I’ve titled this “Hard Truths”, recognizing that there are many truths, given perspective. To acknowledge bias : the truths I speak of are mine, which I aim to test continuously.
What has worked well this week?
It might start to feel like a cop-out to continuously say my team, but, my team.
In particular, we finally found the time to settle in for a retrospective and we built a new team agreement. We’ve been working very well together, but we created space to examine why and what else could improve and we found some gold.
The team likes to collaborate. We actively solicit peer review across our notional functions and we value conversation. We’re minding our stand-up time boxes, and we’re signalling when we need to focus.
We’ve also agreed that we’re independently productive in the mornings, so meetings should happen in the afternoon if we can. (It was fortuitous that the retro was cancelled in the morning and moved to 3pm so we could test this.)
Apart from the group reflections, I schedule short 1:1 check-ins with each team member every two weeks. While we communicate openly all the time, I’m finding this focus time to be really valuable. We talk about a bit of work, but also just explore what is keeping them motivated, and where else they could apply themselves. I get to check my blind spots too.
This week was extra sweet, as I discovered skill sets in two of my newest team members. Excel mastery and teaching and facilitation (seriously, a boon in my world right now). I also have been prompted to include them in more of what I’m up to, so they can shadow and ideally start to lead some more work.
The hard truth here is that there is always room to tune my team.
And, I have to make time for it.
Even if they aren’t performing, people generally are nice and polite and don’t want to rock the peer-filled boat. So it can be hard to really pinpoint.
I’ve experienced large groups of people, doing important work, swimming on top of layers and layers of dysfunction. I get right pissed when I see this happening: a reaction I have to work at managing internally. Externally I think I do pretty well… but I don’t want to lose any more sleep.
From my reflections on teams, I’m starting to develop a hypothesis on performance:
Your organization will function according to the strengths of your team members. The work you do and the service you provide will mirror that. Or, it will be dysfunctional, whether you know it or not.
I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with this.
It’s also a little blunt. But often the hard truths are.
This means that:
- you need to ensure your people are supported to shine; and
- if you have specific, certain, in-flexible delivery goals (rare), you need to hire really specific people; or
- if you are unsure of your habitat and are discovering optimal outcomes, you need to hire diverse talent and nurture them to work together well.
For my team, the third bullet applies, with some attention to the second. Our world is very uncertain and we have space to explore a variety of approaches. We need people who are comfortable with that, as well as a few key skills, such as technical ability.
What is challenging me?
One: finding the time to finish my Lab delivery Wardley Map!
I’m even behind a week on sharing #weeknotes about that learning experience (which was excellent).
I have started to brain dump and organize a little bit using Miro, and while the team can see this, I’m also starting to translate the high level bits to our writable wall so we can facilitate conversations around it.
As you can see, there is way too much on there to really have a coherent conversation.
My plan is to copy and paste into several versions, with the big yellow stickies as the backbone. Then we’ll layer on the value streams that line up with the impact maps we use to guide delivery around our themes:
- Vision and governance
- Story and belief
- Space (like, floor space. Though outer space is appealing some days…)
- Exemplar teams
- Performance management
- Tools and methods
We’ll see how that goes…
Two: I don’t know if my sharing of hard truths is working.
I’ve recently had a few engagements with folks who are plagued by anti-patterns to adopting new ways of working. When asked for help, I’ve delivered some hard truths.
My goal is to offer my honest perspective and to be kind with as much clarity as I can provide.
I expect that delivering hard truths can come off as impolite but I don’t care. That “politeness function” mentioned earlier is an anti-pattern. It shows up as a variety of behaviours such as:
- stonewalling (not exactly polite, but assumed to be somewhat given avoidance of conflict);
- nodding along with executive, despite intuition or evidence that they are mislead;
- not asking for what is needed; and
- feeling left out of the loop and blaming others instead of engaging (perhaps out of fear that the gap is intentional: it’s usually not).
While I don’t care about being seen to be impolite at times (i.e. preserving the comfort of others), I do care about having and demonstrating empathy.
I’m not risking peer acceptance for nothing.
I want to help. I care about their success, and more, their contribution to the health of the community, which helps us all deliver results.
I have received very positive feedback from people I respect for my approach. They often quietly tell me how important it is I speak up, when others are not so brave.
At times, I’ve also heard peeps in the rumour mill towards me that have been beyond nasty and unprofessional. Some people make a career out of making others feel comfortable (*achem-ladder-climbers*), and I think I threaten them.
(I’m happy to let them be the frogs in the pot. And will genuinely applaud any that happen to hop out. Natural selection, you know.)
Ultimately, I think my challenge is following up.
While delivering some alternative perspective might help, I fear it can also send people into a spiral. If I’ve disrupted their worldview, how will they orient now?
We see this at the lab a lot. People get basic Agile training, it turns their expectations upside down, and they struggle.
Also, I might be terribly wrong, and need the opportunity to understand if my perspective should be adjusted.
So, my gears are turning on this.
What am I looking forward to?
Right now the days are getting longer and my seed order has arrived. I’m really looking forward to getting into my garden.