With the rise of remote work due to COVID-19, organisations have been forced to figure out how to drive engagement, retain talent, and keep things light hearted and fun, all while working remotely. Having fun at work helps to build relationships and thus increases trust, team bonding, and job satisfaction. Many have tried different things to see what sticks, but in the quest to create a fun environment for their teams forced fun can backfire. One of the great joys of adulthood is the ability to choose who you hang out with, and how you spend your time. The pandemic has seen people re-align their priorities to spend more time with their family and on things that they want to do. Orchestrating forced fun at work can create an inauthentic culture where everyone is obliged to turn up and get along.
In Catherine Price's Ted Talk, she defines fun as the secret to feeling alive. It is pure joy and radiates within like sunshine. According to Price, the three elements for fun are playfulness, flow, and connection. When we have fun, we feel light hearted and let go of perfection. We feel connected to others or with ourselves, and we are often in a state of flow. It energises us and fills us up.
To foster a connection with our workmates, we need a culture where social events are normalised. Workplace social activities are important generally and even more so when people don't get to serendipitously run into each other in the office, or get to go out for team lunches on a weekly basis. Be inclusive by planning activities during work hours, instead of after hours drinks. This requires a work environment which has leeway to allow for these activities. People sometimes feel like coming to these events is "not work" and coupled with deadlines and pressure to deliver, they opt out and stick with writing code. Instead of forced participation, try and shift towards activities that the team wants to do. Organisations should treat intra-office relationships as a normal aspect of work life, without enforcing fun participation on their employees. People should be able to feel comfortable to be themselves and bring their whole selves to work, to do their best work. Allowing employees to define and initiate the play at work will truly ignite fun.
Another Leading Engineering Teams workshop successfully completed by a cohort of competent individuals who were eager to learn and engage with each other. Thank you to all who participated. We wish you all the best in your leadership journey. If you (or anyone you know) would like to upskill and learn how to become an effective engineering manager, join us for the last workshop for 2022! For more info and tickets, head over here https://blackmill.co/workshops/leading-engineering-teams
One of our clients, Forage, invited Lachlan to join their team in San Francisco and Austin for their leadership and company offsite last month. He was asked to deliver a presentation about leadership styles and celebrated a two-million students on the platform milestone. It was a great opportunity to bond with the team and enjoy a bit of summer in the Northern hemisphere.
We recently teamed up with Tech Leading Ladies to help bridge the gender gap in tech leadership. Supporting a community of women to increase their leadership skills in the tech industry is one of Blackmill's values and we are delighted to offer them complimentary tickets to our public workshops and a dedicated community of practice program. Elle will be delivering a talk about leadership styles in their meetup this month. For more info or to grab yourself a free ticket, head over to https://www.meetup.com/tech-leading-ladies/events/288002338/
Congratulations to Elle for completing her Graduate Certificate in Psychology of Business and Management! Organisational culture, leadership, team health, and performance are intricate weaves of patterns that require effort and understanding to tie together well. These studies help to better understand the complexity of human psychology, how it can effectively be applied to the work environment, and to help our clients' teams reach their full potential.
Making work "work" for women — more of a video than a writeup. Jamila Rizvi talks about the gendered challenges in the workplace and provides some suggestions to overcome them.
How To Maintain Culture As You Scale — Debbie Madden suggests three pillars to help maintain a healthy culture as companies grow.
How organisations are like slime molds — an emoji flipbook presentation by Alex Komoroske about how dysfunctional organisational dynamics arise even when individuals are well-behaved. Found by following a link from Sugendran's post about decisions.
Getting the right people in the right seats over time — "That’s the nature of entrepreneurial growth...Part of the challenge as a manager is to really be right in answering the following question: can they grow into that seat or not?"
12 years ago, my business partner and I founded Education Advantage. Our goal is to remove the technical roadblocks that inhibit educators from focusing on their goals. Over that time, I’ve been involved in every part of the business but more recently I’ve been using web technologies to automate away the tedious tasks that make it hard for our staff to be their best.
Being the guy that can take away your troubles means I can be in pretty high demand but, not only could I never expect most people to think like an engineer but, I find that people who are overloaded tend not to have the spare cognitive load to break down their tasks in fine detail. Inevitably, this means that any new feature is an iterative process where extremely important specifications aren’t uncovered until late in the project; this makes scheduling extremely difficult.
I absolutely love removing inefficiencies. Not only are they bad for business but, for anyone who is outcome driven, they place a cap on engagement and job satisfaction. Often, when people are overworked, they can’t think about how to optimise; they’re just trying to survive. I get immense joy out of being dropped into a mess and working out how to clean things up.
We have a vendor that buries us in paperwork. During the busy season, the equivalent of one day per week is spent reporting our sales to them. Thanks to complications brought about by the same vendor, someone would also spend three days a month calculating sales commissions. I was able to automate both of those tasks which has substantially reduced stress and overtime. It’s rewarding to know I’ve helped make someone’s work life just a little bit better.
At one point we tried to expand our business into another state. We set up a nice office and had regular contact with the team, but it became clear that our culture couldn’t be replicated over the wire. We pride ourselves on being different from the competition in part by taking the time to understand our customers, their pain points, and their teaching and learning goals. It was naive to think that we could hire people from outside of that experience and expect that they could fully embrace our methodology without a regular, more personal touch. While I would consider interstate expansion again, I wouldn’t do it until we were able to give more of ourselves to it.
Honestly, I don’t tend to stress a lot. Saying that, I have an unusual routine for keeping myself balanced. When I’m feeling a bit sluggish, I love listening to high energy DJ sets. On the other hand, if my mind is racing or the stress is building, there is nothing better than some ASMR. A lot of people listen to ASMR for tingles, but I find the role-plays to be uninteresting enough that I’m not taking notice, but the soft whispering eases my mind. It’s almost like a passive version of controlled breathing.
Most of the time, the people you look up to are learning just like you. Speaking with confidence and being well respected doesn’t mean you don’t have insecurities or concerns that you’re not good enough. Most of us learn by making mistakes and so your idols have either had longer to learn from failure or they’ve focused their failure in an area they’re passionate about. You can do that too!
Humans have evolved to make quick decisions. For most of life, this is great—who wants to spend hours deciding what to have for dinner‽ When it comes to the big issues of existence, however, I wish people could wade in the grey and understand that multiple things can be true at the same time. Society is diverse, but that diversity drives innovation. Bar some notable exceptions, most people want to do what’s right, but “right” is subjective and the world is complex.
I’m not satisfied until I’m challenging myself. After years advocating for cultural change within my own business, I feel like the foundation has been set for continued success that I can be proud of, and so I’ve decided to join the Culture Amp team to experience scale. To excel as a small business, you need to be scrappy and frugal. It’s a hell of a lot of fun and you get to tackle a wide range of tasks. Large business, however, offers more opportunity to deep dive into roles and I’m excited to continue my growth with such a fun and caring team.
Bag of pasta (I prefer pappardelle but use anything)
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1 cup brown onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
800g Roma tomatoes
1-1.5kg beef short ribs (depending on your meatiness preferences)
75g tomato paste
2 cups of red wine (a Chianti/Sangiovese is perfect)
Handful of fresh thyme (thyme is deceptive, use more than you think)
2 bay leaves
1tbsp olive oil
Hand crush tomatoes in a bowl. Season the ribs with salt and pepper.
Heat a French/Dutch Oven to medium heat (give it a good 7 min to heat). Add olive oil.
Pat the ribs dry with paper towel. Add to the pot but don’t crowd them, cook in batches if needed. After a few minutes, you should have a good sear so flip the ribs. Sear all six sides and then remove from the heat.
Turn the pot down to medium low. Leave the fat in the pot. Preheat your oven to 150º.
Add the carrots and onion to the pot and slowly sweat them. Cook for about 10 minutes until they’ve softened.
Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes until the garlic has some colour.
Add about half a can/tub of tomato paste (around 75g but don’t bother measuring it). After about 5 minutes, the oil should be red
Add the red wine and let it simmer for a minute then add the tomatoes.
If you happen to have a rind of Parmigiano Reggiano, throw that in too. It’s not required but, if you chop off and keep the rind, it adds some lovely depth.
Add in the ribs. Cover the pot and place it in the middle of the oven for 2 hours.
Remove the pot and flip the ribs. Replace the cover but leave it about 1/4 open. Place back in the oven for another hour.
Remove the pot from the oven. Place the ribs on a chopping board.
Remove the bay leaves and any thyme stems. Remove the bones and the membrane from the ribs and place the rib meat into a bowl and shread before placing it back into the pot and mix in. Taste to ensure it’s seasoned enough.
Heat a large pot of water for the pasta. Salt the water (roughly 1tbsp per 2l water). Add your pasta.
While the paste is cooking, heat a frying pan to medium-low. Conservatively add as much sauce as you need to the frying pan, keeping in mind you can add more but you can’t take it away. The ragù is probably quite thick so add a little pasta water and stir so it doesn’t stick.
When the pasta is al dente, add it to the sauce. You want it to have some chew because it will continue cooking in the pan. Mix the pasta and sauce as best you can.
Finish with some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and enjoy!
Thank you for showing an interest in 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