If you’re in a meeting with me, you’ll eventually hear me saying “We can solve the technical issues one way or another. Let’s focus on the communication.” That’s kinda my thing. Maybe that’s because I’m not good with conflict or confrontation, or maybe that’s because I read a tad too many personal development and/or leadership books. But trust me, I’ve been proved right too many times.
Looking back into my journey, I have some vivid moments in my life like everyone else where I encountered problems or challenges that I thought unsolvable. But there isn’t a single technical problem left unsolved. It may have exceeded its expected deadline or may have involved more people than average football game players, but they were resolved in the end. But there are some communication issues we’ve had that left unsolved and festered over time, causing devastating outcomes.
I’m always fascinated by humanity’s boundless capability of creating conflict. I wish we had the same capacity to resolve them too, but we don’t. It may come from our inherited territorial issues from our ancestors, or maybe that’s just who we are. My goal is not to improve humanity, that’s beyond my capacity. But I’d like to give some advice on how to improve our individual lives a bit more.
A Toxic Person
One of my previous managers had a dysfunctional personality. He thought that everybody was against him and he always have been alone, fighting off vultures. He always felt like he had to prove himself over and over again. He would also inject us that attitude, isolating us from other teams. We would always feel defensive, like everyone we talked was looking for our weaknesses, people always had other agendas in play. After working with him for a few years, I felt like Don Quixote, searching for windmills to bring down. I created conflict instead of creating solutions. People would later admit that they didn’t like me back then. They thought we were judging them from our ivory tower, thinking that we were better than them. They were right, we did. Oh boy, we did.
I don’t know exactly how and when, but eventually I realised how toxic my life was. I loved building apps and writing tooling for developers, but I hated my job. I hated the people that I was writing the tools for. The realisation hit me like a steam train, heavy and hot: I was the problem here. I laid this bed with pebbles and now I felt uncomfortable in it. My manager may have been gaslighting me and my team, but I was a grown up, I should’ve known better. Something needed to change. I needed to change.
And I did. I put a lot of effort on changing my attitude towards my work and colleagues. I worked hard to build the bridges that I once incinerated. I went into meetings and let people know that I was there to help them, not fight them. I asked their help to make that change. And surprisingly, they did help. I made friends. I had people now who would cover my ass if I screwed up. It was difficult, but refreshing. I felt like a new person. My relationship with my manager, well, it went down the hill very fast. I felt like he was a toxic man walking with dark clouds on his feet, infecting everyone he talks to. I stopped listening to his toxic preaches and encouraged my teammates to do so. Until the day I left the company, which was a year and a half from that day, we barely talked. In the last six months, we didn’t speak at all. At exactly 16:55 on my last day, he wanted to speak to me and make an exit talk. We did, for exactly four minutes.
During that part of my life, I have put out countless technical fires and seen many others by my fellows. The company didn’t burn down to the ashes, actually it thrived. We did amazing things there, but my biggest accomplishment isn’t technical, it’s my redemption there. I still am in contact with many people from that company, some of them are my close friends.
My advice is, communication is the key to your success. Also to your organisation’s. Talk to people, listen to them. Invest in solving your communication issues. Pull them aside and ask them what’s wrong. Ask them how can you help. One way or another, you can solve technical issues. If you want to be successful, focus on your communication.
A typical person spends 1/3 of their day working. It’s your choice to spend it in hell or heaven.