Category: Training

Paternity Leave and Reading

As you may have noticed via my recent mini tweetstorm, I’m on paternity leave, and feeling thoughtful about it.

(Sidebar, is there an agreed upon definition of tweetstorm? We can all agree that 25 tweets a tweetstorm make, but what about 9? 3?)

Especially having spoken with many of my friends, who work locally, who have nothing like this type of paternity leave – it really is a landscape of gratitude, on my end. This time is special, and important, and I’m so grateful and (frankly) lucky to have it.

When our daughter was born, I didn’t take the three months – I took it in fits and spurts here and there, since the policy is three paid months within the first year of a child’s life.

Rather than take three months at the outset, I took two weeks when she was born, then some time over the holidays, Spring Break to coincide with my wife’s time off, etc. I didn’t end up using the whole three months, and the time I did take off, I could have just as easily taken off with our open vacation policy rather than the “saved pat days.”

With our second child, I was reflective on our daughter Mango’s birth and my reaction, work-wise. Why didn’t I take the time I was afforded?

It was out of fear. Even a few weeks off at a place as fast paced as Automattic meant having to recalibrate, scramble to catch up, and try to figure out how to navigate what seemed like an all-new sea. I was worried that extended leave would jeopardize my chances for advancement and recognition.

Which brings us here – though I’m a Team Lead, responsible for the careers and success of  eleven of my peers, I have chosen to take my full three months of paternity leave. Before he was born, I spent a great deal of time working with my stand-in lead, training and shadowing one on ones and (I’m not proud) linking her to lots of posts on this very blog.

She’s going to do great. I also think that, on a bigger level, it’s important  for the folks on my team to see me take this time – that even in a leadership role it’s safe, and encouraged, to take the time we’re given. Having this time with my kiddos and my wife is important, for me personally but also for me as a long-term contributor to Automattic’s success.

(Our CEO Matt Mullenweg talks a little about hiring folks using a 30-year mindset in the latest Tim Ferris podcast – knowing he sees his employees this way makes me more comfortable taking this kind of time off)

Since I am a terrible A-type monster, three months away from work is a horrifying prospect. I am bad at leisure – especially superfluous leisure.

So, I’m reading. I’m reading a lot. I asked some folks I respect for their recommendations, as well as the world wide Twitterverse. Here’s what I have ahead of me:

Orginals, by Adam Grant, recommended by @mremy
Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, recommended independently by @andrewspittle and @ctdotlive
Anarchist’s Tool Chest, by Chris Schwarz, recommended by @blowery
Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda, recommended by @photomatt
Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, recommended by Bill Bounds
The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holliday, recommended by @mikeykrapf
The Score Takes Care of Itself, by Bill Walsh, recommended by @JeremeyD
Deep Work, by Cal Newport, recommended by @thebriankerr

I’ve already finished a few – with 59 days left in my pat leave I’m looking at about 24.3 pages per day to finish them all in time. Which means, of course, I could probably sneak in one more book if you have an excellent recommendation!

Create Leadership Workshops at Your Company!

One ongoing project that I have at Automattic that I am especially proud of are our Developing Leadership Workshops. 

The workshops take place once per month, and last about an hour each. So far it’s been almost entirely Team Leads from within the company, with one guest speaker, Kevin Goldsmith of Spotify.

The workshops are stolen directly from Work Rules and Google’s similar practices – the idea, broadly, is to help individuals unlock the value in their own experience and practices to the rest of the folks at the company.

Continue reading “Create Leadership Workshops at Your Company!”

Developing Leadership at Automattic

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The company I work for, Automattic, is bleeding edge in a lot of ways – I’ve spoken about this before (here, here and here). Recently I moved into a Team Lead role, working with a team of Happiness Engineers. This new team, Athens, is also doing some really cool stuff – but this Post is about the Lead role.

Continue reading “Developing Leadership at Automattic”

BGA Webinars: The Future?

I had the great opportunity to lead a Webinar with Cuvee Coffee’s Lorenzo Perkins this last Friday evening. It was an official session of the BGA Level One classwork CP 103: Customer Service. I’ve been involved in a few web-based educational projects before, but this was the first time I’d actually lead a class in a full-online environment.

The BGA makes use of the GoToTraining software, which has many applications to different fields and types of education – for our purposes, it served us well, though if I were to make this a regular thing, I’d have to invest in a headset. Using my phone was a bit awkward and cumbersome, especially when simultaneously trying to interact with the class or utilize the UI.

Making use of online educational tools is key for the future of an organization like the BGA – at the moment, the BGA is reliant on highly skilled educators being present at industry events across the country (and sometimes globe). If the BGA Certification program is to grow and flourish as the membership grows, this system will become increasing unsustainable, requiring full-time traveling trainers, as well as straining the resources and patience of students, given the relative infrequency of classwork in their particular region.

Moving forward with the Webinar format is a feather in the BGA’s cap: while many of the class offerings are very hands-on, and would not lend themselves well to online education (any preparation classes, cupping, etc), recognizing that CP 103 is a great candidate for the Webinar format allows the BGA to reach out and engage with students who they may have otherwise lost in the spans of time between Expos and Barista Camps.

From the point of view of the educator, I really enjoyed the Webinar format: it allowed me to contribute to a community that I care about, to speak at length about a topic that is close to my heart, and I didn’t have to fly to Seattle. It was a low-cost way for me to make a meaningful impact.

The sooner we are able to move our appropriate educational formatting to the Webinar format, the sooner we will be able to handle membership growth and demand for education in a sustainable way. Introduction to Espresso will probably never be an online class – but Seed to Cup could be, as well as Efficiency & Workflow, and even Preventative Maintenance, with some creative use of videography.

Good on the BGA for choosing an educational path that will work to grow with the membership, as well as reward the educational volunteers.

What We Can Learn From Ten Bullets

Tom Sachs is an artist living in NYC – he does some really interesting stuff, and he and I share a perhaps unhealthy obsession with outer space. ‘Ten Bullets’ is a trip through the rules that employees and visitors to his work space have to follow. Take a look:

Here’s what we in hospitality can learn from Tom and his Ten Bullets; whether or not you would ever want to work for Tom, it is totally transparent as to how you would work. His expectations are laid out clearly and without ambiguity – not just expectations but also how to make amends when expectations are not met – you pay the box!

I think as leaders, we can do a much better job setting expectations with our employees. When something goes wrong at your place of work, your first reflection should be back on your own expectations. If we do not clearly communicate what we want done and how we want it done, then we can’t reasonably be irritated when those expectations aren’t met.

Tom communicates his basic expectations in twenty minutes. I have worked places for months without anything like as clear a picture as he provides here. There is a certain duality to his phrase ‘working to code’ – while his code is a code of conduct, clearly stated and ready to be followed, many managers in hospitality really do encode their expectations: their real desires are hidden behind a complicated network of miscues and secret rules. This is bad for the manager, bad for the employee, and bad for the customer.

The Ten Bullets show you how to work, and how to make it right when you work incorrectly. Every business should have a video like this.