I bet you have some problems that have been problems for a while. Or, you want to influence other people to change. You need an environment of leadership, because you can't do it alone.
Here are three tips to creating an environment where everyone can lead:
Tip #1: Share the problem.
When I work with technical and managerial leaders, I find that they have this idea that they are not supposed to share problems. They may have a boss who believes that once he or she delegates the problem, that unique individual must solve it alone. Or, they might feel as if it's not fair to share the problem–that somehow people will take time from their work to help with “my” problem. Or, they have never considered that much transparency.
You can't ask for help on all problems. Sometimes, when you are a manager, you need to keep HR-type problems private. Maybe you have a fiduciary responsibility to the company, and you can't share that data.
But, here's an idea: if you have this problem, chances are quite good other people know about the effects of the problem. You are not the only one living with this problem.
Kim, a program manager, could not understand how to help her teams. They could not discover their interdependencies in time to know when to develop which features. She wrestled with this problem for a couple of weeks.
At our coaching appointment, I suggested she raise the issue to the team leads. She could say, “I see this problem, and here is the effect it's having on me. Can we solve this together?”
She did. The team leads also felt the pain. They decided to reduce their planning scope, planning for no longer than a month at a time. They used stickies on the wall to see their interdependencies and create interim milestones. As a side benefit, they had to reduce their story size to meet their milestones.
Tip #2: Ask for multiple solutions.
Notice that the team leads helped solve the problem in several ways:
- They took responsibility for part of the problem.
- They decided to reduce their planning scope. That helped, but alone it wasn't enough.
- They decided to work together, to create a sticky-based planning session.
- They reduced story size because they realized that having large stories prevented them from working together.
If they had implemented just one of these solutions, they might not have solved the problem.
Tip #3: Ask for help assessing solutions.
Some of the leads wanted to implement their solutions right away. Adam, one of the leads said, “Hold on. I want to see if this is going to work with my team. I'm not sure we can reduce our story size. Let's involve more people.”
When he shared the proposals with his team, sure enough they were concerned about story size. One of the team members said, “We need to work with our product owner to understand how to split our stories better. We can't do this alone.”
It took them several iterations to learn how to split stories small enough that they could commit to their interdependencies. The team might have resented the solution if Adam had not checked with the team first.
Share your leadership. You will create an environment where everyone leads.
If you liked these leadership tips, learn more at The Influential Agile Leader. Gil Broza and I create a safe learning environment where you can experiment. We teach experientially, so you have a chance to practice and reflect on what you learn. Please join us at The Influential Agile Leader.
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© 2015 Johanna Rothman