Hair Raising Thoughts

So, I started reading more this year... (And it wasn't even one of my New Year's Resolutions.) It's more about suddenly feeling the need for new ideas, and new ways of seeing things, etc.

Looking over the last two plus years of officially managing an engineering team at Sun got me wondering: What have I learned lately? Do I know anything more this month than last? Am I effectively leading my team? To really get the answers will take more serious investigation than when I worked in more tactical positions. With previous jobs (xml data architect, web site project manager, technical trainer, graphic designer, ice cream scooper extraordinaire — no that's not me in the apron) it was seemingly easier to gauge what I've learned and where or how I've grown. Management, well, that's trickier to measure.

Anyway, I'm reading. This week, I started The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Not exactly because I view my team as dysfunctional, (suppose that remains to be seen, upon outcome of my read) but more so to understand team dynamics better, drive more success, and drive Sun overall.

I started reading it, in all places, at my hair salon. Yes, folks, good hair can take lots of time, and why just sit there with People Magazine? My stylist saw it and said, "Wow, a bit of light reading today?" Ya sure, why not? (Incidentally, she owns the salon, so she may need the book someday too!)

A few pages into it, and it felt pretty good so far. The book is written more like a fable or novel than a "learn how to manage by following these 5 steps" kinda book. Much better suited for the salon that way. ;) One of the first points woven into the story was about how you refer to the group you manage. If you, or the group, do not refer to the collection of people as a team, they probably are not a team. That's interesting, and a glimmer of hope for our situation. That's what we are, a team — the Content Management Engineering TEAM, not Kristen's STAFF or Kristen's DIRECT REPORTS. OK, 34 pages into it and I'm feeling like its worth reading. We'll see where it goes from here; certainly it can't all be this simple...


Whoa, you served ice cream in Wisconsin? You coulda retired in college! :-P
Re: "team" vs. "staff", my first reaction was "Bah. Sapir-Whorf bunkum", but I guess the point is not how using the "team" word affects you (the manager's) thinking, but rather how it affects the staff's. When Lori worked at Target in the mid 90s it was the first time I'd heard of a major company insisting on using the word "team" so pervasively (they even called e-mail from central to store senior staff "T-mail"--corny). Lori was heavy-gung-ho-Target, and hey, maybe the "T" word had a bit of it. I just asked her and she says yes, it probably did. Certainly she used to insist on buying almost everything from Target, but since she left to become a full-time mother she's been more flexible, even shopping at Walmart, regardless of how much I tell her they're evil. I guess maybe her prior preferential shopping was also driven by the "team" geist.

Posted by Uche on January 14, 2007 at 11:37 PM PST #

To this day, I HATE scooping ice cream. ;) Anyway, I know, sometimes I wonder about the bunkum. I DO know I have made a conscious decision to not say my "staff"; it just never felt right to me, like I was then distancing myself from everyone else. I'm about halfway thru the book now, and moderately intimidated by the many dysfunctions that can each be hard to overcome.

Posted by Kristen on January 15, 2007 at 12:19 AM PST #

Good for you-- maybe you can summarize it and put up a one page wiki for those of us with too strong ADD to get through something like that. ;) I'm \*still\* only about 20 pages into "Its Your Ship" months after getting it- not to say its a bad read, I just always have something \*else\* that needs reading first. :)

Posted by rama on January 16, 2007 at 06:31 AM PST #

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Passionate about data engineering strategy and solutions for Sun’s external web sites. Happiest when building taxonomies, data models, and high performing teams.

Kristen Harris
Web Data Engineering


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