Leading Questions Podcast

We are Dawn Kuczwara and Jer Lance; technologists, leaders, and (most importantly) opinionated people who want to draw from our wealth of experience in becoming leaders and leading teams to help answer your questions. If you'd like yours answered, email us and we'd be happy to "help!"
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Leading Questions Podcast



All Episodes
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Apr 17, 2018
This episode's question is:
When you're interviewing, when should you talk about salary? And how?
Some events for your consideration: Download this episode Discarded titles: Talking Tenners, Discussing Dollars, Discussing Dead Presidents, Chatting About Cash, Chatting Cheddar, Jabbering About Jacksons, Questioning Quid, Wondering About Your Wad (eww), Speaking Sawbucks, Speaking Shekels, Speaking About Stacks...and so many more. See what we do for you?
Apr 3, 2018
I want to apologize for that pun first...but, here's this episode's question:
I am currently a programmer in niche languages with specialized experience going to school to be a software developer. I don't have a lot of experience doing large programming projects in C++ or Javascript or whatever. I make a good living now, but I get the feeling I might need to take a pay cut as I enter the development world. What should I expect to make as a person who is not new to tech but is new to being a developer?
Some events you should consider attending!
Mar 20, 2018
This episode's question (bear with us, it's long...):
I've been fired from my last 5 jobs, 3 of which have been in the last 9 months. Now I'm getting to the last point in interviews (3rd and at the end they really want to give me an offer letter) and not heard anything from potential offers since. Including silence when I've tried contacting them via email. The reasons for my firings were as follows:
  • In the role of a Software Engineer: I got fired after 3 months for not learning fast enough.
  • In my next role as a Software Engineer at a small business: I got fired after my 30 day review in which my manager gave me glowing praise
  • In my next role as a Software Engineer: I got fired after working there close to 3 years. When asked why I was told, verbatim, "We are exercising our right as an at-will employer not to tell you"
  • In my next role, as a Lead Software Engineer and Project Manager at another small business: I got fired . This one I know why, I didn't get along with the CEO's micromanagement and working remote. I was set up for failure too many times
  • In my most recent role as a Scrum Master at a medium sized company: I got fired close to my 3 months. I was again given glowing praise and minor feedback on my 30 day review.
None of these companies will tell me what's going on or give me anything to work on and improve upon. Do you have any advice? Please.....I don't know what to do or how to improve.
Fun facts from this episode: Download this episode
Mar 6, 2018
This episode's question:
I have a person working with me that is a friend. She's a great friend but a terrible employee that is hurting my business. My question is this: how do you fire a friend while maintaining the friendship?
And boy do we have a treat for you...Dawn's daughter in a turkey hat! Love you, T! :)
Feb 20, 2018
This episode's question:
My current position has a manager title, but I have no direct reports. However, I am expected to lead others who do not report to me. What's the best way to lead people that you don't have direct authority over?
This seemed appropriate!
Feb 6, 2018
This episode's question:
At a previous job, I had an employee transfer from another group to mine. In chatting with her it became clear that the reason that she moved groups was because she'd been sexually harassed by her previous manager. She'd reported it to HR and their solution was a warning to the manager and moving the engineer to another group (mine). I'm really bothered by this, both by my peer and the company's reaction. How do I continue to work and collaborate with a peer that I've not only lost respect for, but that has done something I'm pretty disgusted by and angry with (and gotten away with it)?
With special guest Mike Eaton helping us answer questions and talking about Kalamazoo X (Saturday, April 21 in Kalamazoo, MI. Be there!)
Jan 24, 2018
It's meetings all the way down this's our question:
At what point is it appropriate to interrupt a manager's meeting and inform him that he's wasting everybody's time? Right now, I am sitting with 18 people gathered in a big conference room and the manager is going through his spreadsheet of projects to get updates from each person. He's spending about 10-15 min per person. First, we are NOT going to get through this list today. Second, this is a colossal waste of everybody's time. How do you go about giving that sort of feedback to your manager and how do you deal with time-waste meetings?
As promised...Zoey...
Jan 9, 2018
This episode's question:
I'm a leader and my manager isn't helping us get better. He keeps having leaders under him stop being leader because they can't learn how. I'm new. I want to learn. How do I learn if my leader can't teach?
Also mentioned during this podcast: Kalamazoo X conference on April 21st, 2018...go to there! Download this episode
Dec 12, 2017
This episode's question:
How do you guys handle being on the receiving end of a performance review where you weren't able to achieve the goals that were set at the beginning of the year? Setting aside the idea of whether the annual goal setting thing has any merit, what do you do to ensure that not having hit those goals doesn't have an impact on your raise, bonus, or promotion?
Also, we mentioned The Power of Habit and Smarter, Faster, Better, both by Charles Duhigg.
Nov 28, 2017
This episode's question:
Should a manager be focused on execution or on the team? Should they be focused on both?
We also mentioned Waltzing with Bears during this episode. Great book, worth a read!
Nov 14, 2017
This episode's question is:
When it comes to hiring, are social media accounts an assets or a liability? From a management perspective, would you ever reference an employee's social media account when evaluating an employee's performance or recommending them for a promotion? If you don't normally have a social media presence, is it worthwhile to create one for potential employers to find and reference?
Oct 31, 2017

This episode's question is:

As a team lead, what do you look for when interviewing developers, or perhaps other roles as well. I feel like resumes can be BS-ish, it's easier to have actual things to show. Do open source contributions appeal to you? Or just personal projects? Current apps/scripts/whatever in the field the developer is interviewing for? Do you care if they go to conferences or if they speak at them? Personal hobbies?

Quote of the episode: "I'm the motherfucker with feelings up in this motherfucker" -Jer

Oct 17, 2017
This episode's question is:
You both talked about doing things in the past to help your employees improve, but how do you do that with fellow managers or with your manager?
Oct 3, 2017
This episode's question:
What are your favorite interview questions? What are you looking for in good answers, and what would concern you to hear?
Sep 19, 2017
This episode's question:
How do you lead teams that do a job you know nothing about or don't know a lot about? Can you?
Sep 6, 2017
This episode's question is: What would it sound like if we could hear Dawn's talk at ThatConference 2017? I'm glad you asked, gentle reader/listener, because this is what it would sound like! Feel free to download the corresponding slideshow here to follow along if you'd like (but probably don't do that while you're driving).
Aug 22, 2017
This episode's question:
I'm starting a position soon as a senior engineer at a company, where my new leadership and I have discussed a potential track where I come on board as a senior engineer and then, if things are working well, moving me into more of a team lead and leadership track. As a result, I'm wondering if I should approach this differently than other jobs where I've come in before as senior member of a team. I know what I'd do, and it has generally worked well with me in the past, but I would be really interested to know how both of you approach this, as some of this is new territory for me.What is your process when you start as a leader or as a senior member of a new-to-you but already established team? More specifically: 1. What sorts of things do you ask your leadership when you're coming into a new team? 2. What do you ask the outgoing leader if they're still available? 3. How do you approach and start to build rapport with your team members, especially if they're tightly knit and may be wary of outsiders?
Archaic references from old people: Download this episode
Aug 8, 2017
This episode's question:
At work, I have been interviewing internally for management positions, but I haven't been getting them. I get feedback that I show promise or I have some ideas that are good or whatever. They say I don't have enough experience actually doing leadership, but how do I get experience leading until I get the job?
Jul 25, 2017
In this episode, we address a recurring series of questions that has come up numerous times: who are we and why should you care what we have to say about leadership? Join us as we spend an hour interviewing one another and talking about what brought us here.  
Jul 5, 2017
This episode's question:
Why does it feel personal when you get laid off or fired? How do you deal with laying off or firing someone when you actually do have a bias against them?
The shirts we mention...again... Download this episode
Jun 20, 2017
This episode's question:
My boss at a financial institution seemed friendly at first, but then began tearing me down and saying inappropriate things about me both to just me and when others were around. For instance, at the time I was struggling with my weight, and this manager would say "Oh don't ask (question asker) to come to lunch, she doesn't eat!" It got so bad, I went to HR and complained. Their response was less than helpful. They actually said to me "Well, what do you want us to do about it?" My question is, if you have an HR situation, and HR won't help, what do you do?
Links: T-Shirts from the Ad!
Jun 6, 2017
This episode's question answers the last question from last episode:
I was looking into doing some contract work recently and I found the process a bit strange. After filling out a questionnaire and two meetings at restaurants, I was given a "homework" assignment. The assignment itself was basically a mini project in the platform I would be working on, but after spending 10 hours on it and only being halfway through, I realized that I didn't really want to take on this extra work because it paid hourly slightly less than what I made at my full time job and I was struggling to keep up with my personal responsibilities, so it just didn't feel worth it. What should I expect the pay to be so I know when someone is taking advantage?
May 23, 2017
This episode's question:
I was looking into doing some contract work recently and I found the process a bit strange. After filling out a questionnaire and two meetings at restaurants, I was given a "homework" assignment. The assignment itself was basically a mini project in the platform I would be working on, but after spending 10 hours on it and only being halfway through, I realized that I didn't really want to take on this extra work because it paid hourly slightly less than what I made at my full time job and I was struggling to keep up with my personal responsibilities, so it just didn't feel worth it. So I have a few questions. Is it common (or even feasible) to do contract work on top of a full time job? How many hours should one reasonably expect to be able to work without affecting their full time job? What is the hiring process for contract work normally like?
Interesting Notes:
  • Number of hours in a week, 168 (not 140 or 3000 Jer)
  • "Ephemeral" (not "efurmurmurmur" Dawn)
  • Go and see Dawn speak at ThatConference in Wisconsin
May 9, 2017
Yanni Kuznia, COO of Subterranean Press, and I spent this episode at Penguicon hanging out with our fellow geeks, answering some quick-hit questions from our inbox, and fielding a few more from the audience. Questions covered here include:
  • How do we reconcile our statements that "firing is failure" and that one should "coach up or coach out"?
  • How do you deal with teammates that have a hygiene or odor issue?
  • How do you train to be a leader? What classes should one take?
  • How do you avoid feeling as though you have to explain your every decision to your team?
  • How do you handle a situation where a person to whom you report is making a bad decision that will have a big impact?
Download this episode
Apr 25, 2017
This episode's question:
So I have an employee who is very good at what he does as long as he has a schedule, a set of boundaries, clear process, and he can "discuss" whatever is going on at that moment multiple times per hour. He is also a full on man-child with absolutely no capability of self management or accountability and freaks out at the slightest amount of stress or pressure. Last night, he mentioned taking a day off the following week. I asked him if it was truly needed as the partners had noticed a bit of a trend lately. I suggested that if he really needed the day off, that he should take it, but if he would be able to just come in an hour late or skip out over lunch, that would have a better appearance at the moment. He agreed, and asked if anything was going on, and I assured him that I was just making sure there wasn't the appearance of a problem. He called later in the evening expressing frustration at what he called "mixed messages" about our work from home and PTO policies. He felt that PTO and work from home were offered, but it was frowned upon for him to use them. I explained that it is offered to be used as a tool, but not so much that it becomes an issue. I reminded him that he used PTO or work from home 5 times in three weeks, mostly working from home. He seems to think that this is what the policy is there for and cannot understand how he's supposed to manage when things like a flat tire comes up. How can I explain this to him? What could I have done differently?
Words that Dawn made up this episode:
  • Squinky
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