Being an Engineer

S5E20 Francis Lacoste | Vulnerability, Psychological Safety, & Befriending Uncertainty

May 17, 2024 Francis Lacoste Season 5 Episode 20
S5E20 Francis Lacoste | Vulnerability, Psychological Safety, & Befriending Uncertainty
Being an Engineer
More Info
Being an Engineer
S5E20 Francis Lacoste | Vulnerability, Psychological Safety, & Befriending Uncertainty
May 17, 2024 Season 5 Episode 20
Francis Lacoste

Francis shares his journey from software engineer to engineering manager to coach. He discusses strategies for balancing product development and organizational growth when scaling teams quickly. Listeners will greatly benefit from Francis's insights on accelerating their careers, enhancing productivity, and adopting best technical and leadership practices. Join us as we delve into the wisdom and experiences of a coach who has been instrumental in shaping the success of numerous engineering leaders and teams across the industry.

Main Topics:

  • Defining and onboarding new team members to a strong engineering culture to prevent cultural dilution when scaling.
  • Maintaining high performance through accountability and focus on results.
  • Fostering a collaborative and supportive culture.

About the guest: Francis Lacoste, a distinguished VPE and CTO coach, known for his exceptional ability to guide engineering leaders and teams toward achieving remarkable growth, fostering a collaborative and high-performance culture. With a wealth of experience in addressing the unique challenges faced by fast-scaling tech startups, Francis has mastered the art of balancing product development with organizational development, all while maintaining a strong focus on emotional intelligence and effective leadership.

Links:
Francis Lacoste - LinkedIn
VPE and CTO coach Website


About Being An Engineer

The Being An Engineer podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people resources, and opportunities. We feature successful mechanical engineers and interview engineers who are passionate about their work and who made a great impact on the engineering community.

The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical & other device engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at www.teampipeline.us

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Francis shares his journey from software engineer to engineering manager to coach. He discusses strategies for balancing product development and organizational growth when scaling teams quickly. Listeners will greatly benefit from Francis's insights on accelerating their careers, enhancing productivity, and adopting best technical and leadership practices. Join us as we delve into the wisdom and experiences of a coach who has been instrumental in shaping the success of numerous engineering leaders and teams across the industry.

Main Topics:

  • Defining and onboarding new team members to a strong engineering culture to prevent cultural dilution when scaling.
  • Maintaining high performance through accountability and focus on results.
  • Fostering a collaborative and supportive culture.

About the guest: Francis Lacoste, a distinguished VPE and CTO coach, known for his exceptional ability to guide engineering leaders and teams toward achieving remarkable growth, fostering a collaborative and high-performance culture. With a wealth of experience in addressing the unique challenges faced by fast-scaling tech startups, Francis has mastered the art of balancing product development with organizational development, all while maintaining a strong focus on emotional intelligence and effective leadership.

Links:
Francis Lacoste - LinkedIn
VPE and CTO coach Website


About Being An Engineer

The Being An Engineer podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people resources, and opportunities. We feature successful mechanical engineers and interview engineers who are passionate about their work and who made a great impact on the engineering community.

The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical & other device engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at www.teampipeline.us

Presenter:

Hi everyone. We've set up this being an engineer podcast as an industry knowledge repository if you will, we hope it'll be a tool where engineers can learn about and connect with other companies technologies, people, resources and opportunities. So make some connections and enjoy the show.

Aaron Moncur:

Hello, and welcome to the being an engineer Podcast. Today we're thrilled to welcome Francis Lacoste, a distinguished VPE and CTO coach, known for his exceptional ability to guide engineering leaders and teams toward achieving remarkable growth, fostering a collaborative and high performance culture. With a wealth of experience in addressing the unique challenges faced by fast scaling startups, Francis has mastered the art of balancing product development with organizational development, all while maintaining a strong focus on emotional intelligence and effective leadership. Listeners will greatly benefit from Francis's insights on accelerating their careers, enhancing productivity, and adopting best technical and leadership practices. Join us as we dive deep into the wisdom and experience of a coach who has been instrumental in shaping the success of numerous engineering leaders and teams across the industry. Francis, thank you so much for being with us today.

Francis Lacoste:

Thank you so much for having me. Aaron, this is a thank you for the glowing introduction. I hope I live up to it.

Aaron Moncur:

I am certain that you will. I've been excited to talk with you today. So maybe you can give us a little bit of background. You know, you're you're a coach for engineers and Chief Technical officers. But how did you get to where you are right now? And maybe just a quick summary of of what it is you do how your your coaching is used by your customers?

Francis Lacoste:

Yes. So coaching is an is my focus, full time focus since last year. It's something I've done for probably the last 10 years or so. And but my background is, I started a long time ago as a software engineer, mainly in the open source, domain and developer tooling after that. And after a number of years, actually, my background in open source brought me to Ghana nickel, which was the company still is the company. I think they celebrated 20 years this year, which spun developed a boon to Linux, the well known Ubuntu Linux distribution. And that's where I made the switch to engineering management in 2008. Which, you know, I got my my boss left a message to, on my voice, voicemail, I was on parental leave at the time. VALIC asking me to call back. And when I call back, he told me, we're creating some teams, we're thinking of creating some teams or splitting the teams. And we think you'd make a good team Lee, are you interested? And I said, Yes, not at all. Knowing what I was getting into, I quickly realized that management is a different career path. Fortunately, I was. I found it very interesting. And grew there, eventually ended up at Heroku, the platform as a service, one of the pioneer in the pad space. I came there to help build the remote culture. And I joined at there as an engineering leader. And that's, that's a real coup that I discovered the joy of coaching. So I was a director, and really enjoying cultivate, as a director of engineering. One of the thing I enjoyed the most was cultivating the next generation of leaders. And at some point, find out that after a reorg that I had only a single teammate again. And there was a guy on the team wanted to come in and train managers. So it was okay, this is great. I'm going to mentor you coach you that's that's what I liked most and then started offering that internally. Because we had a lot of first time injuring managers. And continuing doing that over the years and my team grew again. And five years ago, I was again leading the largest engineering department over there and somehow realized that the operational aspect of the role were not so silly to me. And that's when I kind of knew that career. Well that coaching and we're working around engineering culture would be my mission. So I was able fortunate enough to be able to transition such a role at the Roku and then Salesforce Iroko as part of Salesforce. So at some point got responsible to help with engineering culture at the, at one of the department there. And last year, there were two layoffs at at Salesforce. And that was my chance to actually start go on my own. And that's when I opened business as an independent coach.

Aaron Moncur:

Very cool. Thank you for that background and history. So you've been involved with some, some some fast scaling startups. And I've, I've heard it said before, you've probably heard this as well, that if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go with a team. And there's a difference between doing the technical work, the product development, and the organizational growth. Can you talk a little bit about those two aspects? And and how, or what strategies you've used to be most effective balancing them?

Francis Lacoste:

Yes, you know, I mean, the organization development is you are increasing your team size, and then you need to structure your, your organization. And that that is a thing in itself. But it's easier if you actually have a strong culture. And this is where cultural development is very important. Because the main challenge with scaling fast, is that and I experienced this both analytical and Heroku. We, you know, when you grow fast, you kind of you can double the size of the team, and very quickly, which means that after, you know, six months or a year, there's more people who are who are new to the company than the people who have been there for a long time. And if the culture is not strong and clear, and you're able to onboard the people in the new culture, you end up with a dilution of culture, because there's kind of a gap. And then everyone comes with their previous experience, which can be enriching, but can also but up too often, it becomes confusing, you know, it's kind of it because then you you're kind of, it's not done deliberately. And then you end up with kind of a mess, even though like your art design sounds good on paper, the if people are not able to collaborate effectively with one another, and yeah, that's, that's so the, one of the key practice there is around the cultural definition. So why are we working here? Why are we working here? What are we doing? And how are we relating to each other? And all of that, and, and the onboarding, so the indoctrination in our way of, of people. Of course, a lot of people will say that, I mean, hiring as a huge part, but hiring is not enough, you know, because even though you select the people, if you have a clear definition of of your culture, you can select people for the culture ship, which can have a bad rep, for some reason, but it's actually a very important aspect. But the, that's not enough, because once you select them, this, they come in, they're still they still need to start to work with other people. And and there's kind of, yeah, that's the onboarding process, which is, I found very, very critical.

Aaron Moncur:

What What else have you found to be important with scaling teams quickly? I mean, the, the culture, of course, is crucial. So how do you maintain a high performance, supportive, safe culture, when you're scaling a team so quickly? The

Francis Lacoste:

high performance and safe culture are actually I mean, the scaling fast, just makes it more harder, but it's the same problem any teams face in a way and the key ingredients there, and you kind of mentioned them, you know? So when we think about high performance, we're thinking another word for that is kind of an accountability. You know, you know, we are accountable to the results, the result and the reason saltier are delivering under mission. So. So which is important for that is that the clarity? Kind of this is a very it's kind of I see it as the vertical dimension, you know, what is we're here for what, and we're going to be accountable to, to delivering that. So it's why what we're building is not clear, and for whom and how, then you cannot really have accountability because expectation are not here. So setting clear expectation and making it very clear, what is the mission and our achieving that that's one dimension. But that's not enough, you know, for high performance. The other one is kind of what you when you mentioned, like the safety aspect, which is often called nowadays, psychological safety. So this, I see more as the horizontal dimension. And because these two are orthogonal, you can have like a team where people are very well working very well together, you know, everybody knows each other, that sort of thing. But they don't get anything done. And you can have the other day in case where there's, people are really kind of dedicated, doing everything, but they don't collaborate, they treat each other on what not well, and that's also not leading to high performance, because then everybody is kind of working alone. And, and, and jockeying for position and all of that. I mean, you I know, I've experienced teams like that. So and I think a lot of people have, so we really, you really want both. And the way I already mentioned, so the way to achieve the accountability aspect, it's around the clarity being clear on what is the team mission, etc. The How do you achieve the psychological safety, this is by investing in empathy and vulnerability. So in a way, you want people to be able to relate to each other as humans. And for that, you know, you need to let your guard down you need it's not about how I mean, I'm going to be perceived as the best or all of that those are all things that prevents people from relating to each other. Yeah.

Aaron Moncur:

Are there are there any specific tools or techniques, even workshops that you have implemented to help build psychological safety and and strengthen empathy within your teams?

Francis Lacoste:

Yes, I mean, at the I'm a big fan of Patrick Lencioni, his work, which means that I mean, and the five is well known for The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, but he has a whole corpus of work, and finds the function, Five Dysfunctions of a Team. So it's for like, for 2004, early 2000s. And this is what is now called psychological safety. II called vulnerability based trust, and vulnerability based trust, which is kind of the financial the foundational layer, and the first dysfunction, which is lack of trust, and you has yet to exercise that use that I've used a lot. And these exercise, I mean, there are multiple, there are variations on it. So often, you will find them in different forms, but the idea is basically the same. So the first one is inviting and I've done that with teams, it's a good way to bootstrap a tee, where everybody share answer a few questions, you know, which is, where did you grow up? How many siblings you have? And where are you in that order? Forget and but the critical question that's really the others are more kind of just get blended, is one challenge you've faced, you know, as as a child growing up, and other variation is kind of I, we at Salesforce, we had like one standard workshop, which was like that, but it was kind of your life story where you invited people to share some defining moments in their lives. So what made them who they are today, and and it's kind of amazing, because I've done it both with people who didn't know each other, and people who've done not weren't any way to each other. And in both case, you get to a very soft, sweet spot very rapidly where people kind of share things, which is kind of, oh, yes, we all experienced childhood challenges growing up, but you know, it's still it's very personal. And and, and so with the people who and this is with people who don't know each other, and in the people who know each other Often what you find out is that the people have been working maybe for a year or six months or two years. And the story that is shared, nobody knew it on the team, you know, it's kind of I never knew that about you. And now it's kind of, it really brings people closer together. Because they're, you're kind of showing vulnerability in a safe environment. And you decide how much vulnerability you're going to express. But then the container is such that you're, you're invited to slowly step into that. So this is one of these, these types of workshops are great when you're kind of starting the team. Or if you've never, I mean, because team buildings is more than adding, it does help to go out and have a meal together and things like that. These are all great things that builds the bonds in the team. But it's easy to stay superficial, even with the not getting into the the little bit more tender spots, which is where you get to, to recognize the human beings betwee behind like professional masks,

Aaron Moncur:

I really liked that I love the question that you shared, which is about a life defining moment. And using that as a prompt within your teams to foster vulnerability, and ultimately, psychological safety. We have a volunteer organization here at Pipeline called CAD Club, where for a 10 week class, we open our doors here at the office and invite middle school and high school aged kids to come in and we teach them CAD and we teach them about engineering. And so we're together for a 10 week period of time, which is you know, kind of a little bit of a long time, especially for these, these younger students. And the first class we have together, we try to foster some of that vulnerability so that we feel safe together, you know, psychologically, and the question that we've used, which has been really interesting, is what what's the most scared that you've ever been, and it's been really fun to watch some of these students, you know, share in front of this group of people that they don't know, they usually don't know anyone else in the class. And but anyway, it's worked really well to to encourage that vulnerability. And we it's amazing that after that quick, you know, 1015 minutes where several other students have shared about the most scared they've ever been, we all feel closer. And it's, it's such an easy thing to do, and relatively quick, but the results have been very, very rewarding. And I really, like your question might not be as effective with such young kids that don't have so many life experiences, but with with our team of engineers here asking about what are some of the moments that have really helped define your your life, I think that's a really wonderful one, I am super excited to use that one here at my team and see what we learn about each other that nobody knew before. Just just like you said,

Francis Lacoste:

Yeah, I love the art, when were you the most scary one, I can see how that works. Because it is it is inviting us right in a spot where we're, we have to express some vulnerability, being scared is a vulnerable moment. And now we have to share that with with with folks. I'd like to add something here though, which is these I mean, this is kind of a great bootstrapping tool. But it just doing that is not enough, you know, I mean, doing that is super useful, and something that really should be done. But then you have to follow through. And and there there's too you know, there I one thing one move or tool that comes is talking about the concept of psychological safety, what it is why it's important and then and then living it you know, I mean in the team this you do this sharing and then somebody start present their design and then you get like, shut down and criticize personally because there's there your this day your design was not is not flawless, you know, that kills the vibe very rapidly and you do it even though you felt safe and good. You could express vulnerability. I mean, if in the work rolled out and when vulnerability is expressed, it's kind of not recognized and and people are not treading lightly He and or not correcting when they make a mistake than it? I mean, the workshop is was done for nothing in a way.

Aaron Moncur:

sure that that makes total sense. Well, let me take just a short break here and share with the listeners that that our company, pipeline design and engineering develops new and innovative manufacturing processes for complex products, then implements them into manual fixtures or fully automated machines to dramatically reduce production costs and improve production yields for OEMs. Today, we have the privilege of speaking with Francis Lacoste. Francis, let's talk about the inner game, you work with a lot of leadership, individuals, right VPs and sea level individuals and, and I know from personal experience that that role can be a lonely one, and that there aren't always a lot of people around who understand exactly what I'm going through. And for sure, me personally, I know I've dealt with lots of stress, anxiety, fear, self doubt, impostor syndrome. I mean, the list goes on, right? How do you help? How do you coach your, your clients through building up that inner game? And maybe even you can talk a little bit about what what do you even define inner game? As How do you think about that? And how do you coach your clients through it?

Francis Lacoste:

Yeah. So that's critical, you know, the, the, the mics, I mean, the clients are, like you said, very experience, and often I coached many technical leaders, you know, and so often technical leaders become leaders because of their technical expertise. And, but once you're the leader, the technical expertise is not enough, you know, and this is where, like, the, the energy, you're dealing with people, you need to inspire them, give them directions, and there's a lot of interpersonal relations relationships that are necessary for the success of the organization, and it's your responsibility to be effective at it. And that will, any interpersonal relationship is hard, you know, this is where we get our button, push our triggers, and then we react instead of responding with intentionality. And so, the inner game is Allah is basically what I mean is the, the self, the inner self mastery of our emotional life and are and, and being able to not get carried away by the everything that is happening. So like you said, the imposter syndrome, the stress, the anxiety, the uncertainty, the loneliness of the role. And so, two things that l there so one is, being in community, you know, we as a CTO or VP of engineering, finding there, multiple communities, where do you find peers, where you're able to discuss and share your experience, and that can create self solace. Another one is what I do, you know, it's kind of a coach. And because I coach kids that safe space where you can actually process what is happening, and what you want to achieve and see the gap between that. And the way I work is kind of it's so there's two aspects to the work. So one is the coaching aspect. Proper, which is helping you gain perspective and reflection on what is happening for you. And so it's kind of, in a way, a little bit like a rubber duck, but like an intelligent responsive rubber duck, as you probably know, this idea of rubber docking, which is a you have this, which engineers sometimes used to work through a problems where they talk to, they try to explain it to this little figurine on their desk, and by talking it aloud it kinds of straighten it in their head. But here there's someone who's kind of listening, reflecting asking questions. So yeah, kind of be improved rubber duck and allows you also to the space to to ground in your experience so that you can actually reflect from a more end embodied and grounded place. And the other aspect is sometimes it's bringing kind of tools or models that are useful in that circumstances. You know. So for instance, the what we discussed earlier, around, like the two dimension of high performance, or psychological safety, those are things that can be learned. So it's more like a teacher tools guide, kind of thing. That's

Aaron Moncur:

really wonderful. And it makes me feel, I guess, pretty good in a way about what I have done. Because I've, I've been a part of a community, it was called entrepreneurs, organization, I'm not a member anymore, but I was for many years. And it was exactly what you were talking about. It was a community of other business owners, and we were all kind of going through similar things, right. So it was super helpful to, to be a part of that community and be able to talk with other business owners hear what they're doing to solve some of the same problems that that I'm going through. So that was super helpful. And then I've also worked with one on one, a business coach and my own for for many years now. And he's also been tremendously helpful. So so I'm betting to for to hear based on your recommendations, feeling pretty good about myself. Can you share an example of a specific leadership challenge that you faced and how you overcame it?

Francis Lacoste:

So in this case, the challenge was working with a leader who, and this is a common common thing, which is, you know, in startup life, there's a lot of uncertainty. And often that is, not everything is under your control. So when that happens, you know, a lot of folks will react with anxiety. And the anxiety is kind of ungrounded. And by definition, I think anxiety is, is anger is ungrounded, ungrounded. And grounded, versus fear, you know, when you fear something, I make a distinction between fear and anxiety, fear, you know, there's something coming at you, there's a car you live going to it's you, your fear for your life, you get out of the way, anxiety is going around, anticipating that there might be a car coming from anywhere, but there's no car, you're just kind of anticipating you, you're kind of looking for what might be causing will cause a problem. And, and so in a way this is there's, you're facing the the unknown. And in a state of anxiety, basically, you lose a lot of your capacity, you don't think as straight at it as like, it can have an effect on on your else and your sleep and all of that. So the the technique, there is a come from my meditation background, and it's kind of do lobbying. It's kind of a survey of a simple contemplative exercise, to befriend the unknown, you know, befriend the uncertainty, so instead of uncertainty triggering anxiety, uncertainty is just uncertainty. It's kinds of sounds trite, but there's like a qualitative experiential difference between, you know, experiencing uncertainty as something that leads to anxiety and uncertainty as Okay, well, I don't know what's coming and I but I don't need to try to anticipate the infinite space of possible there. So yeah, giving working like a series of exercise, which is basically embody embodying the state, you know, understanding Okay, now that this is this is uncertainty, this is how I feel it in my stomach. And so paying attention to the sensations of it being attentions to the thinking, that that that that is triggered by that and instead of following the thinking, noticing the thinking noticing that the sensations and and you do that like in s when there's no in a safe environment, you know, you do it by yourself when this is not you're not in a high stress situation. And by that you kind of gain confidence and you're in well, you get to know that state and then it kind of okay, I'm facing uncertainty here. And yeah, it's hard to explain The, I think how it works is basically you kind of have like a ninja combat that it's kind of I mean, it's like when you don't know, when you've done something, experience something, it becomes like, easier to be on your game, then when it's Florida, it's for the first time. So it's this is a little bit like that type of exercise.

Aaron Moncur:

That's really, really interesting. And I'd love to dig into that even a little bit further if if you're okay with it. My my business coach actually gave me a really great definition of of stress and anxiety, because this is something that we talk about regularly, I still struggle with with managing my stress levels and my anxiety. And he said stress. And I think we can think of anxiety, synonymous in this context is a result of placing your focus on an uncertain future, which is pretty much exactly what what you just said. Right. It's uncertainty. And, and then you mentioned befriending the uncertainty. And coming from kind of a like a meditative background with that, which that's that's a really intriguing idea. For me, that's a new tool that I have not heard about, before befriending the uncertainty, befriending maybe the stress or the anxiety. Can you maybe just help me take another few steps down that path? And in understand, like, what are some of the the tactical things that you do to be friend uncertainty? Right?

Francis Lacoste:

So in this case, the one good technical exercise I took from the teacher Shinzon young, was an American mindfulness teacher. And the technique, he calls it the power of doubt, no doubt, no, is this idea of uncertainty. And the the technique is, so in meditation, so you kind of sit by yourself or relax, and take like a, so in a relaxed state. And then you notice, so that you do that for for a set time. So this is kind of a meditation exercise. And if you Google, you know, the don't know shinza Neon, I think you might get a YouTube video of it, attic. But or it's a PDF or, anyway, that that's where I got it. And you you, you kind of use. So you set a timer, and then you pay attention to your experience. And you notice in every moment, how much anxiety there is, you know, and you can use like a Likert scale scale for that one guy, oh, no, no anxiety, I don't feel that then you can Oh, okay, things are fine. And you can know that that quality, and then it can move, you know, some thoughts might come in, and then you think you start anticipating about what's going to happen at that board conversation tomorrow, or what if the market shifts or whatever are our mind are great, that generate anxious thoughts, you know, and then you start feeling it, and then it's kind of okay, now, it's kind of it is, it is passive, I mean, it's mid mid level, you know, okay, so and you're trying to the instruction at that point is kind of staying with it, I'm trying to develop a certain sense of equanimity, so kind of not trying to push it away, or follow it. So it's kind of, so you let you just notice, you know, and it becomes higher. So you basically, in each moment, take a backup, you know, none, a little, some helot. And in a lot, then that's when it becomes overbearing, then the technique is you. And in a way, there's kind of a prerequisite to to be able to, to be in depth, which is you kind of deconstruct it, and this is what I was thinking about noticing of what it is made up, you know, because anxiety is kind of a construct, it's a there's it has components, and the components are the body sensations, the images that we might see or and the the verbal thinking, you know, the thoughts that are when we're talking to ourselves or things like that. And each of these three components creates a feedback loop, which is usually that overwhelming sense of anxiety. We were thinking about what if this appear? Oh, that's like a verbal thoughts. Okay. And you kind of noticed that. So you're kind of putting your attention away from the content of what is happening to more like the, the texture, the categorization, and you kind of do that, like, again and again. And that's how you kind of befriend the, the old state, you know, and you develop, like, an ability to navigate it. And which means that in, in practice, you know, we've now you might be in a, in a situation where some anxiety arises, and then you know it for what it is, okay? This is anxiety, I see the thinking year and the clutching in the gut and the tension in my shoulders. And and kind of you've known it, you know, it and then you're kind of, you're, it becomes possible to relax with it. And then it facet nor is it resolves itself, or it doesn't amplify, you know, it's kind of when you I mean, enchanting, yawn is great for that. He's kind of a geek, and and II, you often, you know, the, the intensity when you don't disentangle the components of the experience it, it multiplies. So the intensity of the thoughts multiplies by the intensity of the sensation multiplies by the dreaded images that we're seeing. It's seen as one big blob, and it becomes like a big thing. Whereas if you decouple them and see, okay, there's this in the in the verbal thoughts, this in images, this and sensations, it becomes additive, you know, so it's kind of there's still something, but it's much less. Yeah, or overpowering than when it is all together and not distinguished. I mean, this is a bit abstract, but you basically apply it, practice it and play with it, and then it starts making

Aaron Moncur:

sure yeah, now this, this is really cool. I'm, I'm going to start experimenting with this whole idea of befriending uncertainty and anxiety I like, I like the sound of this, I'm going to have to experiment with it a little bit and see if I can make it work for me.

Francis Lacoste:

And that's, that's, that's actually, probably more than enough, just having the intention of befriending the anxiety or the uncertainty, and then exploring the states with that intention. I mean, that, that's a lot of I mean, you can, you can make a lot of mileage just on that actually,

Aaron Moncur:

you know, a thought comes to mind here, I'm sure you've done this thought experiment as well, a lot of people have where someone says to you don't think of an elephant, and the only thing you can think of is an elephant at that point. But the second that that person says, Okay, now, you know, think about whatever you want. And then it becomes a lot easier to not think about an elephant. And I think this is very similar. If you're trying to push that stress and anxiety away, it's almost impossible to do you it almost comes back at you twofold. But if I understand what you're saying here, when when we start to accept or maybe even invite, you know, that stress and anxiety is there anyway, when we open our doors and say, okay, come on, in, come on in Have a seat, let's talk at that point is like, okay, maybe I can deal with this. Now, it's counterintuitive, but once you let it in, and just observe it, allow it to be there, it becomes maybe a little bit easier to deal with totally. Let's, let's talk about getting back to technical leaders. And, you know, the stress and anxiety what we've just been talking about, I think is is going to be one of the answers here. But maybe there are other topics that that you can share as well. What are some of the common pitfalls that you see technical leaders falling into? And what are some, like, suggestions or pieces of advice as far as how, how we can navigate those?

Francis Lacoste:

Yeah, so I work with a lot of technical co founders. And we're wants to grow with the organization when they get some success. So often, they start as Amazon and then the team grows and they need to become a leader. And that's when they seek out. I get many clients who have that that situation or that background. And one of the pitfalls in that situation is the it's related to that uncertainty, but it is the fact that the it's kind of an The challenge here is like you have to navigate an identity transition. You know, go from a product builder what I often call it as you go from product builder to person in building the product and enzyme to the builder of the organization that builds the product, you know, it's kind of a shift in focus. So and that becomes the answer. The pitfall becomes that this is kind of more nebulous, you know, when you know them in building the product as its own uncertainty, but usually you have experience, you know, the technology, you know how to build it, you know how to do that you are less experienced and more uncertain about your ability to build an organization. And what, what happens is that there are two aspects one is, well, you're, you're, you need to embrace the new Ember and identity otherwise, you kind of just default, well, I'm somebody who codes or, and builds products, so we should kind of are you going to explore things that are not supportive of that identity. And the other one is kind of, well, I know how to do that, I don't know how to do that other thing. So I'm going to put all my you kind of default and re and to, to working to do what you know, you know, and so that's, that's kind of the navigation of the pitfall and the path forward here is kind of to recognize the situation and brace, I mean, become clear is it. I mean, there's no shame in wanting to stay. Somebody who keeps their builds, oh, you know, and that sort of thing. That usually that happens, often you might be the role is not the CTO, but more like a chief architect, or that's more what suited for you. But if it's clear that that's what you want, then you need to, to, to, to, to shift your focus. And recognize that a, yes, I could go and ride that branch and write that feature. But that's not my job. No, this is not my role. And then it's about like, relying on the team and empowering the team to do that. Terrific.

Aaron Moncur:

That reminds me of the book, the E Myth, where I mean, it's basically going from a tactician, right, the person doing the work to, to the leadership role, the person that's kind of directing and managing and governing, the work, can can you think of, and an insight or a piece of advice that you've received that has profoundly impacted your approach to coaching?

Francis Lacoste:

I mean, the advice is, Listen, you know, I mean, and it's also the advice also, when I did the transition to management, my, my manager and mentor, kind of, well just stalked the person, you know, through your reports, and listen, you know, and this is the same thing in coaching, you know, investing in the Listening skills, and, and this is true, actually a lead for leader, all leaders, you know, we, we, we all think we know how to listen, but to listen truly is an art that as a depth that we have very few masters. So, go ahead, because listening is the entity, to listen, truly, we need to let go of our own own conception, because otherwise, we're not really taking in the other person perspective, we're kind of filtering it and distorting it from everything we know. So we as much as possible, we want to, I mean, not negate it, but just kind of leave it at the side so that there's room for that other perspective. And then we can enter in dialogue. And and, I mean, not in a coaching role here. But in, in general year, Daniel can enter in dialogue, but in the first part, really, you really want to open up and, and taking the other person perspective. So listening, this is the one of the highest leverage skills.

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah, that's, we have two ears and one mouth, right. And we should spend more time especially as leaders listening than we do speaking. I'm going to I'm going to ask a question, and then I'm almost going to rephrase it here. But what's the question I'd love to hear your answer to is what's one thing that you've done to accelerate the speed of engineering or accelerate the speed of developing products? And then I'm going to rephrase it by saying that this is something I've been thinking about lately. I'm not sure it's really possible to accelerate the speed of engineering per se. I think that every project kind of has its own timeline. And as engineering teams and engineering leaders, there's not really anything we can do to truly accelerate that timeline. per se, but what we can do is prevent it from being slowed down. There are definitely things that occur within a project that that slow it down from the timeline it could have had, where we not to stumble, and make mistakes, whatever those mistakes might be. So I think it's, it sounds like a more interesting phrasing to say, how can how can we accelerate the speed of engineering? But maybe I'll rephrase and ask you, what have you done in the past to prevent dramatic slowdowns to the process of developing a new product?

Francis Lacoste:

Yes, I mean, I agree totally with you. You're right. And I think I like the framing of there's an in an interesting base to each project. And so there's two things that come to mind there. So and they're both related. And it goes with the listening. And the CIO, thinking, since there's nothing more wasteful than building the wrong thing. So in a way, the way to accelerate is by really listening to the customer, or the user, who is this? Where are we building this for? What is their? What's the problem they're trying to solve? How are they trying to solve it? And once we know that, and we know that this is like the iterative approach, what's the minimal thing we can do to so that they to help them out, move the needle a little bit on that problem, get feedback to make sure that we're actually solving the right problem, and that the solution is acceptable. Because I mean, you can accelerate as much as you want, building the wrong thing, as it just going, if you look at it from beginning to actually being a success in the market, your timeline will be longer because your feedback cycle will will increase. And that's the other aspect. It's kind of decreasing all feedback cycles in your, in your organization. The more enzymes you have the more review cycle, you want to shorten them as fast as possible. Yeah. Wonderful.

Aaron Moncur:

All right. Well, Francis, how can people get in touch with you?

Francis Lacoste:

So either go to my website, theVPE.coach, or find me on LinkedIn, Francis Lacoste.

Aaron Moncur:

Wonderful. And we'll, we'll include those in the show notes as well. Thank you. I'm Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design, and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please share the episode. To learn how your team can leverage our team's expertise developing turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines and with product design, visit us at Team pipeline.us. Thanks for listening

Francis introduces himself and his background transitioning from engineering to coaching.
Discusses balancing technical product work with organizational growth when scaling teams quickly, emphasizing the importance of cultural definition and onboarding.
Aaron asks how Francis maintains high performance and psychological safety in scaling teams, and Francis emphasizes clarity of mission and investing in empathy.
Exercises for building psychological safety like sharing defining life moments to foster vulnerability.
Aaron discusses a question his team uses and Francis emphasizes following through on psychological safety.
Francis describes addressing a leader's anxiety through befriending uncertainty with meditation exercises.
Francis coaches navigating identity transitions for technical founders becoming leaders.
Managing stress and anxiety through befriending the states with meditation.
Techniques for decoupling anxiety into components using mindfulness.
Francis and Aaron discuss experimenting with befriending uncertainty and preventing slowdowns.
Francis shares listening as the most impactful coaching advice and importance for leaders.