Stuck? Check the Ego and ask for help.

Super smart people get stuck and insist on finding solutions all by themselves. Ego paired with stubbornness are the usual culprits that can hinder better solutions. Admit you don’t know. Ask for help. Create a learning culture by using modern tools to collaborate. Get some fresh air, grab a pop-tart and level up while you get work done.

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Greg: Hey, Robb, got another one for us. We got some developers that are a little frustrated. They like their work, they tend to own their tickets, so to speak, and when it comes to solving a problem they kind of get stuck in the weeds. They don’t come up for air, and it can really bog down the whole process. Seen this happen a few times. Have you seen this with any teams you’ve worked on?

Robb: Numerous.

Greg: I’m really trying to get at the root of what it is because I feel like it is constant. It happens all the time, but yeah, just trying to figure out how to unlock it. If we could figure out the root cause and maybe work backwards, we might get some developers unstuck.

Robb: Okay. What do you think it’s causing it?

Greg: I think for me I have to go with my own personal stories on this one. I really like to own the solution for the problems I’m working to solve, and so if I can discover that little nugget to be able to unlock that solution it feels so good. The problem is my ego gets in the way, cuz I want to solve it! Even though there might be somebody working with me who’s done this before, I don’t know that because I don’t ask for help. So honestly, my ego, I don’t ask for help, and I’m too stubborn to admit that I don’t know the answer. That’s me anyway. 

Robb: Yeah well you know a lot of us engineers, we’re paid to be smart people. We’re paid to have the answers, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable to say, ‘hey we don’t have all the answers all the time’. And you know you can spend a lot of time Googling your way down a black hole and never find the answer. And it turns out the friend next to you, if you just ask, they know, they’ve been there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked you for help on things where it’s like you gave me the answer in 2 seconds, and I didn’t even know the Google query to put in.

Greg: Some of the little tricks. Oftentimes you find there’s better ways to Google, because you can ask the Google, but just need to know how to ask. Ask a friend because they often will have had the experience, and I would also suggest sometimes stepping away. Literally set it down, go get a breath of fresh air…

Robb: And a pop-tart…

Greg: Yes, something. You’ve gotta kick it loose. I don’t know how many times I’ve decided, you know, I’m bailing out on that, going to do something else. And then I immediately come with the eureka moment, ‘Oh, I know what it is!’ And then you go back and have it solved in 5 minutes. Then you start thinking, if I did that 3 hours ago that might have saved me a lot of pain. Anyway, I feel like it’s a big topic. We got a lot of people out there getting stuck. Ego gets in the way and they don’t ask for help. Even the junior developers, they can teach you something. Just simply ask and let people know that, `hey, we’re all growing. We all got something to learn’.

Robb: Yeah. There’s one more tip. Greg and I work together on projects. Even software development, over multiple States distance from each other. Just popping open Zoom and pair programming together. Sharing the same screen. There’s no excuse for not being able to pair in pandemic or pre-pandemic, whatever. We’ve got these video tools and we can share our screens. Computers are getting to a point where they’re fast enough to handle both development IDE and being on a video call. Just pair up with somebody on the hard stuff and they can give you tips as you work.

Greg: I love that. Leveling up while you get work done. That’s a double whammy right there. I’m digging it. Well hopefully this helps somebody. Another good topic, another good tip.

Robb: Awesome

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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