On this episode of the Humans of DevOps, Jason Baum is joined by DevOps Institute Ambassador and Technical Evangelist Marco Coulter. Marco discusses the human skill of delegation – what it is, why is delegating important, how to delegate, tips and more.
Marco Coulter, (he/him), @marcocoulter
You’re listening to the Humans of DevOps podcast, a podcast focused on advancing the humans of DevOps through skills, knowledge, ideas and learning, or the SKIL framework.
Marco Coulter 00:16
You need the time to delegate up front, don’t wait to be completely swamped. Because then you don’t have time to delegate. You have to see that no, now is the time, put some time aside and work out who you’re delegating to some of those things we drill into a little bit.
Jason Baum 00:33
Hey, everyone, it’s Jason Baum, Director of membership at DevOps Institute. And this is the Humans of DevOps podcast. On today’s episode, my guest is professional speaker, technology evangelist and regional CTO of b2b cubed, Marco Coulter. Born and bred in Australia, Marco is now a US citizen in New York. As an immigrant and global citizen, he enjoys acquiring and sharing knowledge. Whether it’s a child rummaging through discarded telephone wires foraging for useful circuitry, or traveling the world seeking to understand new cultures. He’s always unpacking existing and future technologies to bridge the divide from technology to a viable business solution. He’s the author of hundreds of reports on cloud and storage and earned the nickname The Tech whisperer for his skills and trends in translating business drivers for a technical audience and technical concepts for business leaders. In 2020, Marco was selected as a DevOps Institute ambassador for his support of the humans of DevOps. You can read his blog at Tech-whisperer.com. That’s tech-whisperer.com. Marco, welcome to the show.
Marco Coulter 01:44
Jason, thank you very much for having me on.
Jason Baum 01:47
A fellow New Yorker. I realize you’re an ex-Aussie? Well, you’re never an ex-Aussie, right. You’re always an Aussie.
Marco Coulter 01:54
I’m an international person of mystery with multiple citizenships.
Jason Baum 01:58
I love that title. I wish I could steal that title for myself. But it’s not true. So Well, Marco, are you ready to get human?
Very much so.
Awesome. Well, Marco, we just kind of learned a little bit about what you’re doing. Today a little bit about your past. But tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’re up to these days.
Marco Coulter 02:21
So thanks, Jason. Yeah, so I’m consulting at the moment a technical evangelist. And the thing that I love to do this, a friend of mine gave me that nickname, The Tech whisperer. And when they worked out that, you know, I had a business background, I’ve run product lines and being responsible for budgets and so on. I understood those needs, but I started life as an operator, but through being a programmer and, and have the scars of bringing down the savings application for an entire country and things like that. And it was like, Yeah, I got the technology as well. And I can talk to both groups and help them understand the needs and goals of each other. So that’s sort of what I’m out there doing coordinating, talking for mainly midsize and large enterprises. People I love to talk to today. These are the what I call the aspirational developers, the people who, you know, they’ve started their life, they built their selves as a coder they have their reputation, and they want more they, you know, they now want to seek it moving into Leadership and Mentoring and things like that and helping other humans get better at DevOps
Jason Baum 03:23
is that what we are all seeking is to get better? And, you know, one of the things that that on this podcast that we like to do, or actually the main reason for having this whole podcast, is really put a spotlight on the human side of DevOps. We say it in our tagline, we say it every episode. And we mean it. We don’t talk about human skills, or human issues nearly enough. And well, first, why do you think that is?
Marco Coulter 03:58
I think it’s the background of technology that brings us up that way. That, you know, we’re constantly evaluating technologies and going well, this is the best solution for this problem. And even how we think about code that we if you write code, and it doesn’t do the right thing, then we adjust the code and it does the right thing. But you know, the old famous thing that you can go through the code and find the bug. And with humans, it doesn’t work that way. It’s, you know, they’re very complex. They’re extremely complex systems and even the rewards and nature of the human. You know, how you say something, it’s not necessarily how they hear it. Data passed from one application to another application is still the same data, but for humans, that there is so much else going on. And I think that complexity makes us put it aside and go Is that really that important? And of course, many studies and so on, I’ve identified that, no, that is actually the thing that generally ends up being at the heart of an issue. I mean, DevOps itself was created because developers and operators were trying to do a job and were not communicating effectively with each other. And identified if we merge the two, then you get a better understanding and framework for these folks to work and be successful.
Jason Baum 05:15
Yeah, I think we even had an episode titled, like, computers are easy, Humans are hard, something like that. I mean, like, that’s, that’s pretty much it. Right? And it’s not just that they’re hard. It’s, they’re flawed. Right? Aren’t we all inherently, we have our flaws and mistakes?
Marco Coulter 05:35
Well, you know, I do, that’s for sure. And yes, you know, it’s not just the flaws, though. But it’s also, you know, a code sits there. And unless you change, it doesn’t change. Humans change every second. So malleability is another great aspect of the humans of DevOps focus that you take, you know, it’s an opportunity, like, each time, something doesn’t quite go, right, you can either look at it as an opportunity to beat somebody up, that’s the wrong way. Or you can look at as the opportunity of like, Oh, I didn’t prepare them enough. Or we can do more with this person, you know, How do I help this person be better at this next time? How do I help myself be better at giving them this task?
Jason Baum 06:19
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, as, as we’ve been doing this podcast, as as, as I’ve been doing, as the host, on the past few months, you know, we’ve tried different things. And you know, we’ve done a deep dive into the humans that are actually on the other end of making decisions for DevOps. We don’t talk about the personal aspects of your life, we don’t talk about, you know, where you came from, how you got into it, that nearly enough and getting to know each other and building community. And we’ll continue to do that on this podcast. But something new we want to try, and Marco, you’re our guinea pig is getting into these human issues in a little more depth, because that’s something that you our listeners, members have asked us to do, really. And it’s shown in the data, like you said, in the upskilling report, people want the answers or want to know more about these human skills and issues and one of them that we have identified for this first episode that we’ll really deep dive into it is delegation. And it’s something that I selected because it’s something I struggle with myself. And Marco, you’ve come on to be our expert.
Marco Coulter 07:34
I’ve come on to discuss the topic, slightly different thing. I won’t call myself an expert, maybe that’s just maybe that’s an Australian cultural thing. But happy to discuss it and discuss my experiences.
Jason Baum 07:47
Fantastic. Well, okay, we won’t we won’t call your next right. Well, we’ll talk about the top, we just were just two people talking. That’s what this show is all about. So let’s start with what is delegation? How would you define delegation?
Marco Coulter 08:02
So I’ll give you a specific, a very quick example, as we’re coming up to the Thanksgiving season, in America or anywhere in the US is, you’re sitting at a table, and you’ve tasted your food, and it’s not salty enough, and you want some salt, but it’s down the other end of the table. So the simplest example is just like, how do I get the salt? Can you pass the salt, please? And just unpacking that for a second, you know, the please important being polite and circumstances, and acknowledging the other person or maybe put a name at the front of you know, grandma, can you pass the salt, please, to give it to a specific person. But that’s delegation, you’re trying to get somebody else to do something for you. Because otherwise, you’d have to stand up and walk around the table and get it yourself and sit back down again. So what does that break? You know, that’s a very simple example. But a dictionary definition would be something along the lines of it’s assigning responsibility for outcomes, along with the authority to do it, to do what is needed to produce the desired results. So responsibility, authority, desired results. And that’s the basis of delegation. I think, right, revolving into that is why you delegate and of course, that’s to get somebody else to do something for you. That’s the outcome. You see. I’m pretty sure that anybody listening to this, and us included, has had good and bad examples of that.
Jason Baum 09:27
So, let’s unpack like, like you just said, what you just said with that example because I love that example. It’s so simple. And yet it’s very complex because we sort of take advantage of some, maybe it’s cultural like you said, there’s the being polite, right? It’s this is how you have effectively communicated what you want, through some cultural norms, appropriateness. We’re also more inclined I always liken things or examples to how I am raising my child, because that’s a one-track mind, right? When you’re raising a young child, trying to teach her to use the word please to ask for something. Because quite frankly, when she just demands it, he wanted to tell her that like, No. And we’re like that, right?
Marco Coulter 10:21
it’s not a bad example, either. I don’t know how old your children, so you sort of remember when she passed from sort of one and a half to where they’re in that world that, you know, the mind is that the entire world is them. And that’s why they’re so shocked and amazed and disappointed and cry when you leave the room because it’s like, no, I’m in control of everything, why? What’s going on here, and they, you know. somewhere around two, we’re told that they start to realize that they are, in fact, a part of the world rather than the world as part of them. And those simple things of like, you know, we’re gonna teach that it’s a cultural expectation. And I think with these simple commands, you know, if you leap it upwards to a high scale, in an enterprise, a global multinational, something like that, the cultural thing is also about language. So even the thing of imagine the people at the other end of the table are complete strangers to you. Should you ask them in English? Should it be another language? I’ve been lucky, lucky enough in my career that I’ve lived in three countries, and I’ve managed teams and I’ve had, I’ve had to learn at different cultures, I would expect that to happen. Should it be phrased as a command? Should it be rephrased as a request? And is the acknowledgment coming back going to be direct? You know, yes, I will do that for you? Or is it going to be an indirect statement that implies that and you know, but actually, in their culture, that’s the yes, you’re going to get? So children are great as well, because they, you know, they’re developing along with you. So as I say, you know, the two-year-old child, you’re going to be trying to teach differently than the four-year-old child. When we’re delegating to members of our team, we need to understand where our team is their sort of maturity and cultural side.
Jason Baum 12:13
Yeah, I love that. And even something as simple as an email, you know, we have to really think about how we, this is something that I’ve especially been learning is how you develop the email and what you say, whether you throw in the exclamation point, whether you throw in, you know, are those fillers necessary? Or are they not necessary? Some people need them. Some people need the excitement, some people don’t need the excitement. I think it all just goes back to right. It’s, it’s how you’re, you’re communicating effectively. And, and the person on the other end and how they’re going to receive it right.
Marco Coulter 12:49
You know, do those six exclamation marks at the end of the sentence implying excitement? or anger?
Jason Baum 12:54
Marco Coulter 12:55
caps, right? Yeah, yes, we all have elderly folk in our lives. Messages thing. So that side of the communication, I mean, you’ve identified something really important in any communication, not just delegation, but just, you know, how we speak, versus how people hear. And of course, there’s lots of books written about that. But that’s a that’s an aspect of you weren’t, you know, one of the key things around delegation is that you’ve got you’re gonna make mistakes to the people you delegate to they’re gonna make mistakes, you’re gonna mistake make mistakes. So my sort of first thing that I learned along the way was is actually sort of keeping notes around delegates. You need the time to delegate in front. That’s one of the hard things about when to delegate is like, don’t wait to completely swamped. Because then you don’t have time to effectively delegate. You have to see that no, now is the time put some time aside. And work out you know, who you’re delegating to some of those things we can drill into a little bit. That you’re trying to identify what the tasks will be when it’s completed and things of that nature from a delegation point of view. So as you delegate you need to have enough time to communicate with the person and deal with them in a human way.
Jason Baum 14:17
So I am kind of mentioned it when we’re teeing up the topic. I, I’ve been delegating for a while I’ve been in a managerial role of some sort for a little while now. But I have always found it to be my biggest weakness, and I find it to be incredibly difficult. And I know I’m not alone, but sometimes I find myself saying it’s just quicker if I get it done. And I think that’s a classic trap that we sometimes fall into as being a manager, someone who has to delegate is kind of getting away from especially because Were were brought up, or many of us are brought up doing tactical things. And we are tactical, and we see it tactically. And now you have to make a transition to more strategic. But it’s very hard to let go of that tactical piece, especially when you know you’re good at it, you could just get it done. And you could get it done faster, maybe then who you’re delegating to. So why, why is it so important to delegate and why don’t we delegate.
Marco Coulter 15:27
So this actually has a name, they call it self enhancement bias. And that’s where a manager allows their perception of a task, or rather of work quality, to become more negative, the less they are involved in the task. So you know, I didn’t help build this, it’s today for it’s not as good. And of course, the field sort of my way or the highway approach, it’s a part of that, assuming your way is the best. And the short version is that if if you’ve assumed that your way is the best, you’ve stopped learning, you’ve stopped learning about that task. So that’s the sort of negative this that self-enhancement bias where you feel your value comes from your explicit technical knowledge versus your human knowledge. That is, I’m not sure there is a negative to that the negative is that you won’t get out of people what you need. And that comes back to the thing of keeping notes about delegating, like when you work out that put the time side of delegate make a little note of why you thought the person was the right, you know, the right person, why you thought the task was the right task. But follow up afterward, when at the end of the task, you know, also update that note of like, here’s what you think went right, here’s what you think went wrong. You know, I’ve managed organizations around the world for decades, and I still do this, I still take these sorts of keep these sorts of notes, you know, and at the end of a month, is generally when I just quickly scan through it to go, what did I learn this month, I’m still learning things about people and about delegation. So I thoroughly recommend that coming back to your comment of self enhancement bias, the your work my way of the highway is, if it’s a task that you’re only going to do once, and it’s never going to happen again, you know what, you might be the best person. But if it’s a task, it’s going to happen twice. or more times, then you definitely need to think about if Why isn’t somebody else in your team, you know, somebody that you can delegate to? Why aren’t they ready to take on that task. As a leader, as a manager, one of your roles should be, you know, working building up your replacement. Because otherwise you can’t go on you. As some people think that way. I think if I’m the expert in this, I can’t be replaced, my job is secure, it’s gonna be great. And I will tell you, it doesn’t really work that way that works, we might wait for a little bit. But at some stage, a senior executive is gonna see that as a weakness in the system as a threat to the environment. And go, we have to build around that somehow. Either train other people in it, or just get rid of that system that you’re the expert. Or replace it with something we we can hire lots of people with skills. So I think that’s the challenge with the you know, I can do it myself is avoid that. Because the second thing is Why do you delegate because you’re trying to free up your own time, for the things that are your job. They might not be to your point, the tactical things of building widgets, or writing code, but they’re more important things. You need to have time to sit back and work out where the forest and let your people bring, you know, bring home the trees.
Jason Baum 18:49
Yeah, I love the analogy. Sometimes people use of the bicycle, you know, you’re riding in the front, when you’re tactical and you’re riding in the back when you’re strategic. And it’s sometimes gotta make that switch when you’re when you’re riding on that bike.
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Jason Baum 19:55
Are there what tools are there to help me so
Marco Coulter 19:58
there are approaches so So in a technical way, no, there there are no in the usual way of, is there a piece of software you can buy to help you delegate? Nope.
Jason Baum 20:08
why there’s a software for everything?
Marco Coulter 20:11
Is there a management tool that will help you delegate better? Nope. You know, I’ll do a tiny piece of perhaps measuring it. But no, I think that what you, there’s two sides of it. So the first thing is maybe even if you’re not able to delegate to others. And, you know, in traditional structures, we think of delegation hierarchically. But, you know, in matrix organizations, that’s no longer the case. And that’s even trickier. When you’re trying to delegate to somebody who is outside of your control, that you don’t have power in power over, you can only have influence. And the old adage of, you know, well, that’s your job, and you say you should do this, that’s not the best way to approach it. So think about the delegation side of it, start there. And what you’re looking at forward is to, well, sorry, think about how you receive delegation, if you’re not delegating today and your aspirational, start there and work out when do you feel good about somebody giving you a task? And when do you not feel good about it? When did you have to, you know, spend all of your time going back to an individual to the person who gave you the task. And, you know, because you didn’t know how to do it, and they just threw you in the water and didn’t teach you how to swim. These things of like, that’s the, at least for me, these are the best ways of learning delegation is observing other people and stealing the good ideas. I’ve worked out for me, you know, scope, resources, responsibility, and then priority being the fifth, but scope is a clear one, you know, perhaps you’ve been trained in smart frameworks where it’s specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, time-bound, you know, whatever it is, it’s like that when you’re delegating a task, and this is why I say you work it out beforehand, this isn’t something you should do on the spur of the moment in the middle of a conversation. So I’m going to give them this piece to do and I want them to focus on this match of resources. What can they use? When do they how do they get more? You know, how do they get access to those resources? If they don’t have them? How do they ask for if they need it? Responsibility? They are entitled to use these resources. What did they have control? And this is a big one for new managers, what do they have the control to unilaterally change. And it’s very hard, especially for a new manager to hand that over to somebody else and say, you can decide to make this completely differently if you wish, as long as the outcome is met. So that’s the responsibility area. Reward is important of why should they do this thing. And it’s not always, you know, give you a $50 Starbucks card or buy your beer down the pub or something like that. It’s one aspect of it is by trusting your team in this area, you will earn their loyalty. Again, and again, I have seen this, as an early manager, I suck too. And you know, you give tasks and then you try and take it over or you try and micromanage. And then you’d wonder why they didn’t like you, that sort of thing. You trust them, you earn their loyalty, and it has a payoff later on that they will be eager to then come up and bring new fresh ideas too, because of their trust that you’ve learned from them. Sometimes, depending on the nature of the task, remember that when you delegate you are giving more work to somebody who figures they have their day for reading. And so sometimes there’s a negotiation, that’s part of the resource side of like, visit, are you going to take some things off their plate? Are you going to acknowledge that no, you know, you’re giving them more to do. But also think about things, you know, maybe it’s possible bonus or a career opportunity or something like that, if it’s a large task that warrants that. Otherwise, a reward can sometimes just be recognition, you know, when somebody does a task, don’t just tell them personally wait till it’s theirs in a public forum and tell them you know, tell them in the open plan, office space, told them in the meeting, where there are senior management, you know, your bosses are there. That’s the reward side. And then finally, the priority side is one of the tough ones, you have to kind of identify, again, part of the planning process, why employees achieve? If they do this thing that you’ve delegated, and do nothing else, are you going to be happy with their performance? Or if they fail at this thing that you’ve given them and get many other things done? Are you going to be unhappy with their performance? And that when if you can answer both of those questions clearly, then you can delegate to them and delegate priority to them as well. So they know how to put it into their day and work out which tasks can slip or not slip. So those five things again, like that. So the scope, resources, responsibility, reward and priority.
Jason Baum 24:56
I love all those. You’re teaching me so much right now, by the way, But you know, like it and as you’re saying it, I keep liking it to, to parenting. And in you know, there’s a lot of takeaways there. And sometimes management is kind of like, you know that we’re not all born teachers. We’re not, we’re not,
Marco Coulter 25:19
I’m sorry, you didn’t do a degree in parenting when you
Jason Baum 25:23
got I wish they had one, I would have taken it, I would have taken the Masters class if I knew what I needed to know. Now, LP did PhD. But, you know, it’s like, things like reward, right? actually helped to further teach right to, because when you reward a child, I’ve learned that it’s not just saying Good job, because good job doesn’t tell them what they did. Right? Reward is, I saw you do that. How do you feel about that? I saw you go down the slide. What something simple. I saw, you know, you turn Hey, Jason, great job with that with this report that you wrote, What I liked about it was, that’s where you fill that need that people have right for a sense of accomplishment?
Marco Coulter 26:15
And exactly, and that’s the moment as a receiver of delegation, you go holy crap, I actually read it. Yeah, exactly.
Jason Baum 26:22
This wasn’t just for, you know, I sometimes I think people need to know the purpose,
Marco Coulter 26:27
right? Very much so. And I think that that comes and also this in as an additional into, that’s one of the things some people listening will be thinking, I don’t have the time to do all that. Yeah, that to work that out. And that is the clear indicator that you’re not delegating. It’s really simple. You know, if you’re, if you’re whatever your relationship with your coworkers and leaders and followers are, you know, that is the worst possible sign. It’s like, I don’t have time to delve. Yeah, then you have to, unfortunately, you might have to blow a few weekends. Just get in front of that game, delegate some things out. And then you will have the time to do that properly. In your general with that.
Jason Baum 27:08
Yeah, like you said earlier. I mean, when you when you’re overwhelmed, that’s you’ve here, that’s, that’s, you waited too long, right.
Marco Coulter 27:15
You know, and it will happen. It’ll happen. But yeah, it’s the Contra indicator.
Jason Baum 27:22
It shouldn’t be the norm. It should not be your every day. Yeah. Yeah. People who listen to this show, and, you know, know that I’m a sports fan. And know that I played sports and of coach sports, and I’m all about sports. But I this there’s a concept with football, American rules football, that, you know, there are two types of coaches, there are the rah rah coaches. And then there are the teachers, the X’s and O’s, getting into the, you know, actually like getting into teaching skills. And there, and I, it’s interesting to me, when you just don’t have both, why can’t we be both? Right? It’s very hard to be both. But that’s, I think that’s just personality traits, right? I think,
Marco Coulter 28:10
potentially, the got a friend who’s an actor, and they talk about charisma versus presence. And charisma, you know, presence is somebody walked into a room and you’re aware that they’ve walked in the room. Charisma is sort of they walk into the room, and they light up the room. And she’s a acting teacher. And her statement was, you know, I can teach people presence so that people will notice you, I can teach charisma. So perhaps in leadership, there is an aspect of that, you know, but I think definitely in, in, in what are the tactical skills of management and leadership, for example of delegation, this is something that can definitely be taught. And the weird thing is that in our education systems, we tend to make it the optional thing, we’re going to teach you these tactical things that you need to know, fair enough. And if you want to volunteer to be involved in a, you know, fake un or, or one of those sorts of things, then you will learn these other aspects of how people work. Rather than making that, you know, and, you know, it’s sport, it’s sort of on the side, team leadership and things like that, but it’s not part of the curriculum. So that’s one of the challenges, you know, and I think, well, I don’t know if your TED last ofan on the huge. It might be, to me great lessons in sort of leadership and things could sneak in and that show amongst all the jokes and comedy.
Jason Baum 29:38
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, even talking about being a kid in school. You have the kids who do the project, right? In the group project. There’s always like the one who kind of takes over and maybe does the project. And then you have the others who latch on. And that’s terrible delegation, right, but they’re, but they’re kids And maybe it’s because you know the concept and you want to do it. And I think to effectively communicate what you want done when you want it, here are the resources to do it. What is priority, and then reward as you said, I mean, those are such that we’re not, we’re not really taught those things, I don’t think we really teach them. So that’s, it’s a great lesson.
Marco Coulter 30:27
I agree. And that aspect of part of the reward being, in some cases, it might just be, hey, does this give them it gives somebody an opportunity to grow and develop another person’s skills, talking about in a recent conference talking on DevOps, and SLOs and sales, its allies and things like that, and talking about facilitating the negotiation session in sport. And one of my proposals, or one of my suggestions to people is, when you’re facilitating that, in an enterprise, it’s great to get, you know, look for managers who are not part of your organization, but they naturally have those facilitation skills. They listen to people, they can sort of remove themselves from the debate sufficiently to sort of make notes and things like that, and bring them as in as a facilitator for your negotiation sessions around, you know, service levels, and so on. And, you know, there’s a beauty to that, because you’re now sort of, you’re rewarding that person and giving them an opportunity to learn about, you’re part of the business. And that person will be a supporter of yours later on because you’ve given them an opportunity to shine in another area and develop another skill. And that’s the same with delegation, you know, if you delegate properly, then they’re going to grow and develop more skills. And again, you’re always trying to develop everybody in the people who can, well, at least that somebody who can replace you so that you can move ahead in your career, and develop in their own career so that they’re satisfied, and they go home at the end of the day, versus going home and looking at LinkedIn.
Jason Baum 31:59
Yeah. Something, something I read about great managers is that they hire people who are better than them, and they teach them like they would want to be taught.
Marco Coulter 32:12
That’s a great quote, sort of thing. I think that’s a great approach as well. Some people have a fear of you seem overqualified, you know, you might make me look bad. Yeah, that’s not a successful approach. In my opinion, I have people who have been much more successful than me, you know, who I brought into the industry, who are now much more successful to me than me, and that’s great. You know, the, to watch other people succeed in that way, it’s just so rewarding. And it comes back to your example of your children things, you know, what do you want, you want them to have a better life, you want them to wonderful and great things?
Jason Baum 32:53
Yeah. And they’re great blank slates to, you know, to, you know, your deed, they’re blank slates, they have no, you know, I guess. What’s the word I’m trying to use, there’s, there’s nothing that that preconceived, you know, they’re not carrying any baggage. You know, we all have our baggage. They don’t and, and these are all very, it’s very basic communication skills that we are teaching and that we’re observing with them. And it’s the same. I mean, we go back to when we started talking about effective communication. And sometimes you need those words to sort of disarming, right? Everybody, some people put up the walls, some people, you know, the body language, you could read it, the arms crossed the, you know, we need to feel comfortable, we need to trust
Marco Coulter 33:44
and in your children, you know, they haven’t necessarily learned to shut that down. So they’re very blunt, very basic about it. So it’s a good learning opportunity. Yes. In adults, of course, they’ve been, you know, but whether they’ve been in the world for a number of years and have had, they do come in with preconceptions. And this comes back to the point of culture of understanding, you have to learn you’ll get it wrong when you’re dealing with a different culture. You know, there are some cultures where the second you ask for something, their responses say yes, okay. Yes. And what they’re saying is, yes, I understand you. They’re not necessarily saying yes, I will do this thing. And I accept that I will do it and I’ll accept your timeframes. You have to kind of like I learned because I went through this and got it wrong the first time. You have to break it down a little bit more to understand, okay, and you’re excited. You think that this timeframe is okay. And that consultative side of delegation is important as well, to get their buy-in. So I was thinking I might ask you to do this. How would you feel about? Was that something you’d like to do? And then let the silence make them work? Yeah. And let them see whether it’s something they thought of or it’s going in? The direction that they want to go. And those processes are sort of, again, this is why you need to delegate in order to be able to delegate. And which means that you need to delegate so that you’re able to delegate, it’s a bit like the DevOps sort of infinite loop, right? If this thing dispenses around and around, and the other part of time that you’ll need is talking about after you delegate. So when the delegated work is delivered back to you set it up, you’ve got to have enough time to review it properly. And not to, again, hopefully, not in just a critical eye, you mentioned about how people would give you feedback on things and, and, you know, it’s not just enough to say, Good job that, open it, pull it up, pull the threads, you know, always try and find, you know, three things that are good and, and if you can find, you know, if you feel it needs to be brought up some things that or not, but always bring up the things that are good so that you’re emphasizing what it is you want in the future. If the work is of poor quality, then coach and develop that employee to get to a satisfactory point when good work is turned in. And you know, we talked before about reward. And sometimes it’s just recognition that you know, help them build up that self-confidence and that realize that they’re, they’re going in the right direction. And then also the feedback loop on yourself, invite the workers to share, you know, your people to share their thoughts on how your delegate to determine you know, and, you know, if you just go well, did I delegate to you? Well, you’re gonna get an answer. Oh, yeah, sure, boss, that was great. So you got to kind of break it out of, okay, you know, what did I give you enough? Did you have enough information at the front? To get this task done? With do you think now that you’ve done the task, you did such a great job? Do you think you’re the right person for this task? And that really well, you know, I’m phrasing them in that way, I’m really getting their feedback on me. And that’s where I go back down and write my notes of like, you assess the person wrong in this way, you got this right about them, the same sort of way positives and negatives for delegating. And that one quick thing, while I’m thinking of it, I’ve just, and then there is receiving delegation. And so you know, what, no matter where you are in the chain, you know, if you’re the CEO, the board is going to delegate tasks to you. It doesn’t matter where you are in sort of food chain, you will be receiving delegation. And one thing sometimes that people I see as an opportunity to improve receiving delegation, if a leader is repeatedly asking you how a task is going, it’s not necessarily a sign of lack of trust, it’s more that you are not communicating. Send, try sending them in, it might be like a trust, they might be a crap delegator crate, it might be just that they’re not good at what they’re doing. But it went, when that happens, I learned along the way of like, that normally means that I’m just getting on with it, and forgetting to keep them in the loop. And I found that if I sent, you know when somebody started asking me, you know, what’s happening with that? What is it on track? What’s going on? I would start sending them periodic updates, even if it was simple, you know, one-sentence email of like, still on track boss kind of thing that would be enough that I realized that then that wasn’t happening. They weren’t coming and following up on me, because the trust has now established both ways.
Marco Coulter 38:28
So that receiving delegation aspect of that’s one of the lessons I learned on the receiving side. And similarly, in the same way, sometimes you’ve got to translate on the receiving end of okay, I know what I heard them say, and what I felt them say. But now, let me think about where their world is, Do I really think that they meant to say, You’re a Useless bugger, and you can’t do anything? And or whatever? Or, you know, was there something missing in there that I didn’t understand in the translation? I think, you know, when you get both sides, right, of receiving and giving that it’s, it’s fantastic when it works.
Jason Baum 39:06
Yeah. Yeah, that’s really well said, and there’s a term like managing up and it was made. I’m like thinking of that as your kind of as you’re talking about it. I know, it’s not the same thing. But in a way, we’re all sort of we there, there is some responsibility on us to be able to effectively communicate back to those who are delegating to us, right, that things are working or not working for you. I mean, because otherwise, they’re there. How do you can’t assume right? There’s that old adage about assuming, I think
Marco Coulter 39:40
absolutely. The aspect of delegation of you know, if you if you’ve delegated something, and then you know, the people coming in every 30 minutes, and asking you a question, what did you get wrong in the delegation? With an unprepared enough? Do they not feel capable enough? It will be I’ve always felt but it will be at my end. You know, when that’s happening of like, it, occasionally it’s people skills. Occasionally, you know, it might be they’re just they do have insecurity, maybe there’s something else going on in their lives, that is stressing them or bothering them or making them fit, you know, if they’re a younger person, sort of I bet they just had a terrible breakup. And so now they feel insecure about themselves about their world. And that might be making them insecure, and they would. So sometimes it’s people things, but more commonly, it was my fault. It was just like, oh, yeah, I asked this. But I didn’t realize that you needed to know this other thing before you could really successfully be successful.
Jason Baum 40:40
And is it true that the better we get at taking delegation, does that make us better? delegators?
Marco Coulter 40:49
I don’t have I don’t, I’m a data guy. So I don’t have the research that says that’s true or not true. But I tend to think of that infinite of rubber us the snake eating itself, just like you’ve, you’ve got it, you’re always going to be receiving, you know, hopefully, you’ll be delegating as well. And we are because even when we go into a bagel shop and ask someone to make us a bagel, you know, you’re, you’re delegating a task to somebody. So you’re always going to be receiving and giving. The better you, the better you get at one, the better you get at the other no question.
Jason Baum 41:22
Well, this was great. I mean, look, we could talk about this topic, I feel like all day, this is
Marco Coulter 41:28
a natural part too.
Jason Baum 41:31
You know, it’s it. These are people talk about delegation. But I think when it’s specific to DevOps, or specific to, yeah, specific to DevOps, you know, what, what is what would you say to someone who’s a new manager first coming in? What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give them? Like, what’s the big takeaway you want them to get from this?
Marco Coulter 41:54
I’m going to go so number one, like anything, do it. In the true world of DevOps and slash SRE, you know, you will fail be don’t panic, you know, it’s okay. Just do it again. Learn from the mistakes. One of the mistakes, avoid the three is sort of avoid upward delegation. So people, you know, when people come back into you and try it, they’ll try and shift the responsibility, some people will try and shift the responsibility back to you. Don’t give them the answer, you know, ask for recommended solutions, get them to still do the work of the process. Because I think that’s one, and then you brought up sort of the bias one, I think that’s a good thing. And then finally, just that, again, that aspect of if you’re swamped an hour, then sorry, yes, you need to sort of make the time on the weekends, or somebody you know, while the kids are playing on the soccer field, instead of sort of yelling at the ref. It, you know, set up the back of the stands and just think about get ahead of delegation. It is a significant payoff for anybody in leader and, and remember that you know, you’re even when you’re asking P is to do work, sideways delegation, it’s still going on vacation.
Jason Baum 43:14
This is great. Thank you so much, Marco, for talking to us on this topic. It really, I’ve enjoyed it. So thank you so much. And you know what? I’m not I wasn’t sure whether or not to ask this question, because we’ve spent so much time on a topic, but I want to know it. So what’s one unique thing about you that no one knows, you said you’ve listened to the podcast. So I’m assuming you might have been expecting that question. And if not, I’m giving you the time to think of the answer as I’m talking right now.
Marco Coulter 43:44
Good, good, good experience. So one thing that people don’t know about me, it’s not necessarily always tricked by these questions, you know, tell us something about yourself that’s unique or whatever. I’ll give you two things that on two different sides of me. I live in Manhattan, right, one of the most densely populated places kind of thing in the country. But I made sure I had some outside outdoor space so that I could grow vegetables because there is something about growing things. Whether it’s humans and DevOps, or just growing things that you’re going to eat, don’t eat humans and vegetables and things like that. That is fantastic. And then a sort of a weird thing is that James Corden on the TV show gave me my Broadway debut. And he pulled me out of the audience at one of his shows in New York kind of thing. And so I got my moment on a Broadway stage. And that was, funnily enough, one of my bucket list things just like to be up there and see what the audience looks like. So, James Corden who has never texted me since he gave me that break to be on a Broadway stage.
Jason Baum 44:54
That is so cool. Well, that’s very cool. That’s the first time I’ve heard something like that on the pocket. We’ve heard many things on this podcast so that’s very cool. And as a fellow New York metro area person I’m that’s that is kind of like on the bucket list right getting to see the other side from the Broadway stage. Well, very cool. Thank you, Marco, so much for coming on the podcast. It’s been so much fun.
Marco Coulter 45:19
Thank you, Jason, for having me on. And this has been great. I hope people get something out of it. Feel free to catch me on the website or Twitter and that you’ll find me on Twitter and LinkedIn as
Jason Baum 45:29
well. Yeah. And then the blog was tech whisper.com. That’s tech hyphen whisperer.com. And thank you for listening to this episode of the humans of DevOps Podcast. I’m going to end this episode the same way I always do encourage you to become a premium member of DevOps Institute to get access to even more great resources, just like this one. Until next time, stay safe,
Jason Baum 45:53
and most of all, stay human, live long and prosper.
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