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Five People Who Made A Difference. . .To Me (#1 The Code Monkey)

March 13, 2015

Rodney, I still have no idea what you do here. But, whatever it is, I need you here doing it. – Dave Brady

I should have never hired him. I mean by rights, he wasn’t a good fit. I was the Executive Vice President of a small startup called Agile Studios. We were a custom software shop. We made web sites mostly, but really anything that you could think of. Most of our programmers were straight out of BYU. Several, in fact were still at BYU. 

Dave was a recommendation from a friend of my brother’s. My brother isn’t a software guy, so the recommendation was more a request for a favor than an informed referal. We called Dave in and interviewed him. He interviews well. It’s not surprising when you consider he’s had lots of practice. He’ had 10 or 12 different jobs in as many months. But, there was also a reason he’d gotten hired so many times. He was really good. 

I remember him telling us that he’d built an automated system to upload graphics to a website. It had a single client, but thousands of customers. The way he described it sounds somewhat fantastical. I later learned it was the infrastructure behind early versions of Schlock Mercenary, an award winning web comic written by another friend. 

Dave and I instantly became friends. We both have rampant ADHD and sometimes our discussions will span multiple topics, time zones and even continents. SQUIRREL!

But, it’s not my friendship with Dave that landed him at the top of this list. He’s without a doubt one of the smartest guys I know. He’s funny. He’s dedicated. He’s hardworking. . .

  • Trustworthy
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Friendly
  • Courteous (Not so much)
  • Kind (Definitely)

(We’ll leave the Boy Scout Law comparison at this point.)

Dave made it okay for me to be a leader. 

Ninty-five percent of all leaders are insecure. The other five percent are deluding themselves. As a leader, or more importantly, as the leader, you have to make decisions. If the decisions were easy, someone else would have made them. A good leader gathers as much information as they can before making a decision. A bad leader continues to gather more. The fact is, you reach a point where you have to decide. You never have full information. You have to fill in some of the gaps and hope for the best many times.

It’s too much for some people. Some people don’t want the responsibility. Or they are too afraid of making the wrong decision. I’ve had managers, you’ve probably had them too, that like Rodney King, just want everyone to “get along.” They avoid conflict at all costs, even when avoiding it hamstrings the team. 

So, as a leader, you do the best you can and then see what the results are. If you are the president of the company, or the head of a department, you don’t often get the feedback on your choices. You’ll have plently of people to tell you what a great job you did. How great your decision was. But, those type of people are worse than someone who would offer no opinion on your work at all. “Yes” men approve of everything you do, so it’s impossible to use them to judge your effectiveness. 

Dave was never a yes man. 

There are other people who will give you advice, but they lack the experience to really know what the right choice would be. They are willing to speak up, but their lack of real world knowledge means that their opinions are not informed, and any critique of your performance is likewise lacking credibility. 

And then there are those people who have the experience, the intelligence and the knowledge to understand the decision and evaluate the alternatives. These people are often the leaders themselves. Those are exactly the qualities you want in a leader. 

Dave was a good leader for our development team, but he was a fantastic support and validation for the decisions I had to make as a leader. He was the Mr Spock to my Captain Kirk. I didn’t always make the decisions that Dave thought were the best, but he always understood why I made them. 

It’s rare to find that sort of friend and coworker. Because, let’s face it, Mr Spock should have been off leading his own ship. He had all the necessary experience and atributes. 

Dave made me a better leader. But, more importantly he validated my role as a leader. And that has made a huge difference. . .to me. 


(Photo from LinkedIn)

Dave is active on Twitter and occasionally blogs

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild. 
Follow him on Twitter (@rodneymbliss
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