09, 12:11:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Bob B said....

I think that what most people consider "mathematics" is the mechanics of the solution. It would be the equivalent of calling a robot that makes cars an "engineer". The real mathematics is about problem sovling.

Sun Oct 09, 12:21:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Bill S. said....

Be a part of the solution, not an obstacle to it. It is perfectly ok to disagree, but once a solution has been decided upon and you are tapped to help make it work, then give it 110%. There are good managers and there are bad managers (and managers that fall into every realm in between). But once the decision-makers have decided, it is time to get it done. Always assuming of course that the task is ethically sound (meaning you are not being asked to do something that is unethical i.e. falsify a report). Make yourself heard, but as an enabler not a whiner. :-D

Sun Oct 09, 01:57:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Barry Cooper said....

I agree with eddie awad's comments about 'being patient and focussed'. As a 'young gun' fresh out of college i was fired-up and trying my hardest to impress my new employers. It failed of course, as my impatience, and my inability to 'let go' just rubbed my boss and co-workers up the wrong way. I had to go......

Fortunately for me my next employers spotted something in me that was worth nurturing. I was enrolled on a Dale Carnegie "Efective Communication" course - a sizeable investment from my employers, and a sizeable commitment on my own behalf (as it was an evening course run over many weeks).
It may have been a bit 'US-centric' in some of the styles and teachings, but there were many attributes that i learned that have held me in good stead. The standout ones centered around not being quick to complain (i think the actual phrase was "Never Criticize, condem or complain"), living in "Day-tight compartments", and the old addage "if you have nothing to say, say nothing".

A lot of this may have washed over me at the time, and some of it has been diluted by me maturing over the intervening years, but it has kept me on the rails ever since.

As for learning outside your industry, it is always worth the investment in time to read the papers or catch the news on a daily basis. I also take a keen interest in my wifes work (not IT related) and whats happening with my son and his schooling. As a consultant, it is always handy to have ammo for conversations that fall outside IT :).

Enough of my rambling. Excellent post by all.

Mon Oct 10, 07:30:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

a position - or becoming a consultant, as the skills are basically the same
Simply don't agree.

On writing for your Mom: "Hey Ma, there's bird shit on the grill!" "Don't worry, it'll burn off." Depends who's mom.

If the project fails it is your fault. Project was under-funded? You should have raised that point at the beginning.
BS. Pure complete BS. The blame lies at the budget decision level. In my experience that point is inevitably raised at the beginning. A lot of my experience involves cleaning up these sorts of messes as well as taking on things that others would just walk away from. Someone's gotta do it! Fresh clean fully funded development is a rare luxury. Bill S.' comment is much more usable.

I disagree, the leader should recognize each contributor for what they are worth.

This is where salesmanship is involved. For the under-performers, they need to be motivated to perform better without feeling they are being singled out as underperformers. Everyone needs to feel respected - that is a separate task from performance evaluation, and from accountability.

And an important point that gets lost in these conversations is that not everyone is an Einstein, nor should they be.

Mon Oct 10, 10:12:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

"Praise Publicly, Criticize Privately"

I cringe when I hear managers criticize fellow co-workers in front of me. I can't stand it when people above me complain about people I work with to me. This makes me wonder what they may say about me.

I think you need to pick and choose what you criticize. I have worked with people who complain about everything. I have found that the biggest complainers are often thought to be the most skilled. I believe that people think:

"Well if they are complaining they recognize the problem"

Most of the time they are just running their mouths. Software is an industry of complainers. I have seen developers get into arguments over whose project sucks worse. Its like a badge of honor. I think people should pick and choose what they complain about. You can't win all your battles and if you think everything around you is horrible and people are still getting payed, maybe its you?

The most important thing to look for in someone in software is a 'go getter attitude'. Does this person sit in their cube and wait or go solve the problem? When something goes wrong does this person sit around and complain or try to work around it? People who are too terrified about 'having their name associated' with something that isn't perfect are useless and should be purged from an organization.

Mon Oct 10, 10:45:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Jer Smith said....

I was at the Barnes and Noble and the cashier recommended this book to me...very passionately, so I checked it out. You know, this is an Oprah book, and kind of new-agey, but it's principles are sound:

"The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz

Here they are in a nutshell:
Be Impeccable With Your Words
Don't Take Anything Personally
Don't Make Assumptions
Always Do Your Best

Sounds like a similar list to what you've already posted; the book goes into how to implement those goals in your own life.

Mon Oct 10, 11:15:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Kell said....

Excellent guide to not only management, but to all of us! It's like reading the Tao of Tom! Thanks for a great post.

Mon Oct 10, 02:38:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Ram said....

Just this point struck me: I think just as there cannot be a small set of list for programming in different languages, environments, projects, etc., we cant come up with a 5 point list to manage all projects.

Tue Oct 11, 03:55:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I believe the attributes you should shoot for in your professional life should mirror those you shoot for in your personal life. For those, I believe Micah said it best: Do justice, love mercy, and walk in humble fellowship with the Lord - Micah 6:8.

Everything else is just commentary.


Wed Oct 12, 11:50:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Speak clearly and correctly. If you can't communicate clearly in face-to-face conversation with your team and your bosses then you will not attain a leadership position. I hate to say it, but if you have a strong accent work to soften it. I don't care if that's South Boston or South India - if you are finding people aren't getting what you say on the first try the accent is going to hold you back.

My question is does communication means speaking some language fluently. Some of the follow up to the original posting sounds like that. Does it all it needs? A person who is not good at a language can’t communicate in a good way. Is that what it says?

If so I should disagree with it.

Wed Nov 28, 07:36:00 AM EST  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

My question is does communication means speaking some language fluently.

No, that is a part of it - not the entire thing.

The other part of communication is having something to say - and to say it intelligently.

But, if you have something to say, and you can say it in an intelligent fashion (you know the material, you can talk intelligently about it) - but no one can understand you due to your diction, it won't really matter much what you have to say.

Wed Nov 28, 07:42:00 AM EST  


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