July 9, 2020

Techie Leadership – Building Trust

Building Trust

Techie Leadership podcast host Andrei Crudu interviews Diana Montalion about building trust

Links:

In this episode you can hear Diana and Andrei talk about partnering with people who are good at covering your blind spots, the process of structuring change and the essential quality called trust.

Some value points you can expect:

  • Information is ever present and always interacting
  • Yesterday’s peak achievements are today’s default skill requirements
  • Your technology officer isn’t all knowing about technology
  • Partnering with people that compensate your blind spots
  • The process of structuring change


Transcript:

Andrei Crudu (00:00):
You are listening to the techie leadership show with Bogdan and Andrei. Hello and welcome to the techie leadership show. Today with me, I have Diana Montalion. She's a passionate insatiably curious web technologist with a strong background in enterprise strategy, solution architecture, dynamic team leadership, software engineering, coding, and creating the ecosystems that grow innovation. Diana is a great problem solver, trusted to deliver a clear strategy and quality development process, building lasting and authentic relationships. Hi Diana, how are you?

Diana Montalion (00:43):
Very well, thank you. I'm glad you ended on the word relationships because that's really the key, right? Whether we're talking about the code or the people where that is the key.

Andrei Crudu (00:53):
It's so important. And Diana, do you want to add anything else about yourself?

Diana Montalion (00:58):
I think just because I find it interesting, my focus has predominantly been in content systems and, you know, enterprise ways of sharing communication. It's a very exciting field right now because it used to be, you had a magazine and then you had a website and, or you had a website that showed product information, but now information is everywhere. People interact with it everywhere. And so it requires a completely different approach to every layer of technology and, you know, the way the sociotechnical systems, the systems themselves, the skill set I needed when I started has, it's kind of crazy now. Well, how much, how much, how many different tools right. We need to become aware of. And so it's a very exciting time. It's very exciting time in that particular field.

Andrei Crudu (01:54):
And before we had the problem of not enough content and now it's too much content and finding the really relevant one and that provides value. So like looking for a needle in a haystack,

Diana Montalion (02:06):
It is, and it's very contextual, right? So what's valuable to me when I am walking down the street, looking at my phone is not the same thing as when I'm sitting at my desktop looking for information, the context I'm in. So one of the examples I use is restaurants. For example, generally, if I'm sitting at my computer, I'm probably looking at the menu, but if I'm on my phone outside, I'm probably looking for an address, right? So the – and there's just so many examples now of how context changes the way that you're interacting with people. And then also that people are interacting back with you and in content, which makes content itself, right? So there's just, the whole thing has become … to mind it's become about not just the value, but also to who and where, how, and when, and how do we take these variations and still make systems that you can actually build and architect.

Andrei Crudu (03:16):
There's a lot of work and people that make technology easier and easy to grasp and understand — for me, they do God's work because sometimes I've struggled with applications and I built some of them, so…

Diana Montalion (03:36):
It's the same. I feel you, it's the same for me where, I can think about, you know, how something works, or I can think about the code, but I still don't know how to use a lot of the interactive communication software tends to freak clients out because I'm like, well, I don't know, where's the button for this? I don't… And they're like, I'm paying you to do technology. I'm like, I don't do hardware or whatever this is like, I don't, I don't know!

Diana Montalion (04:02):
And I did a long time ago, I was kind of dragged to go, to watch user testing. We had spent quite a bit of time redesigning a homepage, a landing space where, you know, millions and millions of users a day, like a very high traffic area. And we really thought we understood it. And then I watched users interact with our new thing. And it was like, why are you looking at that!? Why are you clicking on that!? And they realize that as a technologist, I have no clue at all, what users need. I need to partner with people who do that work and collect that information and make it actionable for me, because I think that I'm empathetic and I am, but I'm ensconced in the tech. Right? And I'm really always thinking about that.

Andrei Crudu (05:03):
Too close to it.

Diana Montalion (05:03):
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I partner with smarter people than me to help make sure that I'm also knowing how to build things that people can actually effectively do what they need to do with it. Right? As opposed to it being interesting. Oh, this is cool. You can do this! “But, I don't _want_ to do that.”

Andrei Crudu (05:23):
And that's, that's really important. And since we're starting with the stories, let's jump in and say like, what is the biggest leaderships success story that you witnessed personally?

Diana Montalion (05:35):
So, what I like about the success story, right? That I would prioritize to say, is that it's also become my fundamental approach. In other words, I'm going to give you an example. But the biggest thing is that as I've changed the fundamental patterns of how I approach initiatives, how I think about things, it's now scaling out in other situations. And the specifics is that I started beginning an enterprise level systems transformation, and it was really necessary, right? Fundamentally, it was going to be relatively expensive and not particularly sexy — sort of like replacing the roof on your house, right? It's, you know, it's like, it needs to be done. You have to do it. But also it was very critical. It was business critical. And when we started, there were, you know, two of us — technology and people — two of us, and nobody in the organization agreed that this needed to get done.

Diana Montalion (06:55):
It was a world of, “No.” It was “no” everywhere. It was, “you can have my tools when you pull them out of my cold, dead hands.” “No,” like, “no.” And one of the, one of the big “no’s” was not believing that it was in fact both timely and necessary. And that's in part because people didn't necessarily believe it. And it's part because they didn't want to, right? They had other priorities and no one was doing anything wrong. It just was not there. And so about a year later, when I sat down with the CEO and we had gone through this, you know, a process of discovery and articulation and architecture. He says to me, “I know this is the most important thing we need to do because I've heard it in every single meeting that I've been in. So,” you know, “talk to me about how we do this…”.

Diana Montalion (07:57):
And the reason that happened wasn't because, you know, politicking and influencing and those kinds of things — although those are helpful tools for sure — but it was because we built trust. And we worked together and I was able to build a team that could bring expertise together. We did hands-on workshops with the users of the new system to have them be giving us feedback about, “yes, I think this choice will work for us,” or “this is what we're going to need.” We made it an engaging and iterative, but structured strategic process. Which is what I think architecture actually is. That change, the process of structuring the change. And so, people became convinced. And we — I personally, too — learned how to develop a lot of tools in my portfolio for helping people who have very different points of view of a system to come to similar understandings, but using either different language or ubiquitous language.

Diana Montalion (09:18):
Also, I learned to partner with people who I think that I'm very good at speaking to nontechnical people until I hear myself back or read back something I wrote. And then I'm like, no, but I'm still tie too much tech. So I learned to partner with people that, um, that helped me and are good in the places that I'm, I'm not helping the blind spots and also to, um, to bring the, the solutioning and the engineering process in the form of people, right. To create space for, for them to be building the arguments for why this is how we'll do this. Um, and so the team is, you know, it was quite a bit ago and the team is no longer together, but we still keep in touch regularly. And, and it's been a very lasting type of trust building, um, experience. And I, I feel like it was incredibly sound and trustworthy work and that that's really the most.

Andrei Crudu (10:24):
Yeah. And that's what tends to happen. Issue create lots of trust in a team and you work together really well. Then you keep in touch. Even if people go to other projects or go to other companies, you create the bond of friendship that it's not just, we were teammates. You become friends from my point of view, that's ideal to have, you know, you're in a team.

Diana Montalion (10:47):
Yeah. So when that's something, cause I know you'll ask me, we'll, uh, we'll come back to this later because that is, to me, that's the, um, that's the, I would argue it's the only essential quality is, is trust. And I, if you want to have systems and technology that you can rely on to do what you need to do, then you need to build trust in the process of creating that technology. They go together, they're inextricably linked. And so I think that the building and cultivating of trust is it's essential to having good outcome. I mean you that if you want to get a good return investment on your technology,

Andrei Crudu (11:27):
That's for sure. And Deanna, I love your definition for architecture is the first time I hear this, this definition eight, the process of structuring change. It's like, awesome. I like it.

Diana Montalion (11:41):
Thank you. I, I appreciate it because of course I do get regular pushback that, um, went no it's Kubernetes. It's like it's, it's configuration of, of the inter of interactive tools and thinking, and it is that too. That's not. And I think there's, there's, we need different types of architects bringing different types of synergy. I also feel very strongly personally, that architect is not in charge of engineers. I generally don't work with engineers who need me to tell them how to do their job. Also, if I've not coded in the last 15 minutes, I actually am no longer the expert on that particular technology. And so for me, it's a partnership. Um, you know, it's a part, it it's a partnership in, I focus on how things hang together. I create creating conceptual integrity, how the structure is, how the parts go together. Are we maintaining good patterns when we're making these decisions? Um, but also that's aligned with the people that have the up to the minute technological understanding of the tools that we will use to accomplish our aims. And that, for me, architecture, for me as an architect, I, I feel like I, I break trust when I then go in and presume that I then am going to somehow

Andrei Crudu (13:10):
Doesn't know how to do it. Manage or tell people. Yeah. Yeah. Well, you sound like the dream architect. [inaudible] send you one and I'm really curious. How do you make the different stakeholders even like the end users, especially when you have to work with them to come to the same points of understanding, finding them?

Diana Montalion (13:42):
Yeah. So first is, um, I, don't always, because there's a lot of, I mean, sometimes you can't, right? I mean that's, and that's part of it too, right. Is so some of it is, um, having good people in my life that can support me when I'm sad and disappointed because sad and disappointed as part of the process. Right. Just, um, and being aware that I, that I don't actually know for sure. Like, I think I'm sure, but that, in fact, I'm, I'm always learning too helps me to take in what other people are saying a little bit easier. Um, you know, when earlier in my career I was a little more opinionated than I am now, and that's fine that, you know, a little swagger is good.

Andrei Crudu (14:35):
Yeah. We love,

Diana Montalion (14:37):
I mean, part that I love about tech culture. Like I love working in this industry because we love our opinions and we'll go till three in the morning debating this tool versus that tool as if it really matters in the context of the universe. But, you know, but I, I love that part. Um, it's not solutioning, like it's not actually solving, but yeah. Right, right. Which is I just so close to my heart. Um, but the fundamental answer to your question, and I've still, I'm actually doing a workshop on it, um, pretty soon. And I'm still working out the language to, um, make this more, um, more actionable, valuable for people to take on. But for me, the so argumentation, which is rhetoric or a part of rhetoric, right, is very old, right? This is Greek education process, but it is the process of informal logic.

Diana Montalion (15:42):
So we use formal logic and math a lot in our work. And informal logic is based on, on inference, but we still have to be using instead of using code, we're using words, but we're using words to build a logical structure that has cohesion that is, is, is sound and is convincing. And so I've focused a lot on developing that skill as strongly as technical skills or people skills and argumentation is basically the science of, um, how to come to collective decisions. When you don't know when circumstances are uncertain and that's, you don't need an architect. If you don't already know what to do, right. That every time we're making a recommendation, it's a guess, it's always a guess. You don't know. Also circumstances can change. And it's technology in, in my world. And in general, it's too complicated for me to be able to, to make sound recommendations based on my own expertise.

Diana Montalion (16:53):
Right. I don't, I, I need other people's expertise to weave together to be able to come to some sort of something that's gonna work. Right. And so, because of that, more and more I structure, and the way I view leadership is structuring this, this ability to safely and effectively do collective reasoning where we get together and say, okay, this is what we think. This is what we think is going to work here or could, could work here. And these are the reasons why we think that's so, and then our facts, right? Do, are we missing something? Is there a leap of logic we made right off a cliff gone somewhere else or not. And then we also working with other people who, when they see it from a different point of view or when they disagree, there's usually something valuable in that, that, um, we might say, for example, we think that the optimal tool is a and somebody else might say that we think the optimal tool is B and we're solving the same problem.

Diana Montalion (18:02):
We just disagree about the Val, how to evaluate a particular tool. And that's really fruitful too, because then you provide both points of view, right? So when people make decisions, they make, they know what the trade offs are, right? So, so that argumentation and developing our ability to do sound reasoning. I also am affirm, I live by Conway's law. That the way the socio-technical process will be the, the outcome, you look at the code and you know exactly how an organization has structured the communication. Like you don't even need to know the organization. And so, so my, my leverage point is that if you want to have conceptual integrity in your systems, which Brooke says is the most important thing, having it hangs together, it, and it's scalable and it's emergent and all those good words that we want to have, then you have to be able to make architectural decisions in a emergent, structured, scalable way and not in a linear kind of black and white way.

Andrei Crudu (19:12):
Exactly. And I found, I also like studied a little argumentation toric and how it works. I find it helped me a lot in my career and also in working and driving the, my ideas and communicating them better. And also understanding like fallacies in my own way of thinking logical fallacies, and also logical fallacies and what my coworkers were telling me and having those tools to discuss them and get to the core of it. So we could actually do something meaningful and drive the project forward. If not, it's just, it's a lot of talk with no results.

Diana Montalion (19:51):
Yeah. He's a noise versus signal. Right. And I say, exactly, it's so exactly that, you know, it would be great. This would be a great solution if we were good at it, but we're not, we're terrible at it. Like we are, I logical fallacy all the, all the time and I can't catch it in myself. Also. I think one of the things they say about these, do you know, the toy, it's the picture of it, um, uh, is more meaningful than my description, but it's a little, imagine a windup toy. That's a monkey when you wind it up at things symbols. Right. You know that, right. So that's what I say when I'm in a situation and there's fallacious thinking, but I can't, I don't know what it is. Like, there's something wrong, but it's the monkey, symbols thing is going inside of me. And it's, it's my, I think my hardest work in any type of leadership that I'm trying to provide is learning to translate that in myself and finding like, what, why, why is that happening? Like what is actually what's off here and, and developing the ability to translate that into something that can, that can help alleviate it. It's very hard because I don't know.

Andrei Crudu (21:10):
And since we're talking about having warning signals, I'm really curious what would be the biggest leadership of failure you had the unfortunate experience of witnessing.

Diana Montalion (21:20):
Yeah. And it is the witnessing, that's the, that's the hard part, right. So I want to answer on two levels. Um, one from a pattern level that every failure that I have experienced, I think is related to, to betrayal of some sort like betrayal of trust of the value of collaboration. Um, the idea that many minds are suited to strengthen the reasoning, that, that argument you can never do argumentation. If someone's in the room saying, I don't care what you say, I don't care what you say. I'm just going to make a decision. Then you have to do a different type of engagement, but reasoning isn't it. But I also mean straight outlying and Oregon is the, the, the rules of power tend to, um, make duplicity and things like that. Um, just normal operating procedure. And, and I, I'm neither here nor there about that.

Diana Montalion (22:35):
Right. We're not in a, yeah. We're not in a discussion about the rules of benefits of capitalism or enterprise. But what I would say from a technological point of view is that that though the lack of integrity in the people's system will always lead to failure in the technology system, absolute lack of integrity. And the people system will always be a lack of integrity in the specific though. Um, it's interesting because the biggest fail followed the biggest success they were the same. So while, while we were moving from no to, yes, in, in the, the initiative, there was a simultaneous initiative that was, um, there was a lot of noise and it was really floundering and it was, it was way over budget. It was a very leaky boat and we were sort of demonstrating a different way of rowing together. Right. Um, and yeah,

Diana Montalion (23:46):
And well, also it, you know, the organization and it came right down to, it is sort of the organization then sort of had to make a decision about how to react to this very expensive, very chaotic situation, um, versus the way that we were starting to emerge, um, to emerge the approach. And one of the things about systems that's universally true is that we usually know where the problem is, but when we go to solve it, we usually do the exact wrong thing. And right. And this is for exemplified for us in the, the, the, um, the mythical man month. Right. That we, we throw more people on it. We add more project managers. So you end up having three developers and four project managers because of that, we'll fix that. We'll fix it. Um, right. And so, and so, um, and so the, these things were sort of happening simultaneously and influencing the way the organization as a whole was going to relate to its technology and where they started to land is more control, uh, seeing teams as foreman and factory workers implementing a strategy, sort of made by leadership. Um, uh, uh, there was, uh, there was an unfortunately too, and trying to save money. There was, um, there was going to be some redundancies coming, but those redundancies were subject matter experts that were really essential, but there wasn't a valuation of expertise. There was a valuation of a cost and efficiency. The thinking that if we run this like a like Toyota, then we'll get everything back into, into place. Which of course is assumption, right? The moment.

Andrei Crudu (25:42):
Yeah, it does work. It feels every time, at least in the tech field, it feels everyday.

Diana Montalion (25:49):
And in fairness, I do empathize with how that ends up happening, right? Like, um, it, I think of it. We think of, we, it's the same thing we do in life, right? If you have a child that's being defined or no things are being defined and things go to, you tend to double down on your parent, right. But adult working professionals, aren't children, and it doesn't work with, I don't know about other people's kids, but it didn't work with mine.

Andrei Crudu (26:19):
Well, the same is true with wine. And she's like six year old. And what I gave for freedom, she eats when she wants, goes to the fridge takes out and she hasn't like any issues, like knows exactly what to eat, to take care of her. The more freedom I gave her, the more she surprised me. So I'm really grateful for it.

Diana Montalion (26:38):
Yeah. And this is, this is when I, when I think about us as a, of people developing our, our expertise that we need to have structure because you know, the idea you can't architect by democracy. Like, you know, everybody gets a vote and we'll all make decisions together. You know, systems, all systems in the natural world have hierarchy, but we have seem to conflate hierarchy that allows systems to thrive with hierarchy that allows potentially a person to serve to drive or, um, or organizations. And that, that, that challenge that conflation the, the constant stress between linear thinking and systems thinking is, um, is so hard to, to maintain balance with that. It's so hard to, and I think mostly because there's not a lot of tolerance for uncertainty, which makes me laugh. Sardonically because uncertainty is all there ever is. There is no certainty. This is where you try and say this, well, how long will this take you?

Diana Montalion (27:53):
You want the real answer? I don't know. As I'm pushing it to production, I can tell you how long it takes me, but that before, but we can make, we can, we can work. We need these kinds of information. So we can work together to help set expectations and structure things. And, um, and, you know, meet time constraints. Cause the world is constraints, right? Meet constraints, balance constraints. Um, we, we need to do that. It builds trust to do that, but at the same time, what we can trust only is uncertainty. That's what we can trust for sure. And so when you know, you try and minimize all of the reality of my favorite quotes ever was that agile was invented because reality refuses to bow down to power.

Andrei Crudu (28:52):
It's so true. Like trust is really important and it's the basis. And that's how we can build like an organizational structure or a leadership model. That from my point of view, be more natural because you, as a leader, have to pass the Baton and say, in this situation, you know, more, you be the leader and do it and it can not do it. If you don't trust that person to do the right things. And you basically, you give trust, especially if you're truly either to each and every member of your team and say, I know you're going to do the best work you're capable of and you're going to improve and I'm here to support you. And it's not, you're always driving aggrandizing yourself. I'm going to be the greatest I made this project work. No, we all made the

Diana Montalion (29:45):
That's my, yeah, my, my, my, my favorite thing that they say is that if the team succeeds the team succeeds, if the team fails, I fail. Right. But also there's little failures in terms of what you're saying, the way you think about it is who's going to be up at two o'clock in the morning, fixing this, if we're wrong. And if it's you, then I'm trying, you know, I'm going to place trust in you to do it. Not because I'm sure you're going to get it right. Cause you might not, but you're the one that's going to be up at two o'clock in the morning, fixing it. Cause you've got it wrong. Right. I'm not going to be your going to be in there for, you know, being able to own the space of, um, it's not, it's not just, it's not just sort of, it's not just the space of what we can do, but it's also the space of we're going to fix it. If we break it. If we, if we, if we are, um, if we're responsible for something, then we're the one that's going to be held accountable for it. Then the ability to effectively both do it and respond to mistakes, needs to also also be with that, with that person. Um, and I think that's a dance we do, right. Because right.

Diana Montalion (31:11):
Philosophy. Well, one of the things that I love about this conversation is I feel like we've touched on them. Like, so it's, it's been a very enjoyable cause just organically. It's, it's coming out that, um, you know, my leadership philosophy is my human philosophy, right? Is that generally speaking what I've found and maybe I've been incredibly lucky or, but that most of the people that I've worked with and interact with are constantly growing their work. Like they would dive into and learn if even if no one, even when no one's paying us, we still go bigger things out. Right. We kinda can't help ourselves. And so the being paid for it part often is potentially noisy and interfering more so than actually nourishing our ability to grow our work and our collective work. And so I see myself more as an orchestrator, or if you think of a team as, um, Apple trees, then, um, do we have, are we getting enough water? Are we getting enough nourishment or is there is the ecosystem tweaked as strongly as we can, um, to be able to encourage, um, you know, apples to really grow beautiful apples and the, um, the, the, I think

Andrei Crudu (32:40):
The biggest thing, and it's always kind of surprised me is that, um, there's a sense that, that the people need leaders. And it kind of makes me chuckle because if you're the leader and the people who are doing the things and implementing the things, if you go home, they'll probably keep doing and implementing the things. If they go home, you have no reason to be there. Right. So who, you know, who's serving who here, right? Yeah.

Diana Montalion (33:12):
In that situation. And I don't mean to say that leadership, isn't just a, a nourishing quality, right. That I have a very strong strategic mind and philosophical mind and logic mind. And I work very hard to develop those skills and they are not soft skills. Right. They are challenging skills to develop. And so I do think that I bear a tremendous amount of responsibility for the cultivation of very complex integration of the skillset. So it isn't just, and it's definitely not management. I'm actually the truth is I'm not interested really in managing, like, I don't, if I'm in a situation in which I need to care, whether or not you're at your desk doing your work, then it's not going to be fit because, you know, why do I know you're going to, you know,

Andrei Crudu (34:09):
Oh, you're already feeling as a leader. Yeah. Yeah. And sometimes people

Diana Montalion (34:14):
We'll need more support or need more like some, you know, in sometimes, sometimes you have to double down, but you know, again, back to the parenting theme, we sort of have recreated grade school in the, in the way that we think of how we organize people, but working professionals are adults. And generally what we need is structures in which we can be effective in doing what we do and grow and get stronger at doing what we do. Um, and we need to focus, develop our strengths, but also we need support for our weaknesses. Um, the idea that we can help people in their weak areas, I think is usually not a very sound idea in the sense that if we focus on our strengths, we can make them grow very quickly. If we focus on our weaknesses, we get a little bit better. And so instead, I like to think about how you partner people in good ways so that somebody is particularly strong in one way. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So that's, that's another part of it. As you building these dynamic relationships in which people are partnered in a way that the sum of the parts is greater. They, they, you know, you put two people together and you get three people's worth of work because their synergy in the way that they can, they can look at a problem together increases. I think that's more important than what I personally bring to, to it, although I'm also an expert too. So my, my input is important too, but yeah.

Andrei Crudu (35:45):
And your job as a leader is to bring the right people together. So they synergize and provide more value, then they could individually. And I found it always interesting because I've witnessed it in some companies you should treat your employees like children, they will behave like children. And basically your companies want to be a kindergarten and it's not fun to be a, in a professional setting and feel like, Oh my God, I'm, I'm in kindergarten here.

Diana Montalion (36:16):
Yeah. Yeah. The, the disrespect, and also in, I see this even when it's not explicit and I see this pretty consistently, um, so often, often now if I'm, if I'm going into a situation and predominantly thinking about the systems architecture, which is also the socio-technical architecture, what, what is often the case is that the type of people who will bring integrative leadership, which is what we're talking about, right. Orchestration systems thinking, collective reasoning, um, building stronger teams, but also thinking about the technology in terms of moving it from sort of a monolith and silos and hierarchy into something more flexible, right? Is that the culture will you'll end up having all of the people who think like that they'll be gone. Like they won't, they won't still be there. And the culture is self reinforced. And the people that think in the ways that are hindering, um, that kind of change that's necessary for the, for the tech to change are the ones who will have the strong voice.

Diana Montalion (37:33):
Right. And that's, again, I think nobody's fault, but it is the idea. So the idea that you can bring in one leader and sort of change everything is only true. If you're willing to do a massive amount of shakeup, you have to actually plant the seeds in a number of different areas so that you're growing the different type of leadership and the different type of voice that has, um, has influence and is able to set different structures, different ways of doing things. And so it's really hard because by the time an organization is sort of drowning and needs a change, um, they also unfortunately have lost the people already who could help them change, you know, and that, and you kind of don't see that happening sort of like going gray. Like it's not like you go gray in one day, you know? And then eventually you're like, wow, I'm really gray now.

Diana Montalion (38:32):
Um, and so I think, I think that recognizing that the leader changing leadership style, um, is always going to be a part of changing technology and that it's going to make organizations really uncomfortable because they're going to want more control. They're going to want to control that change. They're going to want to add more. I hear the word concrete a lot. They'd give us concrete answers, concrete a lot, a lot. I'm surprised it's not trending on Twitter. Um, and concrete has its place for sure. Right. But it's not, it's what you need to be the most careful when you think of a piece of property. And you're deciding where to put the house. Once you pour that concrete foundation, that's the house forever. So you want to be very careful, but you also are of course, going to pour concrete foundation, same when you're building a fence.

Diana Montalion (39:30):
And so I think that allowing space to come to that realization, that insight about where the house can go and making a decision and then building the house and iterating from there is, is essential. But for most people are looking for that upfront, show me all the answers so that as we go through the process, I don't have any questions and that it's never architecture is only questions. Right. It's every answer, there are more questions. Right. So, um, and I think that's leadership too, like leadership is the constant engagement with trying to come up with the best question to really eliminate the leverage point. Like the question that will help unlock, um, which is nice because when I was a kid not make me very popular that I said why to everything all the time. And now it's kind of nice to,

Andrei Crudu (40:30):
And the thing that I love the most, like when talking with about projects and estimates and has to be concrete, like we have to get this done in a year. So like maybe we can get it done in three months or six months. What should we do? Stretch it until the end of the year. So, and sometimes it's going to be a year and a half. We don't know we're going to find out what we'll strive for for the deadline, but it can be faster or slower.

Diana Montalion (40:56):
I love, I love that phrase too. I really pick up. It's like, that's kind of where I think of it as that, um, um, that about trust, right? Like, I don't know, but you can trust me to figure it out and you can trust us to figure it out. Like that's what we do. We're gonna figure it out. We, we don't actually need to be certain cause we can't be certain, but we can be sound in and he can, uh, take responsibility for when we get it wrong. Cause we will and adapt from there that there's a tremendous amount of strength and trusting that process more than a concrete, aspiring leaders. What would be your top three tips? Well, I think, um, we, I think again, we, as it's delightful that we've touched on them, but, um, but that, that you depend on people more than they depend on you.

Diana Montalion (41:56):
Um, and that your, your success comes directly and consistently from other people's abilities. Other people's expertise that every time we're successful at doing something, it comes because there are other technologists who have, um, spent a tremendous amount of time and often their personal time understanding how to code and go for example, right. They can move towards microservices are going to do co no one knows how to code and go. Somebody has really invested in that to enable that, that transition. And I think it's a very joyful thing to be a curator of other people's expertise. And, um, if we, if we remember that there's so much more we can do, right. We're our own minds is a limiting factor. Um, and I think we talked about this, the parenting thing it's I hear it really often. It came up recently, um, recently for, um, another one of, of, of our team where someone referring to, um, the technologist as spoiled children or as at children.

Diana Montalion (43:09):
And it's like, no, no, no, no, no. And I think it was a feeling. It was, you know, that's what they were feeling. And that's very, you know, I mean, we, we, we, we don't always enjoy the process. Um, so this idea that a lot of what we think, it's kind of like when we, before we have kids, we're all gonna do it, right? Like we're not like our parents, they were going to do it. Right. And then we go into the situation and discovered that the kids are just other people who only occasionally care what we say, right. And this is true in technology leadership. There's so many overlaps with, with parenting is that eventually building trust is the best part of the relationship. And there's never one tool that works all the time, but also that you're not forming other people, other people are forming themselves and you are providing strength and maturity and whatever you have, you're providing whatever, whatever tools you have.

Diana Montalion (44:05):
Um, and then the last one is, and I'm totally serious about this. And, and I love that. I don't have to describe it very much because we've already talked about it. Whereas usually this is this one, this idea is a hard sell, but developing self-awareness right, that you are constantly reacting you're con and you're react. You're usually reacting because you had a bad boss or because you don't understand, like we're constantly reacting to situations in unhelpful kinds of ways. And developing the ability to cultivate a more proactive ability and circumstances is a lifelong process. And we do everybody in the world. I think the most benefit when our primary practice is the quality of our own thinking and our own ability to know, to know what the monkey symbols is, is doing. Um, and really trusting that having, developing a trusting relationship with your own reactions to things will become a trusting relationship with, with other people. People really feel that they, they know when you're, when you're self aware and when you're not. And there's no end to that practice name is no end. Every time we think we know we don't.

Andrei Crudu (45:34):
And a realization that I just had, what you said is like, when you get a new person on a team or you assemble a team, they already come with a baggage from all the managers or the people that they work with. So, and most of them have been bruised in some ways. So they're not really that trusting. And I've said things and you have to work to bridge that gap and make it realize this is a safe environment. You can express yourself, can work together, all the good stuff to make it apparent to them. Like, doesn't matter what happened to you in the past. Here we go. You can have like a clean slate and build something. Awesome.

Diana Montalion (46:18):
Yeah. And, and, you know, as you say that, I think, and most of that stuff comes bias because I tend to think about systems, but most of us have been harmed by systemic issues. Right. And, you know, just the way organizations can potentially make people feel smaller, how they're treated, or, um, you know, maybe a company ran out of money and everybody got made redundant and it's nothing personal, but it's certainly feels personal, I guess certainly feels personal. And so we, we are, um, we're trying, like we're trying to do collective systems thinking work in a culture that is also simultaneously invested in developing power and in structure in a power way. And so, so often, and then, you know, the obvious place this conversation goes is being female in tech, right. There's less than 3% of people who do what I do are female.

Diana Montalion (47:18):
Right. And long time in my career, I was always the only woman in the room, not anymore. Now I now, now actually. Yeah. Yeah. It's very, very, um, uh, it's it's and right now I'm working on a very dynamic, um, working very dynamic architecture team that happens to be three women, which is never, that's never happened before. And it's not that we're trying to do that. I don't personally, I don't, I don't, I mean, I don't genders one aspect of our difference, but in fact, we're very different. We're more different in other ways than we are gender wise. Right? So we, the, our backgrounds and, and language and cultural experiences and the whether visual person or an auditory person, and these tend to be more, but we do live in a world that has a particular view that white males are fifth thinkers. Right. That's, that's the, those that's leadership, like leadership has a body, right.

Diana Montalion (48:20):
And, and a color and agender. And, and that's actually not true, but, but we've got scars from that as well. Right. And so creating it's sort of like leadership is about creating space for people to, to work and be innovative and to think well, and to think collectively, but we're also somewhat sheltering from the bad ideas that want to, that want to come in and cause harm. And at the same time, we have to engage with some of those bad ideas because organizations have to organize. And so for example, hate, okay. Ours. And I can't write them to say, I don't know why they seem like how I think, but they're not, I can not, can just cannot get them. Right. I need someone to help. Right, right. But I can, I do understand if they have value or how they have value and I'm fine to, um, participate in it. Um, so we're sort of trying to figure out how to make the cysts, the demands of the people systems resonate really well with the, with the way that the teams work. And so that it's balanced. So it provides structure, not too much harm. And it's, it's really hard. And people come from lots of different types of people systems, and those systems are more or less respectful of them as a person and respectful of their work. So,

Andrei Crudu (49:52):
Yeah. Yeah. And it's good to have diversity. You get some of the best ideas and insights insights I got were from people that you want to expect for them to have them. Exactly. So don't discount anybody example. I had a conversation with a beggar and he gave me some really amazing life dibs and they wouldn't expect to have that depth of knowledge and being able to capture something so, so profound. Well, it was really, really insightful. So never discount a person just by the looks of them. Always talk with them. You get so much value.

Diana Montalion (50:39):
Yeah. Or the other being an American right now, I'm a little discouraged by what people say, but we are, you're missing a part. The other piece that occurs to me is too, is that, so I tend to put out a lot of, like, I'll say a lot, right. I'll put out ideas and they'll say a lot. Whereas, um, whereas I have a very trusted colleague who will say one thing generally in, you know, in a, in an hour long kind of going things. I say a lot of things that he might say like one or two things. Right. But he's always right.

Diana Montalion (51:16):
And I envy that. Right. It's sort of, he's not, he's not sort of fishing with ideas the way I do out loud, he tends to consider them. And so I think, you know, we, this culture, you know, we live in a world, um, I'm very introverted, but I'm, I need a lot of solitude, but I'm also diverted, right. Because I'm extroverted in my communication style. Right. But I actually find that very tiring. I do. I spend a lot of time disconnected and not, and not communicating. It's how I recharge, but it's really so sort of being this mixed person has really made me realize this, this question of introversion on a team versus extroversion. And, you know, the extroverts seem to get a lot of traction because they come up with a lot of ideas and introverted people or not. Whereas my experience has been that The right idea is the idea, you know, the strongest idea is the one you want to, to really hear. And that, that doesn't necessarily come from the one who's making the most noise.

Andrei Crudu (52:21):
Yeah. That's so true. And then I know you've read a lot and you will invest in yourself. So I'm really curious. What is the book that had the most profound impact on you?

Diana Montalion (52:33):
So the book I carry around, like literally carry around with me, um, um, Donella Meadows thinking in systems, which is, um, she, it was posthumously published. She wasn't quite finished with it. Um, but I think

Diana Montalion (52:53):
It's not specifically about technology, but the patterns of everything we talked about today, the, the articulation of this kind of thing is very much in that book. Also, there's another called design Unbound. And I'm sorry, I don't think the, the, um, the author and authors escape me, but there's two volumes and one volume is, um, about emergence. And again, it's not specifically about technology, there's technology in it, but so much of what we're talking about here. And so much of what I need to understand and content systems, um, is very much in that, in that book, then I have all the ones that everybody else would say, right. Those are my two. Yeah.

Andrei Crudu (53:40):
And the hidden gems.

Diana Montalion (53:42):
Yeah. Yeah. Well, they're very, very, to me, they speak very strongly to me.

Andrei Crudu (53:47):
And then I, if people want to find out more about you, where should they go?

Diana Montalion (53:52):
Well, um, so in social media, the place I inhabit is Twitter. So it's at Diana Mantilia and on Twitter and, um, join the conversation. It tends to be a very good space. Like I know Twitter generally has, is it problematic? But there's a lot of people who think this, well, we got connected actually via Twitter, Pete, like, that's kind of how this, this part happened. So I've found it. I have found it very nourishing that community. So I would invite that, um, and our company is metrics group. Um, and so if people are specifically wanting to talk to me about the kinds of services that, you know, we do content systems, building teams that then Diana at metrics, group.com.

Andrei Crudu (54:40):
Great. I'll put all this information in the show notes, so people can more easily find you

Diana Montalion (54:47):
One more. I forgot. So, right. So right. So, um, so I have been very nourished by, um, the domain driven design community. I gave a talk in Amsterdam, um, before we all stopped leaving the house. And so virtual DDD community is, um, developing more, um, online kinds of experiences. So I gave a talk on argumentation there that said a lot of what you and I said, like you were saying things that were in my slides, which is awesome. Um, and then, so we, there's an upcoming workshop, but definitely to check out the DVD community and the things happening there because there's a lot of good things, including more work I'll be doing there. Well, specifically these have been happening in virtual DDD. Um, so virtual ddd.com, but there is, there will be the, uh, the American conference annual conference in September, which will probably be online and then the European conference conference early next year. And I don't know what, what that would be. Um, and so any doorway you enter, um, from we'll connect you with a very similar community. Yeah.

Andrei Crudu (55:59):
Yeah. Awesome. Then it's been a true pleasure having you on the show. My mind is blown that you got so much insight from you. Thank you very much.

Diana Montalion (56:08):
Thank you. It was wonderful too. It was, it was wonderful for me. Very wonderful to, um, uh, yeah, it was a great hour. Thank you. Bye. 

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Andrei Crudu, audio, Diana Montalion, interview, Podcast, Techie Leadership


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