A few days ago I took part in an experience that is rather rare in most workplaces. I was invited to shadow Amitai, the CTO, and co-owner of Gizra, for a full day, in order to understand how things work from his perspective.
My impressions of this day are varied, but most importantly I understood things that I would not have learned if not going through this experience. In the end, I feel that I had one of the more interesting experiences and lessons a workplace can offer its employees. It didn’t only enhance me professionally but also opened my mind on how to approach daily tasks.
Throughout, Amitai took the time to explain his thoughts and actions, to make his line of thought clear. The idea of allowing employees to sit by and watch the day-to-day activities of the manager, to encourage employees to review and then conduct a genuine and honest conversation, and finally providing answers to difficult questions, are all indications of a real desire to improve, and create an open process with employees.
All types of feedback are accepted, so even Amitai can improve. In fact, one of the special things for me in this experience is that even writing the negative feedback publicly is encouraged.
Managers Do Not Know Everything
The first task I got to observe, was to prepare the technical description and price estimate for a badly defined RFP. We could have easily been discouraged, and run around in circles answering the technical questions and trying to estimate the time and effort. The beautiful thing I saw was the self-trust Amitai showed. He knew there was a better way to provide a fixed price offer based on very little information, and with some effort, he figured it out.
Trusting your abilities isn’t less important than knowledge. It makes sure you don’t give up and reminds you to follow your gut feeling in pursuit of trying to do better.
Articulate the Problem
I realized how important it is to invest effort early on in understanding a task before it is to performed. It helps take on in advance problems that might show up later in the task. And knowing when and how to ask is vital.
To minimize disruptions, it is important to come prepared with a precise and clearly formulated question. The answer to your question should ideally be binary. Something like “yes, you are in the right direction” or “No, because this and that”. If the answer isn’t one of these possibilities, you probably did not go over the task properly. Remember, “Managers do not know everything”.
How I Feel Today
After shadowing, we are requested to prepare a report. And possibly a blog post.
Using written words to describe my thoughts is definitely out of my comfort zone. In fact, I feel that the pictures I took and scattered in the post may better reflect what I’m trying to convey. However, having to do this forces me to go through a process that I feel contributed a lot to the way I look at things, here’s an example:
One of the turning points I had in Gizra was when my role changed from developer to a QA specialist.
I asked Amitai, “What do I need to do in order to succeed in this role?", and his response was “you should be excellent.”
That was a horrible answer. It seemed to me like he was actually saying: “this is the position, good luck and bye!”
While I still hold my criticism about how that question was answered, I must admit that after this experience I understand that he actually meant what it said. That is, no matter what task you are given, truly try to be excellent.
What My Friends Think of It
A couple of days after this experience, I met some of my friends and one of them asked me what’s new at my workplace.
I shared with them what I’ve been through and I noticed that all of them were hypnotized. It was completely puzzling for them - how could it be that I got to sit with one of the company owners, and was asked to write criticism about him. And not only was it accepted by him, but he actually encouraged me and guided me to write a post about it.
The friend who asked the most questions is an owner of a business in the fashion industry in Israel and has a few shops around the globe. She was amazed by this process, and immediately told me she is going to embrace this idea and start doing it at her business. I was so happy that I was able to share my experience and even provide inspiration to people regardless of their field of expertise.