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You and I both know that we’re not supposed to boss people around anymore, that we’re supposed to be servant leaders. Well, a client asked me, “What the heck is servant leadership?”
When you’re a traditional manager, you might have thought of accumulating people and power. If you consider servant leadership, you’re now sharing power. You put the needs of the people first. Your job is to help your folks develop themselves and perform to the best of their abilities.
Here are three tips to whet your servant leadership appetite.
Tip #1: Invite, don’t mandate.
I have a good friend, Steve, who is a really sharp guy and a technical lead. He can see potential architectures quickly, and that’s a problem. He can see one architecture fast. He jumps to that conclusion, and has a hard time letting that solution go. When we spoke about servant leadership, I suggested he invite other people to consider his idea. Maybe he could consider other people’s ideas, too?
I bet you know a great way to do things at work. Whether those ways are the “right” architecture, the “right” way to plan a project, the “right” way to test, or whatever. Why am I putting right in quotes? Because there are many right ways to do the work.
When you invite and don’t mandate, several things occur: you consider multiple options, as in the Rule of Three, you start to create a culture of trust, and you share the power. That’s a lot of good from an invitation, isn’t it?
Tip #2: Encourage, when you see people doing something right.
I’m all for feedback when people do something wrong. I’m even more for feedback when you see people do something right. This is called reinforcing feedback. Not only does it make people feel great, it helps people do more work. I use this technique a lot in my coaching.
It might look or sound like this, “Hey Jane, I see you were able to reduce the work in progress by working with Lane and Bruce yesterday. That was great. You helped the team finish a story, and you reduced our WIP. Wow, that’s going to make everything easier for us this iteration. Thank you.”
Tip #3: Build community.
The more you have cross-functional project teams, the more you might need to build community across the teams. This might look like lunch-and-learns for everyone, or by-function get-togethers.
One of my colleagues, Dave, has a bi-weekly Tester Meetup in his agile organization. It started off as an informal pizza lunch once every other week. It’s more formal now, with people presenting interesting things that they’ve learned. In addition, on the other weeks, the organization has Lunch-and-Learns about technical topics for the entire Engineering organization.
Dave has some organization to do. He creates the Master Schedule for the Tester Meetup, and sometimes, he has to nudge people. “Hey, Terry, I don’t see anything on the Master Schedule. Is there anyone for the Tester Meetup next week?” But, most of the time, the testers decide what they need, and provide their own learning. It’s a fairly large organization. In a smaller organization, they might need more assistance, or more external learning sources.
There is certainly more you can do, but these three tips will start you on your journey as a servant leader.
I am conducting public workshops in London on March 17, 18, 21, 2014. On March 17, I’m leading an Introduction to Agile Project Management. On March 18, I’m leading my Coaching Masterclass. On March 21, I’m leading my Manage Your Job Search workshop.
Get the early bird pricing by Feb 10, and get a discount if you register for the Project Management and Coaching Masterclass together. See the London Workshops page for more information.
You can learn more about servant leadership with Gill Broza and me in our Influential Agile Leader. We’re offering it twice in 2014. You can join us April 8-9, 2014 in Toronto. Or, you can join us May 22-23, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The early bird pricing, a 17% discount, expires Feb 8, 2014, so register now.
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See my articles page for my articles. If you see one that interests you and you would like me to speak about it, let me know.
© 2014 Johanna Rothman
Tags: coaching, collaboration, leadership, management, problem solving, servant leadership, teams, tips