This is the high bar we aim for with the WordPress product experience, in a nutshell.
Last week I shared Amazon’s Leadership Principles, which includes “insist on the highest standards.” Modeling the higher standard myself, and expecting it in others I work with. The concept of leaders training new leaders is on my mind a lot lately, because it’s central to my role at Automattic and in the WordPress community.
When looking for new models to refresh my inputs and broaden my understanding, one logical source of inspiring leader is the military.
My introduction to military leadership started with One Mission by Chris Fussell, which led to Team of Teams by General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal — see my notes here.
Now I’m pleased to discover A Higher Standard by General (Ret.) Ann Dunwoody (Goodreads), the life story and lessons from the first woman promoted to four-star general in US military history. Hat tip: Matt.
The book follows Gen. Dunwoody’s wonderful and amazing life journey through career, family, and life. She grounds the narrative with lessons and principles. Guideposts.
Here are a few guideposts that resonated with me.
Whatever you believe about the nature of leadership, true leaders never stop learning, refining, growing, and adapting—and that’s the primary focus of this book.
On setting a high standard:
Meeting the standard is the expectation, but those who strive to exceed the standard send a signal about their character and their competence.
After managing nearly sixty-nine thousand employees, one thing is clear to me: there is a higher standard that provides the foundation upon which every effective leadership journey is built. It’s the difference between the leaders who excel and the leaders who fail. It’s their thought process, attention to detail, and execution that enables them to inspire and motivate their workforce to create and sustain high-performing, successful organizations.
If you take nothing else from this book—never walk by a mistake, or you just set a new lower standard!
Putting this high standard into practice means not walking by a mistake without correcting it — at Automattic we call this “trash pickup.”
He taught me to never walk by a mistake. Far too often we let little things slide. But just turn on the news and listen as the anchors lament an auto-part defect leading to deaths and multibillion-dollar recalls or a small leak in a gas pipeline causing an explosion that endangers wildlife. Recognizing when something is wrong, big or small, and holding people accountable can save industries billions and citizens their lives. Sergeant Bowen instilled in me instantly that if you do walk by a mistake, then you just set a new, lower standard.
In my world I also think this task falls to people acting as “chief quality officers” for products and services — see my recent post on the topic of product leadership.
On energy and balance; see also my recent thoughts, On Self-Management and Energy:
…working longer hours doesn’t necessarily equal better performance. Working harder doesn’t mean working smarter. Longer hours mean less sleep, fatigue, ulcers, compromised decisions, and a lack of balance in one’s life.
On developing other leaders — what I would call “training the trainer” — finding your successor is another essential aspect of leadership.
The job of senior leaders is to develop other leaders. It requires senior leaders to weigh in on key decisions. Leaders who don’t weigh in lose their vote.
One of most important jobs a senior leader has is to develop leaders or to “build the bench.”
When leaders help subordinates overcome weaknesses or mistakes, they help the subordinate, they help the organization, and they help themselves become better leaders.
…as a lifelong skill, I have worked on developing the skill of giving people chances to improve their performance after a failure.
On diversity and inclusion:
Although the power of diversity is sometimes hard to quantify, Childs definitely got my attention. His success revealed a few points: (1) diversity wasn’t about numbers or quotas—having one of these and one of those—it was about diversity of thought, and not just anyone’s thought but the best-of-the-best thoughts; and (2) these folks had to have a platform from which their ideas could be heard and implemented.
I believe the strength in diversity comes from being able to leverage diversity of thought.
Still haven’t found a better list than Amazon’s Leadership Principles. Concise, clear, ambitious. A benchmark.
Bookmarked this in 2017, now printed it (on paper!) for a weekly read and review.
Here are my favorites.
Bias for Action
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.
Insist on the Highest Standards
Leaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”
Inconsistencies [in your coding style] are jarring and require more time to read and comprehend. Consistency is such a valued quality that developers often abide by a coding standard even if they dislike the coding standard itself. —Chris Shiflett and Sean Coates
I consider following a coding standard a sure sign of a craftmanship. A craftsman knows his tools and languages well, and is consistent in his coding style. Ego and personal preference give way to consistency and best practices.
If you develop on your own, create a coding style and stick with it. There are many practical reasons to abide by code standards when developing on your own. It enforces good habits and helps avoid simple syntax bugs. It speeds up your development process by giving you structure and taking the guesswork out of naming and spacing tasks. And, possibly most importantly, it ensures your code is readable to your future self.
This is all fine and dandy when you’re the only one touching the code. When you share and collaborate with other developers, however, following a coding standard is not a choice—it is mandatory. If you develop for a platform, use the coding standards of the platform. Even if you don’t agree with the standard, you should follow it anyway so that your code is understandable and usable for other developers. Chances are the standards were put in place for very good reasons, both practical and philosophical.
To learn the coding standards for a project you work with, start by looking at other people’s code. Put the standards into practice in your own code and don’t be afraid to ask for a review from someone else. Check your code against similar structures in your software’s codebase, or popular modules, themes, and plugins for the software.
A big part of my job as Theme Wrangler at Automattic is reviewing themes. Lots of themes from lots of designers and developers. Everyone seems to have their own coding style, which makes it difficult to review code and find errors quickly. As a result I spend a lot of time cleaning up themes to match WordPress coding standards before I can even begin the actual work of reviewing and updating the theme.
For that reason code style consistency is especially important to me. It enforces best practices, produces consistent code, and speeds up development between collaborators.
- Use standard syntax.
- Remove extra whitespace and line endings.
- Use consistent spacing and indentation.
- Use human-readable labels and names.
Following are examples of specific coding standards that I follow in my everyday development.
- CakePHP coding standards
- WordPress coding standards
For a top-notch example of coding standards within a company, see the Fellowship Technologies Code Standards. That, friends, is a well-crafted coding standard that we can all learn from.