Link roundup: leadership anti-patterns, communication when trust is low, clarity for product managers

I’ve been pretty bad at sharing what I’m reading over the past couple of weeks, so I wanted to do a quick roundup post of some articles I have found helpful recently. I keep wanting to write longer posts about each, but it’s just not happening due to time constraints, and I need to clear out that queue, so here goes!

Unexpected Anti-Patterns for Engineering Leaders

Insightful post by Will Larson with some great advice for all leaders, including a reminder that it’s not a good idea to extract yourself from the details completely:

New engineering managers are often advised to “step away from the code.” But an extremely high-functioning exec understands the domain they are operating in at some level of detail. As you get too far out of the details, you just become a bureaucrat. Too many well-meaning engineering managers end up as bureaucrats.

The Busy Trap: How to Distinguish Being Busy from Being Productive

This one deserves a thorough read, because it talks about maximizing throughput in systems—and it’s not about making sure everyone on the team is at 100% capacity:

The real bottleneck isn’t in doing the work but in the waiting—queues that turn days of development into weeks of delay. This insight shifts the focus from individual busyness to process efficiency and the smooth flow of work from start to finish. Our findings debunk the myths that more planning, parallel tasks, and pull requests guarantee better outcomes. Instead, they emphasize the need for streamlined processes and effective collaboration to enhance true productivity. Let’s prioritize making each moment count towards faster, more efficient delivery, moving beyond mere activity to meaningful progress.

How to Communicate When Trust Is Low (Without Digging Yourself Into A Deeper Hole)

Lots of things in this post that I found very relevant and helpful. I especially have a… well, “growth edge”… in this area:

To the best of your ability, try to resist reading layers of meaning into textual communication; keep it simple, overcommunicate intent, and ask for clarity. And if someone is asking you for clarity, help them do a better job for you.

And related…

You vs. the forgetting curve

My friend and former colleague Fio with another excellent newsletter edition about why we should be ok with having to repeat ourselves a lot:

And it’s not that other people forget because they are selfish or don’t care—it’s because we plonked a bit of information at the top of their forgetting curve […] Because the forgetting curve exists, being an effective communicator might well require us to share the same information multiple times, at the right intervals, across different channels, without ever assuming that our teams and stakeholders will magically remember everything after the first iteration.

Principles of Engineering Culture at Wealthfront

I love (most of) these principles, but especially this one:

We believe our organization is most healthy when engineers, not management, propose and drive platform improvements. New products and problems are often brought to engineering teams to solve, but then technical leadership of these teams interweave these priorities with necessary infrastructure as part of their platforms’ continued advancement in engineering quality. While it is the team’s job to propose and defend these improvements, it is then management’s job to internally align and clear the path for the improvements to happen. The alternative would be for management to command infrastructure projects that teams then find time to execute. Such management decrees are avoided as they lead to poor trade-offs and unhappy teams.

Clarity for Product Managers: Part 1, Directional Clarity

Great series by Arne Kittler. This quote stood out to me because I’ve been surprised at how many people I’m currently interviewing for roles on my team cannot succinctly describe what value PMs bring to an organization:

Imagine you meet your CFO in the elevator: How well can you briefly and convincingly tell them what you are doing and why, and what the company will gain from it?

The Moral Economy of the Shire

On the non-work side of things, I adore real-world critiques of fictional worlds, like this one:

The implication in both books and movies is that most Hobbits spent their time either farming or enjoying leisure time, but this makes little sense, when one considers what we know about premodern agriculture and what little of life and culture in the Shire.

We have to realize that Bilbo and Frodo were independently wealthy…

Bilbo and Frodo are both gentlemen of leisure because the Baggins family is independently wealthy, and that wealth almost has to come from land ownership, because there isn’t enough industry or trade to sustain it. They can afford to go on adventures and study Elven poetry because they draw their income from tenant farmers renting their land.