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Opportunities & Insights from Across Our Community
Hi everyone, here’s what we have for you this week:
Do you add more value as an individual contributor or team enabler? In this week’s episode of The Everyday Leader, Sitati Kituyi from Hodi in Kenya shares about his leadership journey as a 3x CTO and 2x startup founder.
What is the use case for executive-style coaching for non-executives? We run through how 1:1 executive coaching can be useful at any seniority level, from interns to CEOs.
Read on for more details…
Different ways software engineers can pursue leadership roles, understanding the context of the problems you are solving, and finding the right balance between product velocity and technical debt
Here are a few highlights from the conversation with Sitati:
Some talent is better suited as individual contributors than managers: While Sitati himself took the managerial route, he is happy for others that the engineering professional allows for multiple routes to grow their careers, including options where team supervision isn’t required. Engineers often consider either staying on as a “principal engineer” or eventually take on team supervision. Sitati has seen many strong engineers face culture shock and struggle adjusting to the need to manage team issues. Rather than measuring (and being rewarded for) their own productivity through metrics such as lines of code written or tickets closed, they must instead spend time enabling their team members. Therefore, it’s important for engineers to carefully think about and test out different upward career tracks.
Understanding the mission and context of the problems you help solve, above the specific roles and skills you gain, are what drive long-term motivation in developing strong leadership: Sitati has enjoyed learning different software tools and languages over the years, and always gets excited at the opportunity to build new products. But at the end of the day, he says that being able to connect his work to the mission of the companies he’s worked for and how his products solve real problems for people, is what has driven him to succeed. He’s taken this realization to heart and now makes sure he communicates this with his own team and gives them opportunities to experience the context in which their products are engaging customers.
Leadership in technology requires finding the right balance between driving new product velocity and managing technical debt: Technology-enabled businesses need to develop minimum viable product (MVP) versions of products or features to optimize on speed of bringing their technology solution to users for feedback. They only go back and create the polished version of that product once its been sufficiently validated by customers. Addressing the technical debt created by building quick versions results in extra time required later to create the more-scalable version. As a CTO and technical co-founder, Sitati must effectively estimate and communicate to the rest of the wider team the constraints and opportunities that exist given the available bandwidth of his developers. This requires trust from his fellow leaders that he is striking the right balance, a responsibility he doesn’t taken lightly.
Executive coaching has traditionally been used only at top levels of leadership within large companies. Our mission at CoffeeChat is to democratize access to executive coaching for teams of all sizes and staff at every level. To achieve this, CoffeeChat has built a network of peer and professional coaches to provide the right types of support for professionals at any stage of their career and current contribution level within their team.
Every organization has its own way of structuring its team and managing a system of job titles and levels of responsibility, which continually evolves over time as its team changes its size, scope and complexity. At CoffeeChat, to make it easier for us to appropriately match participants with the most suitable coaches and advise teams on what common themes arise during sessions, we have developed our own broad categories below. We assist all participants in identifying their most relevant category.
Executives are highly seasoned leaders, often having led organizations at top levels for over 10 years. Executives often use coaching sessions to help themselves identify blindspots, think through high-impact decisions, and refocus around their priorities. Executives typically serve in a C-Suite role, overseeing hundreds of staff at the country, regional or global level.
Directors are very experienced managers, often having held managerial roles across several teams or companies over at least 5-10+ years. Directors tend to use coaching sessions to hone their strategic decision making skills, their ability to effectively manage across multiple functions, and comfort in leading through others. They also deal with the need to both upwardly influence their top level of leadership and downwardly influence their own teams. At larger companies, Directors typically directly oversee a large department or 3-5+ smaller departments. At smaller companies, Directors might be the founder, CEO or another top leader.
Senior Managers usually have held managerial roles for at least 2-3+ years, so often use executive coaching to refine their leadership style based on what they’ve learned from their initial successes and failures in leadership roles. They also grapple with the increased complexity of their roles as their own managers continue to grant them more autonomy and they must collaborate with peer managers to make progress. At larger companies, Senior Managers typically directly oversee 3-5 members, multiple small teams, or in some cases serve as expert-level individual contributors. At smaller companies, Senior Managers might oversee several team members and a large portion of the company’s operations or strategy.
Junior Managers are typically new managers, and therefore often use executive coaching as they adjust to their new managerial responsibilities and build a strong foundation for their leadership style. They also commonly work through a number of other workplace dynamics as they begin engaging with peers in different ways. At larger companies, Junior Managers typically directly oversee 2-3 team members or coordinate several projects or processes. At smaller companies, Junior Managers might not oversee a team, but oversee a mission-critical day-to-day function.
Professionals are relatively new to the workforce, having worked as a part of a team for anywhere from 0-5+ years. They use coaching sessions to navigate topics such as their career plan, resolving interpersonal conflicts with team members and managing their productivity.