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Using An iPad For Web Development

My obsession with using an iPad for web development started all the way back with the first generation iPad. Tools then were sparse, but I made it work by jumping through some hoops. Today’s iPad is a much superior machine, and the available apps have come a long way toward making the iPad comfortable enough, and capable of being a web development machine.

Long have I thought about writing an article on how I use my iPad for web development. I think I just needed the right impetus, which came about today.

A long time business friend texted me a challenge, to gather a list of URLs for all images uploaded to a particular website. The kicker- I had to do it faster, and more elegantly, than another mutual friend we have. An iPad was already in my hands, all I needed was a stand to hold it up, and a Bluetooth keyboard for convenience. While our mutual friend has an impressive desktop machine, in less than 10 minutes, I was able to come up with a solution, code it, and publish it as a generic utility.

There are really only three tools that I need to enable web development on my iPad. I will describe those, but first, a bit about the iPad I use.

The Platform — 2018 iPad

You might think the latest, greatest, most powerful iPad it needed, but that is not the case. My iPad is from 2018, a couple years old as of the writing of this article. It is also the base model iPad. Nothing fancy to it.

I would love to have the latest iPad Pro, but since I am not doing hardcore graphics or video editing, it is not necessary.

Now let’s talk about the tools I use for web development from an iPad.

The Server — 100% Remote

The development server is fully remote. It is possible to run a local server, but it is a lot of work, and not worth the hassle. I have a Droplet running on Digital Ocean that hosts all work in progress. Code is edited via ssh.

Security is paramount- the server is locked down and will only respond to my IP address.

For an in-depth look at this set up, read my article at https://medium.com/@benlobaugh/the-unchained-developer-free-your-workflow-and-become-device-agnostic-ce0450e238de

SSH Client — Terminus

The key to making the iPad a useable web development platform for me is SSH. No code is created locally. In fact, all of the resources related to a project live remotely. This means the choice of an SSH client is critical. A few years ago, SSH app choices were limited, and none were what I would consider to be quality enough to spend hours using. They were for quick commands only. Then, I used web based SSH clients, which have their own set of quirks. Today, the quality and selection of apps has improved.

My SSH client app of choice is Terminus. Terminus works across several platforms. It has built in sftp, mosh, and telnet clients; will run fully in the background without disconnecting; and has a lot of other great features. It really shines as an SSH client though. I am able to define hosts and reconnect with a quick tap.

Once connected, there are a plethora of tools at my disposal. The most critical tools to my success are:

  • Docker
  • Vim
  • Tmux
  • Git

With them, I have been able to set up any project. When other tools are called for, such as composer or npm, I will often run them inside of a Docker container.

Another critical need is the ability to transfer files between machines. File transfers are a breeze, with common Linux tools.

Web Browser

The last, and possibly most critical, piece for web development on an iPad is, of course, a web browser. Apple updated Safari to handle desktop versions of sites, freeing the iPad from a mobile only experience.

It seems that everyone has a browser they are devoted to, for better or worse. I happen to find Safari to be acceptable, and with the integrations Apple has created it was a no-brainer choice. Safari handles nearly all my needs. Combine it with a tool such as Cross Browser Testing and anything can be accomplished.

Helpful Hardware

The apps get me running from the software side, and are all I need, but there are two pieces of hardware that I find extremely valuable from a comfort and efficiency standpoint: a tablet stand and a Bluetooth keyboard. Really any will do. Specifically I use the following:

  • Amazon Basics Adjustable Tablet Holder — I like how flexible it is for sizing and angles. Folds up compactly as well.
  • Logitech multidevice backlit keyboard. Unfortunately Logitech no longer makes this keyboard. A bummer since I believe it is the best keyboard they ever made. Logitech has other Bluetooth keyboards that will work also, such as this Bluetooth keyboard, that also has a tablet stand built in.

Fin

That’s it. Those three tools; remote server, ssh, web browser; provide 99% of my needs as a web developer. In fact, if you look at my laptop, you will notice my workflow there is very similar. I have even used the same setup on my iPhone to code while riding a bus!

There are a couple tools I use on the laptop that have good iPad equivalents as well.

  • Postman -> HTTPbot for all query testing needs
  • Browser debugger — this is an area that is still weak for the iPad. There are some promising tools though, such as MIHTool
  • Of course, Slack for accessing developer chat communities

I hope this helps you kick start your own iPad web development journey. Let me know in the comments if there is any way I can help you.

If you already used your iPad for web development, what tools and techniques do you have?

Unchained developer

The Unchained Developer- Free Your Workflow and Become Device Agnostic

Back in 2011, I was getting frustrated with my aging development machine. It could barely keep up with me, though I resisted getting a new machine because it can be so frustratingly time-consuming to set up a new machine. As I pondered what to do a thought struck me, “you are a WEB developer Ben…. DUH!!” Right, thanks self. The web does not care what device is connected to it. Why couldn’t I also be device agnostic? 

With that in mind, I set off to see if I could truly unchain my development and work from a specific device, and operate from anywhere. Not only was I successful, but I have also been using the same setup for nine years. I have even created patches from my iPhone while riding a city bus to meet a friend for coffee!

If you’ve been pondering the same, I  would like to share how, with a little effort and very little cash, you too can become an unchained developer.

I started out with some strict criteria in mind:

  • Cheap
  • Accessible from anywhere
  • Simple file management
  • Strong security
  • FAST
  • Flexible
  • Ability to tap into other systems
  • Smooth editing experience

Step One – Decouple the development environment

Like many developers, I was running a (M/L)AMP stack on my machine. That meant installing Nginx or Apache, MySQL, PHP, and all other necessary packages directly onto my machine, but what is a web server? Generally, for my work, Nginx or Apache, MySQL, and PHP. It was easy enough to transition those components to a remote machine.

After some research, I selected Digital Ocean as my host of choice. Digital Ocean has been very good to me, over the years. Their offerings are easy to understand and their cost is super cheap. I started with the $5/mo server, and, if your criteria are similar to mine, I recommend you do the same.

When I need more horsepower for running data migrations and other intense processes I simply tell Digital Ocean to temporarily upgrade the machine. In a matter of minutes, I can go from a small, single-core machine to 32 cores and 3,840 gigabytes of RAM! Because Digital Ocean charges by the hour, I can run hefty scripts and only spend a couple of dollars when temporarily upsizing, vs sometimes days of processing data on the smaller machine size. 

The primary limitation I have had to contend with is storage space. Digital Ocean to the rescue again!  They offer a service called “Volumes” that mount directly to the machine. The volume interacts just like an attached hard drive, and you only pay for what you use. Volumes scale up to terabytes in size. I started with a 50 gigabyte volume, at a cost of another $5 per month.

At this point, the hosting cost is $10 per month. For the cost of a coffee and a pastry, I successfully removed my local machine as a barrier for hosting development sites!

Server security

When my laptop was the development environment, the sites and databases were, by default, kept out of the eye of the general public. With the move to the Digital Ocean server came a new concern, security of my client’s data. An unauthorized person stumbling upon one of these sites could have dire legal consequences for both me and the client. 

Digital Ocean provides free firewalls; easy to provision and with a simple UI for management. Using this firewall, I blocked all ports except the web (http, https) and ssh. I went one step further and limited access to only an IP whitelist. This list is manually managed. It does make accessing the server a bit more onerous while traveling, but adding and removing IPs by hand provides a visual indicator that security is tight, and only those machines that need it have access.

Safe on dropped connections

When running a long script locally, it is no big deal to pop open a terminal, start the script, and walk away, trusting it will continue. When running a script via ssh on a remote server you enter a whole new ball game. I needed to have the same confidence that scripts would continue to run whether my connection dropped or not. Enter tmux.

Tmux is an incredibly powerful tool. At its heart, tmux is a terminal multiplexer. Meaning, from a single terminal session, you can create splits into multiple shells, each running its own commands, and different panes. The most important feature to me, however, is that tmux keeps its terminal session running even if you are no longer connected via ssh. That means I can run a command and walk away with confidence it will continue to run. Heck, if I am on a laptop I can turn the laptop off and tmux keeps that command running. 

With tmux, I can even connect from a different device to that same session. That is, in fact, how I was coding from my iPhone while riding a city bus. I had the files open on my laptop in tmux and vim from before I turned off the laptop. I reconnected the ssh session from my phone and BAM, instantly back in the editor, right where I left off.

Another great benefit of running commands on the server is that it consumes zero local resources. That means whether I start the command from my MacBook Pro or my iPhone, it will run without creating a burden on my local device. 

Docker for simplicity

I did not want to get locked into a difficult to manage web server solution and I desired the flexibility to utilize different versions of software, and different types of servers, such as Nginx, Node, and Apache. Docker is a natural fit. It allows me to run client projects in complete isolation of each other.

My preferred way to structure a client project with Docker is:

  • Nginx reverse proxy – Takes care of domain lookups and routing to the proper client site
  • MySQL – I run a new MySQL instance for each client, to prevent information spillage between private client databases.
  • Service 1 (Such as Elasticsearch)
  • Service 2 (Such as Redis)
  • Service N (Whatever else is needed!)
  • Webserver

File management

So far, I have solved the web server side of things. Now I need to get files to the server to develop on. There are three methods typically used:

  • sftp/scp
  • Github/git
  • Direct download

sftp/scp

Both sftp and scp allow you to connect to a remote server to send files. I prefer scp as it is simple and comes with all ssh clients, meaning it is available out of the box on Linux and MacOS. This is the method that I typically use to get local files to the server.

Using scp to transfer a local project to the server is as simple as:

$ scp -r local_project_folder server:/path/to/projects

As a bonus, scp can work in both directions. Call the server first to retrieve files from the remote machine.

Github/git

My preferred method of assessing project code is via a git repository, such as Github. A simple git clone and your files are available on the server. I typically do this via an ssh cli, in fact, I really enjoy the cli so most of my work is done via cli. 

Once the project is pulled from git and all the build tools are installed, you will be able to run composer, npm, grunt, etc., just like you would locally.

Direct download

At times, I may need to download a file directly. Prior to working on a remote server, I would be at the mercy of my internet connection. Let me tell you this, I lived on a boat for nearly four years and the internet was slooooow. If a client sent me a database, it would take all day to download. The Digital Ocean, server has a crazy fast connection and the same download now takes minutes, if that. This saved a ton of time and angst over dropped downloads. The file needed to be on the server anyway, so downloading direct prevented two days’ worth of file transfers!

The wget tool is my go-to tool for downloading due to its simplicity. Curl is also a great option, though. Downloading a file with wget is as simple as:

$ wget https://example.com/file.zip

Smooth editing experience

When it comes down to it, editing text is the primary job of a web developer, therefore, having a smooth editing experience is crucial.

Being a long time Linux guy, and lover of the cli, I naturally turned to vim as my defacto editor. 

Now wait a minute, before you go smirking to Sublime, or VS Code, or whatever the current hotness is, recall that vim has been around for ages. It has a robust plugins system integrating every functionality you can imagine. Not only that, using vim directly on the server frees me from any reliance on a local editor or IDE. I have the freedom and flexibility to really program from any device I desire. I have worked from all sorts of devices: MacBooks, iPhone, iPad, Android tablet, multiple flavors of Windows, and Linux with complete freedom to open a file,  edit, and then reconnect, exactly where I left off from another machine.

A few years back, a buddy scoffed at my “cute little [vim] editor”. He was proud of his Sublime setup. It really was rather nifty. I mocked him right back saying, “vim can do anything Sublime can do, better and faster- and you call yourself a Linux guy….” He laughed it off and we carried on with our projects. The next morning he called, sounding a bit off. “Remember when you made fun of me yesterday for being a ‘Linux guy’ and using Sublime instead of vim?” “Yeeesssssss,” came my hesitant reply, not sure where this was going. “Well,” he angrily spat , “That comment bugged me all day. I decided to pull up vim and prove you wrong! I stayed up all night, trying to prove you wrong and you know what happened? I have a really cool vim setup that is identical to the Sublime setup! I deleted Sublime.”

True story, I swear!

All joking aside though, most editors and IDEs these days do support ssh. It is likely that whatever editor you prefer to use will still be compatible with remote development. Check out the editor support articles for guidance.

That’s it!

And that is really all it took to unchain my development workflow from a single machine and free me up to work anywhere, on anything. I no longer worry about a laptop dying on me. If it goes up in smoke, I can grab my iPad and be back up and running as fast as ssh reconnects. 

Bonus Round – Mobility

I wanted to see how far I could take the unchained approach and continued to push the envelope. To this day, there is nothing I run that requires a specific machine. The “move to the cloud” movement has only made things easier. 

Here are some of the other things that allowed me to become 100% unchained from a single machine:

Communication

  • Webmail, or IMAP connections, via an app
  • Slack facilitates instant team communication. There are apps for everything and a web UI as a fallback
  • IRC. Yes, IRC. The first chat groups I was ever part of were via IRC on the Freenode network, where I am still active today
  • Zoom. Great video conferencing software that requires very little bandwidth to operate

Connectivity

  • In-home wifi
  • On the go, the cell hotspot hits the spot
  • Most coffee shops and many public spaces have free wifi now

Secure connections

  • Use a VPN to prevent traffic snooping
  • SSH tunnels can also be used to route traffic directly to the server

I hope this article has inspired you to become an unchained developer and saved you some time in the process. I love the freedom and stress reduction it has afforded me. If you have a low powered machine that struggles under the weight of your development environment, this could save you big $$$ on an upgrade!

Are you already an unchained developer? What tips and tricks can you share in the comments?

Questions or need help designing your unchained server? I am happy to help you find an answer. Drop me a line on my contact page

Photo by Marcus Cramer on Unsplash

How to Stay Calm Amidst a Crisis

This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through a link I will receive a small commission from the seller, at no additional cost to you.


COVID-19 has thrown our world into crisis mode. A few weeks ago, most of us had never heard of a coronavirus, but today it is all we hear about. Our friends and family talk about it, and the media drones on incessantly, adding more fuel to the fear.

How do we combat that fear? How do we get back to a calm, cool, and collected existence?

Managing a crisis well comes down to where your focus is.

Your emotional state follows where your focus is.

A buddy, let’s call him Billy, and his wife have been on edge since the government’s social distancing guidelines came out. Their TV has been constantly on and fixed to various news channels. All they hear is doom and gloom. They are a younger couple, solidly in the age group that is less likely to be affected by the virus, and yet they are terrified to leave their house.

Meanwhile, across town I have another friend, let’s call him James. While taking precautions, James and his wife have largely continued about their life. While James’ wife is out taking care of family, James has been working hard, preparing their boat for a summer cruise. In the evening, after their dinner meal, they listen to the latest updates in the virus. Though they can cite the stats, and are in the most vulnerable age group, they are unafraid.

They are both experiencing the same crisis and choosing to approach it from different angles.

Though Billy is in the safer group, he focuses on the negative. The fear being hurled at him through the airwaves is a never-ending torrent, reinforcing his fear and blinding him to the good around him.

James, on the other hand, has chosen to stay informed on the crisis, but focuses his attention on the good things, his family, and the vacation they will soon be enjoying.

What you choose to focus on defines your state of mind.

Focus on the negative and fear will overwhelm you. Focus on the positive and you can still experience joy in the midst of a crisis.

That can be easier said than done though! Here are a few battle-tested tips that have helped me weather many storms and come out stronger on the other side.

Assess the situation

Pause to carefully assess the situation. How big is it really? How long is it likely to last?

In his book Vision Blockers, my friend and mentor, Eric Scroggins presents fear as the acronym:

False
Evidence
Appearing
Real

Fear often causes situations to seem much worse than they actually are.

Carefully monitor external influences

Our emotions are highly susceptible to outside influences. What is influencing you? Take control of external influences and be sure they do not have a negative impact on your life.

Tim Ferris, in his book The 4-Hour Work Week, writes about the negative effect that consuming too much news media can have on your mental health. He advocates for a dramatic reduction in intake. I was skeptical, but tried his method and noticed a quick uptick in mental well-being.

Trust yourself

Your skill and experience has not left you! You are still the same talented and intellectual person that you were before this crisis happened. Nothing can take that away from you.

When all else seems to be spinning out of control around you, trust in yourself.

Find the silver lining

I have often been told that I am a “silver lining guy”. Meaning that I can find something good in every situation, no matter how difficult that situation may seem. I carry that title with honor, as it has helped me, my teams, and my family carry on in some rather trying times.

Finding the silver lining provides hope and a promise that there is still good in the world.

If everything looks dark and no silver lining seems to be found don’t despair! I believe in you and would like to help you find that silver lining. Get in touch with me and let’s discover your silver lining together.

Photo by Marcus Cramer on Unsplash

Friends together on a dock

It Is Ok to Be Friends With Your Employees

New articles are constantly popping up in front of me. Good writers say a great title is what draws readers to your content, and they must be right because I scan for titles that match my interests every day. This title popped up recently, Your Employees Are Not Your Friends. I scoffed internally, and nearly scrolled past it, but then I stopped. Why not check it out? After all, personal growth is my goal- perhaps the author has an insight I have not thought of. I clicked the link.

The article, written by Lacy Starling, a serial entrepreneur, educator, and storyteller, is well thought out and written. While I still disagree with the premise that your employees cannot be your friends, I do agree with much of how she describes treating employees as a whole.

I believe that, when done carefully, you can and should be friends with your employees, because I believe in the power of relationships.

I believe in the power of relationships. 

After reading the article, I had a 1:1 with one of my employees. He happens to be someone I greatly respect, and I call him my friend. In fact, when I jumped between employers he followed me to the new company. When I asked if he considered me to be a friend, his emphatic response was YES!. Though I have been his boss for many years, we have never had an issue with the distinction between being friends and having an employer/employee relationship. As we discussed it, a few important points came up that, when done right, facilitate great friendships with your employees. However, if done poorly, it can spell disaster for your team, just as Lacy Starling experienced. 

Trust is Reciprocal

“The people when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust.” – Abraham Lincoln

With all employees, trust is a critical ingredient to the relationship. I have found that a trust relationship between employer and employee is best precipitated by the employer. You hired each individual for a purpose, extend trust to them by default and let them prove themselves unworthy of your trust. 

Operating from a starting place of trust makes you vulnerable. Employees have the choice to take advantage of the vulnerability and abuse the trust, or rise to the occasion and reciprocate. Through speaking with peers, and in my own experience, I have found it to be exceedingly rare that trust is abused. 

Do Not Play Favorites

I have never been the most athletic person in my circle of friends. When picking teams for gym sports in elementary school, I would watch all the athletic kids get picked before me. There were a few kids in school who the team captains always wanted, and they would rush to pick those kids first. It gutted me that I was never part of the favored group. At first, I pushed myself hard to be as good as the athletic kids, but after a while, I just gave up. It was not good for the morale of a young kid.

We are not kids anymore, but the sting of watching the boss play favorites with your coworkers is still there.

It is important, therefore, to be careful not to play favorites with your employees. As you build relationships, it will be natural to want to be with the employees you connect with the most. There are two simple ways to combat this: get to know everyone on your team, and do not spend time with only one or a few people. 

Getting to know everyone on your team keeps you from being locked in a bubble, where you only know a few of your employees. Ensuring you spend time with each of them will encourage a strong connection and reduce the possibility of forming cliques.

Treat Everyone Equally

My best friend and I played trumpet together in fifth grade. The trumpet section was arranged by chair. The lower the chair number, the higher the skill level of the player, or so the ranking was said to work. My friend and I were very competitive with each other and would spend hours practicing to win the coveted first chair, however, we were always baffled to be chairs seven and eight. We doubled down on the practice and stayed after class with our teacher to improve faster. We had a cleaner tone and missed fewer notes than those ahead of us, but no matter what we did, we never were able to break through that sixth chair barrier. Some time into the school year we learned the truth, the chairs ahead of us were reserved for students with a parent on the PTA. We were not all treated equally. It was not right.

I learned a valuable lesson while struggling through band class- everyone deserves to be treated equally. 

As you build relationships with your employees you must keep in sight equal treatment. It is not ethically, or legally, ok to treat some people on your team differently than others. 

Here are signs that you may not be treating everyone equally:

  • A particular employee is always getting easy projects.
  • An employee is called the “teacher’s pet”. This may be in jest, but even jokes may contain components of truth that others are hesitant to come out and say.

Be Careful with Your Authority

My suspicion is that this, more than the other points, is the most difficult to master. An employee’s natural response is to do what their employer says, and the employer naturally directs employees. That is ok and needed in the workplace, however, once you venture out of those four walls your authority as the employer must be considered with care.

Outside of the workplace, allow your employees to take the lead in social activities. Show them that you can follow just as easily as you can lead. 

Under no circumstances can you flex your authority or threaten consequences at work for actions outside of the workplace.

Do Not Talk About Work Outside of the Workplace

Another good rule of thumb is to not discuss work matters outside of the workplace. A discussion of work can quickly turn into work. It is not fair to steal time from your employees in this manner. This also reestablishes the employer/employee dynamic that you should seek to eliminate while outside the workplace.

After you have been working together for some time, it can become natural to reminisce and tell stories about the projects you have worked on together. This is ok, as long as you stick to past projects. Current projects should be largely off-limits as they can quickly become working sessions and reintroduce the employer/employee dynamic.

Remember Who is The Boss

As your friendship outside of the workplace grows, the lines between employer and employee can become blurred if not carefully tended. It is important that you remain vigilant to ensure this does not happen. To do this, expectations on employee interactions in the workplace should be applied equally and to everyone. 

If an employee crosses the line you must firmly and politely remind them of the workplace expectations. Most of the time, when expectations are clear, and communication is open, employees will willingly conform. If there are repeated violations, they may not yet be ready for friendship outside of the workplace. 

No matter how close you get to any individuals on your team, keep in mind that you are the leader and your team still needs a leader, not a buddy.

Your team still needs a leader, not a buddy

Expect More

In a prior team, I was very intentional about relationship building with my team. I knew intimate details of their lives, and we would talk both in and out of the workplace. I knew their families, dreams, and ambitions. The strength of our relationship allowed me to push the team harder toward their goals. My team outperformed every other team at the company, and not by a little. I learned after I had moved on that every member of my team had moved into a leadership role. I am proud of them. We speak often, to this day.

Being friends with an employee does not mean that they get the easy work, in fact, I would go so far as to say that notion should be flipped on its head entirely. I expect more of those with whom I am friends.

Being someone’s friend gives you a unique insight into their life; their hopes and dreams. You get privileged access to push them to be more.

Not Everyone Can Do It

Throughout this article, I have been an advocate for being friends with your employees. If, after reading this, you are feeling intimidated, that is OK! For me, being friends with my employees comes naturally, but it is not that way for everyone. I know some great leaders who struggle with the notion of being friends with their employees. In fact, the entire reason this article was written was to show another viewpoint from Lacy Starling, that it is possible to be friends with your employees. Lacy sounds like an amazing leader- if she struggles with it then there are others out there who do as well.

On the flip side, you may not have an issue with being friends with an employee, but they may struggle to be friends with you. That is OK! 

The beauty of leadership is that there is no one size fits all. You get to use your unique talents, and those of your employees, to do something great in this world. Do not force yourself to conform to someone else’s idea of what a leader should look like.

Photo by Yanapi Senaud on Unsplash

Bird leading flock in flight

11 Traits Leaders Must Role Model

Susan stood there eyeing the trash receptacles with disgust and trepidation. The dinner rush had been particularly busy that night and all six of the large trash cans were overflowing. Emptying the bins, with their soggy, putrid contents was the least desirable job at the fast-food restaurant- a job normally pawned off onto the most recently hired member of the crew. I was the manager on duty that night and saw Susan’s hesitance to approach the trash cans. I quickly put on a pair of gloves and walked out into the lobby to join her. Together we were able to quickly rid ourselves of the stinking piles of trash, and get a few laughs in along the way.

I have always studied those around me, and even as a teenager I had noticed that there are two types of people above you in the hierarchy: leaders and bosses.

A boss tells an employee what to do and walks away expecting them to do it. To a boss, it does not matter if the job is fun or not. You are the employee and expected to do your job, go do it.

A leader explains why a task is important and helps their team members get comfortable with the task. A leader is not afraid to get into the trenches with a member of their team, roll up their sleeves, and get into the dirty work.

A leader is a Role Model.

Your team is always watching you and will take on and amplify your characteristics, for better or worse. It is vitally important, therefore, to be a good role model for your team. Model the characteristics you would like to see in your team and your team will reflect them back to you.

The following are 11 characteristics of leaders I have studied, that I have found important to the success of my teams.

Inspire

Many of the day to day tasks we encounter while performing our jobs are mundane, some distasteful. Projects go sideways, and clients can be demanding, but it is our job as leaders to inspire our teams to keep moving forward.

A few years ago I was called in to help a project that was “on fire.” The client was a regional bank and the project manager from the bank had made their lives difficult. Team morale was at an all-time low. Nobody wanted to work on the project anymore, and even the fellow who was leading the project, normally a positive guy, had fallen into the negativity trap. I knew something had to happen, and quickly, or we risked losing the project, leaving a negative view of our company unresolved, and potentially losing team members from our own company. As I examined the state of the project I realized it was a lot closer to the finish line than either side realized. I was able to inspire the team to finish well by showing them how near to the goal they were, and why what they were doing was so vital to the success of the bank’s future.

You inspire people best by linking them to why what they do matters.

Anger

It is inevitable, we all get angry. We must understand how to control that anger, rather than let it control us.

My favorite leaders to work for have had an uncanny ability to channel their anger into something productive, often analyzing the situation and coming up with win-win solutions. Though I am far from perfect, I have found that staying calm when I just want to be angry has helped boost team effectiveness. My team even jokingly gave me a “smooth as a baby’s bottom” award for being cool under pressure!

Make a plan now as to how you will handle situations that anger you in the future

Do not wait, make a plan now as to how you will handle situations that anger you in the future. Proactive planning will help you understand and manage situations properly when they arise.

Project positivity

It is easy to be positive in the good times, but if you are not alert to it, negativity can quickly creep in. Negativity is one of the fastest ways to destroy your team. Be ever vigilant and guard against its encroachment in your team.

Staying positive when things are gloomy can be a difficult endeavor. I have been accused of being a “silver lining guy”, meaning that I can find good in any situation. I highly recommend that you also become a person who is constantly looking for silver linings.

Find the positive and use it to inspire those around you. I promise you, there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud!

Look at them when you converse

Looking at someone when they speak to you, or you to them, sends a powerful message. It says that you care about what they are saying. It says they are valuable and worth the time. Looking at your computer, checking your phone, etc sends a message that they do not matter to you.

Quite often I come across articles saying you should look them in the eye. I have specifically refrained from saying, “the eye” because there are many people who are uncomfortable with extended eye contact. Particularly, eye contact with their boss can be intimidating. You will need to discover each person’s preferred communication style and adjust accordingly. If they like eye contact then, by all means, make eye contact! For those that do not, ask them how they prefer to be communicated with.

Looking at the person you are speaking too communicates that you value them.

Be clear about what you stand for

When your people know what you stand for, they will put more trust in you. A consistent leader is a safe leader.

I try to let my team know what I expect upfront. When potential team members are being interviewed I make it a point to explain the culture of the team and organization. My expectations are clearly made known so the interviewee and I can establish a good fit for the position.

Know and make known what you stand for.

Help with the dirty work

I see many people in leadership positions out there who refuse to do menial work. Those tasks are pushed off to the junior members of the team. This fosters a negative attitude toward those tasks that the entire team will tap into. In the end, with everyone trying to get rid of the task, it will be done poorly. On the opposite side are leaders who are not afraid to get down into the trenches with their people. No task is too small or menial for them. That kind of a leader inspires pride in the team’s work, and will cause team effectiveness to go up.

While in training as a manager at a fast-food restaurant, I noticed that the other closing management staff had a particular struggle with getting the fry bins cleaned. Each evening, after the restaurant closed, a team member had to disassemble the fry station by pulling out the dividers, the drip grate, and removing the oil catch pan. Each piece had to be cleaned and disinfected before it could be put back. It was a nasty, slippery, gooey job that nobody wanted to do, but it had to get done. Other managers hid in the office and threatened write-ups to the crew. It was tough to watch. I knew there had to be a better way. During my first shift as “the boss”, I rolled up my sleeves and tackled the fry bins, then I mopped the floor and closed the registers. Only after the dreaded tasks were done did I sit down in the office to fill out the daily reports. After only a couple weeks of doing this every night there, was a shift in my crew. They understood that I was not too good for the small things and that mindset became contagious. They would race to see who could get the fry bins cleaned out the quickest!

You will not always be doing the dirty work. As the team sees that you will not ask of them anything you would not do yourself they will begin to take ownership of the tasks and allow you to step away.

Do not ask anything from your team that you would not do yourself.

Genuinely care about them as a person

People are not robots, they have dreams and emotions. Humans are designed to be connected. Your team is no different. Your people will watch you to see if you truly care about them as a person, or if you see them as a means to an end.

Here are a few things you can do to show your team you genuinely care about them as individuals:

  • 1:1s that are driven by them. Schedule regular 1:1s and hold that time as sacred. It is the perfect time to check-in and see how they are doing. Find out about their family and hobbies.
  • Give them easy access to you. One easy way I do this is via our internal chat tool. It is a fabulous way not only to be available to them, but the chat history will help you easily call up details from prior conversations.
  • Send thank-you notes. I try to do this quarterly.
  • Privately message them each day to check-in. This has enabled some great conversations with my team. Unlocked new ideas for the business and enabled personal learning as well.

Be relatable

People follow leaders they can relate to. The things you relate to do not need to be work-focused. There are several people on my team with kids, and of them, I am the newest parent. My wife and I waited later to have kids, and the rest of the team with older kids enjoy seeing my 11 month old daughter and sharing their parenting tips. It has created a strong relationship between us.

Do not be afraid to ask dumb questions

The fact of the matter is that none of us enjoy being out of the loop, or not understanding all the details of a project. The reality is that more often than not, we leaders will not know everything about the inner working and construction of a project. That is ok! Your job as a leader is not to know everything, it is to lead!

Your job as a leader is not to know everything, it is to lead!

Do not be afraid to ask questions, even if they seem like dumb questions. Your team will value your transparency. It is easy to spot someone faking knowledge. Your team will rise to the occasion and educate you. Most people seem to enjoy it when their boss asks a question because it is an opportunity to show off their deep knowledge of a subject.

In all my time leading, only twice has an individual reacted negatively to my questions. However, that person was not a team player and had a reputation as a bully. That kind of behavior is not to be tolerated. They need to ship up or ship out!

Do not try to be the best

There may have been a time when you were the best. When I was younger, I was a voracious programmer. I could run circles around many of my peers. The solutions I came up with were often more elegant and had better performance than my teammates. I was on the top of the pile. That was many years ago though. Since then I have focused on becoming the best leader I can be. Paving the way for my team’s success does not leave much time for programming. I had to accept the fact long ago that every individual of my team can now run circles around me, and that is ok.

John C. Maxwell often repeats the phrase, “You have to give up to go up.” Meaning, to move into leadership, you will have to give up some of the activities you used to do. You will no longer be able to be the best at X because you will be focused on Y. Being the best at X means you are not spending time taking care of your team. When I feel dismayed that I am no longer the best, I remember that before I led I could do a single unit of work for every hour I worked. As a leader, each hour I can accomplish N units of work, where N is the number of people on the team. Now my role, and yours too, is not being the best at X, but being the best leader for your team.

Get comfortable not always being liked

I like to be liked. The first time I had a team member who did not like me, it hit me like a piano falling off a 5 story balcony. It hurt, but I had to get comfortable with it. You can spend every minute of your day trying to be liked, but there will always be times when someone just does take a fancy to you. Take a deep breath, it is ok. Your job is not to be universally liked, your job is to lead the team to the best of your ability. Get comfortable not always being liked.

Being a leader is tough! I want to save you the heartache of learning through the school of hard-knocks as I did. If you could use a hand in your leadership journey, head over to https://benlobaugh.com and drop me a line. I help leaders grow through mentoring and coaching. Let me know how I can help you today.

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