Your experience matters

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Many believe that we are all the sum of our experiences, and while I don’t subscribe to that philosophy, it’s certainly true that experience plays a major part in how we approach things. This can be good, and it can be bad.

And that statement leads me to the topic of discussion here: the role of experience, especially in today’s very young tech culture, is surprisingly underrated.  What I see instead is inexperienced managers wasting a tremendous amount of time on tasks that should be straightforward, simply because they’ve never tackled them before.

The mark of a good manager is simplicity in action. Straightforward and decisive. That trait, however, is learned over time. It takes experience. Just as a pro athlete “makes it look easy” after having had quite a lot of practice, a good manager “makes it look easy” through a lot of experience. This doesn’t negate the great capabilities of a junior manager: it simply highlights the fact that junior managers often need quite a bit mentoring, which I don’t see much of going on at all, especially in technology. And “executive coaches” do not fill that gap. I’ve found they sometimes can matters worse.

At one point many years ago, it occurred to me that every decision I was making had, in the background, sometimes hundreds of little lessons that I had learned.  While this seems like an obvious statement, it struck me that my decision-making process was the result of many mistakes and successes.  I had learned from them.  I would look at something and simply decide, based on my experience. I could look at a product feature and simply say “that won’t work”.  I could look at a marketing campaign and suggest a change that would make a difference. I was sometimes suprised that this was deemed by some (perhaps with fragile egos), as some sort of condemnation of their work.  It wasn’t.  It was because I had, in the past, done what they were doing and had failed.

A culture of second guessing and waffling can be very toxic. Companies are built on decisions.

Like many executives, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But that’s the point — I’ve made those mistakes and I don’t intend to repeat them.  Others you work with may not have had the benefit of learning.

And because of that experience factor, I find that a lot of people don’t focus on the core, most important things in the business.  They get sidetracked.

So the message here is to make mistakes.  Make lots of them. Learn fast. And then really use that knowledge. And respect those that have been there, and done it, and learned.

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