The Purpose of Your Team

If there is one activity that you should always be revisiting with your team, it’s their purpose.  Even now, especially now, with your team disrupted, its a great opportunity to take 15 minutes and think about what your team’s purpose is and how they are executing towards that vision.

You will not need complicated presentation decks or spreadsheets.

You will not need to take an afternoon off and go on a spiritual retreat.

A purpose is what gives your team a line to follow, a direction to go and a way to point the ship.  Without it, your team (and you) are responding to the whims and needs of others on an ongoing basis and never really developing beyond their current path.  You are there for others, but not for your most important asset, yourselves.

To get started, all you will need is, yourself, alone and 15 minutes to ask yourself these questions.

What are we currently working on?

Is it the best use of our abilities?

What should we be focused on?

What do we need to do to get there?

What would our next step be?

That’s it, five questions.  Maybe you want to jot down your answers, maybe you want to go through each member of your team (and yourself) or maybe you just want to debate the topic in your head back and forth.  However you do it, it starts with those five questions in figuring out your purpose.

Your initial answers will likely surprise you and worse you might not be happy with the results.

Good, that’s the idea.

If you’ve never done this, then your team most likely has no purpose so now is the time for you to put that short and long term vision together and come up with what it should be.  Once you have your own thoughts on the matter, share it with your team, get their feedback on what they want to do, where they want to go, and what they see as the challenges and roadbocks in front of them.

You might find that they want to set the bar higher and do more than what you have “conservatively” written out and/or vice-versa, perhaps you are pushing too hard, too fast.

Good, that’s the idea.

Get everyone on the same page, layout a plan and make it happen.

Then, the next time you do this, you’ll have something to look back on to see if your team is still executing to this purpose and whether they are on track.  Once you get into the habit of doing it, you’ll notice you’re doing it every month and course-correcting as you go to make it work with the new variables that are thrown out at you.

Good, that’s the idea.

Want more? Check out my book Code Your Way Up – available as an eBook or Paperback on Amazon (CAN and US).

The New Job Perks

Two months ago, companies were falling over each other to implement and deliver as many perks as possible to get their teams to stay on-site as often as possible.

  • In-house massage therapists
  • Individualized catering
  • Gym memberships
  • Fancy chairs
  • Fancier desks
  • Bean bags
  • Fully stocked fridges and fruit bars

And now these companies are realizing that as many of these perks sit idle, they are left to identify and focus on the perks that truly matter to their teams, the ones that will always be there regardless of whether they are working remotely or on-site.

Whereas before everyone clambered to book the room with the best SMART board and room conferencing services, now everyone is trying to figure out which background works for them, whether they should show on the call as video, are they going to have virtual beers at the end of the week or what tool will they use today for conferencing with clients.

The bubble you had to define your perks have shrunk. Coupled with the priorities (and rightfully so) shipping of orders – getting those 17 ergonomic chairs to your team aren’t going to be of their most urgent priorities.

To get through this new world order, Leaders are going to have to focus on a New set of Perks. These will include;

Challenging and Motivating Work

Right now your team is most likely struggling with comparing their work to the bigger picture that is happening all around them. Your role is to help them see the value and draw the lines so they can see their path forward. If what you deliver has never been the driving fact for people joining your team before, you are about to find out very quickly what drives them.

Developing that Team Culture

Whether you had a team culture before, you have one now and it’s steeped in the environment that is building it. You can either let the environment steer it completely or you can lead the way and show your team what this culture will be. What your role is and theirs. Maybe you’ll start having weekly “virtual coffees” to make sure everyone is doing well or maybe you’ll dress up for meetings to get a quick laugh.

Authentic Appreciation

There are so many systems in place for appreciating what your team does that sometimes they can feel like they are there for so many other things and you are simply being grouped into them – “did you do something great? Awesome, let’s wrap it into this celebration on Friday we are already having with everyone else”.

Now those appreciation events are going to change and what will be changing, as a result, is getting back to the way they used to be – when they were authentic, real and directed towards the person that mattered to them most. That’s not going to be an easy switch, but it’s one that will be worthwhile.

The New Job Perks are what you have to work and although they seem like common sense, they’ve been missing for awhile, getting back to them isn’t easy, but maybe that’s the point – if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Want more? Check out my book Code Your Way Up – available as an eBook or Paperback on Amazon (CAN and US).

Code Your Way Up – The Getting Started for Software Developers

2020-02-11 13.50.32.pngGoing back to many years ago, when I first became a Software Manager, I was surprised (shocked) in the steps I went through in going from Developer to Manager.

Many times I asked myself questions such as;

  • Why’d they pick me?
  • Am I doing this right?
  • Should I have started earlier?
  • Is everyone laughing at me?

None of which I could answer then because I didn’t know the answers to them and for the most part they didn’t exist.  Software Leaders are an interesting breed because we are essentially promoted into the position because we excel at being great coders – we DELIVER – we get things done and we make things happen.  The next logical step is to see if you have the – DRIVE – to get yourself and another group of people to the same location but delivering an even bigger piece of software that can only be done by a team.

We’ve all had the conversations that go like – “You have a $500K budget for this project, why don’t you give me half and I’ll go into a cave and do it myself, burn myself to a crisp doing it and hope it lines up with your requirements and you’ll save all that money and not need to deal with more people as a result.” – and sure this is a valid question, but it’s not a question that will have an answer that will generate long-term GROWTH for you (forget the company, we’re talking about you).  It will burn you out or give you a bad name in the process.

In thinking of all the challenges that go into Software Development, I started to write them down, identifying the behaviours that go into being a successful leader, where they begin and how.

To be a leader, whether you’re leading a team, a project, a customer fix, a performance test in QA, a trial delivery, etc, etc you don’t need to be overtly charismatic, an extrovert, the first person who puts their hand up for everything.  You need to show the INITIATIVE in that this is something you want to do.  LEADERSHIP isn’t an overnight deliverable, it’s not something that happens all at once and it’s definitely not something you are going to get right on your first time.

But where do you start?

You start with your code, you start when you are cranking oodles of goodness to production, when you’re the key to it all, when you’re comfortable in what you are doing.  You start by executing all the behaviours highlighted above so that when you do get there, you’re ready for it and it’s not so much of a grand announcement, but a natural progression for which you have prepared for your entire career.

Code Your Way Up is available now for pre-order on Amazon (Canada and US) – it’s a great addition to your library to get going and realizing where you want to take your career (and how).

 

The Leadership Exit

Making the decision to leave is never easy.

It’s easily doubled when you’re the Leader of a team because not only are you now leaving an organization, you’re now leaving a group of people that you have invested an incredible amount of energy into their own personal and team growth and development that to leave feels like betrayal.

They bought into the story.

They listened to everything you had to say.

They jumped higher than you asked.

They believed.

And now you are leaving them. Or rather that’s what you’re made to feel like when you make this hard decision to do so.

“You’re abandoning us”

“You’re leaving us behind”

“Why aren’t you taking us with you”

“How could you?”

There are many emotions at play here when you decide to leave and most are coming at you.

Let’s dissect a few of the most prominent ones here.

You’re Not Leaving Your Team

It’s time for you to move on to new challenges and opportunities. Leading a team is like being a parent, there is a moment when you know it’s time to let your kids go, spread their wings and start leading themselves.

Every Leader knows when they’ve hit this point with a team – “I’ve done enough here and what comes next will only be incremental. You need more, you need a different approach, you need someone else.”. This isn’t an easy realization for a leader to come to, but it’s one that is realized from the view that they want their team to continue to grow, become stronger, better and share that wisdom with others.

When the Leader’s involvement is only going to result in incremental returns, it’s time for them to make the exit.

It’s Not a Betrayal

And if your team thinks it is, then you should have left much sooner. Your team is now dependent on you for more than you had originally hoped and they are fearful that without you, they will fall apart.

Fear is a powerful emotion and a Leader should never stay if the team is fearful they cannot survive without them (the Leader). If this is the case, then you haven’t done the proper work in preparing your exit strategy and ensuring they are setup for success for when you leave. A well organized team should be able to survive in the short-term without their Leader and keep things going through what has been taught to them.

Don’t fall into the trap of being made to feel you are disloyal or have betrayed your team, you are giving them the opportunity to grow and develop.

The Bought Into You

Great.

Fantastic.

Your team bought into your plan, they executed and delivered on what you asked them to do, what you inspired and motivated them to do, what they raised up their own games to do.

This isn’t a bait and switch or a pulling of the rug from underneath their feet, this is your team trusting you to lead them, you leading them and no matter where you are in the delivery of your plan, they are being successful and continue and will continue to be successful.

What everyone tends to forget when you are leading a team or a project is that this IS THE ONLY  team and/or project that you will EVER lead.

But it isn’t and will never be and for you to continue growing, you will need to work with different people, validate different approaches with a new group of people.

In the end, you might end up working with some or all of these people and that is the best experience because not only did they buy into you at this moment, but they are ready to do it again, this time without having to go through all the Interviewing and Identifying and get right to Delivering.

Don’t fall into the trap of changing your mind about leaving because your team doesn’t want you to leave.

Focus your energies on setting them up to take over from you with the remaining time that you are working them. Over that period of time, their emotions will subside and will turn to being happy, excited and proud of the tough decision you’ve made. You’ll inevitably have many one-on-one conversations that will turn out to be some of the most encouraging conversations you or they have had during your tenure, enjoy them and know that you’re making the right decision.

But don’t change your mind, over time you will resent the decision you made and depending on your team, their attitudes might change or shift as they realize you will always be there to catch them if anything goes wrong and they’ll slowly start to question what your level of commitment truly is when faced with tough decisions.

 

Collaboration’s Biggest Challenge

A few years ago, SLACK was the messaging darling, enabling quick, simplified messaging with minimal setup and management for administrators.  In addition, it boasted a robust API/Integration framework which let it do what so many collaboration applications to date had struggled with – get inside everything you work with.

Or rather, you get inside SLACK with everything you work with.

Fast forward to today and there are not only a number of challengers to SLACK but also SLACK has been hit by a few complaints about being “too much”, “always on”, “never able to get away”, etc, etc, the list goes on.

This isn’t a SLACK problem though, this problem has been in existence since the first iteration of that green jellybean icon came to represent your availability – you are here, you are available, let’s get to work.  That little icon came to represent not only your availability to get work done but also an indicator of when you are available to get work done (read: how much work are you putting in, how later are you up).

Collaboration’s biggest challenge to autonomy and not micromanaging your team has always been that little green icon.

How do I know where they are if it’s not green?

They’ve been away for so long, they must be doing something else?

Why aren’t they answering when they are green?

It’s the perceived notification that someone is available and ready to do work for you – that’s how it is interpreted but what it was never meant to show.

Want to know how pervasive the colour schemes are in messaging tools?  Look no further than them all using similar schemes – green – available, yellow – maybe, red – busy – they flow between different systems so we don’t need to relearn anything.  And just like a traffic light, they mean exactly the same things to a user.

But the question for the traffic light – Would you leave it on green all day long? – probably not, because eventually, it’d burn out.

When email took on the collaboration challenge it did so without presence, asynchronous communication – “I’ll get back to you when I can because I could get busy” – which unfortunately turned into the simplest of messaging protocols that allowed and enabled people to SPAM us with updates on everything and anything.

As much as we want to make it, Collaboration’s biggest challenge will never be the technology, the protocols, the AI to reduce message flow, where it’s hosted, whose hosting it, etc, etc, etc.  It will be the trust we put in each other around presence and messaging to ensure that those boundaries are preserved and supported.

Think that’s an easy way out?  Then here’s a question for you – What is your company’s collaboration policy and does everyone know what it is and how it works?

Doubtful, if you do fantastic and if you do, that means this post wasn’t meant for you, it’s for the rest of us that are working against that little green jellybean trying to find the right way out.

 

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