As a parent of two young girls, I often see the parallels between good parenting and transformational leadership, because parents are leaders, and they lead their families.
Within the context of the work environment and the work that needs to be done, transformational leaders motivates their followers to focus on more meaningful goals rather than short-term ones. They empower their followers by fostering a culture of autonomy, independent thinking, self-management, and growth.
There are many similarities (.pdf) between good parenting and transformational leadership. Good parents and transformational leaders are sensitive and responsive, showing individual consideration for their "people". They reinforce their followers' autonomy in a supportive, nonjudgmental way and by actively providing opportunities, promoting relevant experiences, giving explanations, and the like. They set limitations and rules which are flexible, and act as positive examples to look up to. Lastly, they promote an environment of trust and self-efficacy.
Some parents may not think of themselves as leaders because it is hard to take a step back from the day-to-day, to shift our mindset from the details to the bigger picture. Leadership is about mobilising people toward valued goals, building trust, and inspiring them to move with you to a better future. It starts with identifying a compelling vision of a shared future, rooted in core values. Being a parent who leads means thinking and acting like a leader, both in terms of how you raise your children, and how you live your life.
Business leaders can learn a lot from good parenting practices in general and working mothers in particular. Mothers, who more often than not are the main caregivers, are great at getting things done, multitasking, and being very good with time management. Many mothers work reduced hours, and as such learn to be very time-efficient to be able to be productive. Majority of employed American agree that working mums in leadership roles bring out the best in employees, and believe that having working mums in leadership roles will make a business more successful. They describe working mothers as better listeners, calmer in crisis, more diplomatic, and better team players. The best mothers illustrate what great leadership looks like. They act as mentors, are objective in dealing with people, are trustworthy, helpful, encouraging, and responsible.
When parents and leaders provide a safe environment for their "people", show that they care, enable them to feel confidence, trust them, empower them, develop and nurture them, a culture of growth and resilience flourishes. It is time we look at the value people add to the workplace and offer more flexible work schedules, rather than just look at the number of hours people can work. And we can learn how to be better nurturing and supporting leaders from good parenting practices, especially in times where everyone could use a bit more understanding and support.
Hope you are looking after yourselves with all the lockdowns everywhere.
Elle was asked to share what she uses when it comes to getting her work done. Uses This is a small nerdy website that asks a random selection of people all about the tools and techniques they use. Check Elle’s answers at https://usesthis.com/interviews/elle.meredith/
This month Lachlan finished at Buildkite after almost two years developing their marketing site. Buildkite sent him a lovely Calathea plant to mark the farewell occasion. We would like to thank Buildkite for the opportunity to work and grow with you and wish you all the best for the future.
“Lachlan and the Blackmill team have been an important resource for us, helping us launch a number of key projects, such as our plugin directory and careers site. They’ve let our product team stay focused on their existing projects, fit in with our existing dev tools and processes, and their management experience means they’ve been proactive, self-managing and extremely communicative. Would recommend them to any team in a heartbeat”
Tim Lucas, Founder and co-CEO at Buildkite
Our next Leading Engineering Teams workshop is on September 7th–10th. Packed with must have topics for new managers to grow and lead their product team. A 30-minute individual chat with Elle and Lachlan is scheduled before launching into the workshop materials and discussions over a two-hour session each day, for four days. A follow-up Q&A group chat is also provided for iteration and support.
There are four tickets left so secure yours today if you’ve been thinking about it, or please flick it to a friend or manager.
Disco Labs have sponsored a ticket to the September workshop and would like to offer it to someone from an underrepresented group in tech who wouldn't otherwise be in a position to go. If that is you or know someone who is a fit, please contact us.
Disco Labs are also running a paid full-time Junior Engineering Academy program which will include two learning days a week coupled with three days development work. Elle will be doing some of that training. To learn about the company and its benefits, visit their junior Ruby engineer position description page.
Team Blackmill did our bit to protect ourselves, our families, and the community from the Covid-19 pandemic. We pulled up our sleeves and got the final #jabdone. We are so privileged and grateful for being able to live in a country that has access to the vaccination. We hope that it will only be a matter of time before everyone in the world gets access to the vaccine 🖤 Stay safe and spread the kindness.
The Blackmill Book Club is halfway through Barry O’Reilly’s book, Unlearn. It describes a system intended to help people recognise approaches and techniques that are no longer useful and learn new ones to replace them.
We came across a thoughtbot blog post from last year where Amanda Beiner makes the argument that assuming best intentions should be the result of building a culture of trust in your organisation, not a step towards it.
Blackmill works no more than four days each week so we love to see studies discussing that. And Iceland have conducted the world’s largest study into 4 day work weeks. It was so impactful it has already affected the working hours of 86% of the national workforce within the last two years.
We have helped numerous clients draft career progression rubrics for their technology teams so we’re delighted to see Dropbox publish theirs. And Adel Smee has written up her experience of writing up one for Zendesk.
Lastly, this 2019 article from Sarah Drasner has some great tips on how to learn, something we all need to keep practicing.
I’m a contracting Ruby/web developer, mostly working with startups and other tech-focused companies - though my current client is an independent bookshop. I also run conferences every now and then - particularly RubyConf AU and Trampoline. I’m a big fan of the flexibility provided by my work choices, especially related to remote working, but also often limiting myself to 4-day work weeks. But also: getting to work within all of these tech teams has allowed me to learn so much from so many excellent developers.
This varies depending on the type of work - for example, right now I’m the sole developer for my current project, and not having any colleagues to talk through technical challenges has been pretty frustrating at times. But usually I’m contracting within an existing team, and in those situations the biggest challenge might be figuring out the right solutions that solve problems well but are also easy for the rest of the team to take over when my contract comes to a close. It’s definitely a balancing act - ensuring there’s enough knowledge for the technology involved, while also being more than just a quick fix, and having code that’s some combination of well-documented and/or easily understood.
Music, books, comedy, spoken word poetry and storytelling - I guess generally, the arts. Particularly those that bring me joy, make me think, and/or help me learn.
And if I get to experience these in-person, and share those experiences with friends and family whom the events also bring life to - that’s pretty much a perfect day.
As someone who isn’t particularly fit and had never previously been to a gym before, I’ve started exercising with a personal trainer over the past couple of months. I know it’s a common activity for many, but it was a very daunting step for me - I was completely clueless! - so, it feels pretty great to have made some progress on this.
If I’m wise, I’ll never again commit to working on a client project where I’m paid a fixed rate for features, and instead insist on a time-and-materials rate. (Not particularly groundbreaking wisdom, I know, and yet I have forgotten it more than once. 🤦🏻♂️)
I don’t think I’ve got this figured out - but things that help me are: making sure I have enough quiet time to myself each week; talking things through with close friends and/or a psychologist regularly; and writing down what’s in my head.
This last one is especially required for tasks I need to do - if they’re put into my to-do list (and scheduled for a specific day) then that’s one less thing that my mind needs to overthink in the meantime.
Whenever you’re in a conversation, do your best to listen deeply and without judgement. Focus on what the other person is saying, rather than getting caught up in how you’re going to respond, or where you want to lead the conversation to.
I don’t have any resources to suggest for this - it’s something I’m still (always!) working at being better at, but I find it helps across every facet of life.
It’s so very hard to choose just one, but maybe it’s inserting the concept of intersectional feminism - and intersectional justice! - as a foundational underpinning to all of the things? I mean, if we’re going to dream big, let’s do this properly - because we’re not going to truly fix climate change, structural racism, or the ongoing impact of colonialism otherwise.
I have a side-project I’ve returned to in the last few months, around helping people manage their calendars a little more neatly - I’d love to get that launched in the next month or two, even if it is still in beta. But more generally: I’d love to become more at ease with uncertainty. While I understand I can’t fully sidestep the emotional and mental impacts of the pandemic, one of many things it’s highlighted for me is how much I crave certainty, and how rare that actually is. So, if I can be better at going with the flow, that’d be a great achievement.
I don’t really have a go-to recipe. But as most of my friends know, pancakes are very much my thing, so here are a few suggestions for pancake/crepe toppings that are maybe a little different to the usual (though don’t get me wrong - lemon and sugar remains a standout option!):
I’d love to hear recommended toppings from any readers - send me a tweet 😋
To keep in theme with Pat, we are cooking pancakes!
Thank you for showing an interest to our newsletter and we hope that you enjoyed the read. Feel free to contact us if you have any feedback, a burning question or just a recipe that you would like to share 😊. Until next time, keep learning!
Everyone at Blackmill
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