Using Checkins to Create Transparency
In preparation for our geographically distributed teams webinar last week, we asked people what their greatest challenge was for their teams. Many of the comments were about communication and trust. One question was this: “How can I help people realize that asking for transparency is not micromanagement?”
Great question. You don’t have to be agile to have that question.
Especially when you have a geographically distributed team, everyone needs transparency about the work. That’s part of what helps people create a team environment. “We are all needed for this product.” It’s important to have transparency about how people are feeling, too.
Oh, I said the feeling word! Well, as many of you know, I am not a touchy-feely person by nature. I come from the Spock-people. For me, it’s logical to ask how people feel. That’s because the people I managed in the past have trained me to be a better manager. I learned that as a team member or a manager, if I address the entire human being–the feeling part and the work part–I succeed more often. So, that’s what I do.
Make no mistake, this is part of the real work. This is how we build our human connections, so that we learn to trust each other enough to create transparency about the work. You can’t make progress if Luis is concerned about his child’s appendectomy or if Lakshmi is too tired to stay awake for this call. On some agile teams, I recommend this as part of the standups. It doesn’t take long and it builds a human connection.
If you start with transparency as a checkin, you can extend that transparency to the tasks. People are willing to share their work state because you are concerned about them as entire beings, their feelings and their work. The other person is not an FTE (a full-time-equivalent)–they are a real person with real needs whom you care about and respect.The checkin helps build a sense of team.
The way to start is to model this with a team. If you are a project manager or a lead, start a phone standup with a checkin: “I’m Johanna, and I’m having a tough time with my nose today. It’s running and I feel awful. I’m at work because none of you are here, so I can’t give you anything. However, I don’t know if I can meet the deliverables I thought I would meet. Here is where I am…”
Now you have transparency on the feelings and the work. It’s a start. It’s worked for me. In fact, it’s what I do with Shane when we work together, and with my AYE colleagues. If you try it, please let me know how it goes.
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