A good coach seeks first to understand

Journeyman Jones, a journeyman carpenter is called upon to train a team of aspiring apprentice carpenters at Gable Gates. On the first day, Journeyman Jones sees that the apprentices are all striking nails with the broad-side of the head instead of the intended business end.


"What on earth are you doing?", exclaims Jones.

"What do you mean? We are framing a house.", replies one apprentice.

"Yes, but why are you using your hammer like that? It is wrong. No carpenter would ever do that."

"But this is how Master Smith taught us. He was passing through and showed us to hammer this way."

"Master Smith?", asks Jones incredulously. "Impossible. Master Smith is one of the finest master carpenters around. He did not tell you to do that."

"But, he did." insists the apprentice.

"No matter.", says Journeyman Jones, "Let me show you the right way."

And so he does.

Sharpening the Saw

I like to practice my craft. I enjoy participating in Code Retreats. I enjoy facilitating Code Retreats. I like working on kata and koans. And a lot of what I talk about includes references to these practices. We at LeanDog are always on the lookout for people who are passionate about improving their own craft. I thought I'd start a blog entry where I catalog resources that might be of interest to others looking for ways to sharpen their saw.

Please feel free to reply to this post with other resources I don't have listed. I will try to keep it up to date as I discover more.


I've made a pretty significant change to the way I work on my laptop. None of what I'm doing is unique, but I think it is going to help. Before I get into describing the changes I've made, I thought I'd share a bit of the back-story.

Would you be willing to preach what you practice?

There's an old saying

Practice what you preach

Practice what you preach  is a variation of Practice yourself what you preach. I think we are all familiar with the phrase. I suspect most of us understand the basic sentiment upon first read.

This phrase addresses hypocrisy. It originally spoke to those who demanded others be pious while themselves partaking in sinful activities. It certainly applies to anyone whose personal life is lived in a manner incongruent with the values and behaviors they publicly espouse.

Leading by Example

I'm nothing special. I've known this for a long time. I'm not a naturally talented programmer, if there even is such a thing. Nor am I a top programmer. This is not self-deprecation. I am not ashamed of this fact. I don't think I should be.

Where I am today as a developer is remarkably reminiscent of my days running high school cross country. I was not a natural talent at running either. I worked hard. I became a varsity runner. This put me in the top 10% of the team. I never placed first for my team in a varsity race. Not once. But I frequently placed third or fourth for the team, putting me in a scoring position. I was regionally ranked in the top 100 and we were the best region in the state, putting me somewhere in the top 250 in the state. Nationally, however, I was nowhere near the top 1000. I never ran in a state meet. I never made the local paper except when the whole team made the paper.

You are a Leader

Leaders are chosen

Leadership is neither assigned nor selected. People choose whom to follow and a leader thereby emerges.
“The led must not be compelled, they must be able to choose their own leader” - Albert Einstein
We always have a choice. We may not like our options. We may feel we are choosing the lesser of two evils, but nevertheless, we follow at a minimum because we choose not to do otherwise.
“The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap.” - Ayn Rand

Leadership is by example

Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing. - Albert Schweitzer
Words inspire others to action, but they don't make a leader. Words make an orator. Action makes a leader. One must do, must set an example, must establish a direction in order for others to choose to follow.

Positive, negative, or even neutral; the actions taken set examples for others.
A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not. - John Quincy Adams

The quality of a leader is the quality of their decisions

Every action is the result of a decision. The quality of our decisions are not determined by the quality of the choices available, rather by the quality of our character. What we do and do not consider to be available choices is entirely about character. What we ultimately choose is a mere nuance.
The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action. - John Dewey
Through character, we make our decisions. Through each decision, we determine an action. Through each action, we create a result. Through each result, we garner a lesson. Through each lesson, we build character.

Leaders follow

All leaders are followers. All followers are potential leaders.
You cannot be a leader ... unless you know how to follow, too. - Sam Rayburn
Leaders select others from whom they take cues; others whose actions they find inspiring.
To lead, one must follow. - Lao Tzu
Leaders inspire others through action. Great leaders fall in stride beside others who are on the same path.

We are all leaders

We all make decisions. We all take action. We all set examples. We are all leaders.

We may deny our qualifications. We may retract our candidacy for leadership. But it is not up to us. Leadership is neither assigned nor selected. Leaders are chosen.

When you show up late to stand-up and fail to uphold your team agreement, you have taken an action and are, in that moment, a potential leader for others to choose to follow.

When you invite a team mate to pair with you, you have taken an action and are, in that moment, a potential leader for others to choose to follow.

Strive to be a good leader

Your influence, intentional or not, is greater than you may imagine. Strive to do well. Endeavor to do right. Be cognizant of the example you set with every action.
The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn. - Ralph Waldo Emerson