Tag Archives: nerds

Duncan Davidson: Managing an Empathy Wobble



Joanie interviews Duncan Davidson, CTO In Residence at Microsoft, Berlin.  He provides service to and is a liaison between Microsoft and the CTOs at start-up companies that Microsoft supports through the ScaleUp accelerator program at Microsoft for Startups.

What’s great about this interview is that Duncan shares his own experience with what he calls an “empathy wobble” when his company was acquired.  He shares insights into how it happened, what the impact was, and what he needed to change within himself to grow as a leader.  This is an incredibly impactful episode.  Duncan is candid and authentic.

Highlights:

Q: What kinds of things do you do as CTO In Residence at Microsoft?

“I provide tools for the technical people who are in or end up in the CTO role.  It’s everything from what are three reasonable architectures for running a in cloud computing, to how do you scale up from two people to twenty to 200, and how do you act as a technical leader in these situations?”

Q: Where were you before Microsoft?

“I was at hired at Wunderlist as senior developer on staff underneath the CTO/VP Engineering.  I was there to influence where we were going from a technical standpoint…  We were able to launch our product without a hiccup.  It was the most boring launch I’ve ever done.  Then we got acquired.”

“We had to go through due diligence for the acquisition.  Microsoft’s risks were much larger than ours because, if we brought in a bug, we could cost Microsoft billions.  We went through the process for six or seven months.  We went from having thousands of issues to a hundred to none.  In the end, we were pretty satisfied.  We thought the hard part was done.”

Q: [Ominous music] What happened once you were acquired?

“My goal was to have a successful integration, one where our team was seen as successfully contributing to the new company so we could buy our way into being relevant to the new company.  If we could guide the group through a transition like that, then we could write the rest of our story within Microsoft.”

Q: How did the integration go?

“What made sense to us from a logical perspective wasn’t something that a large number of people on our staff wanted to do.  Our team was made up of open source Linux geeks running microservices in different development languages and they were badasses at that. Microsoft had big enterprise things that had been around for twenty years, like Exchange, which were almost anathema to the people on our team.  We found that we didn’t have the alignment we needed in the organization.  As we went through this, we had a lot of friction in the organization.”

Q: How did you manage the friction?

“I found that I had an empathy wobble.  I picked up the term from a TED Talk by Frances Frei on how empathy wobbles can destroy trust.  Here’s where I ran into something interesting.  The logical side of where I came from was never a problem.  My authenticity seems to do pretty well.  But where I had the wobble was in empathy, being able to motivate people to get on board during the integration. I didn’t think I had a problem in this arena, but…”

Listen to the episode to hear Duncan’s gripping story of his empathy wobble…

Words of Wisdom:

“An empathy wobble impacts trust.  The decisions you make seem arbitrary to the people on the other side.”

“Culture is not defined by what you put on a piece of paper.  It’s the behaviors you tolerate in an organization.”

“We postponed a lot of things we should have acted on.  It’s in those kinds of situations where you find you’re not the good guy.”

Contact Duncan Davidson:

Email: duncand@microsoft.com

Website: https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/advocates/duncan-davidson


Mike Nowland: Solutions to your Leadership Problems



Joanie interviews Mike Nowland, whose purpose in life is to help managers be better, do better, and live better. Joanie met Mike when he was working as the Corporate Training Manager for the Americas at ResMed. Now he’s the president of Enriched Learning and Development, LLC. Mike shares tips for technical people who move into leadership roles.

Highlights:

Q: What kind of nerd are you?

“I’m probably the least technically proficient person you’re going to meet, at least on this podcast.  Numbers and I have been enemies since middle school.”

Q: What did you do at ResMed?

“ResMed was smart enough to keep me away from the medical devices and let me focus on the leadership aspects of leadership and development.  There, we improved the health of people through better sleep.”

Q: What are you doing now?

“If you think about any business.  I don’t care if you’re a heart surgeon or designing a CPAP device or if you’re in the military, you’re dealing with human nature…  It’s a human being business.  If you’ve got people, we’ll work well together.”

Q: What is the difference between managing and leading?

“We have to do both.  In the normal execution of our duties every day, there are things that we manage.  We manage people’s arrival times and departure times, deliverables, performance reviews, and all these processes we manage that execute the performance of the organization.  At the same time, we lead people to understand what stellar performance looks like in this organization, how they contribute to the outcomes in the execution of their duties and how they fit with the outcomes of the organization.”

“Both are important, and both can be taught.”

Q: What kinds of challenges do people who are technically savvy and leadership challenged typically face?

“One is, because they don’t know how to effectively communicate expectations or how to train others in the skills that got them promoted, they almost double down on their workload.  They think: ‘I’m not comfortable training someone on how to do it.  I’m going to do it twice as fast.  I’m going to lead by example.’  Frequently, it’s not developmental for someone on the team.  And, in 3-6 months, they’re burned out.”

To hear all three typical challenges as well as solutions, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

“Most managers are managers today because they were strong individual contributors. It can be very frustrating to make that transition.”

“Other people were probably performing pretty well when you got promoted. You don’t have to do their work for them.”

“When you get promoted, you get a grace period to ease in.”

Contact Mike:

Email: mike.nowland@crestcom.com

Website: Enriched Learning and Development

 


Kevin Ehlinger-Wilde: Communicating Innovation



Joanie interviews Kevin Ehlinger-Wilde, a nationally award-winning creative entrepreneur, speaker, and innovation trainer who has worked with over 500 executives and companies across the country.  He’s an expert on the TIPS personality profiling tool and he has offered our nerd community a special offer.

Get a free overview of all of the TIPS profiles: www.wildespark.com/reinventing-nerds.

The first 20 people who visit will get a free TIPS assessment!

Highlights:

Q: Kevin, you’ve worked with numerous executives.  What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in working with them?

“People in the Sales Department tend to be more on the creative side. The IT people tend to be more systems oriented.  You’re dealing with a lot of different people who want information in different ways.”

Q: How do you know what your audience is?

“Sometimes it’s based on the skills they already have.  Sometimes it’s based on key indicators, like if their eyes are glazing over.”

Q: Tell us about TIPS.

“It’s a profile system, like Myers-Briggs on steroids…  As we go through TIPS, we learn how people like to be presented with things.”

“For example, with the Thinking Style, some people are very figure oriented.  They like facts and numbers.  Others are very fantasy oriented.  A lot of systems people are figure oriented.  A lot of entrepreneurs and people in Marketing are in the fantasy world.”

Q: How do you make it so people aren’t at each other’s throats?

“That’s management–how do you put together teams that can function at a high level?  The idea of using tools like TIPS is so people can understand where everybody can help, where everybody can work, and then what’s the best way to put together teams.”

Q: How do you put together innovative teams?

“Let’s talk about innovation styles.  Some people are very innovative or they are adaptive.  The adaptive people look at small, incremental changes, like adding wheels to a chair.  The innovative people will ask whether we need a chair at all.”

Q: How do you avoid feeling pigeon holed?

“We all have strengths and weaknesses.  It’s not a matter of being pigeon holed.  We all have value in everything we do.  Theorists develop ideas.  Entrepreneurs build businesses.  Systems people organize.  Innovation is messy and chaotic.  The most successful companies have figured out how to systematize, keep doing what we do really well, then branch out.  We all have a role.  We all play a critical role in the company in every stage.”

Words of Wisdom:

“Change can be really tough for a lot of people.  The more you’re open to change, the more you’re open to new ideas of how things can be done.”

“We’re all born 100% creative but we’re taught to conform.”

Contact Kevin:

Website: www.wildespark.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinehlinger/