Irrefutable Laws of Coding: Laws 5 and 6

By | April 7, 2010

Here I review laws 5 and 6 from Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, and describe how I plan to introduce them to my team of coders.

5. The Law of Addition

The law of addition states that leaders add value by serving others. This is difficult to grasp as a coder, because every coder thinks that he can solve a problem the best. This is difficult to put into practice as a coder, particularly in situations where contact is minimal and not required to get one’s features or defects done. Let’s face it – for anyone not in managerial role and who doesn’t already think this way, this law is one of the hardest to put into play. We are always inclined to look out for ourselves first, and this law flies in the face of that. This law is about selflessness.

The benefits here are clear to anyone who has managed a team before. Team members look out for each other, help each other, and listen to each other. Through this listening, they become more attuned to each other, responding to each other’s idiosyncrasies better. Pride melts away, giving way to an increasing free flow of ideas, both good and bad. Pairing greatly increases the opportunity to serve others – contributing knowledge that helps a fellow team member is an incredible way of serving others. Learning from one’s team members is another way of serving others, albeit not as obvious.

How to put this law into play on my team?

This law will be one of the hardest to truly put into play. It requires the manager to be able to perceive nuances in team members’ reactions, and to be able to observe team members’ interactions throughout the day. My team’s open seating structure makes this a straightforward task. The actual application of this law will require individual mentoring during our monthly “one-on-ones,” and subsequent observation. The most important component here is the team’s willingness to serve others, both by contributing and listening. Again, thankfully, my team has the makeup to want to do this in an earnest fashion.

6. The Law of Solid Ground

The law of solid ground states that trust is the foundation of leadership. This is closely related to the law of influence insofar as influence is measured – amongst coders, those with influence are those whose knowledge is trusted.

As with the law of influence, this is a passive play. Trust is gained amongst the team by interacting, and subsequently by demonstrating technical prowess. Trust is also gained by demonstrating a vested interest in the success of the software that is being built. One might not be the best, but is competent, and is willing to sweat blood to complete a set of features on time. On the other hand, one might be the best, but check out mentally at 5 o’clock and not care about the long term impacts of the code that is being written today. In a healthy environment, the former will gain trust faster and maintain said trust longer every time.

How to put this law into play on my team?

This one will go along with the law of influence. Measurement is to be had by indirect observation by the manager during pairings and other interactions, and then by direct querying. In our case, I’ll use the same anonymous weekly evaluations to gauge how much trust each team member has garnered from the rest of the team, and coach accordingly.

The laws of respect and intuition are next.