Last week I started having Office Hours to have conversations with anyone who wanted the benefit of my experience in startups, tech and a few other things from my 25+ years in the software space.
Using the awesome ‘Booked’ wordpress plugin – which I had acquired for another idea that I was launching last year – I set up a simple calendar/appointment booking on my blog site and wrote a blog post to make my offer and kick the whole thing off.
The first week has been tremendous. I’ve had 4 conversations that each went well beyond the 30 minute slot that was booked and all ended with some very positive feedback and heart felt gratitude from the people I spent that time with.
I haven’t asked their permission to write about the conversations – they are, of course, private and confidential – so no names will be named and no identifying details will be shared.
Two of the conversations were about starting out as an agile coach, one was about remaining relevant as a people manager and the last one was helping a startup on its growth plans – specifically raising market awareness. Here are just some of the ideas I shared:
Starting as a (independent) agile coach:
- Don’t do it. The market for ‘agile coaches’ is saturated and filling up with project managers, scrum masters and all sorts of other folk. Rather than be bound to some title, strive to be of value instead by understanding what problem your client is trying to solve (and not simply help us do Scrum/LeSS/whatever) and be determined to use *all* that you know to help them.
- Know what you bring to the engagement – be clear about it, at least to yourself!
- Get yourself financially lean to compete, take risks and endure the downturns.
- Get comprehensive agile experiences – learn to code, ship something, try to market something – you cannot empathise effectively if you don’t know what they are going through.
- Stay in your day job long enough to get the essential capabilities you need – once you have to make money, it becomes harder to make strategic decisions – being financially lean can mitigate this but not remove it entirely.
Remaining relevant as a people manager:
- Ask the people you manage what they need – practically, emotionally and financially – to be happy and fulfilled in their jobs.
- Remember that your responsibility is to spend authority wisely – for the benefit of your reports and indirectly, the organisation.
- Stop shielding people from the consequences of their professional actions – agree some rules beforehand, but blind support does no one any good. That said, helping to create an environment where the consequences are manageable and fairly trivial is also important.
- Tell the person who manages you the same thing (even if they don’t ask for it).
- Go ask your ‘customers’ what they enjoy about you as a manager and what they don’t. Commit to them to act on their feedback.
Growth for a startup – creating awareness of a product or service:
- Focus on what the users and customers are actually trying to use your product or service to achieve. No one uses a tool for the sake of the tool. Customers will value your service better if you strive to understand their goals.
- Be honest with what your product and service is great at and what it isn’t – users do not appreciate wasting their time on something that doesn’t work in their use case.
- Use your paying customers more – if you are lucky to have them, then engage with them more.
- Try and get better at being out of your comfort zone by doing more of it and learning ways to be better.
- Rediscover your passion for what your product does – the unique way you want to change the world. This is the bigger goal than the features you are building and enables you to speak and promote your startup with passion.
- Give what you have to get what you want – create content about useful and helpful things, share it, help companies for free using the expertise you’ve developed from your product. Earn goodwill, it pays off.
A huge thank you to the amazing people who accepted my invitation this week and had the courage and humility to ask for help. Needless to say, I’m deeply enjoying these conversations and hope for many more.
If you or anyone you know would find a conversation with me helpful – book a time on my office hours, show up and lets do this thing!