Sunday, May 14, 2006

Three Random Rules of Engagment

Lately the project I've been working on has been heating up.  Because of the pressure and the fact that finding senior technology people in Orange County is like finding a snowman in a blizzard, I've had to ask some junior people to really step up and fill some challenging roles.  As typically happens when you push people quickly they have some missteps on their climb to excellence.

One such example, happened this weekend.  As I was dishing out some advice on the proper way to handle situations like this, I realized it might be valuable to others.  So I'll share the Three Random Rules of Engagement here.


The first thing is that when you are being vocal about something, always shift congratulations, never blame. It makes you sound petty and people won’t like that. If something isn’t your fault make sure your superiors know about it well in advance, and always in from your lips, never your pen. Don’t write down negative things until asked. Write down positive things without being asked. Once they’ve been told, assume they remember, even if it appears they don’t. Generally there are good reasons for this. If it really bothers you, then talk to them about it. Don’t write.

The second thing is that you never bring up a problem without a solution or the background. If you can’t explain why something is happening, or what to do about it, then you need more information before raising the issue. There are situations that don’t warrant them but they are usually emergencies, high risk ventures, and when you are under strict orders other wise. If you don’t do your research before bringing up issues, then you are just the one delivering bad news and we all know what happens to the messenger. In addition, it will appear that you aren’t capable of thinking outside your immediate area or being proactive about getting things done.

Lastly, never email above someone without them knowing about it first. Unless it is so serious that you want someone fired, it is never a good idea to email someone and copy their manager/supervisor/etc. without speaking with them first. One major exception to this rule is for kudos; those you email to as many people as possible. When you are raising an issue, the quickest way to piss someone off is to broadcast it to the world before giving them a chance to address your concerns. Often times there are valid reasons and an alternative viewpoint that perhaps you aren’t aware of. Of course, if the person in question is harmfully inept, shows repeated unwillingness to address issues, or otherwise constitutes a threat to the company, then by all means, email away.


Of course, there was quite a bit more to it.  And I did give him some encouragement as well.  I'm not a complete jerk, you know.

Anyway, next time you start to feel cornered remember these Three Random Rules of Engagement.

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