You’re never done learning about management or learning how to be a good manager.

In this episode

This is a special episode. An ‘inbetweenisode’ if you will. 

We’re celebrating 3 years of powerful and impactful episodes with leaders from all walks of life by sharing short clips of conversations over the years that have made a lasting impact on today’s special guests, Manuela and Alexandra from!

Find the episodes and resources mentioned throughout this episode below. 

Tune in to hear all about the past 3 years and the lessons learned along the way!

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


How Supermanagers impacts Fellow


Tamar on the definition of being done


Melissa on the uncomfortability of being a boss


David on connecting people to your mission


Heidi on instilling the growth mindset


Liz on knowing when to let someone fail


David on empowering your team through delegating


The common mistakes managers make

Episodes mentioned in this episode:

Resources mentioned in this episode:


Aydin Mirzaee (  00:00

Alexandra and Manuela, it’s good to see you both.

Manuela Barcenas (  01:43

Hey, it’s so exciting to be here. I know Alexander has been a guest on the Supermanagers podcast, but I haven’t. So it’s really exciting to finally be on this side of it.

Aydin Mirzaee (  01:54

Oh, yeah, you know, it’s you and I interact so much on the podcast that I just assumed that you were a guest before. And so but yes, Alexandra has been a guest episode 120 14. Benoit, you, and the team and Camilla and everybody else helped produce a podcast. And so I should start by saying welcome to everybody, because we should explain what we’re doing, which is, this is our three year anniversary of the podcast. And we thought that we could do something fun, and bring some of the people who’ve been involved in creating the podcast and doing all the work. There’s a lot of people in the background that work very, very hard to make the show a possibility. And so we thought that we could do something fun today and come together and talk about some of the biggest lessons that we’ve learned on the podcast, some of our favorite episodes, what we’ve learned from it, and then we’re going to debate it a little bit and try to convince you the audience on which clip is the most memorable to you. So we’ve each chosen two of them. And we’re going to go through we’re going to play the clip, we’re going to talk about why it was so meaningful for each of us. And then yeah, we’re gonna debate with each other and hopefully have a great discussion around it.

Alexandra Sunderland (  03:05

I am so excited for this because it was I went back and listen to a bunch of Supermanagers episodes again, and I’ve listened to all of them in the first place. And what I realized is that it was it’s been really fun listening to these episodes this whole time, because I’ve learned a lot from all the different guests. But I’ve also learned a lot about you, Aidan, which is really fun, too. And I find the Supermanagers episodes are really good predictors for what’s coming for us at work. And it’s really interesting hearing you ask follow up questions and seeing like, what you latch on to, from what people are saying and hearing the tone of voice change. Because whenever I can hear that you’re really, really interested in something I know like that is going to pop up at work. And sure enough, the week after the episode is released, there’ll be something in the weekly summary email you send everyone hear about a learning that you had, and you won’t directly reference the episode, but I’ll know it’s coming from Supermanagers. And I find it really funny, like listening to the episodes and figuring out what’s gonna happen at work next,

Aydin Mirzaee (  04:04

you know, it’s so funny that you caught me. It’s one of those things that I tell all my friends, which is that if nobody listens to this podcast at all, I would still do it because I get so much value from it personally. And not only I mean, for the audience, not only do I obviously do the interview and you know, read the questions and do all that stuff, but I also re listen to the episodes because I find even when I really listened to them, I learned something that maybe I missed the first time. I’m excited for us to dive in who wants to go first?

Alexandra Sunderland (  04:36

I’m happy to start. So this was really hard to pick but I think the first one I want to talk about is episode number 136 which was Tamara Bercovici who is the VP of Engineering at box. And I think I really liked this episode because I’m also an engineering and so I really latched on to her story here but she talked about how she started at box as an engineer and worked her way up through ranks became manager, director, VP of engineering, I really enjoyed that story. Because you know, I started at follow as well as an engineer and then became manager, Senior Manager. Now I’m here as a director of engineering. But what I really liked about this episode that changed a lot about how I approach project planning is that she talked about how companies have this tendency to take on large evergreen projects with no clear goal and things don’t always go well. So for example, every engineering team ever has probably taken on some sort of project that has some goal, like, make performance better. We’ve had projects like that here at fellow as well, where the goal is just, you know, we want to be more performant. And because there’s no clear goal, nobody really knows what exactly to do what the definition of done is. And then the project kind of goes on forever and ever and ever. And it’s not really clear to others what’s going on. And the example that she gave is at box, there was a project around doing a replatform. But because nobody knew, what are we done, it didn’t go so well. And I think we have a clip here of that.

Tamar Bercovici (Box)  06:14

I think as engineers, we look at our systems, and we see all the problems, and we see all the things that aren’t working as well. And I’ve seen many cases, and myself been in this position, where you know, an engineer will come and say, this service, this platform, this component, whatever it is, has accumulated a lot of technical debt. Obviously, it’s so problematic, maybe it’s even recent, maybe they could say things like it’s not performing well, or it’s hard to make changes or, and you know, there’s a lot of bugs. And there’s like a laundry list of things that are wrong. And no surprise, because here’s a laundry list of things that are bad about this architecture or this implementation. Our goal is to fix it. That’s so unspecified fix what? Why? Like, what of all the things you listed out is actually important enough to go spin up this effort? What is the concrete? Like? What’s your definition of being done? I think a lot of these like definition of Done and these little sort of agile phrases get thrown around a lot. And sometimes they almost lose their meanings, because we say them so often, but but if you’re venturing off on a big effort, what is the concrete way in which you assess that you’re done re architecting to make something better is completely amorphous, it has it is a continuum, there is no such thing as a perfect system. As soon as you ship code, it starts aging, that is a natural part of technology and how it works. And so you have to get a lot more crisp, for example, to say, we are not meeting our uptime guarantees for this component. Our goal is that we can hit those with consistency, right. And so now, if someone comes back to you with a proposal to improve the performance, you can say, okay, great idea, but not related to that goal. This is not about performance. This is about availability, right. And so it just lets you focus in the work and make sure that everyone is making decisions that are aligned with that same goal, because actually, you know, if you want to capture what leadership is, you can’t control what every person on the team is doing. It’s just, that’s an impossibility from a scale perspective. And also, if you tried, it would be an incredibly limiting bottleneck on your organization, right. So you’re gonna have a ton of people that are working on this shared effort. And they’re gonna be making independent decisions at their scope, whatever that scope is, every single day. And those decisions are either going to align together and be synergistic to deliver an outcome, or they’re each going to be pulling in slightly different directions. So if you set off on a make it better project, and you have one person who mainly is looking at performance, and one person who’s looking at clarity of code architecture, and how readable it is, and one person that’s trying to impact availability, and one person that’s optimizing cost, who knows what you’ll get as an outcome? And who knows how you’ll assess whether that’s good? And who knows if they’ll even realize that they’re working on different goals? And so getting very, very concrete, what is the measurable business outcome that you are going to deliver? Why is it critical that you do that? Like why does it even make sense to spin up this effort? And how are you going to assess that you hit it? Ideally, again, measurable is a definition of a clear goal, as opposed to a directional theme of making something better, or improving something or just something that’s a bit more amorphous.

Alexandra Sunderland (  09:41

I really appreciated hearing this because it sounds so obvious in retrospect that every project should have some sort of goal and everyone should have an understanding of what that is. But we weren’t necessarily doing that all as in practice. And so after listening to that episode, it was very relevant to me in the moment like you were saying, Aiden because we were in the middle of play. handing out our projects coming up. And we had some projects that we’re thinking of that follow this pattern of no clear goal. And so the next day went into work and immediately said, like, no, no, we can’t do this. Like, we have to define exactly what is this mean. And it was so interesting bringing all these people into the conversation and figuring that out. Because by bringing that up, I found out that everybody had a different idea of what Dan meant. And so we would have all been tackling the same project from different angles, and probably never would have really come to a consensus as to when the project is done and ready to go. So I really liked that the engineer, the example she gave was engineering specific, but I think it’s probably relevant to any area of the company where you can always have projects or problems you’re solving like that. It just made such a big impact on how we plan projects. I really appreciated that episode.

Aydin Mirzaee (  10:52

Yeah, I couldn’t think of so many examples. mineralogy you have an example? Or like, how do you think about that in the marketing world? Like, are there projects like that, that don’t have clear outcomes that you’ve ever come across?

Manuela Barcenas (  11:03

100%. But I think that also by listening to this episode, and a couple others on the podcast, I’ve realized the importance of being extremely clear. Or if you remember from Episode 41, being super fucking clear, which is what Mona Lisa and Jonathan Nightingale told us to do as managers. So yes, going back to your question, I think there has been projects where we probably weren’t as clear as we should have been in terms of the milestones or in terms of the deliverables. And there are clear, responsible individuals for each deliverable in that project. But now I can say we’re getting more organized, and we write project briefs, we always assign responsibility. Individuals have deadlines. And this has all been thanks to a lot of learnings from from Supermanagers. So are you already gave me a hand for what’s one of the episodes that I want to convince the audience to go back and listen to? I was listening to it this morning before this call. And in that episode, they say that a lot of managers need to own the manager role. And owning that role also means understanding the power behind the title and the job. And understanding that if you join a meeting, or if you share ideas with other people, they’re probably going to run and try to execute on that as quickly as they can. Because their manager gave them this idea, because their manager said that this would be a great thing to do. So I think one takeaway for me from this episode, Episode 41, was that first of all, we need to be very careful with the way we share ideas and the way we share new projects with the team and be very clear about what is expected of them. But also this concept of owning the manager role. Because one thing that really resonated with me from this episode, and like you said, it’ll depends on the moment of your career where you’re at. Something that really resonated with me was when someone was appear, and then you become their manager, a lot of managers Millison, Jonathan said, make the mistake of saying, oh, nothing’s changed. We’re still peers, like nothing has changed between us. But they talked about this concept of owning your job and saying, Hey, these might be awkward, but I’m your manager now. So our relationship is going to change. So this episode has so many great nuggets, I want to see here, the quote right now where Mellissa says that we should all get comfortable with this concept of being a boss, check it out.

Melissa Nightingale  13:34

Early in my management career, I found it really uncomfortable to be a boss is it’s a really uncomfortable thing for a lot of people this shift from going from, I’m up here we work together and there’s no power dynamic to I’m now in charge of you. The there’s an inclination to give that power away as quickly as possible. And so the first time I managed somebody who was more senior than me in career experience, and more senior than me, and age as quickly as possible, I want it to be like nothing’s changed. You just do it, you do what you do, it’s great. But I will just sort of step up and sort of be on the sidelines, and not really manage. And I think anytime you as a leader, or at least for sort of for my own career, anytime I as a leader, specifically put down aspects of management and said, like, those are tools that are management tools, but I’m not going to use them. There’s a there’s a good kick to ask why. And so in terms of things I got wrong really early on, just just pretending that the power dynamic didn’t exist was was a big mistake. You know,

Johnathan Nightingale  14:29

for me, we talk with so many bosses and some of them have had really horrendous management experiences of their own. But for me coming up, I didn’t my my default experience. I had four or five, maybe six different managers before I got my first management gig. And the word I would use for all of them was just sort of apathetic, right? They just didn’t take management very seriously. They show up to the occasional one on ones like eating your vegetables, they knew they had to do it, but like, I was really the one pushing for any, any change in my role in my work, whatever. And I said to myself, I remember thinking, you know, the first day I become a manager, I’m going to be better than they ever were. Because I’m going to give a shit. That’s it. I’m just, I’m just going to care. And in the process of caring, I’m going to show up for my people really differently than my own bosses have shown up for me. And, and I did, I had long searching one on ones like given lots of feedback, lots of opportunity for growth. Congratulations, Jonathan, what a great boss you are, I had run to the other side of the boat, I was like, utterly ineffective at giving them feedback when they screwed up, I was utterly ineffective and holding them accountable for miss deadlines for missed commitments to other teams. Because I was so focused on the relationship and then having the experience of a caring and involved boss, that I’d lost the plot on effectiveness for my team and like, what we were accountable for and whether I was pushing them. And that was a hard thing for me to unlearn right how to how do you step back into holding those people accountable, and not worry that you’re going to jeopardize the relationships you just spent? So long building, particularly with people who used to be your peers like that was, it took me work to undo that one and realize that that doesn’t hurt my working relationship with those people. It just makes the boundaries clearer. But that is easy for me to spot that is a mistake. Now.

Aydin Mirzaee (  16:11

I feel like both of what you said have similarities in that, you know, you Melissa wanted to give away control as soon as you got in. And I feel like there’s a lot of relatedness to holding people accountable. And I find that it is also particularly challenging. If you do have someone who is senior and yours are inexperienced than you How did you both turn it around? Like how did you realize that? You know, Jonathan, you were being too friendly? And Melissa, you weren’t taking the control? Like, how did you How do you pivot out of that kind of situation if you happen to be in it.

Johnathan Nightingale  16:47

For me, it took a while. But for me, I started to really internalize like, wait a minute, I’m being paid to do a job. It probably wasn’t until I was a director, honestly, the penny dropped for me, I’m being paid to do a job, I got a bunch of people on payroll as part of my organization. And we’re here to do something, right, I started to be involved in directors meetings and be asked by my peers in directorship and above what what my team was committed to right and how we were going to deliver that. And the more I started to engage with, like, Oh, crap, like, buy a 14 people on payroll and a startup fully costed, even back then, that’s a couple million dollars that the organization is spending to get what, right, and as I started to be in conversation with my peers in management, that’s when I realized, like, I have an obligation here to the organization I have, I have things that I’m being paid to get done for us. And then I would turn around to my team and be like, wait a minute, we’re not going to get these things done. And how do I do that? And sort of pulling that into conversation and saying, like, yes, my, my relationship with my team is a superpower, it means I can ask a lot of them because they trust me. But I need to get clear on what I’m actually committed to. That, for me was a real unlock realizing that, that I had an obligation not just to my people not to be a shit umbrella, like you hear people use that language, right? I just gotta insulate them, I just got to get everything out of the way so that they can focus on their work. That’s part of it. But also that we’re making a set of commitments, we’re accountable to other parts of the organization to fulfill those commitments. And that once I really let that in and started writing goals that advance the organization’s goals, instead of just writing down what my team was doing and calling those my goals. It was a real inversion for me and a powerful one. It didn’t hurt my relationships with my people. It gave them some stretch, it gave them a Northstar.

Melissa Nightingale  18:30

Yeah. And I think for me, I think the mistakes that you make that you’re making, because it’s the first time you’re doing something often having an opportunity to like really just sort of to basically screw it up. But then you’re like, Okay, well, I know what that mistake is, I’m not going to make it again. And I think the mistake of that period, a boss transition and not making those those sorts of roles, and that power differential sort of better defined, you do that once. Ideally, you don’t do that every time, right. And so I think for a lot of leaders, the challenge of sort of going from being in a peer relationship to being a boss dynamic, once you’ve done it, then the next time you are more clear about it, because you know the implications, you know, the downside of it.

Aydin Mirzaee (  19:11

Yeah, it’s a great clip. Those two are incredible. And they have an awesome newsletter that we should definitely include in the show notes as well love everything that they produce. Yeah, I’m

Alexandra Sunderland (  19:22

so happy that you included this episode, because this is actually the one that I share with people the most and reference back the most because it had such an impact on how I think about things for different reasons. So the thing that I really latched on to with this episode is I mean, the title of it, like making sure that you’re being super fucking clear. I think it’s so important to be really, really clear with people and it’s so easy to think that you’re being clear and setting expectations when you’re not actually doing it in a way that people are going to understand. So for example, if there’s a project that someone’s working on that’s late, and I go to them and ask like Hey, how’s the project going? Is it on track? That might seem to me like I am being really clear with them that they have to hurry it up, it’s late, you know, we got to get it going. But to them, they’re interpreting that as just me asking a question. And so I think I used to do that a lot, where I was asking questions and being very subtle and not really getting the message across. And that episode taught me that, like, if it’s not extremely, extremely, extremely clear what you’re saying, you know, it’s, you’re, you’re not doing anything good for them. Like it’s there, you’re putting the people at a disadvantage. And so I learned to go from asking subtle questions to get the point across to saying like, Hey, this is late, you know, we got to make some changes and move things along here. And yeah, you know, for all the people that report to me and stuff, I’ve shared that episode to show them like, when they have similar problems, where they’re saying, Oh, the person is just not getting it. They’re not getting the point across. I share that episode and say, like, you’re probably falling into this trap as well.

Manuela Barcenas (  20:51

I like Sandra, and one tactical thing that I took away from that episode was middle Lisa shared this sentence of saying, My expectation is right, like being so clear, and saying, My expectation is that you will deliver this by Friday, right? Like, instead of asking, like, Hey, how’s it going with the project? Is there anything I can do to help? You can ask those questions, for sure. But yeah, this episode inspired me to be clear, and to set clear expectations with the people that work with me.

Aydin Mirzaee (  21:19

Yeah, these are great learnings. And, you know, to segue into one of my choices for today, it’s also about clarity. And so one of the questions that, you know, I’ve had for a while, it’s like, how do you know that you’re clear, like, you might think that you’re clear. And what is a good tactical way to do this. So for episode number 69, with David Robinson, and she was the former commanding officer at the US Marine Corps three decades, as part of the Marines. And he was a former fighter pilot, and he was a Top Gun instructor. So very interesting sort of background. And, of course, now he coaches and he has a new book called the substance of leadership. So when we have them on this show, it’s all about the phrasing I find sometimes. So we can play the clip.

David Robinson  22:13

The question is, how do you connect your people to your mission, and I go into a discussion about really revolves around inspiring and empowering your team. And you know, step one of inspiring your team is really to help them to get bought into the leader. But step two, is to help them get bought into the mission. So how do you get them to buy into the mission so that they’re emotionally invested in mission success? You know, to me, it comes down to well, Patti Sanchez, and Nancy Duarte wrote a book called illuminate. And I really learned a lot from, from their book, about four techniques for illuminating your mission or your vision so that people can really get emotionally invested in it. And it revolves around, you know, speeches where, you know, it’s not a long speech, but it’s an it’s an anecdotal way to, you know, really take some time to articulate the mission and really focus on why it’s important. If you can just get to the why people can really start to embrace their purpose behind it. Storytelling is so important for making that emotional connection with people. As a Squadron Commander, I used to love to tell stories about the students that we trained that were out on the pointy end of the spear, so to speak, in combat, flying off of aircraft carriers, to tell my unit, you know, how successful they had been at training that because they were successful, and that was very effective. Also, the third element is this idea around ceremonies where we get to celebrate people and recognize them in front of their peers, which is so so powerful. And then this idea of, of articulating or illuminating the mission is so important. I found in my people were really starting to understand the mission when I started to feel like I was sounding like a broken record. And it just took that much repetition because there’s turnover. And then I would ask people what the mission is, and when they could play it back. And I felt like they really understood it and felt that conviction that I knew that the message was getting through, but it takes time to get there. Yeah. And

Aydin Mirzaee (  24:16

it’s interesting that you had to feel like you’re like a broken record player, like you said, in for you to know that it was you were there. Because I guess the reason I think this is an important question is that you can’t take for granted that, you know, just because someone isn’t marine that they and they were almost like pre selected, you know, not everybody becomes a Marine. And so, like, just because they have taken that oath, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily there’s many different missions at various times and just like repeating that makes it makes a lot of sense. But you also ask them, like, how does it work when you ask them what do you think the mission is? Or like what form does that take?

David Robinson  24:59

Yeah, I’ve always believed that I’ve learned the hard way that a message communicated is not always a message received, right? So I would I would just be completely vulnerable and humble it and I would say, at the end of, you know, a session or a talk or you know, if I was trying to explain the mission, I would simply say, I’m not always the best communicator, I would love for you to try to play back for me what what you think I said? And then if they played it back, great if they didn’t, and I had a chance to refine that a little bit and say, Well, I probably didn’t explain that very well. Here’s what I really meant by that. So I put it on me that the onus was on me as the leader to make sure that my team understood what I was trying to communicate.

Aydin Mirzaee (  25:41

Okay, so as a clip says, I just love this particular phrasing that he uses. Because when he wants to explain something, he may explain it. And then he’ll say something like, Manuela, I’m not the best communicator, always sure that I can get feedback on how well I’m communicating this concept to you. Do you mind repeating what you understood from what I said? And a lot of times like we hear this concept in other ways, but you know, people might say, Hey, can you repeat what I just said, which sounds like you’re putting the onus on the other person, that’s it. Like, I just want to make sure that you were listening and that you understood, whereas like taking the onus on yourself and saying, like, I’m not the best communicator, always. So to help me get better. Can you kind of tell me what you got from what I was saying. So we can make sure that we’re super aligned, and watch a great stuff in this episode. But I think like the tactical framing, like this is, to me the evidence of someone who’s like, very deeply thought about how to communicate. And oftentimes communication is like, it’s the most difficult thing the larger your company gets, the more difficult it becomes for everybody to get different messages. And so this one really stuck with me. And I tried to use that phrasing whenever I can.

Alexandra Sunderland (  26:55

I love that phrasing, too, because I feel like that opens up the door for him to get more feedback from people for other things as well, because it shows that he wants to grow, wants to learn and is open to hearing about the things that he could do better at which is such an important thing to be able to do as manager.

Aydin Mirzaee (  27:11

Yeah, super great episode, and also great book that David’s put out. So everyone should check that out as well.

Manuela Barcenas (  27:19

We’ve had so many great authors on this show. Like just to call some out. Kim Scott rustler away, Larry Hogan, can we look forward and you’re like older books, and they’re Supermanagers episodes are incredible. Of course, our favorite author Alexandra Sunderland.

Aydin Mirzaee (  27:37

And I see that you have you have the book in the background, remote engineering management.

Alexandra Sunderland (  27:42

Yeah, it’s become my my background. Now my book to show off.

Aydin Mirzaee (  27:46

Hey there, just a quick pause on today’s episode to let you know that we’d really appreciate you helping us spread the word about the Supermanagers podcast. If you’re enjoying what you’re hearing so far, dial into your podcast app of choice, whether that’s on Apple or Android or Spotify. And just leave us a quick review. Now back to the interview.

Alexandra Sunderland (  28:09

Yeah, the next one I want to talk about was episode number 95, with Heidi Houser, who was at the time the vice president of people and experience at shiny docs. I really liked this episode, because she talked about so many things that were just so interesting. And there were a lot of comparisons of leadership to parenting. That was another one that was really fun to learn more about Aiden from as well, because you talked about your kids in that one, which was, which was pretty cute. And there are two things that I really liked about this in particular one is how she talked about how it’s so important not to solve people’s problems for them. Because as a manager, sometimes it’s very easy. Like, the fastest thing you can do when someone comes to you with a problem is just fix it for them to show them how to do it. But that’s not ideal, because then they’re not going to learn how to do things themselves and, and and grow from that, which is putting them at a disadvantage. And the other thing I really liked is this quote where she talks about when you mess up, fess up, and I think we have a clip from that here.

Heidi Hauver (Shinydocs)  29:14

It’s as simple as you know, Mommy, I can’t do this to Mommy, I can’t do this yet. And so I have been working with my liberals on that notion that it’s not, you can’t, you can’t yet. And as much as you know, words matter, but the small nuance there has really even empowered them. They’re only five and seven. But the seven year old more so, you know at certain ages, there’s this natural hesitancy to try new things because they’re starting to understand the potential dangers of you know, riding the bike as an example I may be able to fall off my bike, I may hurt myself. And so I remember last summer, you know, reading with my oldest about the growth mindset because I started too. And there’s a ton of great books out there, both from a parenting perspective and actually for kids. And I think that, you know, just changing the language when my kids say, I can’t do that, I correct them, I go, Oh, you can’t yet. And they have now started to correct themselves. And it’s really amazing to see. Because again, it’s that mindset, just changing your mindset of you know, that maybe you can’t do something yet now, but that you’re going to work towards actually being able to achieve that it can be really powerful. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (  30:31

that makes a lot of sense. And so the other one, I remember from reading that book was, you know, depending on like, I mean, teaching you how to give better feedback. So, say they get a good grade on a test. It’s not, you’re very smart. It’s Oh, you worked really hard. And you were able to get the script grade on the test.

Heidi Hauver (Shinydocs)  30:50

And you know, there’s this great book out there. It’s a kids book called Beautiful oops. And it’s basically about beautiful mistakes and how through mistakes, you learn, and something beautiful can come out from spilled ink or you know, a mess that you make. I think a lot of there’s an assumption that growth mindset means getting it perfect all the time. And that’s not true. I mean, most of the learnings we all have both as leaders and as parents come from things we do wrong. The kids were listening to a show recently, and it said when you mess up fessed up. And I thought, how powerful is that? And as leaders, that’s one of the best lessons you can make right now, the next time you mess up, fess up, you will have more trust and credibility with your team, when you sort of stand up and say, oops, I made a mistake here. Oops, team, sorry. You know, that was my air. And I think that you know what, over time, that’s, you know, as you build confidence as a leader, it’s much easier to kind of say, oops, I messed up. But I encourage leaders to start now, because I think that was an early lesson. For me, once I started sort of acknowledging, I don’t need to be the smartest person in the room, I need to be the person that’s going to cultivate a great environment, bring the right people together. And again, fill the gaps and bring the smarter people, you know, more talented people onto the team. And recognize, you know, what, I don’t need to have all the answers. It’s okay to kind of admit fess up when you mess up. So I think those are good words to live by.

Alexandra Sunderland (  32:21

I really liked this in particular, because I think it’s so important to admit as a manager when you’re wrong, or when you’ve made a mistake. And this is something that I do super often to the extreme, like anytime that I screw something up, I will be very upfront about it with the team to the point where we have this documentation section in the engineering team, documentation area where we write out big pages about things we screwed up, why they happened and what we’re doing to fix them. And I think like nine out of 10 things in there is written by me because I did something really wrong. And I wanted to be clear with people like I screwed up badly. Here’s why it happened. And here’s how you can make sure you don’t do it. Because I think that when you see managers being open about times that they did something wrong, it makes it a lot less scary when you do something and you’re less likely to sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen and ignore the problem, which is definitely something that you don’t want to be hiding. I really love that. Like she had this quote for this when you mess up, fess up, because I think that’s something that we should all live by.

Aydin Mirzaee (  33:30

I didn’t know you had that in your template. So what is the the section in the template called,

Alexandra Sunderland (  33:35

it’s a folder in our engineering documentation. And it’s named mistakes, failures and issues. It’s mostly things that have gone wrong in the code. And it’s code that I’ve written that just did something really bad. And it goes way back because I started here about five years ago at this point. And so you know, I’ve, I’m not gonna go over like exactly what I screwed up here. It’s not gonna sound good, but I’ve caused outages, I’ve caused things to go poorly. And I want to make it clear that when people do things similar, it’s okay, like, we’ll recover from it, we’ll fix the problem, we’ll move on. I don’t want anyone to feel bad about it and and not bring it up and solve the issue together. So yeah, but a lot of it’s just me.

Manuela Barcenas (  34:18

I love that Alexander anything, it shows a lot of vulnerability, which we’ve learned through a lot of guests is an important skill or value to have as a leader, right? Like being able to own your mistakes, and also share those learnings with the team. So maybe in the future, they don’t make the same mistakes. I’m sure a lot of marketing leaders can resonate with the, I don’t know mistake of sending the wrong email to a lot of people getting sent too early before someone reviews their work. And I think that sharing this mistakes with the team can Yeah, prevent them from making them in the future. So good for you for doing that.

Aydin Mirzaee (  34:53

Yeah, it’s so important because like you said, this is how teams grow. And sometimes it’s great to have repository in that way, and we recently started talking, again from that episode from Ruth community about, you know, elephants in the room. And so we now have a section in our, in our meeting templates, where we asked people to call out the elephants like, that’s actually a super, you know, great thing people call it out, we look at the elephant, we figure out what to do with it. That also really, really works. And you know, the other thing I want to say is like, and this seems to be the theme, right? We’re talking about a lot of phrasing. So a lot of times, it’s the right phrasing will make all the difference. And you may understand a concept, but to really put it into practice, sometimes you have to have the right words. And so, you know, Heidi’s comment there really adds to that narrative, as well, to Mindwell. Or what is your next clip from?

Manuela Barcenas (  35:46

I’m really happy that Alexandra brought up this concept of not trying to help your team in every single way and letting them make mistakes once in a while. Right, Aleksandra? That’s something that you brought up, I want to go back to that concept, because one of my favorite episodes ever, I was listening to it yesterday, and I was thinking, Oh, my God, this is so good. Like, I just wanted to share it with the rest of the world. And I’m happy to get to learn right now is episode 134 with Lisa Wiseman, and she’s a famous author of multipliers, one of my favorite books as well. And in this episode, Lisa talks about the concept of finding the right size weight. So I’m gonna let you listen to that clip.

Liz Wiseman (Wiseman Group)  36:34

I think the art form of great leadership is knowing when to let someone fail and knowing when to intervene. Because it’s naive to say, Oh, well, you should just let people take accountability. There are times when it’s too big to fail, like this is going to be career ending for someone it’s going to be business ending, you know, it’s going to do damage to someone. And so knowing that balance, I think, is an art form you develop as a leader, I’ll give you kind of a moment, I figured this out in life. You know, so all this time working as a corporate manager, I’m also, you know, becoming a parent and building this like little brood of a family. So I’ve got four, I’m a mother, I have four children. And there was this moment on a beach, we were at Blackrock beach, and Kaanapali on Maui. You know, maybe people have been there. But it’s just like, nice, gentle wave. So we plopped down our little family there, we have a seven year old, a five year old and a three year old, and my three year old is our son, Christian at this point. And this is a kid that’s absolutely drawn to danger. He’s 24 today, and he’s still like, danger. Let me go there. And we were playing in like the small waves, and he kept huddling out in the water to like the big waves, and he was drawn to the big waves. And I kept pulling him back, and he kept going out. And it’s become this little comedy on the beach, as the other parents are laughing that I keep having to pull him back to where it’s safe. And he is not figuring this out. And I thought, You know what, this kid is not going to learn about the power of the ocean from his mother, like, he’s going to have to learn this thing from Mother Nature. And so I’m like, You know what, I’m gonna let him get taken by a wave. And so I’m looking on the horizon for like, the perfect wave. And if you don’t like, ooh, that one’s too big, that’s going to do too much damage. No, then that one, oh, that’s too small. And so I see this perfect wave, which is I’m looking for a wave that will tumble him and scare him, but not sweep him off to see. And so when that wave comes, I step back. I let go of his hand. And you know, I remember this because other parents on the beach are giving me that bad mother look like whoa. And I’m just like, You know what, this one, he’s got to learn for himself. And so the wave takes him and tumbles him, you know, he’s like, comes up. He’s spitting out sand. And I remember looking at me, like, Mom, where did you go. And that’s when I kind of got downlow looked at him eye to eye and my Christian ocean is powerful. And these waves are dangerous, you need to stay here where you’re safe. And, and then he did. And you know, it’s funny, because he now is a surfer. And like he has this amazing skill with but also respect for the ocean. And I think it’s like what I learned from this is people have to learn on their own, but you’ve got to pick the right size wave. And I think this is the art form of good leadership is being able to pick the wave like you know what, this is a moment where somebody can make a mistake, they can make their own call, take responsibility fail at this and they can survive, our business can survive, the client engagement will survive. But this over here, like this could be very damaging very for them for the business. This is where I need to pull them back. This is where I might need to step in. Maybe this is where I need to micromanage a bit. And so like Knowing how big of a wave people can handle is what we have to get good at as leaders. And I think one of the ways that we can really encourage good risk taking is by letting people know the difference between the parts of the business that are sort of playgrounds versus freeways. You know, like right here, you can recover, that’s a playground, try new things experiment. Over here, this is a freeway, you make a small mistake, and it could be deadly. I’ve got to guide you on this one, I need to drive on this one.

Manuela Barcenas (  40:33

Okay, what I really like about this concept of finding the right size wave, or picking the wave is that Lee says that, as a manager, it’s important to let your team fail once in a while. And I’ve learned this as well, through trial and error, that I don’t have to be involved in every single thing that my team does, like I don’t have to review every single line that they ride. And sometimes it’s important to pick the wave and let them ride the wave. And understand that some projects can be owned by people on my team, and I don’t have to be involved in every single part of it. What do you think about this concept of picking the wave and letting your team ride the wave on their own and owning projects by themselves?

Aydin Mirzaee (  41:16

The first thing I wanted to say about Liz was that was I agree, an incredible episode. She’s one of the best storytellers that I’ve ever talked to. She’s just so engaging, and every now and then, as the host of the show, when someone is talking, I just get lost in their words. And I forget that I’m the host, and I have to pay attention. And I have to write things down and like be engaged in the conversation. She totally had me transfixed on the way that she did storytelling. So I just wanted to call that out that episode is definitely a must check out for everyone. I think this is such a great concept. One of the things that I think is challenging about the finding the right size wave is like that’s the hard part, right? You have to know what the right size wave is. And I think like, this is why this stuff gets more difficult. And sometimes I feel like it’s trial and error. Alexandria, do you have ways that you figure out what the right size for a wave is?

Alexandra Sunderland (  42:11

It’s hard. It’s definitely a lot of trial and error and finding, you know, things that are just out of reach for people’s like credibility so that they’re growing, but they’re not feeling uncomfortable. And this concept kind of reminds me as well of the episode that you did with Bilal I, Jazzy, who’s the CEO and co founder of poly, Episode 113. And he talked about something similar at the very start where he was like involved in deploys all the time at Poly and then remembers the very first time that he was on a flight going somewhere and landed and saw that like the team did a deploy without him. And just like the wave of happiness that came of like, they did it, they did it on their own, he didn’t have to be involved at all, and how much he was able to like, let go of control over that. It kind of reminds me of that like that. That’s like a really good size wave that the team was able to get on.

Manuela Barcenas (  43:04

One thing I just remembered from this episode is that least talks about the concept of playgrounds versus free ways. So she says if a project is a playground, there’s less risk if people make a mistake, right. So like they can try new things. Experiment may be published some things without the manager having to review them in marketing’s case, but then there’s other projects that she describes as free ways. Because if you make a mistake, it could be deadly. So in those kinds of projects, it’s important to be clear as the manager and say, like, hey, I need to review your work before before it goes out. Because this is a freeway, it could be very dangerous if things go out without my supervision or my review. So I really like this concept of playground versus freeway projects.

Aydin Mirzaee (  43:48

Yeah, that’s super interesting. And I also like the idea of going back to being super clear. Just the saying that upfront, not retroactively saying, actually, this is a free way. And it’s not a playground, but seeing that stuff UPS upfront sets the expectations. And then, you know, probably when there is feedback, or there is a change, of course required. That’s something that is then expected. And so one last

Manuela Barcenas (  44:14

thing I want to mention about this episode eight and like you said is that lace is such an incredible storyteller. And she tells this story that I think a lot of listeners will resonate with, which is she was working really late at the office one day, and then her manager comes in and tells her like, Hey, I couldn’t care less. I could care less if you were reading novels all day, as long as your team is doing the work and good work like you’re the manager. And you shouldn’t be taking on all the work and staying up late to finish all this project. So that really resonated with me because Liz says in the episode that the role of the leader is to really leverage the team’s time and the company’s resources to make sure that work is getting done. And the problem and I’m sure both of you will resonate with this is that a lot of managers get promoted because they are. Top performers are high achievers, and they love what they do. So they ended up taking on a lot of work instead of delegating it. So that really resonated with me. And Lisa is a great storyteller. So highly recommend going back to the episode and checking that out.

Alexandra Sunderland (  45:19

I think that concept was so important to is, in another episode, someone else mentioned how if you’re as a manager taking on the work, and not delegating it to other people on the team, it’s not good for you and your time, like Liz said, but also you’re robbing them of the opportunities to do that work and grow from it. So I think that part’s really important as well.

Aydin Mirzaee (  45:38

Yeah. And I think this is a perfect segue. And it’s interesting where the clip that I’ve chosen because it can sound a little bit controversial, but I think it’s actually related. And it also points to why management is so hard, because it’s not just about concepts. It’s very circumstantial, you really have to figure out, you know, what applies in that particular situation. And that’s why it’s a thing that is very hard to master over the course of time. But yeah, my episode, my next episode is from David Sachs. And David Sachs was episode number 100. He was a, you know, co founder of PayPal, you know, CEO at PayPal today, running craft ventures, he was the founder of Yammer that sold to Microsoft for over a billion dollars. And he’s an investor and fellow so we had him on for episode 100. And let’s play the clip where he talks about delegation.

David Sacks (Craft Ventures)  46:35

First of all, you really do want to encourage your managers to think of themselves as the CEO of their department or their team. And you want to empower them to be able to act that way and take actions semi autonomously or have agency. And if there for some reason, they feel like they can’t take those actions, you want to figure out why is there some dependency that hasn’t been new? Are they lacking some some skill or some tool, some set of people that they need? So you know, always asking the question, Well, why is it that they’re not able to act like a mini CEO, will enable you to refine the organization in ways that are helpful, but you also just want to you want employees who can act like many CEOs and think of themselves that way. And then that kind of leads to, you know, how you think about the output of your team. And what you know, Andy Grove says that, The way to think about your output when you’re a manager is you don’t measure your performance. Individually, you think of your performance as being the output of the team. That’s basically the difference between being an Icee. And a manager, when you’re an Icee. Your output is just what you do individually, when you’re a manager, your output as the team’s output. So, you know, that got me thinking about, you know, how do you think about concepts like micromanagement, you know, and the way to think about it is that when you’re a manager, you want to engage, you want to do the things that maximize the output of your team. So usually, that will mean empowering your team to be able to achieve, you know, results, so maximizing the performance of the ICS on your team. But also, I don’t think you need to be afraid to roll up your sleeves and do some of the work yourself if you have the ability, as a manager to take care of a task more quickly than anybody else on the team. Whereas it would take your whole team like a week to do it, you should just do it yourself. It’s fine. I think sometimes a lot of managers think, Oh, I’m a manager, now I shouldn’t be doing the work myself, I’ll just delegate it. The problem is, if you just delegate it, and then the person who you delegate it to delegates it, and then it gets delegated all the way down the chain, you’ll end up with the least qualified people in the company doing all of the work. And that can be a problem, right? I mean, everything gets infinitely delegated down to like the summer intern or something like that. So you want the person who’s in the best position to do the work, such that you will maximize the output to do the work. And sometimes that means you delegate it, and sometimes it means that you do it yourself. What you want to do as a manager is to focus on the activities that are highest leverage, right. And that’s what you want to think about is what creates the most leverage in the role. And you want to allocate resources so that you produce the most output. And usually the resource that is most important that is most limited is not money, but time. That’s usually the biggest constraint that we have. And so the key thing is to spend your time wisely. So as a manager, you want to think about how do I allocate my time to maximize the team’s output? If it means doing the work myself, I’ll do it myself. If it means delegating, I’ll delegate it think about like Michael Jordan taking the game winning shot, right? I mean, he always wants the ball in his hands when there’s 15 seconds left in the game, even though everyone’s guarding him because it’s a very high leverage situation for him to win. And so if you’re in that sort of, like the game is winding down, it’s a do or die moment the shot clock is winding down, the buzzer is about to go off, you got to make sure the ball is in the hands of the best person to take that shot, whether it’s a manager or the CEO or something like that.

Aydin Mirzaee (  50:10

Okay, and so you can see, you know, with the prior conversation, on the one hand, there’s this concept of like, delegate and make sure that you’re not doing all of the work. And what I love about like, the contrast here is, you know, David also says that, like, if everything is delegated, and everything goes down in the loop, then you’re going to have, you know, the people who are least qualified, doing all the most important work. And so this is where it gets really complicated, right? It’s all about the right size wave, you have to figure out what things can be delegated and should be delegated and figuring out things that push people just past their zone of discomfort, but maybe not too far where they might drown. All this to say is that this is what makes this stuff really, really challenging. You want it to be slightly past people’s zone of discomfort, but also not everything needs to be delegated. And going back to what Manuela was mentioning, about, you know, Liz, is that, yes, it’s true that, you know, maybe her manager didn’t care if she was reading novels all day. But the point is that the manager is still responsible for the work, right? So ultimately, everything that gets produced from that team, like they’re ultimately responsible. So if you can delegate away to, you know, the insurance who just started yesterday, but you can guarantee that the work is the right work, then that’s great. But in practicality, that’s usually not the case, right? And so there’s just these varying levels. I just really liked the way that David posed that and it sounds contrarian, but I think all of these different stories actually say the same things. But they’re saying it from different lenses.

Manuela Barcenas (  51:47

It’s the pendulum of management. Right? That’s Are you have called it a couple times on the podcast, or the pendulum of delegation.

Aydin Mirzaee (  51:54

Yeah, the pendulum of management. You know, I love this concept. And it’s just so funny, because the first question we ask everybody on the show, is, you know, what was your biggest mistake? And it’s very funny. It’s actually a handful of things, maybe five to 10 things that, you know, people often mentioned. And it’s usually a variation or different wording of the same sort of error. But usually, it’s something like, Well, I thought I was their manager, and I was micromanaging everything. And then I realized I was micromanaging. So I gave them more free rein. And then I realized that I can’t just let my hands off the wheel. And so then I went, and then you just go back and forth until you find out that actually I need to be it needs to be specific for each and every person on the team. And unfortunately, this is stuff that you can’t just read it in a textbook, you just have to experience it and make those mistakes.

Manuela Barcenas (  52:44

Yeah. And I think that as we’ve learned from all our guests, it’s something that you need to continuously work on, right? Like you’re never done learning about management, or learning how to be a good manager. And then like, you start managing and new teammates, things change in the company, I think you just need to have this mindset of continuous learning. And that’s why I love this podcast so much. Because we get to listen from these amazing people every single week.

Alexandra Sunderland (  53:09

Yeah, I’ve learned so much listening to it and save. Like, I feel like I’ve been 20 different flavors of manager over my course of managing teams, because the needs change based on the company size, what problems we’re dealing with the people, you have the structure, it’s, it’s always changing, you’re never done learning about management.

Aydin Mirzaee (  53:28

Yeah. Which is why we’re never done producing this podcast like 150 episodes, and we’re still learning while still producing. And hopefully, we will have continued to have hundreds more. And again, like my favorite thing, and hopefully, you know, the audience, everybody the listeners, thank you all for for being such supporters of the show. What I will say hopefully, what Supermanagers is also, you know, very useful for is, you know, figure out the episodes that really make a change for you, and maybe re listen to them. Because again, when you re listen to those episodes, the same exact episode, different moments in your management career, you’ll get different learnings. And you know, I think the other thing that we do a lot that fellow is, we do share the episodes, and we do talk about them. So it’s very interesting. Listen to the same episodes, everybody’s going to learn different things from the exact same episode. So it’s very interesting to have everybody listen, but then also comment, and learn from each other’s learnings and examples to really let those lessons sink in.

Manuela Barcenas (  54:30

And we’ve seen that in the Supermanagers, Slack workspace as well right in the community that we have some people share learnings from the episodes that I hadn’t really picked on or thought about. So obviously, this is a quick shout out to those members of the Supermanagers community. And if you’re not one, you can still become a part of it. So you’re invited and you’re listening to this episode. And yeah, I just wanted to say these have been three incredible years like this is a great celebration of the podcast and we’re still saying thankful for everyone who’s listening at the moment and hope you continue to support the podcast.

Alexandra Sunderland (  55:04

So Aiden, I’m curious what tips tricks and words of wisdom? Would you leave the audience?

Aydin Mirzaee (  55:11

That’s so funny. Yeah, great question. What I would say is I’m gonna go back to Episode I forget what number from John faciliate at MailChimp. But one of the things that was very odd when I heard him say it was he writes down his mistakes every single night, he literally has a pen and paper by his bed. And he writes down mistakes that he made that day, he just jots them now in bullet form. And it was so refreshing. And the Meanwhile, thanks for sending that episode 141. The, you know, what I really liked about that is, it’s just like this iterative process. But unless you acknowledge what things were mistakes for yourself, you can’t actually get better. And again, my biggest takeaway from doing this 150 episodes, Ian, is those that are actually the best in the world at what they do. They practice in the same way that Michael Jordan practices to practice to play basketball, it’s like, you pick something, you focus on it, you write down your mistakes, you journal about it, because like, that’s what excellence takes. And it’s not a sort of thing that you can just passively just hope that you’ll learn. I mean, you’ll get better. But if you want to be a world class manager, you have to treat it like a sport. And so those are my words of wisdom for today, after 150 episodes, and so, thank you, everybody, for listening. Hopefully you enjoyed this episode. If you’d like to hear these sort of in between episodes, you know, let us know and maybe this is a thing that we’ll do more often. But thank you so much for your support 150 episodes and, and hopefully many hundreds more from here.

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