The first practice I would recommend to any new leader making a shift from “me” to “we” is to understand the deeper implications of what’s meant by “we” – if you’ll allow – what I like to call the royal “we”.
The royal “we” isn’t about blindly worshipping hierarchy – it’s about understanding the much broader context of where your team operates. In order to understand the royal “we”, new leaders need to understand the business…. enough of the business to:
- be able to appreciate and articulate the value that their team and team members deliver
- enable them to help the team and business to make good decisions
Blindness to the royal “we” is a serious failure in leadership and is usually most notable in it’s absence, such as…
- Not understanding the business value delivered by the team within the context of the needs of the overall business. This can lead to a kind of “white knight” behaviour where the leader champions blindly for issues that are not really important to the business. Such leaders will mistakenly value effort over output – putting the business, their team and themselves at risk.
- Favouring “politeness” or “likability” with their team members ahead of ensuring clarity and sound decision making based on business value delivery. Over the long run, the charismatic nature of such leaders won’t be enough to counter balance the overall ineffectiveness of their approach – again, putting the business, the team, and themselves at risk.
To be clear, the practice IS NOT to “stop championing for your team” or to “become impolite / unlikable”; rather, it’s to learn how the business delivers value and how you and your team contributes to this with great and constant clarity. Balancing the needs of the team with the needs of the business is the true and skillful expression of the royal “we”.
BTW – In writing this blog post, I wish express my deep gratitude to Adam Murray (@AdamRMurray) Mike Kelland (@Mkelland), Mike Nash (@MichaelPNash) as well as Tim Redpath (@tredpath) who patiently worked with me as I slowly practiced this skill for myself… I would humbly submit that I still have a long way to go on this path.
After years of hard work as a software developer and high performing team member, you’ve found yourself facing a whole new set of challenges. You are a leader (architect, team lead, scrum master, mentor, manager) on your team.
Looking back, everything that you’ve done along the way has supported you to get to this point. You’ve never backed down from challenge and have embraced the uncertainty of solving problems in code. You love the focus that comes with being able to tackle these problems with confidence. You’ve enjoyed the satisfaction that comes each and every time you’ve transformed an idea into a solution.
However, all the skills you worked hard to hone in yourself reflect your stance as “expert practitioner” and while expert practitioner skills are foundational to your role, these are not the skills that you will need to grow in order to succeed as a leader.
And no one told you this. When you got the promotion, no doubt your manager told you of the confidence he had in your abilities; however, your leadership up to this point has been fundamentally built on your ability to hone your craft expertly.
Your new role requires a shift in stance. You are now responsible for supporting others to do what you did so well. There is a hidden assumption there; indeed, a fundamental change in how you perceive your value on the team.
Your work is less “about you” and more “about them”.
This shift from “me” to “we” isn’t a small change in thinking and being. It’s one that I’ve seen many new leaders struggle with as they are drawn instinctually back to the joy derived in expressing their craft…. the satisfaction and joy they experienced in being “the guy who solves the problems” rather than “the guy who enables others to solve problems”.
In this series, I plan to explore some of the new skills that young leaders might consider as part of their new practice – assisting them to make this shift from “me” to “we”. It is my sincere hope that my own lessons (sometimes learned the hard way) can be of service to others beginning on this journey.
After years of reading and practice in various capacities, I’ve decided to finally take the plunge into formal training as a professional coach. It’s with a humble heart that I will begin this training in February with the team at Integral Coaching Canada. As part of this training, I am seeking two volunteer clients to join me on this path starting in late February.
This opportunity will give you the ability to work on topic that deeply matters to you. As this will be a topic that you have had difficulty making and/or sustaining progress in to date, we’ll work together to explore new approaches towards building more successful outcomes. Logistically, each participant will be engaging in a coaching program of 4-5 months, meeting for 60-90 minutes every 2-3 weeks (5-6 sessions in total).
In particular, I would be very interested in exploring building leadership and team building / management skills and competencies with individuals working within a lean and agile organizations and teams. I would also give a strong preference to Ottawa based clients as face-to-face interaction would be best. All meetings will be taking place outside of business hours and I can support early hours, evenings or weekends.
If you are (or know) a person who could benefit from this experience, please contact me via my contact page – it would be my pleasure to share more details of this opportunity with you.
The expression of a “job well done” has always been a bit awkward for me – both on the giving or receiving side.
As I see it, “doing well” should have merit in itself and something we should all strive for – so that it is really a baseline rather than a true accomplishment. As a consequence, I would suggest the expression of a “job well done” could…
- Be redundant to satisfaction already experienced by the receiver who is actually “doing well”.
- Be perceived as an insincere statement that is more harmful than helpful to the relationship between the giver and receiver of the compliment.
Instead, I would suggest that we all need to dig deeper. This takes time and insight, but is well worth the effort. Consider transforming “job well done” into:
- Telling the person how you feel about what they have done. Did it make you happy? Ease your stress? Give you confidence?
- Expressing gratitude for their actions. Never underestimate the value of saying thank you sincerely.
- Acknowledging the effort that it took for them achieve. Achievements are usually the result of going above and beyond – that’s hard work and worth noting!
- Offering your support. How can you help this person go further? True collaboration is a gift.
I therefore call for the immediate death of a “job well done” and would invite a deeper level of insight in its place. The sharing of such insight will in turn meaningfully strengthen and build confidence the person receiving the message.
How often do you take a moment for a personal retrospective?
I try to do this every three months or so and I’ve found this practice to be very revealing and helpful for both my work and my life.
A personal retro is no different than a team retro:
- Start with what happened (collect the data)
- Categorize, identify highs and lows, prioritize (curate the data)
- Take a moment to analyze and understand what made the highs so good and the lows so difficult (analyze the data)
- Take a moment to acknowledge the commitment and effort you put towards your work and life. Consider actions that wish to take towards improvement moving forward (acknowledge and take action)
I’ve learned that taking on the practice of personal retro, over time naturally leads you into a set of personal principles and values – indeed, the practice helps to develop a personal vision for your work and life. Even better, the practice ensures that the principles, values and vision that you live by are continuously improving.
It’s been 4 years since I created my very first blog entry on this site. At that time, I was a software developer, Lean & Agile practitioner and aspiring coach at Corel Corporation. Quite frankly, I had no idea of the many adventures that awaited me in the years ahead.
4 years ago… I had no idea that I would soon work closely with a team of bright developer consultants in order help client teams deliver software. I also had no plans to become an executive – to suddenly find my own path and growth into management and leadership. And yet – through long hours spent inside and outside work – all these things came to be…
So much change. None of it planned for or anticipated.
Along the way, there emerged a core pattern in my practice to help teams deliver impactful high quality iterative solutions using the values, principles, and practices from UX, Lean, and Agile. It is based on this core pattern that I am taking this next step into entrepreneurship…
The only way to truly embrace change is from the inside out.
For individuals, this means the ability to become aware of our own blindspots – working inside out means that we are able to observe and adapt to these blindspots with skill and intention.
For teams and organizations, this means developing the system that will support delivery of work effectively and collectively – working inside out means that the team is able to surface and govern for themselves the key principles and practices they will need in order to succeed.
It is with a humble and grateful heart that I bring InsideOutAgile to the world. I look forward to building stories of individual, team and organizational success and growth with you.
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Home – To learn more about InsideOutAgile’s approach
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“How do you encourage people to change?”
It’s a question that I’ve been posed more than once. It’s a difficult question to address… entire books have been written on the subject of change. So I won’t pretend to be among the many out there who have researched the subject at length and offer my own simple view on this subject with humility.
Change occurs when an individual accepts that the value of changing is greater than the risk it poses.
That’s it. Expressed as an equation it seems painfully simple…
likelyhood of change = value / risk
There are only two variables then that one can influence to encourage change – one can increase value or reduce risk. Likely the answer is somewhere in the middle.
The hard part of course is that each person has their own view on value and risk – making it difficult to say that there’s one way to address the equation meaningfully and skillfully for many. I think that’s likely what all the books and research on the subject are on about. Here’s the shortest version of the book I would write on this: You need to roll up your sleeves and talk to people and ultimately accept that they may not be able or willing to share with your what they value or what they fear.