Making Space for Success in 2023

We’re in a season where it’s customary to throw a bunch of suggestions at you about what you ought to be doing or for people to pontificate predictions about the upcoming year. Assuming your feeds and inboxes are full of those, let us take a different look at the year ahead. You’ve undoubtedly got notes full of ideas about what you’d like to achieve. However, merely tacking on more and more work on your already full and busy schedule will burn you out. Similarly, embracing new habits and attitudes requires letting go of older ones. Let us quickly go over a few things you should stop doing this year to make room for success.

Stop talking about remote work or back-to-the-office: Three years into the pandemic, many people are still occupied with where their engineers sit. Surely you’re sick of it—then stop letting it bother you. It’s easier than you think: make a decision and stick to it. There’s no reason to keep thinking about this. Personally, I believe in effective remote work and hybrid teams that come together organically. Even more so given the current economic climate where saving on office space is essential and when considering the inherent advantages in talent diversity it provides. Nevertheless, you do you. Pick a route. Communicate it to your employees and be clear about it in your hiring process. Get on with work.

Don’t manage inputs: Somewhat connected to why managers dislike remote work, it is too common to be still attempting to manage knowledge workers based on their inputs. You notice how many hours they are in the office, how long their lunch breaks are, and whether they answer Slack messages after hours. The only thing that such management cultivates is low productivity. Engineers that know they have to stay in the office till the boss goes home or X hours have no real rush to get anywhere. That’s how you end up with coffee breaks that amount to hours a day. Giving this up will free up a significant portion of your time and cognitive load. Wouldn’t it be a lot more fun to tell people what objective their goal is and let them get to it? Look at outcomes, not inputs.

Don’t go it alone: Not a week goes by without another executive lamenting how lonely their role is and the fact that they have a hard time assessing their progress as well as comparing their organization’s troubles to some industry standard. While no objective standard exists, you don’t have to be alone. Get out and talk to people. My clients sometimes say all they needed was the ability to speak to an experienced outsider to get unstuck. In fact, precisely because I keep seeing this and know how valuable communities of peers have been for my personal growth, I’m launching a global community for tech executives—free for all those who join during the beta. To get a beta invite in a couple of weeks, sign up for my newsletter.

Quit pathologically hiring: The past decade has created a generation of tech workers who take hyper-growth for granted. Managers that have spent upwards of 50% of their time in hiring for the entirety of their careers. At least for a few more quarters, that attitude seems to be taking a pause. It’s a blessing. First, smaller, organically growing teams are almost always more effective. Second, it also means that you finally should have the time to invest in developing your existing staff and helping them become better while honing your company’s processes and culture. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste.

No tech for tech’s sake: OK, I’ve talked about this a bunch, especially in The Tech Executive Operating System. Nevertheless, I bet that your team is still too focused on technical details. Are you allocating fixed time for “engineering tasks,” tech debt, or “quality sprints?” That’s a mistake. What good is cleaner code when founders know they’ll have to raise more money this year and that the business is suffering? Rather than attempting to balance two orthogonal backlogs, mandate a clear value focus. No work should be allocated if you cannot make a case for how it helps the business or the bottom line. You’ll be surprised at how many opportunities for amassing tech capital start appearing (for more on tech capital and innovation, check the free sample chapter in the link for my book above).

Quit shrugging: This isn’t about time, but about your health and avoiding burnout. When you find yourself shrugging too often, you’re becoming disengaged, which is never a good thing for a leader. Take care of your ergonomics.

Have an incredible 2023!