Focus on Core Needs: Lara Hogan knows and loves management so she wrote a book about it. This week she joins Paul and guest host Gina Trapani to chat about her new book and about leadership in the workplace. Lara breaks down her framework for managing different types of people and gives tips on how to adapt your management style. She also gives Paul some useful advice on where he should sit in the office and explains why moving desks can be so traumatic.
Paul Ford People who are one generation down from me will watch Twitch casually in an open office.
Lara Hogan Yeah. Oh yeah.
PF While they’re working.
Gina Trapani Totally acceptable yeah.
PF Or YouTube.
PF And it melts my brain [Gina wheezily laughs]. It’s like I got used to it and now I’m like, “Oh ok, they’re just working away.” But the first time I saw it it was like I had seen [Gina laughing] like a naked body in the middle of the office. I was like, “What’s happening?!?”
LH Yeah! [Music fades in, plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down.]
PF Hey, Gina Trapani!
GT Hi, Paul Ford!
PF You know what’s hard?
GT What’s hard?
GT Software is easy, Paul. People . . .
PF Software’s actually impossible [Gina laughs]. You know what’s worse?
GT You know the problem isn’t the software, the problem is the people using the software [music fades out].
PF Well, managing people who shift software, who are really smart people, is really hard.
GT It—it is.
PF They’re smarter than you; they know more than you—
GT That’s true.
PF And you want them to be happy.
GT You can tell this is a part of our everyday experience here at Postlight.
PF [Breathily] Oh God, it’s hard. It’s very rewarding, it’s very challenging [yeah], I truly would never feel qualified to write a book on it. We have someone here today on the podcast who is qualified to write a book on it [Lara laughs].
GT And in fact did.
PF And in fact did. Lara Hogan, welcome to Track Changes.
LH Thank you so much. I’ve been trying to hold back laughter during that whole intro cuz I feel that on a deep level.
PF We might’ve played up the gloom a little bit [Gina laughs].
LH No, I appreciate it! It’s true—actually that’s mostly why I wrote this book because it’s—it’s a gloomy prospect . . . managing.
PF First of all, tell the people what is the book called.
LH Yes! The book is called Resilient Management, it is out on A Book Apart.
PF And why would you be the right person to write this book?
LH Yeah, this is like the hayday right now of management books it seems. There’s so many good ones. So what I was hoping to add to the canon was a bunch of stuff about frameworks and tools about the brain science behind—behind humans, behind managing them, and a bunch about how to whether the very natural storms that happen organizationally and on your team, when you’re a manager and when you’re working around people who probably aren’t very like you.
PF What are you like?
LH Uh I am a nerd that happens to love management. I felt qualified to write this book mostly because I enjoy it so much that I knew I could give back in this way my little bit of joy to help people for whom this is maybe less than joyful [laughs and Gina laughs along].
PF Fair enough.
GT You must have that moment with like a senior lead engineer where you’re like, “Hey, like how are you doing? You’re doing great. Are you, by chance, let’s talk about your career path: are you interested in maybe managing someday?” And then you get the very wide eyes.
LH Oh yeah. The deer in the headlights.
LH Absolutely. Yeah, I’m one of those weirdos that enjoyed it from the start. I managed for a very long time; I became eventually a director of engineering at Etsy; before then going to Kickstarter and running the whole engineering team there for a bit; before beginning my own coaching and training practice, supporting managers and emerging leaders of all kinds. So I’ve seen the spectrum of folks and that deer in the headlights stare. And tried to support them for many years through that continual deer in the headlights stare [chuckles, Gina joins].
PF Your starting base, you were—you were a developer?
LH I was, yeah, I’m a self-taught frontend developer.
PF Ok [yes]. So you’re a frontend developer, you’re developing the frontend [mm hmm] [Gina laughs], and they come along and they say, “You seem smart—”
LH “Hey, Hogan,” yeah.
LH Yes! It’s funny I actually asked for it. They weren’t like—
GT Good for you!
PF You knew! You were like—
LH “I wanna try this.”
PF “I wanna try this.” What is the thing you wanted to try?
LH I was so frustrated with how ineffective things seemed to be. I was also at the time at a company where the two people in charge were not experienced leaders. This was really their first role, it was the kind of like you know, “Build our company in our dorm room,” style of a company. I had had a number of leadership positions before. You know, in college, I was the general manager of a radio station; the president of a few clubs. Like, I’d sent some emails. You know?
LH I’d had some hard conversations. I was like, “What if I just tried helping in this very particular way?” So I wanted to—the inefficiency really was what was getting under my skin [laughs].
PF So most—most developers would’ve solved that by like writing a bash script and then just waiting [others laugh].
PF And then complaining it didn’t work out.
LH Yes. One hundred percent.
PF That’s my management strategy.
LH Well, what was bananas for me in this first role was, you know, I thought that everyone else was like me, like wouldn’t they love me just dumping buckets of process? [Laughs]
GT Oh! You learned the answer to that question real fast!
LH So one of my first—one of my first direct reports gave me the silent treatment after our first big project together [ooooh!] because he was so frustrated. Not—not necessarily with my behavior, although I’m sure that contributed to it, but mostly he was a really young fresh out of college person who didn’t really know how to work in an office environment or give feedback. And so his way of responding to his frustration was to literally give me the silent treatment.
GT Just shut down.
GT And say nothing.
PF Cuz maybe you’ll go away.
LH Right! [Gina laughs] That’ll make it better.
LH And so thank goodness I was being managed by someone who was really good at being a manager and he was able to explain to me like, “Hey listen, not everybody’s like you. Like I get that you don’t understand why he is giving you the silent treatment and it seems like a really, again, inefficient way of behaving but here is some maybe tactics to try, some things—some empathy to build maybe.” And that was really—that was helpful. Really helpful.
GT Mm hmm.
PF Well so this is a theme, right? Because you said that managing different kinds of people—
LH Mm hmm!
PF—is the focus. Do you buck at them in your head? Like or is [Lara laughs] everyone special? Or like how—how do you do it?
LH It’s funny the way I usually think about it is, “What core need is being threatened or undernourished for them?” Their reaction to that it tells me a lot about them but really it’s like we all have one or sometimes multiple core needs that we care about most. And there’s this framework I talk about in the book, the acronym for which is BICEPS [laughs]. And this acronym stands for the six core needs that humans have at work, you know? Social scientists, neurologists, anthropologists have been studying humans and they found that we have these core needs.
PF What’s BICEPS stand for?
LH I know, right? So the one I just mentioned was that Inefficiency thing, that tends to be mine. That and Significance. So the Inefficiency one that tends to be like we wanna feel a sense of making improvement or progress towards a goal, that could be for ourselves, for our project, for our career, for our team. So that the “I”. I’m skipping over the “B” which is you wanna feel a sense of Belonging to a group. We wanna understand how we relate to this group who’s around us. The C stands for Choice. Right? We all wanna have some level of autonomy over our work lives, workspace. E is for Equality and fairness. We all wanna believe that the world is fair, everybody has access to what they need to survive. The P is for predictability. Right? If every moment was a hundred percent full of surprises, how would that feel? And the S if for Significance which is effectively Status. Yeah.
LH Yes and the exercise is like, “Think about a moment when you reacted strongly, you had a surprising emotion to something that otherwise feels, like, rational. And logical.” [Mm hmm] But it turns out our amygdala which is, you know, the thing that considers threats and rewards when it—when it sense that a threat is heading towards us it goes into overdrive and it tells our prefrontal cortex, which the rational, logical, complex problem solving part of brains, to go on standby. Because this is what’s helped us survive for millennia.
LH Mm hmm.
PF Do we need managers?
LH Great question! I get this one sometimes and it cracks me up. I also get the question like is resiliency important in management? [Chuckles] And the answer to both, I think, is yes because implicitly or explicitly management’s happening. And when I think about management, it’s like setting clear expectations and giving feedback, and being responsible for people’s like overall experience at an organization. So that’s gonna happen regardless. So, I’m gonna say like, “It’s important to have managers, whether or not you label it that way.” Although I think it’s important to label it.
PF And we know that people are varied and full of wonders [Lara laughs]. We know that. What are the different kinds of managers?
LH I coach—So I coach, you know, plenty of different kinds of folks . . . different titles, different backgrounds, different experiences. But it mostly it comes down to like [chuckles] how much are they deputized to be a manager versus not?
PF What—what’s a good team size?
LH Everybody’s different, I think, on this and it really depends on what you’re trying to do and who you are as a human. My personal preference tends to be between five and seven people, for my direct reports. And then on an individual team like usually four to five people tends to be my sweet spot. Like I know how to manage that [mm hmm] but everybody’s different. What’s yours?
PF Oh God. I don’t know. I mean I just think about the different patterns I see like a giant TV show [mm hmm!] has a diff—you know there are clusters but there’s also a sense of like the whole thing has to work together that night with lots of crosscutting and lots of, like you can’t actually fall onto hierarchy when you need to make a decision in 30 seconds.
LH Mm hmm.
PF And so—so—
LH Some do [laughs].
PF No, of course, right?
LH Yeah [laughs].
GT Do you think it has to do with the manager—the manager’s capacity or like the organization? There’s also like [yeah] manager’s on the front line who then report to directors who then have all these people rolling up to them but only through one or two—like it depends really kinda—
LH Yeah, which is why I have no good distinct answer. It’s like everything is gonna be dependent—which is a really unsatisfactory response. I have one manager in my past who used to refer to it as: how many people does he have room in his heart for? [Laughs]
GT Mmm. Interesting.
LH And for him that was like 40. He is—he has room for 40 people in his heart.
GT That’s actually—
LH Not necessarily directly managing but—
PF I would’ve gone for zero [others laugh].
GT But it’s an interesting to phrase it like “room in your heart” meaning like, “How many people do I have the like sort of emotional and mental bandwidth to like try to sit like sit down with, understand, empathize with, coach—”
GT Like support, like, you know, gather the effort. Or at least for me it would take to like give them a hard feedback. Like [yeah!] how many people can I actually do that with and not go home at night just completely exhausted? That’s actually a decent way to frame it.
LH And it came up because his organization had grown to like 65 [laughs].
PF Right, right.
GT Mm, right.
LH And so you start to feel that stretching. Yeah.
PF Ok, engineering management versus other kinds of management.
LH Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Ok.
LH So I hear a lot of engineers talking about—or engineering managers or CTOs or VPs of engineering—talking about how they need someone who has a background in engineering to come in and help and support their folks because—
LH—they firmly believe that they need someone with like a shared understanding, shared experience, shared expertise, shared lingo.
PF Mm hmm.
LH In order to support these folks. And I am vehemently against this idea.
LH Engineering managers especially feel like there’s—this is like a special field, a special discipline. And my general response to that is like, “It’s totally true that engineering managers have a specific set of jargon, set of experiences.” But so does every other discipline.
LH Like design managers are also—like literally every function should feel the same way but I always get it from engineers. And there’s some thought leaders in our—in our industry [Gina laughs] that love to talk this up as if engineering management is—is uniquely something that’s special.
GT I mean I think particularly engineering like leaders emerge by virtue of their like expertise [yes] and their code reviews and they’re like teaching other people things and so people kind of default gather around those folks. So it’s like, “Hey, can I get you to take a look at my thing?” And now I want your approval,” and, “How do I become more like you?” I think that particularly happens in engineering although it probably happens in other disciplines as well.
PF Well, I think, you’re talking—there are industries where practitioners tend to lead.
PF And so—and—then that’s the great tension in engineering is it does favor the practitioner as the leader and [right] there’s always the narrative of like the practitioner who shouldn’t have been promoted.
PF They were more successful as an IC. So that’s the drama—and I think that’s also like, you know, I’m running this software company but I wouldn’t go to NASA.
PF There are places that are like you need to come up through the ranks.
LH For sure and but it’s—it’s—it’s—management is it’s a whole other discipline from how you grow as a strong engineering leader. I mean there’s definitely overlaps in terms of skill sets but like overall you still have to learn a whole bunch of new stuff when you become a manager.
GT Right, right.
LH So when I come into these organizations often I’m brought in by a CTO or a VPE and they’re like, “ We want you to come because you have this background.” And like, don’t get me wrong: I love this work. It’s great work but I often push them to make whatever workshop I’m doing cross-functional.
PF Mm hmm.
LH Because, again, this should not be just for the engineers or the engineering managers in the room. It should be really for everybody cuz this stuff is gonna be crosscutting.
GT My experience with engineering managers or the idea of engineers considering becoming managers is that there’s—I think it’s probably true for all managers but particularly with engineers who deal with computers and code all day and it either builds or it doesn’t—like the idea of being responsible for a human being who may respond in very unpredictable [Lara laughs] ways.
LH Yes! Well said.
GT And being responsible for what that human being does and then having to address what that human being does. Like it’s way easier to pour through the stack trace.
LH Yeah, yeah. Absolutely!
GT And the console, right? [Laughs]
LH More predictable.
PF You’re good at managing the one kind of risk and then [right].
PF And then the other one is a very different kind of risk.
GT Right like it’s interesting to me that you were drawn to management also. I—I mean like it’s funny I look at leadership and management as like, “I can have a bigger impact in the world. The more people who I can influence over because we can have a bigger impact together,” and that is just a special skill and that not everybody has and like if that’s the way I can contribute, that’s great but I think that that can be terrifying for some people.
GT And also it is a new skill and more time you that you have to spend not coding or [yes] or—or whatever it is that you do in your engineering career which can also feel scary cuz, “Am I gonna lose credibility? Or am I gonna fall behind cuz I’m like dealing with this, you know, PTR request or personnel issue.” You know I’m sure that you have—managers come to you and it turns out that they actually really don’t wanna be managers.
GT And they don’t like it. And what is your—what’s your advice to them? Especially when management just seems like a natural progression in one’s career.
LH Yeah, oh yeah, and it’s tough when within an organization there aren’t those two tracks. So many organizations these days, thankfully, have the distinct, you know, management [right] track and like individual contributor leadership track. So when it’s not clear—when you’re in an organization and it’s not clear how you move up, how you acquire more power, or like authority [yeah] without going to management, it’s really tough. So, just generally speaking, for people, when they come to me and they’re like, “I don’t—I don’t think I wanna do this.” They often say it hesitantly as if I’m going to judge them for not wanting to be a manager. [Right] But I hope that they see, you know, after I respond like how much I don’t think people should be managers when they don’t wanna do it. Like [laughs] just because you’re good at something also doesn’t mean that you should be the person doing it.
LH So I am strongly of the mind that like you shouldn’t have to be a manager. Now, again, within an organization there might be circumstances in which you can only grow, you can only influence others, you can only whatever by becoming a manager and for those people, I really hope they start to think about other ways of changing and influencing the company outside of that. Cuz there’s—there’s so many good books right now on like change management like Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard is my number one recommendation for folks who are interested in like gaining more influence but without maybe becoming a manager.
GT Yeah, I especially—I worry personally about women in technology [oh yeah] also being pushed toward management roles or more, you know, I’m doing the air quotes, “soft skill” roles [yes] cuz they’re like, you know, people are like, “Oh you know how to communicate and people really like you so you should do this thing,” and someone may just be like, “I want to be a practitioner.”
PF I’m sitting here [others laugh] I’m sitting here, Gina. This is me [others laugh].
GT I’ve gotten a lot of lovely compliments about my communication skills and that has led me toward a lot more softer, you know, kind of softer skill roles in my career and there’s this balance of like oh but I wanna a practitioner. And figuring out—and that like even if you’re good at it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should do it or that you can get better at the things that you do. What do you think about like the manager’s sort of chameleon? So a friend of mine just introduced me to the Skill Will Matrix like when you have a report who’s sort of in a different place like high skilled but don’t really know how to use those skills versus like really, really eager, the general question is like if you have reports in just a different place do you respond differently as a manager?
LH Oh yeah.
GT Do you just say like, “This is my style and I’m gonna sort of reply differently to different people.”
LH Yeah, I genuinely think that you should be like adaptable both to the people who you’re working with and to the like situation and environment that you’re in and what you’re trying to get accomplished. There’s a whole section in the book about adapting your leadership style based on what people need and everybody has obviously like a different default style. Like mine tends to be a very coachy style. Even before I got coached, training tended to be open questions, believing that people have the answers inside themselves. But, frankly, not everyone wants that. Like I remember early on when I was doing lots of, “Yeah, so what’s important about this?” [Laughs and Gina laughs] “What does success look like?” I remember getting the dead stares of like, “Just tell me what to do! Lara, c’mon!”
GT Right, right, right [laughs].
LH It took me a long time to realize I had to be adaptable, I had to be—to be flexible, and also to understand that like what I need to give someone is gonna depend on the situation and the person. So, again, maybe this person really wants to grow and I love the Will Skill—I need—I can’t wait to look this up [Gina laughs] but like the business doesn’t need it right now.
LH Like as a manager you have to navigate supporting them; helping them feel supported; but also being like, “Ugh, I don’t think that there’s time for this right now.”
GT Tell me about how’d you choose the title? Like what does resilient management mean to you?
LH It took so long. There’s so many skills that I tried to underscore about human growth and resilience. So it was both like how do we grow? How do we evolve as humans and not just stagnate and not just feel like we’re left there alone? And how do you, again, remain resilient to weathering those organizational and team storms that are necessarily going to happen, no matter what environment we’re working in.
GT I feel like a manager too like part of your job is to like buffer your team [mm hmm] from the chaos raining down from above [laughs].
LH It’s hard to know where to draw the line. Like you wanna keep them informed.
LH You wanna be transparent.
LH But like you don’t wanna—you can’t let them know everything that’s happening cuz they’re gonna freak out and it’s your responsibility to handle that. I have a whole section in the book about like what to do when you’ve got some confidential information and you really wanna share it with somebody.
LH How do you—like what’s your rubric that you should go through to be like, “Yup! This is safe for me to share. It’s ok for me to burden them. They are gonna keep it to themselves.” All of that stuff. And! What do you do when you’re tasked with communicating information that you disagree with.
GT That’s a tough one!
GT That’s a really—right. Like, “I got this down from my boss and now it’s coming down to you and I gotta say it as if I believe it and I agree with it but I really don’t.” Right, you can’t—
LH And like, “What if they smell it on me?”
GT Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
LH There’s a whole section on all of these things.
GT Oh that sounds very useful.
PF Again, Gina [others laugh].
GT Well it’s funny because, you know, the buffering goes the other way too.
LH Oh yes. Oh yes.
GT Like it’s like, “Something happened on my team—a personnel issue happened on my team. I don’t need to roll this up to the execs. The execs don’t need to know the details of my reports like issue.” Right? But like sharing just enough information that you need to in order to make sure that that person gets what they need in order for us to go forward, like it’s a tough—I feel like it’s one of the toughest parts of the job.
LH Oh! Absolutely. Cuz also you’re a manager that has a lot of other things going on [yes] that they wanna pay attention to. And you might not be able to necessarily—I’m looking at you, Paul, straight across the thing—get them to care about this issue. Like how do you translate—like how do you—how can you do that translation to get them to both listen and provide just the right amount of context and detail?
GT Mm hmm.
PF When do we need to fire a manager? When does—
LH I’ll tell ya my rubric. My rubric is like what is the impact to the rest of the team? So I do a little cost benefit analysis. So sometimes obviously there’s like business impact of this manager where they’re not—they’re whole team is underperforming or there’s something else going on—that’s, I feel like, a little bit more cut and dry. The harder ones is when you know that they’re trying but you can see that it’s costing those humans that they’re there to support. Because as we all know humans—like managers have this like area of impact that’s so much larger than other—other individuals. So for me it’s like, “Ok, how’s the rest of the team doing? Are they surviving? Are they learning through this experience? And how much time and effort can I put in to supporting this person?” Cuz sometimes I’ll have plenty of time to like sit in with them, coach them, mentor them, you know, provide them—give them gut checks. And other times in my career I do not have that time to give. That’s also, unfortunately, gotta play into when it’s time to fire a manager.
PF What do you look for when you hire a manager?
LH I often look for someone who is going to think about sponsorship? So sponsorship is feeling on the hook to help get someone else promoted. Often managers, you know, kind of like go back to mentoring mode for helping people grow. I wanna look for someone who’s gonna coach and sponsor their people.
GT What’s the difference between mentoring and sponsoring?
LH Yes! So mentoring is advice giving, perspective sharing, talking about what you’ve seen work or not work, sharing pitfalls that they should avoid. It’s—it’s very problem solving-y and it’s—as the manager, it’s all about you, right? You get to like tell them what to do. Even though it doesn’t feel that way—it feels really good cuz you’re able to share this expertise. It’s super [right] different than coaching which is effectively asking open questions because you believe this other person already has the answers inside themselves. So you’re not there to give them advice, you’re not there to like share pitfalls, you’re just there to be like, “Ok cool. What are some other leaders you admire? Like how did they do this thing?” Or, “What’s the number one thing you want your teammates to know about you?” Or my number one favorite coaching question that I use all the time is, “What are you optimizing for?”
LH Cuz it kicks off this little brain wave and so we wanna spend time there as managers but instead of just being like, “Here’s some advice. Here’s how you do this thing.” Cuz that actually doesn’t help people grow. It helps people get unblocked, it helps people on board but it doesn’t help them grow. So I look for coaching skills which is that secondary set of skills, and sponsorship.
GT How do you measure when—I mean you’re a coach now, this is your full-time gig.
LH It’s the best! [Laughs]
GT You’re good at it. It’s good.
LH Thank you!
GT How do you measure like success there? Like do you have people come back? Do you have—or is it just like bigger and more interesting problems? Like [laughs]—how does that work?
LH I get this question a lot from like people who are—are thinking of hiring me. Like how—it feels they have like a sheet in front of them and they’ve got mandatory questions to ask me and one of them is almost always: “How do you measure the success of coaching?” And I usually make a joke about how many people who I’ve coached who have been promoted to VP which is just like [laughs] that’s not true, that happens a lot. But like that’s not [Gina laughs] actually a measure of success.
LH For me honestly it’s like how much can they go and coach others? It’s like how much are they able to stop mentoring straight up and actually start to grow other humans by coaching them and also obviously sponsoring them too. That’s my number one metric of success which I often can’t see. Unless I go and ask them [laughs] later, yeah.
GT Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. What do you say to people or reports or anyone—people—managers who are struggling with team members who are like, “I just really wanna be senior.”
LH Yeah, yeah.
GT Like who focus on the title, you know? Like, “This is a representation of like progression in my career and so what do I have to do to get to be senior?” [Laughs]
LH Yes! Well and it’s—it’s almost comical to me how much this has turned into like a checkbox question, [yeah] of, “What are the things I need to check off my list? And then, “What time—what’s the shortest amount of time I could possibly do this in in order to make it to the next level?” I try to help reframe it for people so that they can go and enter this information back. It’s like less about a checkbox.
LH And, for me, it’s more about like area scope of impact [mm]. So like how can we help this person demonstrate area of impact to the people that they work with? So, you know, I would say like someone who is mid-level is gonna impact their team. A senior person is probably impacting their team plus like one concentric circle outside of that. You know it’s—
GT Stakeholders or clien—
LH Exactly, yeah!
LH I keep on thinking about a principal engineer will be influencing the entire company and also the industry [right]. It’s that area of impact. So I try to help kind of reframe it in terms of a little bit of squishier thing rather than checkboxes and brainstorm with them what are some ways that they could demonstrate this? And how can we keep on checking in on it over time? And usually I recommend putting in like a little calendar reminder, it’s like, “Let’s check in on this in three months to see where it’s at.”
PF Mm hmm.
GT Right, right. I feel like the gamification of everything plus LinkedIn plus just like status. Like I think titles. And maybe this is just my—maybe this is a wrong perception but it feels like titles have gotten like a lot more important?
LH It’s so important! Well actually—it genuinely is important, especially for members for underrepresented groups in our industry [definitely]. Without the titles it’s really hard to prove.
GT It’s like my credential to prove that I can do this.
LH Yeah, exactly. One hundred percent.
PF But is that the goal? A lot of human beings are very title-oriented.
LH Well, again, it comes back to those core needs of understanding your significance like where do I sit in this hierarchy? Like how can I understand where I am relative to everybody else and am I being assessed fairly? Coming back to the Equality and fairness core need. So it’s—it often comes down to those things. Also, again, Belonging: how do I relate to the rest of this group? I mean really core needs are everywhere.
PF You walk into the room, it’s all on fire, like what’s a—It feels like most of the time you walk in and just from your general attitude and from the book, you’re like, “We’ve got a lot of capable people here and we’re gonna work together and try to find at least some optimum solution.”
LH [Laughs] Yes.
PF So that time when you walk in and you’re just like, “Oh no. My God. I can’t. What am I going to do?”
LH “I’m out.”
PF Yeah. Yeah.
LH Yeah. So, yeah, I feel like my general rule of thumb is to like read the room: who else is in this room and what are their reactions? Cuz I’m gonna need to get them under control first so that we can try to figure this thing out. If people still like have that deer in the headlights stare, for example, I’m like, “Ok, let’s just like figure out those folks first and get them to chill out or leave the room. That way we can get down to business.”
PF When you coach big company versus small company, what differences do you note?
LH Often larger companies have so much historical context that people who have been there, especially if they’ve been there for a long time, they have like brought up with them, so there’s often like, “Oh yup. When we moved desks 30 years ago, here’s a thing that happened.”
LH But it’s funny cuz in a startup or in a smaller company that stuff is happening but it’s [whispers] fresh. Like there’s still healing from those scars.
LH So like the thing that I’m gonna bring up, it might not be like, “Oh let me think back to historically when we’ve done this before and how that hurt,” it’s like, “Oh yeah, you mean last week when we had to move desks?!? Yeah I can think about a time that I was recently traumatized at work.”
PF Right. Right, right.
GT Speaking of moving desks, what do you think are the hardest things that managers have to deal with?
LH I use desk moves as my example in almost all my talks these days because it’s just so relatable [laughs and Gina laughs]. And like speaking of like things—
GT Status, Belonging, how I like relate to the rest of the organization.
LH Exactly! It hits every single one of those core [fairness laughs] needs. And! It’s otherwise rational and logical, right? You just got this group of people sitting in one area of the floor, you just need to move them somewhere else, it shouldn’t be so emotional.
GT It is very emotional.
LH And yet! I joke in the course of my management career, it’s the number one most emotional [Gina laughs] like traumatic thing that people go through.
PF No, I believe it.
PF Should we mix—so we’re in a corner, the whole management team, and we’re—we’re—you know we’re flat, it’s pretty open, should we mix it up and be in with everybody? Or should we stay together as a management team?
LH I’m shaking my head. Don’t—don’t mix it up. It’s just gonna weird everybody out. Cuz they’ll read your energy. They’re constantly watching your energy to be like, “What’s—what’s the temperature of the room today?”
PF Yeah, that’s true.
GT Yeah, it’s actually better to be a little bit out of view.
LH I think so.
PF I feel slightly more qualified [music fades in] to manage now.
GT I feel way more qualified to manage now. Everyone should get this book.
PF It’s true.
GT I think anyone who’s even thinking about leadership should get this book.
PF Go get this book.
LH Yes. Resilient Management is out now. You can find it on abookapart.com.
PF Lara Hogan, thank you.
LH Thank you so much!
PF Gina, you know, if somebody really wanted to help us out, the first thing they could do, of course, is give us a large, multi-month engagement to help them build their digital platform, but if not that, what’s the next most important thing they could do?
GT If you’re listening to the show and you like the show, come to iTunes, tell us about it. Tell us what you like; tell us what you don’t like; but mostly tell us what you like.
PF And let’s—let’s think about the number of stars that’s the right number of stars.
GT Five stars is definitely the right number of stars but we’ll take any number of stars but five would be great [chuckles].
PF No! We will take five stars, Gina! Five!
PF Five stars. Anything less is like suddenly I don’t get to drive the Uber anymore.
GT It’s true, it’s true, that’s it.
PF Go for five and send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. We love your emails [music ramps up, plays alone for three seconds, fades out to end].