Saturday, October 29, 2011

Be truthful about working in teams! It's not for everyone


I have been thinking about some of the conversations I've had recently and in the past with different team members and realized....there seems to be very little discussion and truthfulness about the reality that high-performance teams are not for everyone. Some people will just never like it, some will tolerate it, some will love it, and some will just simply move on.

So much time is spent on the rah, rah of how great it will be for everyone, we need to remember to pay attention to the natural reactions and concerns of those that have never experienced a high-performance team before.

Speaking as a developer myself, I remember how I started in I.T. back in 1984. Someone presented me with a problem, and I sat in my apartment by myself working my own hours, watching TV, working through the night and generally being a loner.  I do admit, I enjoyed those days.

My company grew and eventually I found myself working with different types of people; developers, marketing types, sales people, accountants, graphic artists and many more.

That's when I discovered something I enjoyed MUCH more.... Working in Teams! 

But what about those that are unsure about what to expect.

My advice... Be TRUTHFUL and LISTEN.

For those that have never worked in a high-performance team environment, the change can be frightening.  Allow new team members to talk openly about their fears and concerns.  Show them that you care.

The concerns may not be real to you but they are definitely real to them!

Consider the following situation;
·        You are working with a new team that has been told they are doing an Adoption.
·        They are comfortable working totally on their own and interface with other team members only when necessary.

Our natural tendency will be to try and minimize their negative feelings or concerns.
After all, we totally believe in Agile and really just want them to come around to our way of thinking.  Instead, allow the person to say what they have to say and then be honest with them.

Explain to them that “Teams are NOT for everyone, and ask them to PLEASE give it a try first and see how you feel about it in a year from now”.

“The goal of the company, me and everyone in the team is that you're here and enjoy it going into the future!  I am here to help you in the transition.”

The LAST thing you want to do is try and convince that person that their fears are not valid.  They are valid to them.  Explain that you are there for them to talk to at any time.
Explain that you believe in your heart that they will never want to go back to a non-agile environment.  Don’t be afraid to talk about your own skepticism when you first started with an Agile team.

I personally find that honesty and truthfulness about the situation is the best way to approach the subject.  The recipient will gain trust in what you say.  After all, if you are willing to be honest about possibly attrition, then they will realize you are being truthful about how things might be if they ride it out.

For me at least, the people who have argued with me the most about joining teams have become my biggest allies when a management change happened and the POSSIBILITY of breaking up the teams even came up in conversation.

My experience is that the honesty and rapport you built up with the person who was "worried", "not sure", "didn't think they would like it", etc. will be beneficial to both of you. The truthfulness you showed about their situation will help that person have a healthy, open-minded view to what will happen next.

Consider how much easier future changes will be when the person is totally aware they may be uncomfortable with them and is willing to give it a try.