Learn something new

I once had a boss — or I should say I thrice had a boss, but telling the story of how I came to report to the same person in three different companies would make for a long tangent — and that boss had not worked in a technical capacity for a long time. Yet, as the VP of a highly-technical support team, he needed to hold his own with customers during occasionally heated conversations, as well as make staffing and other decisions where technical talent mattered.

What he did to bridge the gap was simple. He dropped in from time to time, with me and I expect a few others, and asked questions. Can you tell me about relational databases? Why is record-level locking important? What ┬ácan go wrong with mirroring? He did not want to know the details, he certainly did not want to write code, but he wanted to understand the issues at a business level and be able to hold his own with customers. And he would also ask, “Whom would you trust to handle a problem about X?” He never asked about problem employees, but he was able to quickly ascertain who knew their stuff and who did not.

It takes a certain amount of courage to admit that we don’t know. But what a good way to learn, and to demonstrate trust and grace.

(Hi Ken!)

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