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Asking a Taboo Question

Published 6/15/2022

In today's episode, I give you one question that is considered taboo (for some unknown reason) often in the workplace: What Do You Want? Amazingly, this diverse question is at the root of some of the most important conversations you'll have in your career. You are, after all, a human working with other humans - each with their own unique desires.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Questions are at the core of a lot of our work. If you are an engineering manager, if you are a senior engineer, a lead engineer, it's especially true for you. But even if you are a junior engineer, I encourage you to incorporate thoughtful questions as a core practice. If you are asking questions already, it's very likely that you can be asking more questions. In fact, there are very few opportunities to grow that don't start with good questions, opportunities to learn on your current team, opportunities to hear and digest information that you otherwise wouldn't have had. And information is the currency. It is the currency that we're seeking in our roles and our jobs every day. I'd like to give you one really important question that is often left out. It's left to the side is ignored in today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrelly listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to updriven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. Amazingly, when other people start to find these things, so do you. When your teammates begin to have clarity, well, you also will begin to have clarity. When they begin to seek their purpose and actually work towards, you know, accomplishing things that align with their purpose. That is a signal. It very often is this kind of contagious thing. Perspective when your other teammates are providing perspectives, you are getting perspective. So all of these things tend to be something that we do together. Our work as engineers is social. We need each other. We need input from other people to get better. And we need to be able to understand the motivations, the strengths, the weaknesses, the path of our co-workers. Again, this becomes even more true if your responsibility is to grow and nurture the team. And I'll give you a little hint. Junior engineers, the more you think about the team and the health of the team, the more you'll grow in your career. That doesn't mean necessarily that you have to do that today, but the more you can think about that as the big picture, the better off you'll be. And so the simple question that is often left out of conversations in our career is what do you want? What do you want? But notice that it's not just this question alone, it's not just asking somebody, what do you want? Instead think about this as a category of questions. What do you prefer to happen? What do you believe should happen in the best case scenario? What would you like to be true about our team, about your day to day? Is there any tool that you wish you had that you don't? These are all questions that come back to what do you want? Now what do you want can be framed in the short term? What would you like to be true this week, for example? Or it can be framed in the long term. What do you want out of your career or out of the role that you currently have? What do you want for the next performance review? What do you want the result of that to be? So this category of question is very flexible, it's broad, but here's why it's so important and why it's often left out. It's often left out that start there because we believe, for some reason, intuitively, that what we want is not necessarily an important business discussion. We prefer our tastes, our appreciations, opinions, all of these things. We're internally, we believe that we're supposed to suppress those. But the truth is that often what we want and what's good for us, if we are thinking about it at a slow pace, at a methodical pace, if we're thinking about what we want, then we're actually defining goals in a way. And if we're not defining goals, then we end up kind of working in a reactive manner. We're not motivated. Interestingly, what we want and motivation are deeply connected to each other. And motivation is a critical factor in finding something that actually satisfies you, that actually gives you that purpose that we were talking about. And actually clarifies the work that you want to do in your career. If you have motivation, you are provided some level of clarity that you wouldn't have had without the motivation. So asking this question of other people and of yourself, right? Ask yourself this question so that you can share it, let's say, with your manager, or you can provide some kind of rationale for how you can consolidate the things that you want with what you're working towards, your business goals or imperatives, that your team is seeking, for example. What do you want? Ask this question of yourself. Maybe make this a journaling exercise that you revisit on a regular basis. What do I want out of this day? What do I want out of this week? Now something to keep in mind. This is not a selfish prospect. What do you want doesn't have to be a selfish question because it may be that what you want isn't just good for you. We don't need to think about our wants as taking away from other people. Instead we can think about our wants as serving us so that we can turn around and be kind of our whole selves to serve other people. Or once again, to fulfill that deeper sense of purpose, this gives us that drive, that motivation, that clarity, and the perspective. So ask this question of yourself more often, ask it of others more often in a work setting, a professional setting. You don't need to squelch this part of you. You don't need to reduce your preferences or opinions. And if you're being asked to do those things, be very careful, be very careful because your motivation will be impacted by whether or not you can seek the things that you want. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode. If you enjoyed today's episode, I encourage you to subscribe and web of your podcasting up you're currently using. And also join the Developer Tea discord community. This is the kind of discussion that we have all the time in that community. And I would love for you to come and ask questions, poke holes, and things that I've said on this podcast and get to know other engineers who are looking to improve in their careers and in their lives. One way you can help this podcast. We didn't have a sponsor today. So in lieu of that, I'm going to ask you to spend a minute or two if you've never left a review for this podcast or even any podcast. It's very easy to do. Go and leave a review in iTunes. This is such an incredible way to help the show because it has kind of a cascading effect. And it only takes you a few minutes, but it may have a major lasting impact on this show. So thank you so much for those of you who have already done that. I encourage you if you've never done that before, go and leave that review. It's going to help me steer the show to be better. It's really a feedback loop there. But then also, it helps other engineers decide to listen to Developer Tea. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.