Opinion: Top 3 leadership skills

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Audio recording of this post

Being a leader implies a broad set of responsibilities and requires skills that differ from individual contributors’ skills. I was thinking about it yesterday morning and then the question came to my head “what are the most important ones?”. Huh, the wheels immediately started spinning in my head trying to find the answer.  Then I remembered that limitations foster creativity (here are two posts on this topic), so I decided to add a limit of 3 skills to make the exercise even more fun. So here are the top 3 of my choice.

1. Communication

“Communication is oxygen” sounds like a mantra in my head not only because it’s part of the Automattic creed, but because I feel it with my bones. I doubt there is a leadership book exists which doesn’t mention communication as one of the top skills for leaders or managers. I also think communication is the most powerful weapon in the leader’s toolbelt.

There is a lot already said and written about it, but through this year I’ve realized that being good at communication is not just being able to speak or write well and without mistakes. It’s much more – from understanding the theory of information processing by humans to resolving conflicts, from effectively expressing yourself to listening and creating a space for others to share, from stretching people to supporting them, from mentoring and coaching individuals to learning from them, and so on. 

As you can see, communication is a very broad topic, so mastering and practicing various aspects of it will never hurt.

2. Sense of balance

Leadership is a very inaccurate science. There is no one size fits all solution and many recommendations depend on the context. That’s why I believe it’s crucial to seek, define, and regularly check the balance which works well for your case. That applies basically to everything – the amount of uncertainty affordable in the projects and processes, the amount of autonomy and control you want to have in a team, the amount of tech debt taken into sprints, the amount of time spent on learning and self-development, saying yes or no to many ideas and initiatives; the list may go very long.

No matter what was your past experience, it takes time to adjust balance in your current context, so pure curiosity, observations, and regular feedback loops are your best friends in finding the right balance.

3. Self-care

Supporting your team and its individuals is another extremely impactful way of leading the team to success. However, you won’t be able to do it well if your battery is drained. That’s why I think taking care of yourself is necessary, required, and mandatory in that role. If you like many others experience impostor syndrome or feel guilty about taking care of yourself, it’s time to reach out for support. Talk to your lead, talk to your peers, consider working with a coach or a therapyst, because sometimes it’s really hard to cope with. And last but not least don’t forget that simple aircraft instruction “Put the mask on yourself first”.


Note: this is purely my opinion as of today, after being more than one year in that role with a fully distributed team, after experiencing a team growth from 4 to 12 people, after experiencing a team split, team focus shift, delivering multiple projects, switching team focus, talking to and learning from many great leads, mentors, and coaches around me.

I’m curious what would be your top 3, so I would be happy if you share them in the comments under the post.

Voice behind the blog

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Audio recording of this post

I’m pretty new to blogging but what I like about it so far is that it’s a great way of sharing an individual perception of reality. That’s why I think the author’s identity is an essential part of the blog. That’s why many blogs have an “About” page and it’s a great way of getting familiar a bit with the author of the posts you read and hopefully enjoy.

Another great thing about people is they are very different and creative by nature and that applies to their blogs and about pages as well. However, so far I’ve seen only text and images as the most common content on the about page, mine about page is not exclusion. That’s perfectly fine, especially if you like me have the good old stereotype that “blogging is writing and writing is text and images”. However, Blogging for beginners course by WordPress.com Courses and folks at Automattic, challenged that setting in my head, and I realized it’s not like that anymore. Somehow my brain ignored the fact that video-based services like YouTube, Instagram (to some extent), Tik-Tok, and so on have millions of content creators who are bloggers. Podcasts became very popular too and can be considered voice-based blogging! So why not use voice, audio, and video in the classical web-based blog?! Why not use other media in addition to text and image on the About page to share your identity with readers and establish a better connection?! I don’t have a good answer for you 😛

So here we are, got to the point and the key purpose of this post – to connect the dots and give you a chance to hear the voice behind the blog. I don’t know yet if I’ll make audio recordings of the following posts, but I smile every time when I imagine how my voice sounds in your head while you read the posts.

Thanks for listening/reading and hope you’re not annoyed by the voice 🙂

Baby steps in blogging: four weeks

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I’ve started my blogging experiment four weeks ago (a couple of weeks before publishing the experiment post). This is a quick recap of how things are going on so far.

Experiment vision is still valid, which is great 🙂 

I spend 30 mins every day on blogging activities, including weekends and vacation days. There were a couple of busy days when I skipped blogging and compensated on the next day, so it’s more of 30 mins/day on average now, but still fine to me.

I’m writing regularly and publish one post weekly for 3 weeks in a row! I noticed there are days when it’s harder to write and thoughts are not willing to shape into a nice story, but that’s fine too. It would be naive to expect writing goes smoothly any day no matter what’s going on around you. 

I’ve started reading more blogs but I don’t track how many. So it’s hard to say where I am compared to the target of one post per day, but my gut feeling says I’m behind and can do better. Anyway, I enjoyed some posts and subscribed to a couple of blogs. Love this one by Paolo in particular.

I’ve published my first book review post which was holding me from reading new books. Now I started reading a new book and very much enjoy both its contents and the fact I’m reading again 🤓

I’ve started Blogging for beginners course and slowly learn new things when not writing. After a couple of modules, it already gave me a few interesting ideas and thoughts. 

Last but not least I’ve migrated my old site to WordPress.com and can focus on writing now. I had a few challenges during the migration and have some ideas for improvements in the onboarding process, but haven’t shared them with internal teams at Automattic yet.

This is where I am now after the first 28 days baby steps in blogging. I’m happy with the progress and curious to see the results at the next milestone of 90 days.

My blogging experiment

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TLDR; This is my second attempt to start blogging on a regular basis, but this time it’s more about writing and creating content for the audience rather than building a personal blog with fancy frameworks for developers. Keep reading for more details and ideas behind this blogging experiment.

Story & history

I’ve never considered myself an outstanding writer and was admired by all those people creating and publishing content over the internet. Often I thought “I’m not smart enough”, “I don’t have anything outstanding to share”, or “everybody knows this, so why would I publish the same”. However, with time I’ve noticed, there is a lot of overlapping content, found some posts describing the fears of beginner writers and got other positive signals that encouraged me to start. And I started, but (there is always some but in the good stories) it didn’t work out 😄 Here is what I did wrong the first time – I tried to do two big things at once: build a custom blog from scratch with a modern framework (that deserves its own story) and create content. Both required reasonable time, effort, and knowledge I didn’t have, so I stuck pretty soon and abandoned this idea.

These days I’m proudly working at Automattic – the company has a common history with WordPress and develops many other great products for the web. I write a lot internally and improved my writing skills significantly over the last months so the idea of getting back to blogging has been revolving in my head for a while. Luckily I came across an internal post about a blogging group, read a few posts and stories from other Automatticians about their journey in blogging, got inspired and come with an idea of my own blogging experiment.

My 5 whys

The purpose of the initiative is of large importance for me, that’s why I want to be clear about why I’m going to do anything. Here are my whys for this experiment:

  1. I got curious about the blogging world and the technology driving it. There are lots of tools and practices helping people to deliver useful content to the audience and I’d like to learn them.
  2. Automattic creates lots of great products but there is always room for improvement, so by using our own products as a customer I’ll be able to provide valuable feedback to internal teams and make publishing on the web even better.
  3. I want to join the community of bloggers and hopefully make some new connections across the globe.
  4. Share my knowledge, thoughts, and experiences with readers at the highest quality I’m able to provide.
  5. I’m curious how far I can get in the long term doing baby steps every single day.

Experiment

Here are few words about my vision of experiment:

  1. I’ll spend at least 30 mins/day creating: writing posts, learning, doing backstage tasks (need to learn them first).
  2. My target is to write at least 1 post/week.
  3. Reading other blogs is also learning, so I’m aiming to read at least one blog post per day (on average). Maybe will read several posts but not every day.
  4. Experiment duration: at least 1 year. Until September 6, 2022.

That’s it, very simple, isn’t it? But looks challenging enough to me 🙂

What I’m going to write about?

That’s a great question! At the moment the plan is to write about something close to me like software development, leadership in IT, book reviews, and some personal stuff and thoughts. But who knows where this blogging journey will lead me to.


Follow the blog for more content! At the moment I think only authorized WordPress.com users can subscribe and follow it, but hopefully, I’ll find a way to improve it soon so anybody interested will be able to subscribe via email and other media. Stay tuned and have fun!