Automattic Holiday Video à la Remote Work (2017)

Automattic is an all-remote company comprised of over 500 people across 50 countries. We work from homes, shared offices, cars, and planes to make the Web a better place. At Automattic our motto is, ”I will never stop learning.” In that spirit, we made this video.

Automatticians shared home-shot videos from all over. And we stitched them together… Don’t worry. Based upon this video, we don’t expect to try to go into the entertainment business anytime soon. But you’ll certainly get a sense of the many environments we work from. Come join us!

I had a ton of fun singing this cheerful holiday song and dancing along with coworkers all over the world. 🎄 🎅🏼

Curious about how it came together? See our Party Wrangler John’s How To Make A Fully Distributed Company’s Holiday Video.

No Job Is Beneath You

No job is beneath you. In a similar vein as killing your ego, be eager to jump in and get dirty with your team. Garrett St. John

Read the full article: Humility in leadership.

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I’ve been enjoying Garrett’s Technical Leadership email newsletter — they arrive with perfect timing for certain issues I’m dealing with at work and at home. If you lead technical teams — or work in any group setting — I highly recommend it as a resource. You can sign up for Garrett’s newsletter here.

Trust Is Built By Genuine Human Connections

Trust can only be built by genuine human connections. Rich Sheridan

Rich Sheridan’s closing keynote at PNSQC 2017 hit home in many ways. I loved hearing examples of his time-tested ideas for creating joyful workplaces at Menlo Innovations. You can learn much more is his book Joy, Inc. – How We Built A Workplace People Love.

Flow Fallacy

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Because the goal of commercial software development isn’t to create code you love—it’s to create products your customers will love.

Recent efforts with my team at Automattic to improve the WordPress.com experience — and understand our customers better through “exposure hours” — reminded me of this classic software development essay from 2013 (via Andrew).

 

Home is Where the Work Is

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In Home is where the work is my colleague Cate talks about remote working, tools for communicating in distributed teams, and fascinating bits of detail about her daily routine and habits for getting work done. (Via “Increment” Magazine).

See also: Where is Automattic? Our HQ is right near you.

Synthesis: Navigating Levels Effectively

One of my favorite takeaways from Principles by Ray Dalio is the notion of above-the-line and below-the-line (hat tip: Matt). Dalio describes how to navigate both levels effectively in both work and life.

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To synthesize well, you must 1) synthesize the situation at hand, 2) synthesize the situation through time, and 3) navigate levels effectively.

Synthesis, in my own words, means the ability to identify, understand, and combine bits and pieces into a whole. A coherent end point. As my colleague Ian Stewart says, “Keep your eye on the prize. Or, on the next step.”

You could apply this principle in many areas of work and life:

  • Keeping meetings on topic with clear decisions at the end.
  • Converging on a minimum viable product launch.
  • Coaching and feedback conversations with peers, mentors, employees.
  • Business strategy and decision-making.
  • Presenting important information to a group: telling a story that sticks.

In addition to navigating the levels effectively, there’s an added benefit of shared language:

Use the terms “above the line” and “below the line” to establish which level a conversation is on.

This makes clear when a divergent or convergent conversation is needed.

Navigating the levels well means you are an effective communicator and decision maker. Able to balance inputs such as thinking, planning, and research with a clear and purposeful decision to move things forward.

Sensible Ideas

To engage you need sensible ideas.

It’s not enough to be the squeaky wheel. Barack Obama said that politicians and governments respond to people making noise and demands. But the biggest mistake made by activists “is once you’ve gotten the attention of people in power then you have to engage them and have sensible ideas.” Obama added that you have to do you homework, have your facts straight, and be willing to compromise. He is addressing this issue head on with the Obama Presidential Center, which is designed to help the next generation of activist leadership.

Via Fortune: Barack Obama: Lessons on Leadership, Power, and Effecting Change (May 2017).

Rare and Valuable Skills

The goal of my career philosophy is to craft a remarkable working life. The definition of “remarkable,” however, differs for different people.

On one extreme, it might capture a life of power and respect, where you’re at the center of important matters. While on another, it might capture a life of exotic travel with a minimum of work and a maximum of adventure.

Something most such visions have in common is that they contain traits that are rare and valuable. If you want them, therefore, you need rare and valuable skills to offer in return. This requires that you stop daydreaming about a perfect job that will make you instantly happy, and instead focus on becoming so good they can’t ignore you.

Cal Newport in 2012

What are your rare and valuable skills? (Emphasis mine.)

Extract Your Own Insights

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Don’t ask for advice. Ask for experiences. Then extract the insights yourself.

Via the “Top Performer” class notes from Cal Newport and Scott Young.

Understand By Doing

This wonderful exposé in Kinfolk on fashion designers and artists Isabel & Reuben Toledo struck me in both its beauty, and a clear description for understanding a business or a craft. Do it yourself.

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The only way to truly understand how every piece of [a] business can be assembled…is to do it all yourself. — Isabel Toledo

I’m reminded of the actor-director duality of tech and design leadership. To provide deep and meaningful guidance I need to be not only aligned with organization and customer needs — but also knowledgeable of the daily practice, the details of the work.