My Developers Think I’m Brain-Damaged.

Recently, my wife, late in her pregnancy, was suffering some serious health issues. That’s a story for another day, but suffice to say it was very scary. I am extremely fortunate that I have an amazing team who supported me while I took family leave to attend to my wife and newborn’s health. Before I left, I hired a new Digital Lead to take my place and run the digital team in my absence. His name is Jared, and you may have been lucky enough to have gotten to know him over the past few months. As a developer myself, I trained him hands-on, and our other developers have always worked side-by-side with me.

When I returned from sabbatical, we kicked a lot of positive changes into gear. One of these changes was that I became President of Pollen Brands while Jared remained in my former position – Digital Lead. As President, I communicate with all of my staff daily. However, the nature of this communication has changed pretty significantly, especially when it comes to the development team. I am no longer the go-to guy for all technology choices, development hours-estimates and day-to-day management of the development crew, which brings me to the main point.

There have been more than a few occasions when one of my developers has come to me with a question that the previous me would have answered (and that I perhaps still could answer) only to be met with what might be thought of as a blank stare. What do you mean you don’t know how to resolve this shopping cart issue / configure this plugin / etc.? These are all issues that I could have dealt with handily before my leave — so what gives? By this point, when Jared sees this “blank-stare” expression (or senses it via email) I like to think that he chuckles to himself and knows what I’m really saying. For a while, though, it must have seemed that I returned from my sabbatical slightly brain-damaged.

The truth is, my brain is now full with a ton of other things that are entailed by my new role as President. I could switch gears and dig into development, but Jared is a highly capable Digital Lead. In reality, he wasn’t coming to me with these issues because he couldn’t solve them himself; it was just the friendly team dynamic that we had become used to. I’m happy to say that 1) I am not brain-damaged and 2) the team has adjusted wonderfully to the new structure. We’ve maintained the friendly, sleeves-rolled-up dynamic with clear new roles.

What is the meaning of this?

When you work purpose-first, sometimes you really don’t care what hat you’re wearing. You’ve got a job to do and a purpose to fulfill. When you’re working toward that purpose, any contribution, even the most menial, can be gratifying. This can make it hard to maintain clear distinctions between responsibilities. Everyone should certainly help out wherever they can, but to empower us to do our best work the go-to roles need to be clear.

Have you ever had challenges getting yourself to officially “switch hats”? Hit reply and tell us about it!

John Natoli and the Do Good Design Co. team