🚀 Breathe.



“Managers don’t manage people. Managers manage the environment, you are managing the context, and creating an environment in which people can do their best work.”

In this episode

In episode #62, Daniel Terhorst-North explains why, contrary to popular belief, managers don’t manage people, but instead, are the individuals in charge of designing environments and systems of work where employees can be more productive.

We also cover why stand-up meetings are not meant for status updates and the one question that needs to be asked on a daily basis.

Tune in to hear Daniel explain the consequences of delayed feedback and learn a new model to help your team understand intent.

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


Reactions in critical moments


Redefining managers and management


Agile teams are intentional teams


Redesign your standups


Check the temperature of your team


The best possible day


Drift and uncertainty



Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:00

 Daniel, welcome to the show.

Daniel Terhorst-North  02:09

Thanks very much. Thanks for having me.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:11

Yeah, Daniel, I’m very excited, you know, to chat with you. We started talking and it was so fun that we almost did the whole podcast without pressing record. So I’m glad that we now press record. So one of the things I wanted to kick things off with, right off the bat is who has been a most favorite or memorable boss in your career.

Daniel Terhorst-North  02:35

So this is interesting. I’m afraid I’m not going to give you one because I’ve been super lucky and super spoiled. And I’ve had some amazing bosses. And it’d be unfair to name one of them at the expense of some others. I think the Why is much more interesting question. So I one of my very first bosses, she was probably only in her mid 20s. I was like fresh out of college, I was probably 22. So we were very young team. And she was I think in a software management role. And it was a small business 40 3050 employees, it was a data marketing firm in the early 90s. When that was when that was a thing. I basically I destroyed the database, right? So one day by it through just through being a complete idiot, you know, a an entirely user rookie error, I accidentally shut down the live production database in the middle of a data run in the middle of the working day, by accidentally shutting down the wrong, some workstation. And I remember in real-time, you know, like some extended time thing, that protracted time thing. extended time off or distended time. So I’m sitting there and I was, I typed in shut down monetary now on a server, and there was a clock ticking on the screen and the clock should have stopped, right? Because it’s so and I just went, Oh, no, I haven’t shut down this server. Therefore I have shut down another server. And as I’m processing this, the door bursts open this lady runs in his, the database administrator goes, let’s just shut down the database. Right? Me. And I just honestly I thought I was gonna get fired. Right? That’s it. That’s like, you know, it’s your snackable offense. And Jan, my boss turned around to me. She said it didn’t even skip a beat. She said, today’s the day we learned about database restore. And it was just this absolute object lesson in blameless response. Right? You messed up. There’s no point beating you up. You know, you messed up. I know, you messed up, let’s fix the database. And we sat there reloading data off of tapes, because it was an era where you still had like exabyte tapes. And we reloaded data until about 11 o’clock that night. She stayed. And the last tape went in and we finished and she said, Great. We’re restored. See tomorrow.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:56


Daniel Terhorst-North  04:57

That was it. There was no in my room. You shouldn’t go you that thing you did a couple of months ago, where you just basically shut us down. Nothing.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:05

That’s incredible. 

Daniel Terhorst-North  05:06

And that as a just as a, as an attitude that stayed with me. 

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:11

Yeah, no that I mean, that’s incredible. She must have had a lot of patience, in general, and be able to do something like that. And here you are many, many years later still recalling that story. So I’ve heard many leaders who’ve had, or many other people on the podcast that have had similar experiences. And it says a lot, right? I mean, like you said, there’s no point beating you up, and it shows that like, mistakes are actually okay. Which, you know, if mistakes weren’t Okay, then people would just try less things,

Daniel Terhorst-North  05:48

which were less things or the other thing is that when something goes wrong, like, you know, deny, yeah, all of that. And it creates these, these toxic behaviors. And if you’re in a culture where it’s, you know, we and of course, immediately off the back of that, I wrote a bunch of scripts, and I made a bunch of conflicts so that if you will log into a production server, the screen was bright red. You know, you couldn’t like the shutdown command said, You’re on a production server, are you sure, you know, stuff like that. So I put those stopped in myself, because I didn’t want to be that idiot again. So all of the stuff that you would normally have all the kind of follow-up, you would normally have still happened. But you know, she didn’t need to wait around or yell at me in order to make it happen.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:32

Yeah, no, it’s super interesting how that like one way that you react in that one critical moment affects the culture of the company going forward?

Daniel Terhorst-North  06:41

Well, so. So I can riff on this all day. So I did a talk a few years ago, because it’s good friend of mine, Tricia G, who’s about someone else you should speak to. She’s a brilliant, brilliant programmer, and now developer relations for JetBrains. And she, she’s very structured in her career, you know, I’m in this role in two years, I want to be in this role. So I need to learn XYZ, figure this thing out. And I’m like, Oh, that looks fun. This is like an ad looks like a nice guy, I’m gonna go work with him. And so I’ve decided to drifted through my career, and she’d been very structured. But what I discovered or what I want to cover what I what I realized is, although I’ve had a very accidental career, I’ve had very deliberate advice from people. There are very specific interventions with people in my 30 years that I can say, that was pivotal to me. And also that he or she, in the moment, when we had that conversation, they had no idea that was a thing. They had no agenda. I had no idea that 30 years from now, I’d be talking about her in a podcast, right? She was just being jam. Yeah. And I think with great leaders, it’s, it’s that whole, that they’re just being themselves, and their self happens to be someone who’s fantastic in that role.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:02

It’s very interesting. Sometimes, you only look back on things, you know, like you said, that you look back 30 years ago, and you’re like, wow, that event, or that thing that that person said, and it all of a sudden becomes super relevant to what you’re working on now. So what I guess one of the things that I you know, can’t help but ask you is you also coach a lot of other people and a lot of leaders like a lot of the work you do obviously, is in Agile coaching and training on agile but amongst the the mistakes and you know, things that you see very often that it’s, it’s almost become trait, like what are the things that you see, very often in mistakes that leaders make?

Daniel Terhorst-North  08:45

Okay, so before I get that, I want to unpack a couple of terms, or at least explain how I say a couple of terms. So management, a manager in my head in my world, and managers don’t manage people. So management is not alike a supervisory, superior type role, manage them in a lean context, or an agile context. So when you talk about management, you’re managing the environment, you’re managing the context, and you’re creating an environment in which people can do their best work, you can’t make people do things you can create an environment in which if they choose to, they can do things. Leadership is a very different thing than related. But if there’s a very clear distinction, leadership is about setting direction and is about that alignment piece. Okay? So it’s the inspiring people with the wish to be, you know, in the sea, and with the wind in their hair, and all of that rather than instructing them how to build a ship. In that context, I think, the most common failure modes I encountered so the things I try and coach against, as it were, is is exactly the opposite of those two things. So someone who believes Their job is to be a combination of a policeman and your dad, you know, in the workplace, right, they’re a parent, and they’re a policeman. So they’re like, you know, you are going to do this, I’m going to give you instruction now. And I’m also going to check up on you and make sure you did your homework, you know, make sure you tidy your room, and shifting that mindset from directing people to creating an environment in which so and again, most people, direct people, because that’s how they were taught. That’s what they think management is. And that’s what you think being a manager is. And especially this idea of a line manager, where we have this term line manager no really thinks about where the term comes from, when it comes to a production line, it comes from a line of people in a factory doing the same thing again, and again, and again and again. And even then actually, as a line manager, your job is to manage the line, the production line, not the people on it. So we still get it wrong, even though we use this line manager. So in terms of leadership, I think, you know, people, people will follow you on a compelling journey. Right? That they will want to so so the goal of leadership is to create that compulsion to system, articulate that compelling journey and to reiterate it and to get everyone excited. And the classic kind of what’s in it for me, you know, so what’s in it for Aiden as a founder, or what’s in it for Aiden as a developer or sort of Aden as a product manager, and to give you that sense of your own self actualization, your own purpose, the bigger picture like the we’re all on this journey together. And I see a lot of leaders, senior folks, when I speak to them one on one, they can absolutely articulate what they want. You know, you know, right, you know, what you want Fellow to be, right, you know, what you want Fellow.app to be, unless it is in your just ritual daily habits to keep articulating that again, and again, and again. And again, the decay curve of everyone around you remembering that is much, much deeper than you think. You need to go on and on and on about it to remind people why this is finance remind people why this is exciting. And I think one of the leadership fails, I see more than anything, is they forget to articulate how just awesome This mission is, and how exciting it is and how much fun it’s going to be. And I just expect people to do stuff without having that. That sense of purpose.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  12:24

Yeah, that’s super interesting, I guess. Yeah. You sometimes think that maybe you sound like a broken record? Or that they would know, they don’t want me to say that again. But I mean, is there ever like, so people typically don’t make the mistake of just doing it too much? Right? It’s kind of hard to it’s I think,


Ultimately, if you’re getting the feedback, that people really, really deeply understand the mission. And you’re Okay, thanks. That’s it. That’s a great problem to have. I don’t know many folks have that problem.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  13:00

Right? Yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. And so you know, it’s interesting, because one of the key roles of a leader is also to do this storytelling. And I think, you know, coming as a founder of a company, this makes a lot of sense to me. But this isn’t like a founder and CEO thing only, right? Like this applies to everybody.


Well, and I’m really glad you said that. So I’m a huge fan of the David Marquet, Turn the Ship Around mindset where he talks about leader rather than leader-follower. So in other words, at every level of the organization, anyone in any role is a leader. Right? And then and then he talks about intent-based leadership. So rather than asking permission, or waiting to be told, and so the two most common default modes, and most certainly Western hierarchical organizations, is you say, I intend to, I intend to do X, I intend to push this build into this production environment, I intend to make this change. I intend to go and interview these customers. And you know, everyone starts off doing it in their out-loud voice, eventually, it becomes much more internalized thing. But to start with, as you’re practicing it, you say it out loud. Hey, folks, I intend to do this. And your stand-ups should really be what you intend to do today, right? What’s our intent for today? We can talk a lot about stand-ups as well as one of my hot topics per se, so and then as a manager, because then we got leadership or management into into twinkling as a manager, you’re then managing by exception, because all you’re listening for is when someone says I intend to do something that just sounds odd.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:37

I intend to shut down the server, the database server,

Daniel Terhorst-North  14:41

I intend to shut everything down. And you can imagine this is how like Netflix how chaos monkey started, right? I intend to just write some code is going to shut down servers arbitrarily. Wait, stop, you’re gonna want now. That conversation happened and that conversation was we know that We don’t run our own servers anymore. We’re moving to Amazon cloud. We know that occasionally things are just going to go missing, if we architect for things to go missing, and that’s okay, we’ve already won, right? We build resilient. If we don’t, then when something happens, we’re gonna get some unpleasant surprises. So I’d rather we cause the surprises, then they happen to us. And when you explain it like that, I am going to go and shut down some servers suddenly now makes a lot of sense. But having that conversation means you’re now articulating things like chaos engineering, things like resilience, things like site reliability. And maybe those conversations haven’t been heard before.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  15:37

Yeah, no, that’s super interesting in and I like the phrase that you use, which is like almost management, like exception-based management. And you mentioned stand-ups you know, a thing or two about agile, and stand-ups are very interesting, because, you know, as the pandemic happened, and people are working, you know, from home and remotely, one of the things that has been, I guess, talked about a lot is this daily stand up meeting, and I feel like it has been attacked a little bit, you know, in the sense of, especially like zoom fatigue, and everything that that comes comes along with it. I’m just curious, like, maybe tell us more about, like, what the standard meeting is, and how it should actually be run,

Daniel Terhorst-North  16:28

I tend to say I’ve got a whole bunch of patterns of what I think of as effective software delivery and delivering things faster and better. And that I’ve been failing to write a book about for about eight years now. And one of them is exactly this, and I call it coffee. Damn. Right. So cafe Diem is about is about your daily stand up. So most people think of a stand up as a meeting that you have typically early in the day, and you’re all checking in with each other and saying what you did. And there’s a formula that seems to have become prevalent of yesterday, I did this, and today, I’m doing this and whether anything’s blocking me. And that, to me is the anathema is the opposite of what a stand up is. Oh, interesting. Let’s take us back to first principles, I’m gonna take you back to the early 90s. There were we would, and I don’t know how old you are. I was programming in the early 90s, a regular software project might do a release every 18 months, two years, that was cutting edge, right. And so you every month, maybe you might have a monthly steering. So you might have 18 of these monthly steering things over an 18 month project. And then a number of folks, they are roughly around the world. One lady, I’m a huge fan of in Belgium called Martine DevOps. She’s working in the public sector there and she said, I’m fed up, I’m fed up with these 18-month releases, I’m fed up with working like this life’s there’s got to be more to life. Here, we are going to ship something in 12 weeks, even if it kills us. Right? Or actually, even if I have to kill you. She’s a wonderfully scary lady, my team. So she said to the team, we’re not going to fly blind for six or 12 weeks, we’re going to sprint for six weeks pause cause correct? sprint for another six weeks and then ship. So let’s forward to now that’s like delivering once per season. It’s not exactly what growth, but for then it was like completely revolutionary. You’re gonna do in 12 weeks what we normally do in 18 months. So clearly, we can’t have monthly steering. That’s not gonna work. Yeah. So and even if we have weekly steering for one of these six weeks sprints, that’s like six seconds, that’s not gonna work. So what if we did a daily steering? If we stay up every single day, that’s like 30 goes in a six week sprint. That’s more like it’s so really the stand up is is a steering meeting? Yeah, it’s effectively micro-planning. It’s not a status meeting. Those are very different things. So the energy I try to bring to a stand up, or the energy that I like that for me that I healthy stand up, is the team gets together. And there’s one question, what’s the best possible today that we can have? That’s it, right? Because we’re gonna do it all again tomorrow. So, you know, right now, there’s six of us, or there’s eight of us, there’s three of us, or whoever it is, in this stand up? What’s the best possible today we can have? What are the inputs to that? Clearly stuff that has changed since the last time we had that conversation? Aiden brought out some new build servers. So the builds are gonna run a bit faster, but you might start getting emails from a different server. What else are Claire checked in the all those new automated tests, which means we can be a lot more confident about the email component, you know, so there’s a there’s a status element to it, but it’s not what did you do because I’m your dad. It’s what’s changed. That’s cool. What’s changed is going to allow us to have a better day and then we go Right team, what’s the best possible day? Imagine we have an amazing day? What’s it going to look like? We’re going to do this, we’re going to smash that this is going to happen, we’re going to get these people engaged, right and break. Right? That’s your band up. You should come out of that stand up, pumped, right? You should be really excited about the day you’re gonna have. And, and also, this is where and especially with, you know, what I think of as high functioning teams, high psychological safety teams. If Aiden rags is sorry, arson, right bags under his eyes and says, team Look, the best possible day I can have is not falling asleep. I had a dreadful night’s sleep last night, I’ve got allergies. And we’re all like, mate, you do you write you take whatever time you need, you know, everything’s fine. Is there anything urgent that we can pick up for you? So it’s also the point in the day where you lean on the team, he said, you know, actually, I could really use some support from you, folks. The best possible day, I can have his have my team, gather around me and carry me, I need that day. So it’s a very human encounter. And it’s a very focusing, as I say, it’s a goal-setting. It’s a steering session, it’s not a reporting session. It’s certainly not a status and policing session. And you see that yesterday, I did this. And today I’m doing that I don’t care honestly, like, you know, with due respect, I don’t care what you did yesterday, I trust you. You’re a grown-up, you’re clearly good at this. I don’t need you to tell me what you did yesterday, I need you to tell me what’s the best possible day you can have an how I can help you have that.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  21:33

That’s amazing. I mean, so many insights there. You know, it’s a steering meeting. It’s not a status meeting. There’s a human elements of it like, and also just the question of how can we have the best version of today? So how does this then relate to manage? So what is the role of a manager during that meeting?

Daniel Terhorst-North  21:52

Well, brilliant question. So again, right, you’re the manager, the role is about the environment, it’s about the system of work. Yeah. So as a manager in that context, you’re maybe like in a kind of coaching type manager, all you’re saying, Okay, let me look at the faces. Obviously, you’ve got nine faces staring at your resume or whatever. Let me just gauge the energy here. Let me see what’s going on. One of my favorite favorite delivery leads chap called Ivan More. He used to do a thing. He got a one point, you know, how you do silly things on projects. And on one project, we will have skater names, right. And his name was tea boy, right? It’s like, like tea boy like that. And, and he was called tea boy, because every afternoon at about three o’clock, he would go around with a post-it and he’d go to everyone’s desk, and he’d say, so Aiden, can I get your cup of tea? Anything? Oh, do you know what I love? Like, a peppermint tea? Yeah, sure. Let me say, Oh, I have another coffee. Yes. So how do you want it? Any going to take the tea or really go around the whole team? And then you know, 10 minutes later, the tea arrives? And he brings the tea round? You know? Yes. Hey, that’s some pretty good Karen feeding. Right? That’s That’s a lot of, but that’s not what he was doing. what he was doing was checking in on everyone on the team. where they’re at, you might feel super intimidated, or, you know, neurodiversity, right you might be, you might find it uncomfortable to stand in front of a bunch of your peers, especially remotely where you can’t, you know, there’s much harder to read nonverbal cues, and talk about stuff. So what Ivan does, he comes and kind of, you know, leans over and says, Can I get a cup of tea, he’s picking up your mood, he can tell if you’re flat, you can tell if you’re having a good day. And you can check-in. And so what would happen is that as well as getting the tea, he’s taking the temperature of the team. And what would happen is each morning with our stand up, Ivan would leave the stand up with about two minutes of status. This has happened that’s happened that got delayed, we spoke to these people were waiting on Lester did the and he told it like a narrative and we’re done. Right. And that’s kind of like clearing your throat you know, now no one in the team feels like they need to do status because Ivan already did it. But you can only do that if you invest in the team, right? If you bother going round every afternoon to take that temperature check, then you can tell if a team’s feeling flat if one or two people are struggling if a piece of work that should have been done by now is stuck. And so if the manager role there is very much about kind of reading between the lines and finding out what’s really going on bringing that to the stand up and saying Hey, folks, I think we all need a break. You know, I think we need to stop being so hard on ourselves or sometimes I think we need to up the pace a bit. And having that sense of where people are at is such a powerful enabler you know, within a team

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  24:47

it’s interesting to your point of view then is that post these standard meetings like this should actually give the team energy and they should they should walk away. energized.

Daniel Terhorst-North  24:58

Oh, man. Yeah. You know, We used to, so one thing was working on in the early 10s. I don’t know how you call these decades, we would have to stand-ups each day. We’re tiny team, we start off as three. And like at peak, we were like seven. There’s very small team, super, super high performing team, building trading software. So internal or proprietary trading house, in other words, a company that trades its own assets. And so we’re writing custom software to do trading. Now we would have to stand-ups every day in the morning, we’d have basically a tech stand up, which was exactly that steering thing. What are we going to do today? who’s done what got shipped, you know, all that kind of stuff. And in the middle of the afternoon, we’d have been a kind of a product stand up, if you like, where the head trader who we’re working with would join the stand up? And the opening question was, what new toys have I got? They would tell him what new toys he had. And we might have sped this thing up. Or we might have added some analytics to that thing. Or we might have given him a new way to visualize that. And he was like, This is cool. And so we had very, very fine grain tracking of what we were shipping. And we get immediate feedback on that, you know, and also, he would then say, as well, you know, the toys he gave me yesterday, this is what we’re doing with them. And this is what we’ve learned, and can we change them? That was some kind of product feedback that came in there. But we found that we like the the delivery route, like a delivery stand up that was that was about getting the team aligned for the day, and even a three-person team can diverged really quickly, right? It was about getting the team aligned. And so we all knew what we were all up to. And we all kind of like, well, I can help you with that. I already did something here. Let me show you this. And then the product side was like, you know, is what we’re doing mattering? Is it having an impact? And say, we found that those two every day, it wasn’t too much alignment. There wasn’t too much for nations a really nice cadence.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  26:54

Yeah. And so I guess this is I mean, this is very interesting. And it’s a very clever way to get everybody aligned, like what what toys, what new, new things can I play with today, I kind of like that. That’s pretty cool. And it kind of builds empathy for I guess, like the person that you’re, you’re actually building this, this software for? [AD BREAK BEGINS] Hey there, just a quick note, before we move on to the next part, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably already doing one on one meetings. But here’s the thing, we all know that one on one meetings are the most powerful, but at the same time, the most misunderstood concept in practice and management. That’s why we’ve spent over a year compiling the best information, the best expert advice into this beautifully designed 90 Plus page ebook. Now, don’t worry, it’s not single-spaced font, you know, lots of text, there’s a lot of pictures, it’s nice, easily consumable information, we spent so much time building it. And the great news is that it’s completely free. So head on over to Velo dot app slash blog, to download the definitive guide on one on ones, it’s there for you, we hope you enjoy it. And let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview.{AD BREAK ENDS]  One of the questions I wanted to ask you about, again, is this, you know, a hybrid and remote world that’s happening, you know, a lot of people are starting to say like that the first thing that needs to all of a sudden turned into an asynchronous meeting, where people just update, you know, a document or, you know, use a stand-up bot or something like that, you know, the first thing that should go asynchronous is, you know, status or stand up meetings. But I get the sense that if that were to happen, like how does you know, a stand up bot is, it’s going to be really hard for that to also energize you at the same time. What are your views on that? Should it be an asynchronous meeting? a synchronous meeting? Should anything change?

Daniel Terhorst-North  28:56

So I think I don’t see your question. You said you said a status or a stand up meeting. And as I said, they’re very different things. Right. So status absolutely, should be asynchronous. Having said that, it’s nice to have news, it’s nice to have a news feed, like, you know, I have an opening the standard kind of thing. So I’m a huge fan of human beings synchronizing in real-time, but not in order to tell each other what they did, because that’s kind of a game with due respect. It’s kind of dull. I know what you did. You’ve been working on that CSS for weeks. He did more CSS, I get it. I know. It’s really important. It’s not exciting to hear really rapid. You know, that’s not what you have a meeting about. So instead, yeah, automate that. So automate. So if, say you’re updating progress on a story or a feature or whatever, how have you tracked work with maybe comments or updates or something, and you post them whenever they occur to you whenever you get something done, you know, when there’s a relationship, I’ve automated things About the release. So automate that, update those things asynchronously. What I like to get is some kind of digest, so maybe a daily thing in my inbox saying, here’s all the things that happened yesterday at random times. So I can just get a sense of how our worlds moving. One guy I work with who’s really is he’s really unusual thing, he thought, I think slightly differently. What he used to do as he had a thing on his screen, that whenever anyone did a git push, like, commit, the commit message would pop up on your screen. And he wasn’t doing it to police people, again, what he was doing is unconsciously looking for patterns. So if he noticed that maybe two or three people were kind of working in a similar sort of area, he might say, hey, do you folks know that you’re working on really similar things? Oh, that’s super handy. What are you doing? Well, I’m updating the, you know, the, the, the XML export of data in the CSV file. Oh, right. Because I’m, I’m doing some stuff with with how that data is even formatted. So if I’m changing the data, and you’re changing the layout, we should probably be coordinated, right. And so some of these things, or if two people were doing basically the same thing, you know, get them together, having some kind of digest that brings all this stuff together and says, Hey, this is what’s happened in the last 24 hours, is a useful thing, automate that have it in my inbox, so I can ignore it. If I like the human element of sinking and wishing each other a good day. Do that, do that in real-time, if you’re in a distributed by timezone team, much more than, you know, distributed, geographically, that can be hard. There was one, back in the day at ThoughtWorks, this is mid 2000s, they had a huge project working across the 100 engineers in let me get this right, five offices, four times over three continents, and it was a follow the sun development model, you know, 24 hour coding. And what they would do is they had a distributed stand up with UK and the US in the UK afternoon, in the US afternoon and have a distributed standard us and India to hand over to India in the Indian afternoon and have a handover to the UK. And so you had this distributed, double handover each time. And there were various rules like Don’t, don’t go home on a broken build, if you go home on a broken build, you’ve stuffed up the next two times. And so if you break the build the next, the next country round will revert your checking, right, and you will lose yourself. So and so people became much more respectful of like keeping the bill green. When even when you’re when you’re temporarily distributed, absolutely find time to check in with each other. And again, it’s it’s, it’s what’s the best possible day we can have? Yeah, and once you get that mindset, you know that Carpe Diem mindset, it’s, it’s obvious which parts of the standup should be synchronous, and which parts you can just get rid of.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  33:06

Yeah, no, I love that. And I think, you know, there’s a couple of, you know, talking about patterns and kind of establishing patterns. You know, we started talking about how, you know, a lot of this is about being a steering meeting, we also talked about how leaders should be really great at, you know, repeating the mission and, you know, constantly like repeating what, you know, the story of the work that’s being done and the value, getting people excited. And one of the things that you also talk about when it comes to feedback is this concept of drift. And, and you can imagine, like, the longer feedback or the longer, you know, there is time between you telling a story, the more there can be drift, I would love for you to talk about just drift in general and like what teams can do to avoid it. And to give it some kind of slightly technical definition,

Daniel Terhorst-North  34:03

It’s about a delay in feedback. When you get a delay in feedback, you create uncertainty. And the one thing that humans hate more than anything else, this is like, you know, core psych 101 stuff is uncertainty. Right? We would rather be wrong but uncertain, and that’s where a lot of religion comes from, for instance. So I’m a Christian. I describe myself as someone I have a very strong faith, I largely anti-religion. Hey, yeah, religion is all of the stuff that humans bake on top of faith, because they like to have structure because they don’t like uncertainty. So and in Buddhism, you have colons and a colon is a, by definition, it’s an unanswerable question. You know, sort of like, what’s the sound of one hand clapping? Can you cross the same river? All these kinds of things, and the idea is that you wrestle with the question. And and it’s not whether there’s like, I can tell you the answer to one hand clapping, and there’s no point me telling you the answer. Because the purpose of the question is for you to wrestle with it and learn because it changes you, right? And then in Buddhism, you have this what they call Satori, this moment of enlightenment, where you go, Oh, well, right. So Oh, God, it. Christianity as the same thing is therefore mysteries. So there are a bunch of things in the Bible that are unknowable. Like what happens when you die? You know, am I going to heaven or whatever, right? It’s very clearly written in Christian scripture, the only person who knows that is Jesus. So if anyone else says they do, they’re lying. They’re simply wrong. Yeah. There’s another one about like, the the Trinity and this split the early church, like if God if you’ve got the Father, Son, and spirit, are they one thing? Or are they three things? And this split, this was one of the early schisms in the Christian church family? And the answer is yes. Are they one thing or three things? Yes. You know, and so then when one side or the other says, Well, this is right, because we’re terrified of that uncertainty. So anyway, a bit of data. That’s what that delay in feedback creates, how can we reduce that uncertainty, we can shorten the time to feedback. And the way we shorten the time to feedback in work is to do small bunches of work. And this is the idea of batch size in lean product development, is if we work in small batches in small chunks, so the idea of like, you know, multi-month or multi-year, feature development in traditional software, becoming a multi-week or multi-day or multi-hour feature development in Agile Software is all about. It’s all about reducing that time to feedback. And it might be feedback from a tool, you know, did the thing build, it might be feedback, from automation to the test pass, it might be feedback from customers, do you like this thing? Is it useful of feedback from our instrumentation are people using this feature? And likewise, in a kind of human team dynamic, if you do something that I think is odd, right, and I mentioned it in the moment, hey, Aiden, you just did this thing that I think is odd, then it’s fresh in your mind. It’s fresh. In my mind, it’s just recently happened. And we can talk about it. If I pounced on you and say, Hey, I didn’t you did this thing six months ago. And I remember it. And now I want to drag it up. And what immediately happens to you is this. A, you’re going to try and remember it okay, I remember it’s your lucky I remember it or not just kind of guessing. I you’re still clearly upset about this, six months later, which now makes me reassess every encounter we’ve had over the last six months where you’ve clearly been resenting, you’ve been stewing on this thing, right? That’s an unsettling place to be as you as the person receiving that feedback. And if we get into a culture where we only assess feedback every six months or every year, you are not just guaranteed to be on the backfoot. When you receive that feedback, it’s there is no possible good outcome. There’s a model in feedback called SBI. Situation behavior impact. And it ame out of school education at schools, because it works with children. And the idea is that you say, okay, situation, concrete situation, this thing happened. Okay, it was on Thursday, when we had that meeting with Sarah about the thing. So you remember, I’ve anchored it now in time and space, right? behavior, you did this thing? That’s objective. That’s like an unequivocal you know, you spoke across Sarah, or you shouted, or, you know, I thought you were going to speak up about this thing, and you didn’t say anything. And that surprised me. That’s behavior. That’s, that’s objective. And then I impact how I felt about it, which is necessarily subjective. That made me sad. That made me cross that made me surprised, right. And so now you get to respond to that. You can’t you’re not responsible for how for my feelings that’s on me. But your behavior had an impact on me that you clearly weren’t aware of, or may not have been aware of. And now you are. That’s not something you can we can work on. And I had real examples, as I was working with a couple of folks who one was the others boss, and they were distributed what was in London and one was in the states in Chicago. They their relationship basically broken down, right? And, and I said to them, right, I worked with both of you. You’re both lovely, and you’re both really good at this, so something’s wrong. So write down in SBI. Write down some situations where you feel you’ve miscommunicated What did the other person do? How did you feel? And they both did this, and they had one of them made a spreadsheet. So he’s got this whole list. And anyway, and then they got together with their lists. And they both went, Oh, my goodness, I had no idea. I had no idea. That’s what he was going through your head. I’m so sorry. Right, we can fix this, like now. And, and like the following day, their relationship was completely different, because neither of them had had the tools to articulate to the other how they were being impacted. So SPI is a fantastic tool for very immediate-term near-term feedback. So work in small chunks, give feedback in small chunks, process things in small chunks, is going to minimize that uncertainty and minimize that need to kind of fill it with stuff that we make up.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:46

Yeah, no, that that’s incredible. And, and a great model, as well. Daniel, this has been super, super insightful, so many so many interesting takeaways. And it’s been a very wide-ranging conversation, we even had a chance to talk about religion a little bit, which normally doesn’t happen on the show. But this has been awesome. So I guess what, you know, the question that we leave all of our guests with, as kind of like, the parting question is for all the managers and leaders out there looking to constantly improve at their craft, what tips, tricks, resources, or just final words of wisdom would you leave them with,

Daniel Terhorst-North  41:26

I tend to refer to other people. A lot, a lot more reliable than mine. One of the things that I’ve been really, really touched by impacted by the last couple of years, is I’m sure you hear this a lot is psychological safety. I didn’t know I didn’t know about it. So I’d heard the phrase a lot and the phrase, it’s one of those phrases where you hear any kind of think you know what it means? Because the words are familiar words, you don’t, you don’t know what it means, right? Until you read the stuff. You don’t know what it means. It’s so Professor Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School, she is just phenomenal. So she’s got a bunch of TED Talks. And she’s written a wonderful, wonderful book called the fearless organization that talks about psychological safety. It’s wonderful, because it’s got lots of positive stories, places where it works, and lots of negative stories and places right didn’t work. And when you’re reading the negative stories, you’re recognizing scenario after scenario that you have lived, right? And when you read all these positive examples, you’re thinking, Hey, I could do that, hey, that’s the thing that I could try. Hey, why don’t we and it is so easy to shift a group from low psychological safety to better psychological safety. And one of the key tenets of it is that it’s not global, right. So within an organization, you’ll have some teams that are psychologically safe, and some things that are less. So it’s all about sphere of influence. So whoever what, wherever you can reach, you can improve psychological safety. Okay? It’s not about being comfortable, or being happy or being any of those things, because that’s comfort and happiness. Safety is is it might be uncomfortable. Safety might be where you feel okay to challenge things. And the core of it is, basically that there are three things that As humans, we find really uncomfortable. One is admitting were stupid, or admitting that we don’t no one is asking for help. Right? We know we can’t do it on our own. And one is like, upsetting the status quo, rocking the boat. And in a business context, right? in a in a professional context, these things are like no no’s. Yeah. So asking for you know, admitting you don’t know something is incompetencecame. Yeah. Asking for help is you know, is just equally You can’t do this. Ignore I’m saying competence. And then you know, and then just being a troublemaker, as a psychological safety is the environment in which all those three things are not just encouraged, but expected. Right, I expect you not to be arrogant enough to believe you have all the answers right now. It’d be crazy. I expect you not to try and solve the world on your own, because that’d be crazy. I expect you to challenge the status quo, because of course, we don’t have the answers. And when you create that dynamic, that psychological safety, and is unbelievably like, until you experience it, you’re like, Wow, I didn’t know a team could feel like this. So go read, go read and watch everything that Amy Evans has done. She can do no wrong in my world.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  44:41

Yeah, no, that’s amazing. I will definitely check out the TED talk and and the book as well. Daniel, thanks so much for for doing this and coming on the show. 

Daniel Terhorst-North  45:04

Thank you. It’s been a real pleasure.

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