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Level Up - Issue #142


Level Up

May 1 · Issue #142 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.

Finding balance between being available (i.e. interruptible) and focus time
Good leaders want to make themselves available to support their team. This might mean providing context, coaching them to unblock themselves or sometimes sharing their own knowledge or expertise to help someone progress. But it’s hard to predict when someone may want help, so it’s tempting to make yourself always interruptible. Interruptions have their cost though if they are continuous. Where do you get your uninterrupted focus time?
Here are some tips I share that may help you find a good balance:
  • Build a support network within the team - Last week I shared the cone model for a support network where team members might try to find help first within their team who might be working in more relevant areas. Pair programming and mob/ensemble programming have this built-in by default. This can help reduce interruptions to you (but you also need to balance this out with interruptions to other team members)
  • Agree on boundaries - Don’t feel like you have to be available all the time. Discuss what works for you and what works for the team. If the team cannot operate without you for a good part of the day, I’d guess you have bigger problems than interruptions to worry about. Agree on a signal about when you are/are not interruptible. This might a status message on Slack, calendar blockers, or a verbal agreement and reminder in the daily stand up or weekly team meeting.
  • Share what you’re working on - Team members may interrupt you because they may not know what you are working on. Are you working on key strategic planning which requires deep focus and thought, or are you skimming your email? Your team cannot read your mind so create visibility about what you are working on.
  • Improve the system - You may find you get zero interruptions, which is also potentially a bad sign. Are team members blocked for weeks when asking for help might have unblocked them? If so, spot check if your team has enough psychological safety. Too many interruptions? Think about what’s the root/systemic causes and treat them.
The hard part about leadership is finding the best balance that works for you and the team. Your challenge for this week is to reflect on if you’re getting enough focus time for the week. If you’re getting enough focus time, are you doing so at the cost of ignoring issues? If you’re being interrupted too frequently, think about systemic/root causes and see what you can do to reduce them over time.
Enjoy this week’s newsletter and please pass it on to a friend or colleague who might benefit.
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A lot about good leadership is finding a healthy balance
A lot about good leadership is finding a healthy balance
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Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany