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Two perfect offers: how do you choose or why organizational courage matters

February 9, 2013 1 comment

Your colleagues call you the very best software engineer they ever worked with.  Your relationship with the current manager could not be better.   But you are not growing as a professional, or perhaps the reasons why you want to explore new opportunities are simply private.

The interviews have been exhaustive but every company you spoke with is very interested in extending an offer.

Yet you are patient, because finding the right opportunity, the one that will proper your career forward, remains the most important goal.

Two companies are literally opening every door (and every window) for you.    You feel very comfortable and excited about joining either one.   Even the commute is the same.

As expected, two offers have arrived.  Both are very attractive.   How do you decide?    Simple – the company which exhibits and encourages ‘organizational courage’.   So how do you learn – as a brilliant software engineer – if the company does exhibit ‘organizational courage’ and why it’s even important?

Very few organizations exhibit what I call ‘organizational courage’.   It can only exist if the leadership team actively promotes and encourages ‘organizational courage’.

How do you find out if the company exhibits ‘organizational courage’ during the interview process? 

I hired an amazing software engineer some time ago.  “D” came to me 4 years later and resigned.   I understood.  “D”‘s new role would be more visible and a much better fit for “D”‘s career goals.   There was little I could to retain “D”.

Over lunch (the right way to do exit interviews), “D” smiled and told me how he evaluated my offer and the offer from another company.  I remembered that stressful week waiting for ‘D” to respond to my offer.    “Why did you accept my offer?”, I asked “D”.  ‘D” replied, “You were the only one who gave me an honest response to what happens if the product management team does not provide detailed specifications on time”.

“D” even recalled what I told him during the interview.  “Slow down the release process, do not code fictional functionality, and get detailed specifications – even if someone does not sleep for a couple of days.  Or – product managers and engineers enter one room and do not leave until everything is clear.   Again – no fictional functionality based on fictional requirements just to meet the release date”.

“D” said, “I knew that that’s the team culture I wanted to be a part of”.    Although “D” did not mention it by name, ‘organizational courage’ is an important element in evaluating several, seemingly perfect offers.

During the interview, ask probing questions to create your own understanding of whether the culture you may join exhibits ‘organizational courage’

– What happens if the release is late?  How do you perform lessons learned?  How do you apply lessons learned?

– What happens if the professional services team is very unhappy with the installation process, configuration capabilities, or error reporting?

– Is there a customer that is genuinely dissatisfied?   What are the root causes?  What are you doing about it?

– What is your track record making and executing difficult decisions – but for the right reasons?  Can you provide examples where the goal was not to reach a compromise but to deliver what the customer really needed to be successful?

Why it’s important to learn about ‘organizational courage’ during the interview process

Your career progression depends on it.

Why promoting ‘organizational courage’ makes perfect sense to any manager

“D” left my team but recommended his former co-worker, “J”, who turned out to be a terrific engineer.   Time from open requisition to hire to closed requisition:  6 days.    “J”‘s comments after spending the first week, “This is the best place I ever worked”.

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