Humans+Tech Podcast - Michael Lopp

We're excited to be talking to the one and only Michael Lopp, aka Rands from the incredible Rands is an engineering leader at Apple, having previously been VP of Engineering at Slack, head of engineering at Pinterest, as well as being the author of a number of amazing tech leadership books, including Managing Humans and The Art of Leadership, small things done well.

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Scroll down to read the full transcript of our chat with Rands.

Michael Lopp aka Rands

Rands quick fire answers

Rands recommends reading Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, or if you don't fancy that read Bird by Bird [00:48:57]

Steve Jobs inspires Rands [00:50:11]

The most ridiculous thing about Rands is his love of American sliced cheese, the really bad kind [00:50:51]

In this episode we cover

  1. Surviving the fall as a new manager [00:01:30]
  2. Rands's vision of feedback [00:09:51]
  3. Working with people who have different communication styles and the post Rands wrote about it, Lost in Translation [00:14:20]
  4. Why and how to Say the Hard Thing [00:21:37]
  5. Hearing the hard thing and the three types of feedback [00:28:34]
  6. How introverts can level the playing field [00:40:55]
  7. How to manage your energy as an introverted manager [00:44:08]
  8. The OODA loop [00:48:57]

Find out more, and follow Rands

Rands in Repose

Rands Leadership Slack

Full transcript

Aaron Randall  0:01
Welcome to the Humans+Tech podcast. I'm Aaron Randall. And this is Amy Phillips.

Amy Phillips  0:06

Aaron Randall  0:06
And today, we are so excited to be talking to the one and only Michael Lopp, aka Rands. Rands is an engineering leader at Apple, having previously been VP of Engineering at Slack, head of engineering at Pinterest, as well as being the author of a number of amazing tech leadership books, including Managing Humans and The Art of Leadership, small things done well. And of course, we'll all know him as well for his excellent blog Rands in Repose. Rands, welcome to the show.

Rands  0:31
Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Aaron Randall  0:32
Thanks for taking the time. So one of the things we like to do with all our Humans+Tech guests is to draw a doodle of them. I'd love to show you yours and get your thoughts and feedback.

Rands  0:43
Great. Let's start there. Let's do it.

Amy Phillips  0:46
So hopefully, you can now see the masterpiece.

Rands  0:50
Oh, lovely. I really love that you did the gradients and all of the detail, I think the beard, the beard is good.

Aaron Randall  1:07
I'll take that. My work has been described as a sausage with features. And I regret now not drawing, now I can see you wearing glasses. I should have put glasses on.

Rands  1:18
Yeah, you should have done. But I mean, it looks like it was like a weekend of work here. Right? So

Aaron Randall  1:24
1000 hours? Yeah,

Amy Phillips  1:30
So. That's the important important stuff covered, we can get down to all the secondary stuff. So Rands, you've written a number of posts about making mistakes, and particularly how new managers can drastically overestimate their abilities. And then they sort of inevitably go through something you call The fall. Can you tell us what you mean by the fall?

Rands  1:51
Or the new manager death spiral. It's really, the core of this is sort of this belief that when you become a manager that like, well, now I'm in charge, so I have to be right all the time, which no one would actually think is like a reasonable thing. But it's kind of like irrationally, what you think when you're sitting in that meeting or on that, on that zoom call, or Google call or whatever, and kind of like, everyone's kind of looking at you. And it's, there's a lot of pressure there. And that's, it's inevitably people try to never be wrong. And like, I think it comes from a good spot. But like, you're going to be wrong 50% of the time, like you're going to miss make mistakes a lot of the time, and rather than sort of obsessing about sort of the failure and the lack of, you know, confidence in those sorts of things, that the thing that you need to get your head around is that number one, that's okay. And number two, and this is sort of how you, you get to it being okay, is you understand that, even though this sucks, and something did some commitment was not made or some failure occurred. There's just incredible value in that thing occurring. And the sooner that you mind that uncomfortable, horrible situation for that learning, the less the more that you kind of see failure is less of this punishment, or this thing that you're letting your team down or, or whatever, and more sort of like, Okay, well, that sucked. And I never need want to do that. Again, I think there's just a lot of new manager thing, manual things that new managers do that, like not wanting to fail, that just sort of contribute to sort of an inevitable sort of, I call it the new manager death spiral where they just kind of, they just they start to, they don't ask for help. They don't delegate, they think failure is not an option. And these things just turn into sort of this weird situation where new managers, especially new managers, I think our engineers are not necessarily predisposed to be great with humans. It kind of turns into a nightmare scenario. So and you think it's only at the beginning, but I've done it several times over the course last 20 years.

Aaron Randall  4:08
And what what can you tell us what your first sort of great fall was the first mistake, a big mistake you made as a manager?

Rands  4:15
I don't think was the first but it's the one I get asked in a version of this question. And so when I think of this engineer at Netscape, and this is my first couple years as a manager, she was she was asking for feedback. And I'm like, absolutely. And this is literally just starting as a manager, and I, you know, I did the most vapid, worse version of this typed up stuff of sort of recollections in the last month or so. And I looked at it and I was so proud that I type some words like, yeah, and she read it and her reaction was just exactly what I wrote, which is, she was nice about it, but she was just like, there's nothing here. That's actionable. It doesn't reflect reality. And this is most of the conversation where you're helping me grow. And it was absolute F. And I only, like at that moment when I realised what the responsibility of feedback was, especially in this sort of review scenario where it's like, No, no, no, no, you don't get a phone. This is This isn't like YOLO, knock some words together and say something that is trite and pithy. This is like, this is a huge amount of work, and you fail on this thing, and eroded trust with this person, etc, etc, etc. So it wasn't really just, it wasn't like, you know, the product didn't ship it was just letting the team down. And it's why I've, since then, I've just gone incredibly deep on feedback, not just being a part of reviews, feedback, being a thing, I'm always doing feedback never being a surprise and feedback being this. You know, it's the pithy thing is, it's a gift. And it really is, is when you hear it, you kind of like, oh, cool, a lot has something to say about this that's relevant to how we're doing on the thing, as opposed to like, Oh, geez, I'm in trouble, because a lot has to be back for me, right? So it just really pivoted my perspective around the craft of feedback. And how important is to building trust in a team? That was a good answer.

Amy Phillips  6:14
There are so many bit's I've written down. But what I did want to just touch on was you mentioned about eroding the trust?

Rands  6:25

Amy Phillips  6:26
How do you how do you come back? Because I think there are, I mean, we probably do this all the time, right? Say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or in the wrong way? So how do you recover from a time where you actually have eroded the trust with your team or with a person.

Rands  6:43
Let me let me talk, let's talk about the new manager perspective around that, which is the belief that you like for this case, we just talked about with me giving bad feedback. I just felt like she didn't trust me at all. It wasn't the case. It was a bad moment. It was a erosion of trust. It wasn't a deep it was it wasn't gone. But so that's number one is not to think like it's a switch. You weren't asking this, but like, like, like, like, all right, I am no longer credible. It's like, No, you just have a ding here. There's a black guy here. So in the The answer is, is super easy to say. But it's hard to do, which is whatever that thing is that I screwed up on. What did I do with that? With that employee for the next year, we talked feedback every month, for 12 months, I kept a running log of how things were going. And some months, I had a lot of things to say. And some I'm like, this is kind of the same stuff. But I just demonstrated over time that I was gonna be consistently good at this thing. So you'd have to ask her whether I succeeded in rebuilding trust. But I know, month 12. It was like, when we when I did the review. And this is where you want to get with reviews. The review was boilerplate. It was everything we'd already talked about a million times. And it just happened to be a time where there was money or whatever was going on. And but it was like, we're like, cool. We do this all the time. This is where we're at. And this is the current plan for you to grow. And well, why is there any questions about this? Like, no, that's right. This is what we're doing. So that was that was like joy that she just expected that the feedback was constant and useful.

Amy Phillips  8:18
Did you acknowledge the fall to her? Like, is that something which you actually? Yeah. How did that go? Like? Sounds as bad as the fall itself.

Rands  8:33
All the stages of grief. What happened afterwards? I think I was defensive when she was like, This is garbage. I'm like, No, it's not I work hard. And whatever. The first time back, when I'd kind of redone it all. I just, I apologise. I was just like, that was really poor. And here's my new strategy here. Here's v2 of what I consider to be the feedback here, I think it's probably this was a Python was an F, this is a B, and but more importantly, this is our This is now our playbook every month, we're going to go back to this I'm going to talk about you have these things that you want to over your career. I am going to work with you every month and get you there over time. So it was it was hard. But it was just back to the first question. It was sort of like, it wasn't like this, I'm not gonna get punished. I mean, I mean, I was punished myself worse than maybe she was feeling bad about me as a leader. I don't even know. But it was it turned it into literally why this answer is good is because I have a very articulate vision of what I think is important about feedback now. And it came from screwing it up so badly. So it was it was hard to tell her but it was I think the time before talking it was worse for me when I was like, I'm super horrible at this like how am I gonna get better?

Aaron Randall  9:51
Can we can we talk specifically about that? What that vision on feedback is now like, I'd love to hear your learnings about how you got to a good place with giving great feedback.

Rands  9:59
I was writing about it this weekend, I, the way I start with someone is I kind of say, I ask  this question, which you probably read somewhere and something I've written in, which is do you want to be when you grow up? And everyone smiles? And they giggle a little bit when they hear that? And they like, what? And I'm like, No, no, no, what, and I don't whether you're right out of university, or you're 30 years into your career, I'm interested in your answer. And if you just want to have a fun little conversation about becoming a writer, super, let's have that. But at some point, I'm going to scare it to, what do you want to do? And they're gonna say, Well, I'm not sure I'm like, Okay, great. Here's the path. And I have a whole model of sort of growing leaders, which is, this is a long Holmes time do we have like, there's a path to CEO, there's a path to CTO, there's a path to VP of engineering, there's a path to kind of chief architect. And then there's a whole nother path of, I don't want to do any of that. But I would like to work on leadership skills that doesn't have one of these three letter acronyms next to it. So. And all of those are valid paths. Now I say those and it feels saccharin and sort of opportunistic to be like, you know, you want to be CEO, let's go figure out how to do that. You got to remember the last eight and a half years before going to Apple, all of these people that were talking about CTO VP, were real people. And I could point out and say, like Stuart's like this, or Cal is like that. So I could really actually have a conversation because they've seen those people working and doing their thing, and saying, cool, cool, like, and then we have a conversation about what it means to be a CEO, CTO, VP, and kind of say, Okay, what are the things that you Where are your gaps, relatives that are sort of the heading in that direction, whether you're interested in management, a very seasoned manager, and we just have a conversation to kind of figure out what are the things to put them on the this sounds really easy. This takes multiple conversations over time. But we start to just figure out, Okay, cool. You really, really love banging on the keyboards and building things. And you're always right now you believe that's always what you want to do. But you want to talk about leadership. All right, that is probably, I could see that being CTO, I could see that being architect, I could see that being individual contributor plus leadership, like, Great. Okay, let's talk about those three. Talk more, more, more. Alright. So no, I don't ever want to play politics. No, I don't want to all this other stuff. All right, we're kind of leaning towards more of the IC plus leadership role. So it's this winning, it's this edgy winnowing and education process to try to figure out where we're going to head there. And then eventually, we, we sort of say, okay, cool, you eventually kind of want to be a VP of engineering. So you want to, you don't want to build the machine, necessarily, but you want to run the machine and you want to run the humans there? What are the skills you're going to need? And how are we gonna get you there? And, again, it sounds all really aspirational. But it could be boiled down to, you need to work on your presence in groups of people. Where can you can you run a meeting? Can you give a presentation, there's this there's this marketing, good marketing aspect to being a VP of engineering, which is being out there and communicating at scale. You don't have that right now. Cool, let's go figure out how to get you to do that. Like these are the things opportunities, I see over the, you know, the average slack year or Pinterest, year or whatever, that will sign you up for that and get you those those, get the experience in place. So you can kind of work on it, and then talk about it every month.

Amy Phillips  13:28
I suppose there a whole load of translation that comes in on that as well, right? Because the hardest is the translating that into reality. So

Rands  13:37
it is it there's but there's also once you kind of have a rough contract signed, you, I may not be able to come up with the things you need to do right now. But once I know that, that Mary is really interested in this type of leadership development, I am now on the where one of my new project is showed up. I don't have time for Oh, this is perfect. This is a perfect leadership exercise for Mary, right. So there's also just an opportunistic thing that you're doing as a leader all the time, I'm sort of looking at all the people and all this stuff and kind of shifting things around. So it may not be like definitive at the moment. But again, with iteration with time, you can usually find things to translate it into an action plan. Right?

Aaron Randall  14:20
So glad to use was a translation as well, because then we're talking it's the another blog post called Lost in Translation where you give examples of work with different types of people with different I guess, personality types. Can you talk us through kind of situations where you've had to work with people that are very different to you personality wise and how you like, bridge that that difference in in character and way of communicating?

Rands  14:45
I was literally in a meeting this morning, where I needed to remember that article. It's a I think the rule is that different humans hear things in very different ways. And what you think is just a throwaway sentence in that status report, or that Slack channel can trigger someone else really, really badly. And you don't even know it. So it's in, it's just like these things, especially in a time of slack. And we're all distributed. And there's all these communication via the wonderful tools like Slack, it's just, it's even more important to kind of understand that. Anyway. Number one is being aware of who having the reading the room having the situational awareness to know, I'm in this meeting with seven other people. These are, these are, these are important people who are going to take this message, and you're going to share it with a lot of other people. So I'm making this up right now. But it happens all the time. And which means the casual YOLO conversation, where I'm just being lop, rands, whoever, and kind of just shooting from the hip, not the right move, because everything that I'm saying, is being taken, interpreted and fed into some other grapevine or thing elsewhere. So there are these moments where you know that every word matters. And it's not just every word, it's also saying the thing. Hey, Ted, this is what I think we should do about this problem here. In Ted goes, huh? Yeah. And I'm like, tell me what you just heard. And it's one of my most powerful tricks is going back to me because he says, You said this. I'm like, I didn't say that at all. And I could tell by the way, you were nodding at me that you were half listening, and you didn't actually hear what I said. And you have different values and different things that you want to do. And Ted's amazing, by the way, but he says I don't I'm like, that's not what I said, I said this, he's like, oh, no moment, there's so there's this, there's this game, it's not a game, it's a very important thing, but of knowing where you are, knowing how you're communicating, know how and your partners in this situation are hearing, checking in error correcting, reading the money being notes after because someone's definitely taking meeting notes and reading it going? Nope, that's not what I said over there, or that was nothing but I want capture there. So it's it, I joke, that like a huge amount of my job is moving piece of information a from position one, over to position two. That's like most of my job, especially in a larger company. It's this information economy. And I've got a bunch of it, and I'm selling it and I'm buying it. And I'm trying to like keep track of it all the time. I don't know the answer your question. There's so much to tell you.

Aaron Randall  17:47
I've got about 100 questions to follow on.

Rands  17:52
My other thing is I always when I hear something, and I know it's one of these sort of important moment meetings, I always say, hey, what I heard you say was this, just to make sure that everyone is signing the same verbal contract by what is being said and heard.

Aaron Randall  18:11
I love that, I use that as well actually in one on ones like back to people to like in reverse to make sure that I'm understanding what they're saying as well as, like, as just generally.

Rands  18:20
It's complex and also, when it's contentious to right you're like, like, like, that didn't strike me quite right. You mean this? Oh you really did mean that okay.

Amy Phillips  18:35
What about with people who actually have, like, very different styles? Like, do you get any sort of resistance to your kind of communication style and delivering information in that way?

Rands  18:48
There's definitely the humans that communicate in a very different way. Like there's in you, again, reading the room, you've got a note, there's like the literalists out there, they're like, that are super mad about that, that should have been a witch. And by the way, like, it seems trivial, but it's actually a big deal about bringing clarity to communication, but there are there like, folks out there that are that kind of, you know, amped about it. And they, it's not really as much. When you say resistance, what I hear is sort of like, I'm saying these things, and they're not hearing it, I I will quickly deal with that. It's more just having a good sense of the humans that are around me, and knowing how they need to hear things and being aware of that. So that person that we're thinking of, you're thinking of and thinking of that's like, I know that you know, something I do with folks like that is I tell them beforehand what I'm going to say so that they feel like they're part of it, and they're not sometimes I was like, No, we can't do that ever, because engineering is hard, I will actually give it to them beforehand to both hear their feedback, but also to make it so that when they're in that social setting where they're normally just sort of like the, you know, we can't do it, folks, they're already on my team, they've already been a part of it. So they're in that's just one of many ways to sort of deal with the folks that are, you know, different than AI in terms of how they communicate and how they get things done. So it's being aware of those folks and having whatever interface mechanism that you have to build for them. Because every time it gets like, when I'm in that meeting, and I'm kind of riffing on this now, where someone's like, just blocking, or you know, they're mad about something, it's there's something there, which is real, but irrational and has nothing to do with the topic. It has to do with something else. That is a thing that I or their manager, or if their work for me have to go and actually figure that piece out. Because they've been there's, there's something else that has nothing to do with this topic. That is, it is the issue, if that makes sense. We are a super hypothetical mode now.

Aaron Randall  21:05
I love that, that idea of like, I guess like giving context ahead of time bringing them along for the journey and kind of like getting buy in I definitely, I've seen teams where if you give people enough context and autonomy, autonomy, like they really can hop on board straightaway and crack on with that horrible difficult problems. Like give them a surprise and say, this is the thing you need to do. It's so different, right? I love the way you articulate that.

Rands  21:29
Lots of lots of failure that has given me this strategy.

Aaron Randall  21:34
It's a great learning.

Amy Phillips  21:37
It also something it made me kind of think of your Say the Hard Thing, posts as well. Which is one of the hardest things like what's your like? Well, firstly, could you talk us through like, what is Saying the Hard Thing? And then like, how do we how do we actually do that?

Rands  21:53
Yeah, it's so you got this person, you're working with Frank, and he has this behaviour that is suboptimal, whatever that thing is, and you know it almost instantly. But you've worked with him beforehand. He's a friend from a prior gig. And for blah, blah, blah, I'm making this up, because I've lived it so many times. And rather than saying, hey, Frank, this behaviour is suboptimal. You can We'll talk later, I'll get into one on one, that whatever. And maybe that's the right thing at the time, but it's not the place to kind of highlight it in that meeting, or whatever is going on here. But you defer it saying the hard thing is telling him right then right now, this is something that isn't working because of xy and z. And it's super hard. But if as I look at most of the horrible people, situations I've created on my time, it's because I, I didn't do it early, I waited until the review, or I waited until you know much later. It is the classic it is the classic reaction to a performance improvement plan. Everybody says it in some of it's true in sort of denial, but that I didn't see this coming. They didn't because you didn't say the hard thing. And a while ago, and by the way, it's now 10 times worse, because it's amplified, you didn't deal with it, whatever that bad behaviour cost was growing as it was going on, blah, blah, blah. It's just to me, that that pain of doing it whatever that pain is professional pain at the beginning, is so much less than doing it later. And I've learned it so many times that I perhaps pre optimise to say something sooner than maybe others. But here's the idyllic hopeful eventual outcome there is. prank. This isn't working. Oh, we're friends. Why are you telling me this? No, no, no, you're my manager. It's all different. Then we have the conversation, we get through it. Just hand wave through a very hard thing. The next time that I say it two weeks later, because he didn't really actually hear me because he was defensive. And I didn't communicate it. Well, blah, blah. So here it is, again. He's like, Oh, well, there is a pattern here. And, and suddenly, there's a thing back to the building of trust that's going on. It's really, really amazing, which is, over time, both of you are willing to tell him and he is willing to hear these things, which means we're taking all of this air out of this sort of moment of review time, because maybe he's still working on it when we get to reviews. It's not the first time he sees it. I say we'll talk about the second time I'm putting this here because it's still a thing. He's like, yep, and I know what we're doing about it. This is what we're doing about and I'm like, Yep, that's right. I'm making it sound so easy. It's not because there's you know, people in feelings out there, but it's getting out there as quickly as possible. So that you can start having whatever drama is about or the conversation or the date or whatever that sort of thing is So, and it's, I think it's just, it's a, you can you can abuse this, you can be that person who's always telling the truth. So there's, uh, you know, this is the way it is and saying the hard thing. So there's a way there's definitely it's not a catch all, but it's certainly from a feedback to people perspective, I think it's just something that can save you a tonne of a tonne of time down down the line as you're having these big conversations with your team with your humans.

Aaron Randall  25:36
And then you said, in that post that a good place to start practising feedback is with new employees. How do you do that? And why a new employee? It's so great for this.

Rands  25:50
The what I do with new folks is, so I have one on ones. One day, I'll be dead and they'll be this gravestone it'll say Rands don't forget to do your one on ones. It'll say on my gravestone, cuz it's the only thing anyone's gonna remember. The but one on ones are sort of religion for me, because they're just that time to do what we're about to do. One of the things that we're about to talk about, which is just that weekly time to actually have a conversation. So with new folks. I, number one, one on ones are not status reports, their conversations about topics of substance, I always have a couple of things ready. But after a couple of times, folks realise are this sort of bidirectional high bandwidth things. But at the first one, where I've probably done more talking than usual, just because it's the first time I finish, and I say, hey, do you have any feedback for me? And never in the history of forever? Has anyone ever said anything? They're like, they're like, no, you're doing great. I'm like, thanks for saying that. I'm failing Paul, about 40 to 42% of the time, but it's good. So I keep on doing that. Because one on ones or every week. And eventually, they realise and I'm not going to stop asking. And they say something, and they say, Hey, here's a you were nervous that that one on one or that presentation, I'm like, Yes, I was, I was totally not prepared. I was totally yoloing. And I was not nearly as prepared as I like to be for those sorts of things. And in my head, it's this moment where we've flattened the org structure a little bit. I'm not this human who is their boss, I am this human who is on this journey with them. And they are willing to give me feedback. And this helps in both directions. Number one, they start to say things to me, like he screwed this up. And it doesn't happen overnight. But also when I have a thing I said, Hey, remember, like, like, we now have this contract here where we can do feedback in both directions, I can now say something, and when it's bad stuff, or it's harder to hear stuff, it's less of this way, because this is just a thing we do. Like Well, the other thing we do here, as opposed to like this, it's this time of year, and we're giving feedback, we've just sort of made it kind of normal, right? So it's just, and by the way, after a while, you don't even know you're doing it anymore. It's no longer feedback. It's just not having my one on one with Julia. And by the way, we got we were yelling about something and it was pretty bad. And then we moved on to the next thing because it was you know, that's kind of how we roll. Right? So it's a stigma being taken away. And by the way, like, as I'm saying this as a coffee is kicking in here. It's what people want. They want to like actually hear how they're doing from people that they trust. This is super malleable, like, sign me up for that all day.

Amy Phillips  28:34
I mean, yes, but it's also tough, right? Like so how do you toughen up to like hearing the hard thing you sort of talked about in your post about the three types of feedback? No big deal, slow burn, and just plain hard? Like, How do you how do you learn to handle those?

Rands  28:53
I'm the only one that in those three that is really hard is that? Well, there's hard, just plain hard and slow burn, which are kind of the same thing. And slow burn is like you hear this thing. And then you start to go like, wait a minute, she was telling me something super important, but she was pulling her punches. And this is actually super hard thing to hear. And then there's it's hard to hear. I think for both of those cases, whether you slowly learn that it's hard or it's immediately hard. You know, like, if your gut reaction is not correct, your gut reaction is as a human is when you've been punched is to punch back. When in whatever way you want to articulate that and that's not that's not what leaders do, right? So it's, to me, there's this digestion process that starts in terms of actually hearing it and I can tell you, when it's really really hard feedback or something which is really complicated like my wife knows this. I just I shall I just go into this little shell of, I need to think through this and see how I feel about it and do the implication analysis and, you know, reflect on that past behaviour and data, but almost like clockwork, and it's not like, guaranteed amount of time. There's this point where I'm like, Alright, I get it now. And it's days, sometimes it's days where I'm like, it's like, I'm on my bike on our three of the ride. And like, I get it, I got it. And like, I was working on it for the last two days. And it's this puzzle of I sort of sort of like you're trying to sort through it and be like, okay, Kate, let's get on piste. And let's put that aside here. I did these things. Did I deserve this? No, I disagree with that. But they meant it. So like, blah, blah. So it's, there's this point where you're kind of like, you've resolved it, and perhaps you know, what your next step is, that's not necessarily a requirement. Sometimes it's just like, Alright, I see the hand that I've been dealt, I'm not sure what my next card is, or how I'm gonna play this, but at least that So that to me, is the thing is, and, and knowing that there's time for me, maybe I'm slow, just kind of noodling it and kind of getting through it is the most important part. Again, but to start with, like, your first reaction is just garbage. It's whether it's a well, I'm useless, or they're completely wrong, or whatever that thing is, there's probably some truth there. But it's much more nuanced is much more Shades of Grey to it, and you want to get through all those shades and figure out kind of like, truly what was said, what's being asked, or what's developing in terms of the situation?

Aaron Randall  31:45
I've when I read about you describing slow burn, I just say articulated perfectly, what I've felt so many times where I've been like, that was a great one on one I have with Alice, and they'll be on the commute home half hour later, suddenly hit me like what she was saying. And I thought, Oh, no, I just realised what I'd like what the feedback was, to me that was so politely delivered that it took half an hour, it's about me to get it. So it's like, as you say, like with your cycling example, it's slow, slow solution, I guess, to come back to you.

Rands  32:15
Or the other one is, they're introducing a thought, which is a bunch of other feedback that now you can smell is coming. They're just like trying to crack the door open a little bit. And you're like, I'm like, What did they wait, what was that? That was just like a throwaway into the comment into the one on one thing like, Oh, I mean, I

Aaron Randall  32:38
I think, to your point that you've got reaction, when you get hard feedback is you've got punched, you want to punch back. Obviously, with the slow burn with example, it's too It's too late. You're out of the room, you're on your cycle ride, you're you're realising. But have you got any advice for us and other managers around when you get that just plain hard feedback? So yeah, you can interpret it immediately, you're in the moment with that person, and your gut reaction is to be defensive and punch back and so on. Like, what is it? What What advice can you give us to cope with?

Rands  33:07
It is in this hypothetical scenario, is action required in this conversation? Like, is he or she asking for something? Because my, my answer is to want to say, I hear you loud and clear. I need to digest this, and understand what you actually said, because I heard this sort of stuff. And I kind of want to punch you right now. which we've never say that, obviously. But I mean, it's, we're joking, but it's true, which is like I really, if it's something which is really, really hard that you know, you it's, I had this tweet a couple weeks ago, well, on communication, it's like, say that, if some version of say the hard thing, say it again, ask them to repeat what you said. Say it again. Give them the night to think about it. And ask them again, the next day for the whole thing again, and that that time between the end of all that repeating and the phase two is the digestion and just letting them get to a true understanding or you're completely wrong. And I have these questions in which that's great. Let's go have that conversation. That's the human mind. human brain just needs time to kind of work through that. I, you know, to me, it again, there's two things, it's understanding it, which I think is required. And then there's the other piece, which I like to do, just to feel empowered as a human is also, what am I going to do about this? Again, not required, but incredibly useful. And you're like, well, this is awful. And I did this thing horribly. Okay, I understand it now. And I'm gonna do these things. But they're two different things.

Aaron Randall  34:52
I love that. I love the idea of just acknowledging that. As a human, you need to go away and take time to digest.

Rands  34:58
Yeah, yeah, that's great. Yes this is a kind of had a HR partner tell me like, no, no performance feedback on Friday because he wants to be able to talk to the person the next day and actually get the feedbacks, and not the whole weekend because it can spiral there. So

Amy Phillips  35:18
yeah, I mean, that's so important. Yeah, like, having been delivered lots of feedback in my career, on Friday afternoon. There's plenty of time to think that one through before Monday, it's definitely not a restful weekend

Aaron Randall  35:33
Wait, no shipping changes and no feedback on Fridays.

Rands  35:42
You want to check in you want that check in relatively quickly, because you can just spiral you can that's the piece and it's in, it's a conversation, you're actually doing this negotiation as part of this, which is really important. And, again, if there's only if it's one sided, like, then you're gonna, you're gonna you can, there's situations where the person is just going to spiral out of control.

Amy Phillips  36:03
Yeah, that's great. Yeah. So quite a few things you've, you've kind of talked about, as we've gone through Rands, and also from when I first read Managing Humans is, am I right? To think that you're an introvert?

Rands  36:17
Huge introvert.

Amy Phillips  36:18
Okay, let's get to one thing that I was thrilled to read when I was reading Managing Humans was the positive side of being an introvert. So Aaron and I are both introverted. And we sort of find like, the world is so extroverted, and particularly as you get into kind of leadership roles, it seems more and more like you're expected to be an extrovert, it's just assumed you're an extrovert, right? How have you, like, is that your experience? And like, if so, how have you dealt with that?

Rands  36:47
So little, little unscientific survey I've been taking for, I think, three or four years, I, back when we did presentations in front of humans, you know, in like buildings and stuff. I'd have I have to stick when I open up a talk where it's sort of get to know the audience and sort of like, how many engineers here how many, you know, marketing people, depending on whatever talk I happen to be giving. But one thing I always ask is almost always a leadership crew. Audience or interested in leadership, I said, How many? How many introverts in the room? And here's the fascinating thing. I've done this 50 times. And maybe there's a selection bias, because they're coming to see me or whatever. But it's like, it's not coming to see me as like at conferences with lots of people and whatnot. The vast majority 60% of the audience identifies as introvert, not extrovert. So for leadership kind of sampling, right. So I think the thesis, I agree with what you're saying, and that there seems to be these impressions that or requirements that leaders have this extrovert tendencies. I agree with that. I think you're, I think a lot more introverts as leaders than you think. And it's because I think we have these superpowers relative to listening and to de escalating and to communicating well, and because we don't speaking for myself, now, I don't want to be the spotlight. I despise the spotlight. It's very scary for me, and I can do it. And I've developed skills to be able to do that. But like, let's be clear me on stage talking to 500 people is a very, very introverted tasks. I'm not talking to anybody. I'm up there alone.

Amy Phillips  38:35
Yeah, stages are much safer.

Rands  38:41
introverts don't get that they don't they think that Oh, I can't do that. I can talk to my people. I'm like, I'm up there alone. All I have to do is listen to the laughs or the silence when I'm second or whatever it is. So anyway, it's a it's a, it's a very, there's a lot more introverts than you think it's just the extroverts are so loud, that we think they're done. And they're so and they're amazing, by the way, but they're a different set of humans there. But they get all the attention because they love it. And we're like, you just go for it, like go stand on stage and do your thing or talk to the people or dominate the conversation or whatever you're gonna do there. So anyway, a lot more introverts in leadership than then your question might imply. Did I answer your question, though?

Amy Phillips  39:22
It does. I'm surprised. I mean, you're questioning more about all the extraverted behaviours that we're all going through. If we all stopped, something would flip.

Rands  39:34
Yeah. There's a set of skills that are very that extroverts get for free, and it's super annoying, because they do it so well. April Underwood, who was our Chief Product officer at Slack. She could get in front of the whole audience the entire company unprepared and give you 20 minutes of inspirational product strategy. jokes. And like, I know how prepared she is because she was in the meeting before me when she's like, I've done nothing to prepare for this and she gets up. And it was like this beautiful keynote, and she just crushed it. That is, I am, I am much better at that than I was 10-20 years ago, but I still must set my slides up. And I must like, I must get everything ready. And I will practice a bit for a new thing and whatnot. Because I have had to build the muscles and the habits to be to be good at that. And you have to do that. As well as knowing you're in a meeting that you're the product leader for that you're the one who's listening and blah, blah, blah, all those other extroverted things you have to do, there's a whole set of skills you're gonna have to get good at that are not natural. And you're gonna see these introverts, extroverts that are so good at it and super annoying. And they're so funny too. Dang it.

Aaron Randall  40:55
Because we've all worked with amazing extroverts, and that that's a great example. How do you I want to say keep up, like level the playing field, you know, one of the things that I've personally experienced working with talented, amazing extroverts is that they love thinking and problem solving on the fly, and bring them into that. And I'm so bad at like, solving on the fly I need to go away and digest and think, but like, how do you presume that someone is done this a lot, like get comfortable with that?

Rands  41:23
I am. I'm super bad at what you're describing. I do have an answer. But like, in that meeting with powerful extroverts, where it's 10 to 20 of us, I as Rands, and person who has done things that are interesting, still really, really struggle in that in that group of people with their bad shoulders. And in all the things I do so well, it's still hard for me, the the story that I'm telling myself about how I do it is twofold. Number one, if it's 20 of us, I'm quiet. If it's three of us, I won't shut up, because it's a small knowable set of folks. So what I will tend to do before and after that big powerful meeting is I will probably have met with a good chunk of those folks, and had a very vicarious debate with them about things that I think are important and blah, blah, blah. And by the way, I have selected those people deliberately because they're going to extrovert their ways of that meeting in a way that will be super impressive. And by the way, they're carrying my religion as well. So I'm sort of delegating to the extroverts to kind of take my stuff and to kind of drive in that meeting. And I will also follow up with them after but I'm doing a lot of behind the scenes work. And I do have issues with this because I do think I should be showing up in that meeting more but it's just, it's it's hard because I am listening to every single word I am keeping a complete mental map of everything being said and as best I can in these virtual times. What's going on and what's shifting around. And but I am generally less public engaged than my peers would expect me to be

Aaron Randall  43:07
somebody that and actually that, that that's okay. Like it's okay to like make our peace as introverts introverted leaders with with those kinds of situations?

Rands  43:15
I think so i think i think there's times the extroverts, because I have things important things that I'm responsible for. Some of the extroverts would like me to see me be more my word, no one else is flashy, and being like, boom, well, we can't ever do that. And here's what I will say that afterwards and get that into the bloodstream in a way that is effective, but it probably maybe is more efficient to have it out there. And because some other extrovert wants to debate with me, but I know that she does, and I don't want to have that debate. I'll have a debate later.

Amy Phillips  43:52
And if one kind of final question I suppose about, well particulary about being an introvert is, how do you manage your energy? Hmm.

Rands  44:04
I have an answer. But can you be more specific?

Amy Phillips  44:08
Yeah. So like, if one of the things that sort of say, extroverts being very like, energised by all the meetings and talking to people and doing things, as an introvert, particularly managing people, it can be tiring, right? Like, people aren't bringing the energy to you. That's from when you're alone later. So have you got any kind of ways like structuring your work or like techniques or things like that to handle that?

Rands  44:35
So there's, there's I have three tests that I'm always looking at relative to energy. They are. Am I sleeping enough? am I eating well? And am I exercising? Could we have any more vanilla vapid answers to managing energy? These are super important. These are super important. Because if the answer to any of those three questions, am I sleeping well? am I eating well? Am I exercising? If I'm not doing those things. Energy is all screwed up. Let's pick on one. And there's other things to learn from failures on on those as well. Let's just pick on one like exercising. Two things about exercising, exercising, it's good for you. Like, I'm gorgeous, right? I do most of my hardest work on my bike, in terms of the hardest things I have to think through in terms of programmes or people or politics, or bla bla bla. So if I'm not doing that, especially now during COVID times when we're stuck in these meetings all the time staring at each other. I'm not doing that I'm actually not doing my job as a senior leader in terms of moving forward on big things having the time to do that. And yes, I can block it off on my calendar. But when I blocked it off on the calendar, it means I jump into Feedly or Doom scrolling or doing whatever it is, it's not the important work. So that's number one is am I doing the important work? And am I getting exercise and like the interesting part of exercise might be to you that is healthy it is and that's great. But that's not why I do it. I do it because that's when I do import work. And by the way, it's also healthy. Let's go to another one about energy. Am I sleeping? Well? There's the obvious part of that, which is like, Am I getting enough sleep to be able to be coherent and get things done? Yes. No. Why? Here's the interesting thing. Sleep gives me energy, if I have enough sleep, I get energy. But more importantly, when I'm not sleeping, it usually means something is wrong, mentally, or stress wise at work, or whatever. And that is an early warning to me to go and say like, Oh, I'm not even admitting it yet. But I have a problem with this person or this situation, whatever. And I'm losing sleep over it. Because my brain is smarter than me. And it's telling me in the middle of night, you should actually worry about this. And sometimes it's just weird stuff about like stressing about whatever. But very often, it's like, I need to go work on this. And it goes back to energy because I need to go fix that so that I go sleep so that I have the energy to go do things. So in food is kind of like the same thing there as well as like, of course, eat well. I'm not eating well. Well, what is the root cause of that? I'm booking too many meetings. I'm not, I'm not carving off time to do that sort of thing. So there's all of these interesting things that are feedback loops around those three very basic human things that are all about energy. And I use those whenever I see one of those one of those, any of those three goes into the red. I'm like, because exercise to you. Why am I not doing? I'm busy? Why am I busy? Oh, I'm not planning on? Am I personally not doing well? Oh, this is like, this is a warning sign about something else I need to go fix there. So all of those, I think your question may have been different. But all of those are to keep me to a certain amount of basal energy, but also early warning signs with things that can actually really hinder it. The other thing is, and this is maybe the soundbite is, I also have to have 30 40% of my calendar, blocked off and not in meetings, which is really hard to do in the larger company with a lot of teams. But this is work for all of us. This is paying attention. And you're nodding because I'm saying these things. And this is all work to like have this conference. And it's like, it's it's, it's I gotta have those times, which are just like a cool, I'm gonna go Doom scroll, I'm gonna answer some slacks or this sort of thing. But I don't do that if I do eight hours straight. I'm exhausted. And you know, something's wrong. That was a long answer. But

Amy Phillips  48:39
no, that was a fantastic stuff. So just to very quickly wrap we have three quickfire questions that we'd like to ask all of our Humans+Tech podcast guests. Yeah. So number one, what is your top book recommendation?

Rands  48:57
It's this book called Boyd. And it's about this gentleman who is not a good human being, by the way. But what he does is he, he he was basically a fighter pilot. And then he figured out and then he started to want to build jets, fighter jets, which What in the world is have to do with leadership? All I have to tell you is go read the book, because it's about how to think about critical decisions. I have never highlighted a book more than this book. And by the way, not a good guy. It's you can't it's not you're not gonna like him a lot. But the way that he breaks down very complex political situations, like how to get a fighter jet funded by the US government is absolutely interesting. He introduced this concept called an ooda loop, which is go look it up. Which is way too much overkill for most of the things we do in our political lives as humans right now, but just that he brought up this lens to kind of look at these things is super interesting. If that totally bores you You should go read a Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, which is one of the best books on writing ever. So you want to read about this horrible guy

Amy Phillips  50:11
and who inspires you?

Rands  50:16
I am I'm still pretty, pretty bullish on Steve Jobs, not the best human in the world. But as an Apple person as a person living in that pool right now I you know, it's just like everybody. He's a complex individual, but it's still I still like, I'm like, why are we doing this isn't? Yeah, that's right. We should be doing this. little short cut around this. And this isn't the steel echo of this, this gentleman who built this amazing company.

Amy Phillips  50:45
Amazing. And then what is the most ridiculous thing about you?

Rands  50:51
Oh, gosh, um, I have a set of eyes. After all this eating thing I just said before, there's some like comfort foods I have that I think would repulse you. And I don't think I could tell you what they are. But I'll tell you one. You know, like, there's American cheese, like the slice cheese. There's like that. There's like good versions of that. And then there's, like, made in vats somewhere in Nevada, from from sand. And you know, those are delicious. They're so good. And there's there's no nutritional value at all. And there's a couple others that are like that. And I think they're all from when I was a kid long ago when I got used to like this horrible, awful processed cheese food. So good.

Amy Phillips  51:43
Finally, where can people find out more about you?

Rands  51:46
Yeah, there's two places. There's a Rands in Repose blog where I write that's but the place you should really, if you want to hang out, there's a Rands Leadership Slack. And the quest if you want to do it is to find out how to get invited. It's really easy, but you have to go figure it out. There's about 16,000 people in the Rands Leadership Slack now, and about three to 4000 active daily. And I think it's other than the books, I think it's one of the things that I've had a chance in building to kind of, that I'm super proud of in terms of, by the way, I don't do anything, it says people there. I mean, I nudge it. And then there's a code of conduct and we're kind of like, making sure everything's going well. But the amount of learning that's going on there every day is is shockingly high. So figuring out how to get an invite, and it's not hard making it sound like it's this big deal. Like go figure it out.

Aaron Randall  52:41
It's a great community. I've been around for a while. I love it. It's really amazing.

Amy Phillips  52:45
Fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. It has been absolutely so much fun. We'll be sharing all the links and show notes plus the all important doodle over on our website, I'm Amy Phillips. This is Aaron Randall and you've been listening to the Humans+Tech podcast.

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