“The team just doesn’t have a sense of urgency.”
Have you ever uttered those words? Or felt the frustration from this preconceived notion? Have you ever wondered why your teams aren’t performing to your expectations? You question whether they just lack passion or simply don’t care? Or maybe they just aren’t into their jobs? Are team members just phoning it in?
Did it ever occur to you that…
Maybe they don’t have the skills necessary to perform the work, and need to be taught? Or maybe they can’t focus due to getting pulled in multiple, conflicting directions? Maybe the user stories are too large, too complex, or too bulky to finish within a sprint? Maybe they are working on outdated laptops, with severe performance issues, and they literally cannot speed up their process? Maybe they don’t understand the expectations due to language, cultural, time zone, or physical barriers? Or perhaps, maybe the sense of urgency was never adequately conveyed because they don’t know why they’re doing the work?
How would asking curiosity-based questions change our internal narrative? The dynamics of our relationships? What if we proceeded based on curiosity, rather than secretly fuming from a place of scrutiny and distrust?
Assuming positive intent (API) is the first step towards strengthening our bonds with our teams, rather than destroying them, based on false presumptions.
I challenge you to try API as your personal internal experiment. Afterwards, reflect on your experience: Did your relationships shift? Did you gain insight about yourself, your team members, or the process? Did you find yourself responding from a place of empathy or concern? How did it feel to assume positive intent – did you feel less frustrated and gain empathy?
This is just one step we can take to strengthen our relationships and build in psychological safety. Not only at work, but in our personal lives as well.
Stay positive! Stay curious!
During a recent client engagement, I advocated that Scrum Masters schedule one-on-ones with their team members. Afterwards I was approached by a Scrum Master who was curious as to the “why” behind this recommendation. He thought the purpose was to receive feedback and answer questions regarding the Scrum Process. His assumptions were correct, but he only touched the surface, so I thought I’d dive a little deeper.
The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum team. They serve the development team in self-organization and cross-functionality – through training, mentoring and coaching. Great Scrum Masters want to help grow the team, enforce accountability and encourage productivity, and empower collaboration.
Essentially, the Scrum Master is the team coach.
A One-on-One session is an extremely efficient technique to:
One final note – spending one-on-one time with a person sends the message that the person is valuable. When the focus is on understanding team members’ concerns and helping them be productive, the SM is also building trust…. Which is KEY for high performance.
The technique is not only useful for team members. I often recommend that Scrum Masters schedule regular one-on-ones with the managers of their team members. This is NOT a complaint session nor focused on airing dirty laundry.
Instead, you establish a partnership where you both are helping each team member, and the overall team, be the best they can be. This also helps the manager increase the effectiveness of their own one-on-ones with team members.
I recently attended a talk given by a colleague known for her sense of humor and creativity. While her audience was sprinkling in, the speaker opened her browser and navigated to Wheel Decide; which is a customizable virtual wheel of fortune, complete with the spin and clicks (but minus Vanna White & Pat Sajak).
As an ice breaker technique, she had pre-populated her wheel with engaging & open ended questions for the audience. As folks settled in, she asked for volunteers and spun the wheel. They were then presented with a question determined by the .. wheel of course.
This approach towards relationship building resonated with the group (which consisted of company wide ScrumMasters & colleagues). Their interactions between the questions and each other was light hearted and humorous.
Back at my desk, I created my own Wheel of Fortune, complete with questions such as:
(In full disclosure, these questions were shamelessly borrowed from this book.)
I now open my "getting to know you" wheel at the start of the standup. The team randomly chooses the lucky recipient and the wheel is spun. This is a simple way to begin our day and it typically leads to smiles and entertaining stories.
I consider myself an outgoing introvert - definitely reserved among a large group of unfamiliar faces, but genuinely engaged & energized when it's one-on-one.
In my spare time, I gravitate towards jigsaw puzzles, reading, coloring, crafts, meditation and yoga. My energy tends to soar after brief periods of solace and silence, my mind woken and brain invigorated. Following this recharge, I've reached the pinnacle of my social self - the Kim who wants to peel back the inner layers of my colleagues / friends / family members ... strengthen relationships.. form tighter bonds... become BFFs....
Sometime this enthusiasm isn't shared, as I've encountered a sprinkling of withdrawn / quiet / "leave me alone" types during my IT years, And I get it.
I really do.
However, as a Scrum Master, I am compelled to build relationships and strengthen bonds, but I'm also sensitive to the fact that this goal may not be reciprocated. Which I find, to be a tragedy, really.
To nudge people into opening up, I've created a sampling of powerful questions (shamelessly stolen from my own coaches) - which seems to do the trick. I keep these questions posted on my monitor and return to them when/if conversation stalls.
Here they are:
Internal to work
Outside of the office
A few tips:
* Never ask a question you don't feel comfortable answering yourself.
* Use these questions sparingly! The intent is not to ambush or interrogate our colleagues.
* Consider your audience - if you feel the question may not be taken well, don't ask it! Employ common sense, empathy and respect.
I hope this helps! Do you have additional questions I can add to my list? Let me know!