#11: Do you know what's coming next?

Hey friend,

Every second week, I write Mektup to share what I learned from reading many articles and books about software engineering and leadership. Mektup is ideal for busy people such as senior & staff software engineers and software engineering leaders.

Now, on to this week's Mektup.

The feeling of safety and predictability is what everybody looks for on some level. Even one study showed that people would rather know for sure that they will get an electric shock instead of not being able to predict if they will get a shock or not. Imagine getting into a dark tunnel. According to the study, walking in a dark tunnel without a light causes more stress than walking in a lighted tunnel full of monsters.

Navigating in ambiguous situations, or moving in a dark tunnel, is an expected skill from senior+ software engineers. They have to find their way around and work autonomously. At the same time, the manager's job is to keep the uncertainty at a particular level that engineers can feel just safe enough to learn and grow but not too much to burn out from stress.

So in your team, bring enough clarity and reduce uncertainty to neither face the monsters nor walk in the darkness. Here are some strategies that helped me and can be helpful for you too:

Put all your high-level plans in one place, like a Miro board, separated from your task tracker, such as Jira. Your high-level goals should be independent of day-to-day work. However, attach links to the existing documents and tickets to make connections between them.

Clearly define why one feature comes next, not the other. Usually, people forget to talk about why and focus on how, but explaining why removes many quandaries upfront. If you are a software engineer, ask your leader to learn whys to come up with how you will approach the problem. If you are a leader, clarify why you want to focus on a feature or project and why that strategy is essential.

Plan, but not over plan. The trick is planning with a high-level overview, not with the minor tasks. Only work with the smaller tasks when you are sure that you will tackle that specific project or feature. Instead of spending hours over-planning, you can focus on what is essential at that time.

In a changing world, a certain level of expectancy is enough to reduce stress and motivate people. You don't need to create a plan for the following year. When you do, it will probably become obsolete. So, define what's coming next with an eye towards your end goal and vision. Reduce stress to increase motivation.

P.S.: You can also improve your prioritization skills to decide what to focus on next.‚Äč

Alright, now onto what I have shared over the last two weeks.

What I Published Over Last Two Weeks

I took a little bit of vacation over last two weeks and published two articles.

You are not special

Most things in life are either average or suck. The media blurs this reality. It also creates a fake one by saying that everyone can achieve everything. But the truth holds: we're not that special as we think we are.

Personal Ego vs. Team Ego

I shared this on Mektup before. So, if you are a new subscriber or didn't read it before, you can check it out.

When team members have a personal ego, they put the best interest on themselves. When there is a team ego where everyone is competing with themselves, everyone takes pride ad what they do together and want to present their success to everyone.

End Note

As always, if you are enjoying Mektup, I would love it if you shared it with one or two of your friends. You can send them directly here to sign up. They will get this issue as a gift when they sign up. I try to make Mektup one of the best and actionable emails that you get to grow your software engineering and leadership career.

Newsletter Last Updated: Jan 15, 2022