Want To Improve? Start With Respect

ArethaTo improve we need transparency.

We cannot solve problems we don’t see. We can’t improve an invisible process. We need people to speak out about how they feel, how their work is affected. In order to improve, my team needs me to admit I’m late, and not hide I’m working for two weeks, digging a hole, and find out late. In order to see the testers need help, we need to see their tasks, so the developers don’t pile up more work on them. We need to face reality. Sometimes this can get scary.

To have transparency we need courage.

We cannot speak up without courage. If I think I’m the only one who sees the problem, I might keep it to myself. I won’t point it out in the retrospective. I won’t offer solutions, if I think I’m going to be ridiculed. If I’m going to be blamed for what I do, I’ll only report successes. We need to provide the environment where people can feel they can speak up about anything.

To have courage we need safety.

If we want people to speak up, we make sure not to shoot them down. If I want my teammates to report the real status, I won’t blame them. As a team leader, I won’t supply them imaginary deadlines they (and I) know will fail to meet. I will encourage the team to experiment, celebrate success and learn from failures. And then experiment again. As part of the team, I feel safe when people trust me, and more so, I trust them.

To have safety, we need trust.

Trust comes from our experiences together. When I’m trusted with information, I feel valued. When my boss gives me a task which is bigger than my current skills, I know that even if I fail, I won’t be thrown under the bus. Even more so, my boss trusts me to succeed in the task, even if I don’t see how. As a team leader, trusting the team to make the right decisions releases me to other tasks, so I can work on other stuff. Trust is the over-drive engine of a team, but it requires one more ingredient.

To have trust, we need respect.

We are all people, believe it or not. Executive and line workers. Team leaders and team members. If you don’t respect me, you don’t get my trust. If you ask me a question (like, when I will finish it), and disregard the answer, I’ll take it as an insult. If you ask me to stay late, and don’t acknowledge it, I’ll feel disrespected. If you continue to do this, I’ll leave.

Remember individuals and interactions?

Everything starts with respect.

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