Insights from a mob learning Leadership meet-up

Recently I initiated a Leadership meet up in the Christchurch (NZ) area  and we had our first meet up couple of meetings ago. This meet up bore from my frustrations around not having a peer network of folks who want to get better at Leadership . Whether we consciously acknowledge or not , Leadership/Management has a tremendous impact on our work lives. And as with any other skill set if Leadership and Organisational management is exercised well, it can have such a positive influence on our peers, us and the wider community. So why not get better at it ?

Here are my summary notes on how the first meet-up went and things that I learnt from it
Format :: Mob-Learning “unconference” style

The format of the meet up was inspired from “Unconference”/Lean-Coffee and the central theme was that every participant brings atleast 1 Leadership/Management insight to share (“How did I achieve <x>”)  and atleast 1 Leadership/Management insight that they seek (“How can I solve <y>”) .

Everyone then pooled their insights (to share and seek) onto a whiteboard

And then we went around the group with each of the participants sharing what they achieved and what they seek guidance on ?

Simple !

A lean way to share your learning and harness mob wisdom

Insights from the “How did I ….?” theme

1. How did I gain respect as a Leader of a challenging group ?

One of the participants (before joining the IT domain) were a Team Leader in the concreting industry . The culture there was one of “us and them,them i.e. the management” . Engagement and well being of the staff was a major concern as there was lot of temp staff and attrition rate was high.

What this participant did to gain his Team’s trust was

  • Be hands on …walk the talk and get their hands dirty along with their staff
  • Empathize and connect informally ( not be the Boss) and “getting into their world” to relate with their problems

The key insight for me here was that the Leadership style ( one of many) that works in this kind of scenario is the (often cliched) lead by example style , where the Leader needs to prove her worth and be one of the Team to gain their trust .

2.  How did I support an Intern to re architecture all our Automated Checks ?

This participant shared a story around moving all their Team’s automated checks from running on local hardware to AWS. They lead this initiative , formed a student project out of it and supported an Uni grad to deliver it.

Here is how they did it

  • Get key stakeholders’ feedback and buy in … go around and understand the pain the consumers of your automated checks experience  and what they would like improved ?
  • Regularly check in with junior members and beginners. If they are not asking for help , does not mean that they do not need help or sometimes they dont even realize that they need help.
3.  How did my Team trail features in a controlled manner with our end-users ?

This story was from a Tester who work with a Kiwi household name in the Electronic appliances store space.

Their Team have been successfully trailing new application features for their in-store staff and here is what they shared about the process’ success

  • Be there in person to support,receive feedback and observe the in-store staff  using the new feature
  • Be there in person to manage their expectations on the use and scope of the new feature
  • Collate feedback and get together as a Team back at base to process it and shape upcoming features/enhancements
4.  How to identify an unhealthy company culture and apply those lessons in a new environment

Another fellow leader shared her experiences from working in a culture of blame , things they learnt and how is it helping them in their current organisation

  • Self reflect continuously , to assess whether the current culture is healthy or not ?
  • Seek support from peers in bringing issues out in the open
  • Dont put up with unhealthy culture,seek change
5. How to remember that as a Leader you are not a “know it all”

The last “how did I ” micro-talk was from one of the People Leaders who were leading a Team of professionals who were really senior from then. Their key challenge leading such a Team ,was dealing with a sense of pressure to be always in a position to have all the answers for their Team ,especially for the senior members

How did they do about dealing with that pressure

  • Openly put up your hand and admit that you dont have the answer
  • Never wing it !
  • Use the simple technique of “Can I get back to you on that?” and resist the urge to have the answers there and then
  • Dont feel ashamed of your vulnerability

Insights from the “How CAN I ….?” theme

Now the meet-up moved towards discourses to discuss the problem statements that participants had pooled in .

  1. How can I add value towards Team and company culture in a company that is still it’s infancy

    The backstory here was that the participant had just won a start-up event and formed a company ( with a winning business idea) as a result of that event . However they had not worked worked with any of the co-founders. So, their query was around how could build the kind of culture that they want without knowing anything about the co-founders working style & mindset .

Here was some of the solutions that the group offered

  • Build empathy using tools like “journey lines
  • Form a charter with your co-founders on what the company’s value system would look like ? Which behaviors would be encouraged/rewarded and which ones not so much . Achieve consensus on that charter
  • The litmus test of your company culture will be how you work through disagreements with your co-founders
  • What triumphs…. values or revenue ? These precedents are crucial in building a company culture
2. How can Leadership work in the DevOps space ?

The question came from a participant whose organisation were moving all their product Teams towards adopting the DevOps model . However current situation reflected limited success in adoption of the model and Teams were not sure whether they were going in right direction or not ? They were wondering how could Leadership be exercised in such a situation

Here is the wisdom that the group shared

  • Consider it less a DevOps problems but more a generic change management problem
  • Create objectivity around what Management wants to achieve from adopting of the DevOps model …..specifically what does DevOps’ adoption, it’s success  look like to them ?
  • Ensure that the Teams are communicated the above and build metrics around those success criteria
3. How can I create a balance between giving my time to those in need in the Team versus delivering on my own commitments  

This is a classic scenario around balancing your needs(not getting disrupted/derailed from current commitments) with selflessly helping/mentoring others.

The group’s suggestions were

  • Disruption is inevitable , you need tactics to manage them . Try not to jump immediately to help them , agree on a time later in the day if the need is not immediate
  • Use hand gestures ( if you got headphones on) to respectfully indicate that you will get back to them
  • Preempt disruption , by being in their physical vicinity to indicate that you are in for a check in ( and that you have time now) and see if they want your help or have any burning questions at that point

That’s it , I found it a very valuable session for a new experimental format

Already looking forward to more !

 

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