81. More Books

September 25, 2018

Welcome back to another episode of The Rabbit Hole. Today on the show we are continuing our conversation on the books we’ve read within the last couple of months. This episode of books is a little different, because none of the books that we’ve currently read were programming books! However, they will help you as an engineer or as someone who is interested in becoming a manager, developing those soft skills. Inside this episode we dive into the main concepts of the books Radical Candor and First, Break All the Rules. We also take a look at what it means to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses and finish off the conversation with emphasis on understanding who you are at the core. For all this and more, stay tuned to this episode!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Radical Candor: The fourth spectrums of management.
  • Learning to challenge directly and care personally about your team.
  • First, Break All the Rules: insights into how people interact.
  • The mantra of drawing out the good that is already in others.
  • Discovering the similarities between successful and unsuccessful people
  • Complimenting your weaknesses by working with the right partner.
  • Understanding the three pillar system of support.
  • Why these books are a great form of support system for an entire organization
  • And much more!

Transcript for Episode 81. More Books

[0:00:01.9] MN: Hello and welcome to The Rabbit Hole, the definitive developer’s podcast in fantabulous Chelsey, Manhattan. I’m your host, Michael Nunez. Our co-host today.

[0:00:09.8] DA: Dave Anderson.

[0:00:10.5] MN: Today, we got part two of books that we’ve read within the last couple of months.

[0:00:16.2] DA: We do read.

[0:00:18.4] MN: Yeah, if you all don’t know, we spend time reading.

[0:00:21.7] DA: I mean, I love a podcast but you know, sometimes you’ve got to read a book.

[0:00:25.6] MN: You’ve got to read a book or you get an audio book, right? You want to switch it up from –

[0:00:29.8] DA: Oh that’s true, yeah.

[0:00:30.9] MN: From reading books to listening to books. I’ve been lazy, I think the last couple of books I’ve digested via audio books.

[0:00:37.8] DA: I mean, if you’ve got a long commute, that’s a good way –

[0:00:40.5] MN: The Bronx is far bro. The Bronx is really far

[0:00:43.1] DA: It’s a struggle.

[0:00:44.9] MN: Yeah, I think, a little different form the first books episode that we’ve had, this is a little different because I don’t think any of our books that we currently read were programming books but I do think it helps you as an engineer or as someone who is interested in becoming a manager and like soft skills, right?

[0:01:03.9] DA: Or just someone who is a person.

[0:01:06.3] MN: Yes, if you’re a human and you're listening to this, these books might be for you.

[0:01:12.5] DA: Do you work in a professional environment as a human being?

[0:01:14.9] MN: There you go, well, listen up.

[0:01:18.3] DA: Tune in.

[0:01:19.1] MN: Awesome. I can start off first. I recently read this book, and I really hope people don’t laugh or just turn it off immediately. But I picked up the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott, before the Silicon Valley episode.

[0:01:32.6] DA: Before that.

[0:01:33.0] MN: Before that one. First, shout out to Ian McNally, a friend of the show. He had mentioned his book, I think I even tweeted it a while back in the Rabbit Hole Twitter, definitely go check that out. I picked up this book, I was like, “I might as well give it a try, right? We got a budget to read books so I figure I’d go for it.”

[0:01:50.6] DA: Yeah. Got nothing to lose.

[0:01:53.2] MN: Exactly. But learn — knowledge is power and this book definitely shows that. If there’s one thing that I have to capture about Radical Candor. It’s not like the Silicon Valley episode, just don’t be a jerk and tell everyone the truth because that’s mean too. Like most books, this shares a particular quadrant and I’m going to try to explain it the best that I can, considering this is where we’re speaking.

Imagine across up and down is your level from low to high as your care personally realm, where you want to care personally as much as possible about an individual and from left to right, where left is negative and right is positive. You want to challenge directly and your goal is to care personally and challenge directly at all times with your managees, with people you – with people that report to you.

[0:02:50.9] DA: Okay, do you want to do that with like with everyone in your life? It sounds kind of exhausting.

[0:02:55.3] MN: It can be but I think it can be exhausting, but I feel like you kind of want to be – and I can explain. Like they use a situation I thought works really well because we’ve all been in this situation. Suppose, Bobby who is sitting in front of you, has spinach in their mouth.

[0:03:15.2] DA: Okay.

[0:03:15.9] MN: That happens to everybody.

[0:03:17.2] DA: Yeah.

[0:03:18.1] MN: The four way is that you could – everyone loves spinach.

[0:03:21.8] DA: Eating it all the time.

[0:03:23.2] MN: Broccoli does it too, cilantro, oregano, you got something in your mouth. You have some food in your teeth. There are four ways, according to a Radical Candor that people can respond to that.

[0:03:35.5] DA: This is the way to understand the world.

[0:03:36.6] MN: This is the way to understand how to be radically candid, according to this book. On the bottom left quadrant, you have manipulative and sincerity. That just sounds really mean.

[0:03:48.8] DA: I’m trying to – this sounds Machiavellian.

[0:03:51.3] MN: No, this is like, a person — I was going to say a user. But this is a person who doesn’t want to say, “Hey, you have something in between your teeth,” because they themselves feel bad about it. They don’t want to be put in the position to let someone know, “Hey, you have something wrong, I need to help you fix that,” because it makes me feel weird if I told you that.

[0:04:12.3] DA: Okay, this is like an internal thing.

[0:04:14.0] MN: his is like an internal problem that you have and you're unable to share or help someone.

[0:04:17.9] DA: What was that again? Manipulative and –

[0:04:20.3] MN: Manipulative and sincerity.

[0:04:22.4] DA: They’re not like withholding to see you suffer?

[0:04:26.3] MN: Right, they’re not insincere enough to help you in the situation and they’re not changing it because of themselves. So if you care personally about someone but you don’t challenge them, they call that ruthless empathy. It’s when you don’t say anything to someone about the spinach between their teeth because you think they’ll feel bad about it.

Empathetic like, “Oh my god, imagine the time when someone told you had spinach in your teeth. How awkward did you feel? I don’t want to do that to someone so I’m not going to tell that person.” So it’s not about me, it’s like, “I feel empathetic about you having spinach in your teeth and having someone tell you that that I would not tell you that.”

[0:05:06.7] DA: Well, that’s really into you.

[0:05:07.5] MN: Yeah.

[0:05:08.4] DA: Thank you for not telling me about any of the spinach in my team.

[0:05:11.6] MN: No, but you want to.

[0:05:12.3] DA: Actually, I did just order some [inaudible].

[0:05:16.9] MN: You're going to have – I’ve got some time to practice.

[0:05:19.6] DA: You can be very well versed on how you can be candid.

[0:05:25.8] MN: So then on the opposite spectrum where you challenge directly, you have obnoxious aggression.

[0:05:33.3] DA: Okay.

[0:05:35.5] MN: That’s when, “Ha! Look at this guy, he’s got spinach in his teeth.” Like that’s horrible but he’s being honest in the idea that you have spinach in your teeth and you need to do something about it, it needs to be directed at all time.

[0:05:47.0] DA: Okay.

[0:05:47.5] MN: Last but not least, you have radical candor, which is on the top right where you care personally, we challenge directly, you step up to the individual, “Hey, have a second, I want to tell you something. You have spinach in your teeth, you might want to get rid of it.” Just going up to the person, being in that situation, “Hey, you need to fix this in your life real quick,” and then that’s it.

They use this example very quickly, when you use this four spectrums and sort of management, I’ll apply it to like real life. You know, if you see someone who isn’t performing as well, what do you do? Right? Do you keep it to yourself? Because you don’t’ want to make that person feel bad? Do you keep it to yourself because you may feel like you’re not in the position to do that? Are you going to like, talk trash to them in front of the entire engineering team, in the Slack channel or in the PR? Would you like, give them suggestions on like books to read as you’re reviewing someone’s pull request?

There are different ways that you can communicate feedback to someone and this book does a really good job identifying what happens when you don’t, when you’re not challenging directly and not caring personally about someone.

[0:06:59.5] DA: Yeah. I mean, actually that doesn’t sound as hard as I thought it was. It sounded be pretty exhausting, but it just seems like the right thing to do.

[0:07:06.8] MN: Yeah, just like be honest and be real and be upfront about things, it does a really good job capturing the different work places that grasps this concept. I know they mentioned a lot of Google and Apple in the book which they have their own different like ways of being radically candid to one another. But then, Silicon valley ran with that and made it a whole joke so it’s been just a crazy since

[0:07:30.1] DA: I mean, it’s a great moment. I love Jared as a character.

[0:07:37.2] MN: Yeah, I mean that book is really good in like being able to help management or people that report to you, be more upfront about things when you need to. You know, how do I tell someone, “Hey, you’re doing a poor job.” You don’t be like, “Hey, you’re not working hard enough, why don’t you work hard enough?” As a manager, you’re put in that position from time to time where you have to give some solid structured feedback and be honest with them because you care about them.

Book is great, I think it was a great book to read. They have all sorts of different tips and tricks as in management as well but the quadrant, I always think about that quadrant all the time, you always want to be top right, radically candid all the time.

[0:08:19.3] DA: Okay. How many bunny hops do you give this book out of five?

[0:08:22.5] MN: Bunny hops, I think I’ll give it a four out of five? Yeah, I think there are better ways to explain some of these concepts, but it’s good that they brought them up I think.

[0:08:33.3] DA: Yeah.

[0:08:34.4] MN: Sometimes there are like, “Hey, that’s kind of mean, you don’t want to do that,” but I get it.

[0:08:39.6] DA: Yeah, it sounds like a good takeaway just for life in general too, I don’t know. When I read a book like this, I recently read First, Break All the Rules, which is a book by Gallup about like studies that they did on how people can become better managers. It’s like pretty directly focused on management and all that.

I always kept on coming at it from the percentage of being a person and it’s hey, this is actually like, an interesting insight into different ways to look the way people interact and get along.

[0:09:18.7] MN: Well, what was one of the big things that you picked up from the book?

[0:09:22.4] DA: They have this like mantra, they just keep on repeating through the book. They started like building up from like the survey that they did, the studies and stories that they gathered but the end result is that they think that a lot of conventionalism is wrong. Like you can’t really change people at a fundamental level like they are who they are and you have to like, work with that. The mantra they repeat over and over again is, “People don’t change that much, don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out, try to draw out what was left in, that’s hard enough.”

[0:09:57.2] MN: Okay.

[0:09:57.6] DA: Always in italics, it’s very poetic.

[0:10:01.2] MN: That’s great. Kind of from that, they kind of try to make a theory about like what kind of activities you should be doing. So talking about like selecting for talent, which is like kind of like the core of who you are, which is not your experience or your knowledge or your skills, it’s like, how you perceive the world and how your brain is even wired together.

That was like kind of like interesting concept. Really interesting, I think we could like definitely get our buddy Ben back on here and like talk about hiring from that perspective. I think it would be pretty fun.

[0:10:40.0] DA: Yeah, that would be great, that would be really awesome.

[0:10:41.8] MN: The mantra is mentioned throughout this book, which one of those four, I’m going to read the four again. People don’t change that much Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out, try to draw out what was left in and that is hard enough. Which one of those four, like resonates with you the most?

[0:10:58.7] DA: The idea about like drawing out what’s left in like, that’s like an interesting idea where the person is who they are and you need to help them perceive who they are and you also need to be perceptive about who that person is in order to help them pull out whatever they have, even if they don’t know about it.

[0:11:19.6] MN: Interesting because it’s like, it’s the both of the two individuals working together to actually do the drawing out, right? Because not just the person, you know, letting it out because that’s not the mantra, it’s draw it out.

[0:11:32.3] DA: Right, yeah, it takes some work. But yeah, the core responsibility is they align as like, okay, selecting for talent like I mentioned before, defining outcomes, not having like a process but just saying, not like step by step, how you’re going to do it but the general just of what you want to get done so people can do it their own way. Focus on strengths, not weaknesses, which this is one of the more interesting things, I want to talk a little bit more about that and the last one was find the right fit. Don’t just like keep pushing people up a lot or like, make sure that they’re moving into a new role with open eyes or their procrastinating in their current role in the best way possible.

[0:12:13.2] MN: Interesting. You said you wanted to talk about the focus on strengths, not weaknesses.?

[0:12:19.1] DA: Yeah.

[0:12:20.7] MN: That’s really interesting. I think they mentioned that also in Radical Candor because like, we often tell people like, hey, you need to work on this XY and Z things but those are usually like the weak points of an individual.

[0:12:33.1] DA: Right, yeah, it’s like you just try to round somebody out until like the perfect sphere. So then it’s like, “Okay, now, you are ready for a promotion because you're perfect.” In a lot of cases like, it’s hard to round that out. You may have like strengths that you could excel a lot better. They talking about like different ways that they kind of studied successful people and compare them to like, unsuccessful people in the same job.

There’s a lot of similarity between unsuccessful and successful people. They share a lot of the same core things but just people who are failing are missing a little bit of something where as people are average, there’s a wide variety in that. But they do talk about some ways that you can like deal with weaknesses, which I thought was super cool. That was really interesting. One way is to devise a support system. If you have a hard time remembering names then you know, write it down.

[0:13:38.9] MN: Yeah, have a small book, right?

[0:13:42.6] DA: If you can’t see, then get glasses.

[0:13:45.2] MN: Yes, don’t call everyone Bobby, you don’t want to do that at all.

[0:13:50.8] DA: I mean, I think that’s the support systems there, that’s all it works. You know, you got to be from the Bronx, that’s very specific. The next one that I really liked was Finding Complimentary Partner, which is like, “Hey that’s some pair programming right there,” can we talk about that?

[0:14:08.7] MN: Yeah, that’s a great way to deal with weakness. I find that often times, I rather pair with someone that I am like in a stack that I am not fully comfortable in just so that that person can show me the way of dealing with these things. If I pair with someone, I want to par with someone who knows more Ruby than I do. So that I can do it like the React fun and stuff and the other person can handle the rail stuff so that I can get better on my React.

[0:14:41.5] DA: Yeah, I guess there is that aspect like that person had a different knowledge than you or different skills than you but I think that also works at the fundamental core of who you are like when you are pairing with somebody, I often find that when I am working by myself like I will be very methodical about the upfront analysis I am going to and I am going to think about all the different ways that it could go, but if I pair with somebody especially like certain people, it is a lot easier just to jump right into it and I think there are definitely different personalities that I mesh with really, really well like words like exponential. How much more productive and how much better the code can get and I think that kind of has something to do with this kind of idea.

[0:15:28.9] MN: Yeah, I can see how that could be very helpful when it comes to pair program just like having someone to complement your skill set is just a great way to go back and forth to get the feature done and before you know it, it’s 5:30 PM and you’ve got to go home.

[0:15:43.4] DA: Yeah, exactly and then last thing like it’s a less interesting way to deal with it, which is find another role, which could be like just stop working on the back end, work on the front end or like, “Hey Bobby, I’m sorry. This isn’t the right fit for you. I’ve got to get out of here.”

[0:16:05.3] MN: “This isn’t working out for you at all. Find something else to do.”

[0:16:08.6] DA: Yeah but you know I feel like this is pretty applicable broadly across all kind of relationships that you are trying to be proactive for I think.

[0:16:18.5] MN: I think that when you have – I mean the problem especially at work is that as a developer, they expect you to do all the things. So you have to find a place that uphold these three pillar system and I think finding an alternative roles is something that I wish I could see more often in other places. Just because you are not good at these particular skillset or this particular stack doesn’t mean that you won’t be good in any of them, right?

The ability for a manager to identify what a person is good at and then have them excel in that, takes a lot for an organization to uphold and continue. I think I’ve worked at a place where the person was a developer and didn’t want to do that anymore. He goes, "I want to be a project manager,” and the place, the organization was like, “Okay, we’ll put you as an interim room project manager, we’ll see how that works.” A month later, I did the project management thing, boom, “I like this stuff.”

They acknowledged that he did a good job being a project manager. So find an alternative like don’t worry – he had a request. He wanted to get this alternative role to be a project manager. The organization said, “Okay we’ll do that,” they actually, it worked out, boom, it’s great. So when you had that structure set up, it’s really cool to see and it was the first time I saw it. I thought it was amazing.

[0:17:46.1] DA: Yeah talk a lot about this in this chapter too like casting, making sure that you know where those strengths are and know what the weaknesses are but mainly just going, “Okay where are we going to move you to get the most thing for your buck”.

[0:18:00.9] MN: Right and it is good for the organization too because they keep this person who had a lot of contacts in the organization and they can use that skillset for something else, if he needs to jump in or pair with somebody and further explain something technically you can. This is a really solid work around, pretty much.

[0:18:18.4] DA: Yeah, that sounds great.

[0:18:20.3] MN: I think both of the books that we mentioned both deal with definitely a form of support system for an entire organization or people who report to you versus like a support system or structured way of giving feedback that needs to be told I guess in Radical Candor. It is just really interesting books that we ended up reading that had to deal with management is pretty cool.

[0:18:45.2] DA: Yeah and life.

[0:18:47.3] MN: And life. Follow us now on Twitter @radiofreerabbit so we can keep the conversation going. Like what you hear? Give us a five star review and help developers like you find their way into The Rabbit Hole and never miss an episode. Subscribe now however you listen to your favorite podcast. On behalf of our producer extraordinaire, William Jeffries and my amazing co-host, Dave Anderson and me, your host, Michael Nunez, thanks for listening to The Rabbit Hole.

Links and Resources:

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Radical Candor

First, Break All the Rules