modern management johanna rothman

Podcast Ep. 116: Modern Management Made Easy with Johanna Rothman

modern management johanna rothman
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Episode Description: 

This week, Dan Neumann is excited to be joined by Johanna Rothman — also known as the Pragmatic Manager. Johanna is a management consultant for managers and leaders. She helps leaders identify their problems and seize the opportunities that they know exist — but just can’t find yet. She also provides assessments, workshops and training, coaching, speaking, and facilitation. Additionally, Johanna is also an author of some incredible books on the topics of amplifying your effectiveness, hiring, management, agility, scaling collaboration, and more.

Most recently, Johanna released a triad of management books called, Modern Management Made Easy. These three books are Practical Ways to Manage Yourself, Practical Ways to Lead and Serve — Manage — Others, and Practical Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization.

In their conversation today, Johanna unpacks these three books and shares some of the key pieces of information you will want to know as a manager or leader in managing and leading yourself, others, and an innovative organization.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Key Takeaways

  • Johanna’s Modern Management Made Easy Book Series:
    • Practical Ways to Manage Yourself
    • Practical Ways to Lead and Serve — Manage — Others
    • Practical Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization
  • Key lessons from Practical Ways to Manage Yourself:
    • “Managing oneself” myth: “I must solve the team’s problems for the team”
    • As a manager, you can’t solve your team’s problems or “inflict help”; instead, you should ask, “Do you need any information from me?” or, “Do you need my help to solve the problem?”
    • The manager stance of: “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions,” is not effective; you should be providing suggestions on where the team member can go next and engage in the problem-solving
  • Key lessons from Practical Ways to Lead and Serve — Manage — Others:
    • Myth: “Performance reviews are motivating” in truth, they can be incredibly demotivating
    • As a manager giving a performance review, you should be providing feedback that the team member can take action on and improve from
    • You shouldn’t be asking more from those that are doing incredibly well and expecting them to deliver even more than what you expect from other people
    • Don’t make the performance review all about money — this can be very demotivating
    • People do need feedback, just not often not in the form of performance reviews (“There is a difference between feedback and evaluation” — Johanna Rothman)
    • Conduct one-on-ones with everybody that you lead and serve on a regular basis (at least every two weeks), and you will come to understand what everyone wants and needs, and how they’re working within the organization
  • Key lessons from Practical Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization:
    • Offer feedback and coaching labs within the organization
    • “If we can focus more on what’s working in the organization and what’s working with people, we are more likely to achieve the results that we want.” — Johanna Rothman
    • Use change-focused feedback and ask for the change that you want
    • Peer-to-peer feedback works for almost anything (and the key is to do it as soon as you notice a challenge)
    • Congruence is key (balance yourself, the needs of others, as well as the context you are in)
    • Ask yourself: “How do we make it so the team can succeed?”
    • Resilience as a team is key and it’s important to make sure to balance the needs of everybody (i.e. sometimes we need flexibility and sometimes we can extend flexibility to others)
    • Intentionally practice management
    • You don’t have to be a manager all by yourself; you can talk to your peers and work together

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript [This transcript is auto-generated and may not be completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar.]

Intro: [00:03] Welcome to the Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought. The podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach, and agile expert, Dan Neumann.

Dan Neumann: [00:17] I have an exciting opportunity I want to share with you coming up on February 25th, we will be hosting a digital velocity summit. This thought leadership event focused on accelerating innovation is designed for anyone looking to build a state of continuous adaptation, empower their teams to accelerate how they work and deliver value to their organization. With sessions geared for people interested in AI, data analytics, agile, and cultivating innovation in their organization. Our guest panelists and agile thought leaders will share their perspectives. During dynamic discussions. Join us on Thursday, February 25th at 11:00 AM. Eastern standard time for this virtual event, you can sign up and learn more at to RSVP today.

Dan Neumann: [01:07]
Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner. I’m your host Dan Neumann, and I’m pretty excited today. I get excited actually quite easily, but extra excited by the guest of this podcast who is Johanna Rothman, a consultant. She’s a writer, she’s a speaker and goes by the handle of pragmatic manager. So, uh, Johanna super excited to talk to you today.

Johanna Rothman: [01:30] I’m so happy to see you and to talk with you. This is great.

Dan Neumann: [01:35] Yeah. The catalyst for us getting together this particular time is you’ve recently released three books. Um, speaking to that writer part, you write a lot, you recently released three books on modern management made easy. And, um, I think we can, can explore that. I was excited like three books. It’s going to take me a little while to get through those.

Johanna Rothman: [01:57] Yeah. So of course, so there, there are practical ways to manage yourself. Practical ways to lean and serve with manage in parentheses others and practical ways to lead an innovative organization. And the reason why they’re are three books and not one is because if I had put them all together, nobody would have bought a 600 page book. Nobody would have bought it. So this way I can it’s in chunks. So you can skim in, um, pop in, pop out, skim, whatever.

Dan Neumann: [02:31] I love that. And it makes me think I won’t, uh, I won’t say who the author was, but I read a 500 page book on agility and I was like, Oh my God, I will never get that part of my life back. And it’s, it’s not just that one other, cause it’s, it’s rehash this and recover that. And then within that there’s nuggets, but I love that you broke it down into a digestible consumable pieces. Um, I was kind of curious about the management made easy part. It’s not in pill form. Right? Am I still going to have to do actual work or can I just buy the books and be successful?

Johanna Rothman: [03:06]
Yeah, no, no. I mean, well, and you could buy the books and hope for osmosis. My name is Joanna. I hesitate to tell you how many books are on my kindle. I have not yet read. Um, I, yeah, I, yeah, fine. Um, however, I wrote these in a way so that I’m hoping that people will look at the table of contents and say, I have that question. I see that myth. And then there’s options to consider in all three books for every single chapter. So it’s not that I’m, I’m not going to make you do something, but if you don’t see any the options, I hope to offer you options for how you might work differently.

Dan Neumann: [03:54] That’s wonderful. And we’ll get into some of the specifics, uh, the, the tag of pragmatic manager. Um, you, you not, not just theory, right?

Johanna Rothman: [04:06] I’m I am informed by theory. Absolutely. I read all I am a management geek. I have been known to say that, um, I think that we were trying to decide when we had met, and I think it’s at least a decade ago when we were both reviewers for the, either in the management track or the leadership track or the projects. Yeah. I mean a long time ago, and we I’m sure we had vigorous discussions about some of the sessions because I, if I remember correctly, some of them were based totally on theory. And I’m sure I was the one who said, I’ve never seen that happen in practice. So I read all the theory and then that informs my practice. And then I experiment so I can figure out how do we actually make this work.

Dan Neumann: [05:01] I love it. And it, it reminded me, uh, there was an article, uh, just recently Elon Musk made the news with an inc magazine, uh, article that said, uh, there are too many MBAs running companies right now, and it’s really time to rethink business school.

Johanna Rothman: [05:15]
Well, and that goes to exactly well to several of the myths in book three, which is, um, I can use a spreadsheet and manage everything by spreadsheet. Oh no, I, I love my spreadsheets. I have several spreadsheets for running my own business. Right. Cause I’m a small business, but I don’t, I don’t manage by spreadsheet.

Dan Neumann: [05:38]
No. Yeah, definitely not. Well, let’s jump in a little bit. You’ve got three books. The first one is practical ways to manage yourself. And then there are practical ways to lead unserved manage and parentheses others. And then practical ways to lead an innovative organization. Is, um, do folks kind of have to go through those into order.

Johanna Rothman: [06:01] I wish that they would, but I, I, um, I, I understand that people often buy the third book, right? They want to read the third book first. Everyone wants the innovative organization. And in, in that Booker reference, um, the guy who wrote a book Winnie is that, Hey, I don’t remember his last name. There’s a reason why I wrote this down and it’s all in the book. Um, so, but, but there’s this book about an obliquity that says the fastest way to achieve our goals is not necessarily a direct line. The fastest way is to, is to take all these little kind of detouring things that actually get us to the right place faster. So for example, um, when people read book three, they realize I really have to create an environment where people can make mistakes. How do I feel about making mistakes? Do I criminalize mistakes? Do I make it easy for people to say, I don’t know, do I, can I say, I don’t know, do I create any psychological safety for myself? Nevermind the team. So, um, I kind of hoped to hook people with either any of the books so that they read all of them and yes, I would love it iff they read the first one first.

Dan Neumann: [07:31] It pays a lot of dividends learning, learning how to manage one’s self, I think. Uh, yeah, definitely. Well, let’s, uh, let’s actually talk a little bit, um, about managing oneself and in particular around problem solving. So one of the myths is, you know, I must solve the team’s problems for the team.

Johanna Rothman: [07:52] Yep. Um, when I found, I see this all the time in organizations and often that’s because we got hired because we were experts. Right. We, um, I, I guarantee that you were, um, an expert, um,

Dan Neumann: [08:13] I was an adequate programmer.

Johanna Rothman: [08:15] I suspect better than that. Um, and, and you, might’ve been also a project manager of some sort

Dan Neumann: [08:22] Got there. Yes. That was the path. Yeah. The upper out. Yeah. You had to. Yeah.

Johanna Rothman: [08:25] Yeah. So if you are anything like me, um, and I will not say that you are like me, but I, when I became a manager the first time for several people, right. I, I served several people. I was, I hadn’t understood that as a project manager, I could not be in the middle of, of the work. I, I got that part, but every time somebody came to me with a question, I inflicted help on them, I was, I was extremely good at solving, I would say, Oh, did you try that? And finally, one, one of the people I served said, I just wanted to talk about this. I didn’t want you to solve it for me. And I thought, Oh, Johanna.

Dan Neumann: [09:19] I’m terrible at that, especially at home. Right. You know, I I’m that, that, uh, stereotypical male where there’s a problem and I am going to solve it. And I just want to talk about that. Like, maybe I’m better at it at work. I like to think, but it’s a growth opportunity for me. I’ll go, I’ll highlight that chapter and go back.

Johanna Rothman: [09:39] Well, and I don’t think this is a male thing. I think that this is more an engineering mindset thing. We thought we were, we got reinforcing feedback for all of our time in school. If we, if you have a technical degree of any kind, we could solve this problem with enough coffee and enough hours, we could solve anything inside of a semester. Um, we, we both managed to graduate. I think

Dan Neumann: [10:13] I have the diploma hanging up over here to my left on the wall, just in case I forget.

Johanna Rothman: [10:18] I graduated also. So clearly it wasn’t that. So I think that it’s, you know, hard for us. I mean, we are, we are problem solvers by nature. And I think anybody who gets into management is a problem solver by nature. So, yeah. Yeah.

Dan Neumann: [10:37]
That’s good. And you’ve got some practical tips for avoiding inflicting help, which, you know, do you need any more information from me was one of the questions, um, you know, do you need my help to solve the problem? Excellent phrase for me to practice, uh, out loud in front of the mirror. Right? So, so there are, there are really practical ways to, to seek out what that person who’s coming to you has. And I also, I, I, I didn’t get a chance to see if it was in the book, but then there’s the manager don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions, which kind of makes my toes curl sometime because like an engineer, if I could solve it, I probably, I mean, I might be here to brag about it for my performance review, which will want to touch on performance reviews, but I probably wouldn’t be bringing it to you if I could solve it.

Johanna Rothman: [11:27] Oh, the very first time that happened to me. I, well, I should, I should preface this by saying, um, I am a blunt and direct person for sure. My husband claims to have softened all of my sharp edges. Um, I know. Yeah. Yeah. So the first time a manager said that to me, I actually said to him, um, do you really think I didn’t try anything? Do you think I, I came to you like, um, uh, like you’re a, baby’s in there for me and you have to wipe my tush. I actually said that. Yeah. So, um, he said, no, actually I don’t think that. So I said, why would you expect me to not have done all of the, everything I know how to do I am here because I don’t know where to go next. I need suggestions for where to go next.

Dan Neumann: [12:39] Yeah. And it’s suggestions for where to go next to it’s positional authority in the organization, because the change is beyond your control, it’s relationships, it’s access to other resources that you don’t have. So, um, yeah. Hopefully engaging in that problem solving as opposed to, you know, you bring me the solution and I’ll rubber stamp it for you if it’s okay. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, good fun, good fun. Um, there’s so many, there’s so many places to go next. I’m trying to figure out where we, where we can go. Um, we touched briefly on not to hop around totally, but there’s three books and we’ve got a timebox so we’re gonna jump to, to managing other people a little bit. Um, and we just actually touched on performance reviews when I was saying, Hey, I might want to collect feathers in my cap because I know there’s an annual performance review that will happen at some point. Um, and your, um, one of the myths is about performance reviews are motivating. I think there’s the myth, which because they can be incredibly de-motivating.

Johanna Rothman: [13:41] Oh yeah. Yeah. So, and I do say in, in the book somewhere, I, I got really great feedback once from a manager. Now you need to set that once in perspective, before I became a consultant, I was inside organizations for almost 18 years. Right. So I had plenty of experience as an employee, and then I became a consultant. So out of the 18 years, I had one piece of feedback that was really, really valuable. Now that piece of feedback has really helped me throughout my entire career, which is Johanna you don’t like finishing things. Oh, fine. Yeah. So you don’t get it quite over the line. So I have learned from that, I have my checklist, my checklists have checklists. I make myself go through them because yeah, if it’s close enough, why do I have to finish it? I suspect I’m not the only person who has this problem, however

Dan Neumann: [14:46] Yeah. But in fact, my moment of self-reflection I’m like, ah, it’s like looking in the mirror little bit.

Johanna Rothman: [14:54] Well, once I get really close to the end, I mean, isn’t it, isn’t it really done. Yeah.

Dan Neumann: [15:00] But you seem to have overcome that. I mean, just by virtue of how much you publish articles and books and things like that, you do seem to have incorporated that feedback, but, uh, you know, one nugget over 18 years, it seems like it’s a few nuggets short.

Johanna Rothman: [15:14] Yeah. Yeah. So, and what I have also received, um, performance reviews where, uh, my manager expected more of me because I could deliver more than he expected, uh, other people. And when, when it’s more often, the performance review was about the money that the manager can give out. Um, I should say Dole out to the people in, in the group or the team. And I find that very de-motivating. So if I have done the work and I am on par with other people in the organization, why do I not receive exactly the same amount of money as they do? Why is my performance review different? And, um, and this goes back, I, I brought Kurt Lewin into this book, um, maybe earlier in the chapters, but I, Kurt Lewin’s equation is environment shapes the behavior, right? Everybody, everybody’s behavior is a function of the environment and their performance. So if we think about the system of work and we think about how little we can control in that system of work, and then we think managers is spending a ridiculous amount of time giving out 1% to this person and 3% to that person and not looking at, at the big picture of, do we have pay parity across the various job titles? And is it, is it based on technical expertise or, um, is it based on how well we get along with each other? Are we, are we looking off assets of a person, this whole business of, um, performance reviews? I find mostly in my experience, maybe this is different from, for other people, mostly de-motivates people, they expected, um, A, B or C, they got X, Y, and Z, and it’s not the same. And that makes it really, really horrible. The second piece of this is that they don’t work. We have years and years, like 25, 30 years of of experience that says performance reviews don’t work. So Alfie Cone publish, um, punished by rewards in 1993. Um, there’s, there’s even more reference recent references for, from 2007 by Pfeffer and Sutton, a bunch of Pfeffer and Sutton. Um, Bob Sutton is, uh, the author of the no rule. Gotcha. Right. Okay. Yeah. So that’s all really good. Um, then there’s a bunch of stuff from 2016 and 2012. I mean, but even if we just go back to Alfie Cohn’s book in 1993, he has research that said performance reviews don’t work. And think about how much time we spend on performance reviews. A ridiculous amount of time for no return, just no return. Now people do need feedback. That piece of feedback I got all those years ago. Oh my goodness. Right. I still remember it. I remember sitting in my boss’s office. I remember how I felt, which was, Oh dear. And then I said, Oh, I can fix this. I can create checklists. So, and as you noted, I, I have fixed this. I have figured out what to do for me. Right. My, my approach is to not finishing might not work for you, but that’s fine. And that, so the, the there’s a difference between feedback and evaluation.

Dan Neumann: [19:29] And to try and emphasize that feedback is, Hey, here’s something I’m seeing a reflection of something I could tell you exactly what chair I was in at the first place I was out of college. Uh, Jeff Frederick was the partner who I was working with on the engagement. And he’s, the budget was blown on this project. I was at, uh, it was, we were going to, I don’t know, six figures. We’re going to take a market down on it. Jeff sat there and he’s like, Neumann, how much are we going to lose? And you’re not going to make any of it up on the backend. So like, don’t tell me it’s a hundred thousand now. And then come back later and it’s another hundred. Like you don’t make it up on the backend. And that was, that phrase it stuck with me. You never make it up on the back end. And so, you know, optimistic, Oh, what, everything’s good. Everything’s going to go good from now to the end of the project. No, it’s not. It’s going to continue to bleed the same way it’s been bleeding or maybe worse. So, um, so the feedback was helpful. He wasn’t saying evaluation Neumann, you’re an idiot. You screwed this up, which may or may not have still been true. But we stuck with the feedback, not the evaluation of my role as the human being on that. So I think that’s the difference. I hear you articulating.

Johanna Rothman: [20:39] Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. And then we might want to do some problem solving, right. If I, if I did not know how to get things to done, I would have asked for help, but I, I knew I wasn’t doing.

Dan Neumann: [20:55]
So I’m imagining there are a lot of managers kind of in that middle, right? They’re not the C-suites setting the HR policies and they’re not the line workers who are suffering under those they’re in the middle and they, they can’t redo the annual performance review process that might be in place at their organization. How, how does one then as a manager, um, do the best they can given the environment, right? So environment shaping behavior and environment, you talked about that. So, so what does one do as a manager?

Johanna Rothman: [21:23] So this is where the one-on-ones are so, so important, right? So if a manager has one-on-ones with every single person that, um, that they lead and serve on a regular basis, at least once every two weeks, they understand what this person wants and needs and how this person is working inside the organization. The other thing a manager can do well, another thing is to offer feedback and coaching labs inside the organization. So I happen to really like, um, and I, I realized I need to teach the, my consulting, my, my, the managers who I coach and consult with those people, my clients, um, I’ve been teaching them how to offer feedback labs and coaching labs inside the organization. Right? Here’s how you help people learn how to offer feedback to each other and start with reinforcing feedback. It’s really hard to offer change, focus, feedback, right? Um, Johanna, every time you checking code at four o’clock on Friday, it breaks the build for everybody else, even though we’re all going to go home at six. Right? So that’s, that can be hard to say, well, it might, it might not. Um, but it’s, it might be much easier to say. I really did. I really liked the way you facilitated me in that meeting. You helped me not explode and, and say things I might have really regretted later. And all you have to do is say, thank you, wait. And now, you know, you know, I’m, I’m looking for help on managing my behavior. You know, that I value your behavior. And I didn’t have to say much, nobody wrote this down for HR. Nobody, nobody did anything like that. So if we can focus more on what’s working in the organization and what’s working with people we’re are more likely to achieve, excuse me, the results that we want. So, and then, then there’s all kinds of, um, things. If you’re willing to go to all the stuff you want to go to for HR, right. If you’re willing to have that conversation, then I have suggestions also.

Dan Neumann: [23:48] That’s awesome. It does make me think, and I’ve somewhat tongue in cheek, but actually I think fairly it’s also all humor is based in reality or something like that. So, uh, I’ve, I’ve referred to my upbringing and in German Lutheran heritage, and by golly, we’re good at finding opportunities for improvement. It was a, you know, everything from how I enunciated my Ts as a child, to how well I projected my voice. If I was speaking at the lecture and like, I I’ve had lots of growth related feedback. So, um, what’s the channel then? Yes. I love the positive feedback as well. Hey, Johanna, I loved how you gave me the feedback and kept me out of the, you know, trouble there. But at times there are up, there are things that need to be fixed. Johanna your four o’clock break-ins on Friday. Break-ins your check-ins that break things are a problem. So do you offer some wisdom for managers, um, when there is that kind of improvement opportunity to use it a little euphemistically?

Johanna Rothman: [24:46] Oh, absolutely. So I explain how you can use change, focus, feedback, and then ask, ask for the change that you want. So Esther and I wrote about this and behind closed doors, secrets of great management, we wrote about our, our peer to peer feedback approach. And we have found that using that approach really works for almost everything. And the key is to do it as soon as possible when you notice this challenging occurrence, right? So almost everybody knows how not to break the build, but not everybody. Right. And especially if you’re new, you might say to somebody, I know that you’ve only been here for three weeks and, and that your buddy is no longer working with you. And, um, and I noticed that today you broke the build. Here’s do you need anything from me so that you don’t break the build in the future? I think that breaking builds and stuff, that’s more technical is easier to deal with. I think that the in the organization, that’s a lot more difficult and that’s because that person tends to get angry or withdraw or have a challenging kind of face and reaction to the rest of the people in the organization, which means we need to be centered when we deal with that person. That’s why congruence is such a big piece of all these books.

Dan Neumann: [26:24] Yes. And that was right at the beginning of one of the books. Maybe you can touch on, on congruence, um, to help. Cause there’s a lot in just that one word.

Johanna Rothman: [26:34] Yeah. Yeah. So the idea between, uh, behind congruence is that we balance ourselves the needs of ourselves, the needs of the other person and the context that we’re in. Right? So if we are, if we always blame the other person, if we forget that the other person is a human being with feelings and capabilities, we will blame the other person and poured in and seen me point the finger of blame. Now what’s very interesting. Is many, many policies in the organization go directly to blame, right? So that’s a very common state for managers to be in. Um, managers might placate other people, right in the chapter about the Angella where, where this person was making life difficult for the entire team. That’s when, um, that’s when I, I said the manager might placate that on jeller because doesn’t everybody deserve a job here. Well, no, the answer is no, right? Depending on the culture you want, not everybody deserves a job and that person might still be able to say, would he, or she wants to say, but in a different way so that they allow for more, um, a better balance of conversation. And then the context is what are we doing here, right? Why are we here? Which is why one of the, um, one of the principles is the overarching goal. And, and literally, what are, what is this team doing? How do we make it so the team can succeed, right? Sometimes the team needs to offer one of the people a little bit more, um, flexibility in their work or working hours. And sometimes the team, um, can different team members can, um, okay, let me, let me rewind. So it’s English, sorry. And as team members, we sometimes need flexibility and sometimes we offer flexibility, right? So that resilience as a team is really key. If, if one person never offers that flexibility, that person is in effect blaming the other people. And if, if everybody else offers flexibility and never gets it in return in effect, the team is placating that person. So thinking of how do we balance the needs of everybody and do what do we do with people who are not able to be really an integral part of the team.

Dan Neumann: [29:16] Yeah. And, and that, that placating, uh, I think of examples, uh, I’ve been in consulting forever. So this is, you know, by no means unique to any current situation I have, or even related to a current one, but clients sometimes demand a lot. And the quote, easy solution is to go, just make it happen with the team. Oh, the client said they need X, Y, or Z, you know, tomorrow, next week, next month. So, you know, all hands on, you know, the SWAT or whatever, you just ride people into the ground to make it happen. That would be an example of placating, um, in, in an, in the concrete behavior where you’re not looking at the needs of, maybe my needs are taken care of. Cause I just passed the buck onto the team as a bad manager. Uh, but, but obviously the needs of everybody aren’t being accounted for in that. Oh, so much, so much, so much in those, in the so much wisdom in the book, but let’s, let’s imagine I’m kind of thinking of where did it go? Let’s say you’re a manager, you read through this management book and you go, eh, two, or I can’t do that. I’m, I’m happy slinging code. I’m happy doing whatever else is quote an individual contributor, not, not a bad way, but.

Johanna Rothman: [30:34] So if you think that management is not for you, that’s totally fine. You know, one of the things that I, I find so interesting, um, maybe cause I’m okay, I’ll just say it I’m old. I had an opportunity. I had an opportunity earlier in my career to be programmer manager, programmer, project manager, programmer, um, larger project manager, programmer, tester, tester, test manager, test manager, programmer, test manager, program manager. I mean, I, I, I bounced my entire first, I think 15 years of my career. I don’t see why this is such a problem. Well, I see why it’s such a problem. Our, our HR departments have this notion that, um, even if they say that they’re parallel tracks, it’s really hard to get that promotion to a more senior technical position. It’s much easier to get the promotion to a management position, even if that’s not what you want, if you want more money. So, um, I am working on a series of posts that are not yet ready for prime time, but maybe by the time this goes live about how to great, um, what Sheryl Sandberg calls a jungle gym of a career ladder. That’s all about the influence you have in the organization. And if you think about influence around pieces of the code, which referred to pieces of, of teams and other people like marketing, product management, sales training, all those, all those people and teams versus, um, direct, direct, maybe indirect influence on as a project manager, as a scrum master, as a coach, as a program manager, as a director, as a whatever, right? In some ways you exert very, um, uh, diffuse influence. And in some ways you exert very, um, direct influence. And if we start to think about the influence people have across the organization, as a way to think about their value, we might be able to reward people more evenly, regardless of whether or not they have a manager title. So this business of a management title now I see way too many technical people who really don’t want to be a manager, right? They don’t want the career change that comes as a manager. They want to keep their, what they were doing before and still get the money as a manager, which I’m not surprised they’re human. So how can we offer people more, um, reasonable, uh, expressions of their value and the lose, the superior technical knowledge that they have when they move to a management position, because now you have a person who’s not doing the technical work and not doing the management work.

Dan Neumann: [33:51] They stopped doing the thing that they are excelling at and moved into a position that they may not Excel at, or may not, uh, really have a passion for that’s interesting.

Johanna Rothman: [34:00] Well, and if they don’t want to practice, right. I mean, if they want to practice totally fine. But if they don’t wanna practice yeah. That’s a problem.

Dan Neumann: [34:09] Yes. And, um, we didn’t establish a specific time box, so we can’t blow it. Right. I want the practice piece was actually one of those things that jumped out to me. So, um, intentionally practicing management was, was something that stood out to me as one of those tips that you provide. And you talked about the cohorts earlier, the feedback, um, peer to peer feedback approach, are there other ways of practicing that?

Johanna Rothman: [34:36] So I really like to think about cohorts at various levels. I talked about this more in book three, where, um, we, we think that people have to be managers all by themselves and not talk to their peers. No, no, no. How about if we, if we find a way to have people as peers learn how to work together. So if, if most organizations I go into are, um, still have an, um, a functional based management approach or whether they’re so dev manager, the QA manager, the UI manager would whatever, if those people collaborate, not just cooperate as a management team and learn together. Wow. Think about the things they could accomplish. Right. I might say to you, I’m, I’m the dev manager I have, um, I, I don’t know how to offer feedback to this person in my team. I noticed that you talked about one of your testers a few weeks ago and you offered feedback. That’s kind of similar to what I need to do. Can you tell me how you did that. Think about that. Wow. Wouldn’t that be amazing? So learning as a cohort and every single level, I find this interesting. We talk, we talk about, um, uh, leadership teams, right? The people at the very top, the C level, and we talk about feature or product teams at the very bottom. What are all these people in the middle of these, this messy middle of management? Why can’t they be teams too?

Dan Neumann: [36:21] I bet that’s a rhetorical question. They can be, right? Yeah, absolutely. Well, wonderful. Um, you mentioned a series of posts, where will people be able to find your posts? They can find the current ones and then where will they be able to find the, the posts going forward?

Johanna Rothman: [36:38]
So everything is on, on my managing product development blog. Um, and I, I am, I’m very busy talking about the books because I wrote the books.

Dan Neumann: [36:55] There’s lots of good content on the blog. And then, uh, I know the books are available in lean to pub,

Johanna Rothman: [37:00] Oh, they’re available everywhere now, print and even hard cover. I know.

Dan Neumann: [37:08] I’m going to have to go hunting for those. So other like this Amazon thing I’ve heard about, are they available there as well?

Johanna Rothman: [37:14] Oh yeah, yeah. So yeah, so the books are everywhere. Um, I believe the print books are everywhere, everywhere. fine books are sold. So, um, and including Barnes and noble. And I don’t think there’s a link there yet, but, you know, linking takes time. Everything takes a little time.

Dan Neumann: [37:34] Well, we’ll put links to those that we can find into the show notes at And so that’ll be another place. And, and Yeah. There’ll be able to find them there as well. Well, uh, very much appreciate you taking some time to share a little bit of a curve ball maybe. And I apologize if it, what are you learning? So the books are, are kind of the past learnings and, and publishing. Is there a kind of topics you’re interested in next?

Johanna Rothman: [38:07]
So I’m finishing two other books cause finishing. Yeah. So I’ve been, um, I wrote this little, it’s not actually that little, but it’s a little book about how to run a conference proposal last year. And it’s only electronic right now. And I realized, I thought I would have several writing books to go along with it. And I thought, why am I waiting? I should just ship this out because I don’t have to, I don’t have to wait for the next books to finish this in print and everywhere else. So I’m finishing that book. Um, and I have a consulting book that is mostly done. Uh, a colleague of mine wanted a consulting training class last year. So I started a cohort, um, in January of 2020. And then I decided I really needed to finish the management books. I could not start any, anything else. So I am starting, um, another, uh, consulting cohort this year, probably in early spring of 2021. And I will announce that on my blog also. And that, that was the consulting book is as part of that cohort. Right. You can read the consulting book before and then join the cohort depending on how many spaces I have. And then so that I will finish that book. And then I, of course I have several writing books in pro well, mentally in progress. I need to write them down. And then there’s a project owner book

Dan Neumann: [39:46]
That’s wonderful. And, uh, I’m very humbled by how much you have going on. That’s that’s impressive. And I will look forward to these future contributions to the community. That’s wonderful Johanna.

Johanna Rothman: [39:57] Well, thank you. I, I did not expect to enjoy writing, which is why I want to write the writing books because a lot of us don’t start off enjoying writing. Um, but now I really kinda like it.

Dan Neumann: [40:10] That’s wonderful. Wonderful. Well, thank you for sharing on the three books you have and about the future ones that are coming out.

Johanna Rothman: [40:17] Well, thank you for having me. This was a blast.

Outro: [40:22] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought. The views, opinions and information expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and the guests, and do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips for this episode and other episodes at

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