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How to earn respect & gain clout within the team

Ronald Chen August 8th 2022

We are smart people. Who needs respect & clout when we have ✨pure logic✨ on our side? If we present our argument well, surely the team will understand the merits of my proposal.

This used to be me and from experience this is exactly how to get ignored & sidelined. What I didn't know at the time was, I lacked sufficient respect & clout to get people to listen to my ideas. It also didn't help that my proposals sucked. They didn't solve problems people suffered.

Why respect & clout matters

We are human (allegedly) and we don't have all the time in the world to fully understand all the details of a proposal. This is why we take shortcuts such as relying on the amount of respect & clout we have for the speaker. Is this unsound? Yes. Is this dangerous? Some times. But at last this is the human condition and we might as well maximize our ability to influence others.

But isn't gaining respect & clout just playing politics? It depends, but generally no. Gaining enough respect & clout in order to maximize your utility to the team is a good thing. However, spending excessive amount of time to gain unnecessary amount of respect & clout in order to execute toxic/self-serving proposals is clearly bad. It is playing politics only when one gains respect & clout by taking others down by a notch. Elevate yourself along with others to steer clear of politics.

Solve problems plaguing the team

The fastest way to gain respect & clout is to solve problems the team already understands and suffer with. This is where your fresh perspective is helpful. You may know easy solutions to existing problems already.

How does one learn about problems the team suffers? One way is to simply ask, but that can be hit or miss. The most reliable way I found to find problems is to suffer them yourself. Do everything exactly the team does now. Do not attempt to "do it your way", even if you know its better, faster or whatever. Suffering with the team not only allows to really understand the problem, it also earns you some respect & clout. Teams that suffer together, something something inspirational. It shows the team you understand their suffering and are more willing to listen to solutions.

Build momentum with small problems

Larger problems require more respect & clout, so start small.

For example, we had a new hire and noticed we were using nvm and was suffering the problem of having to juggle Node.js version between projects. As they were coming from Ruby, they knew of rvm vs rbenv. rbenv automatically uses the correct Ruby version with a committed file. They further speculated there must be an equivalent tool for Node.js, and yes there was, nodenv! We immediately saw the value of nodenv as we were suffering with nvm already. nodenv was then immediately rolled out to the entire team. The new hire fixed a small problem on their very first day. This gained them respect & clout.

As with any large software project, there are many common problems the team suffer. Here are some ideas to snoop around with to see if they are problems your team has:

  • How long does it take setup a new developer machine?
  • How long does it take to go from ideation to it being in production?
  • Is there pointless release ceremony that can be automated or eliminated?
  • Can the build pipeline be sped up?
  • How long does it take for a merged pull request to be live in production?
  • How long does it take to setup a production like environment from scratch?
  • What are the systems the team is most afraid of touching?
  • What documentation, diagrams or unit tests are missing/out of date?
  • How many places does one need to touch to rename a single thing?
  • What processes require too many people?
  • Can we enable people to self-serve to reduce the hand offs?
  • Are there systems that cry wolf?
  • Is there a production dashboard?
  • Are there regularly required reports that can be schedule to be automatically generated instead of relying on somebody to ask?
  • Does the business, product, development and operation have a complementary or conflicting set of metrics?

As one solves more and larger problems, one will get to the point where they have enough respect & clout solve the largest problems the team faces. Often these problems are ones the team doesn't even understand. This requires educating the team on the problem and if one has enough respect & clout, the team is willing to listen to large proposals to solve this new problem.

Do you want to gain respect & clout by solving problems the team has? You're in luck, Battlefy is hiring.

2022

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