I just finished reading an excellent article published by the Harvard Business Review (link) titled “Make Your Team Feel Powerful.” In it, Harrison Monarth keys in on several industry attributes that were imperative to having a culture of empowerment (my words, not Harrison’s). Things like “leadership support, recognition, constant communication, and trust” were specifically identified, all of which are attributes (either implicitly or explicitly) of a fine tuned, well managed agile team.
I know from personal experience that when things are going well for a team, the aforementioned attributes are always present, and that if things are going poorly for a team, one or all of the attributes are always missing. As much as agile as a methodology brings to the table for creating an awesome, productive team, it’s still our responsibility as leaders and team members to collectively buy-in on maintaining and propagating as many of these attributes as possible. And perhaps even more importantly, if any of these are missing, a path to removing these impediments must be identified as quickly as possible.
As a leader, I’ve often viewed my team role as being “the guy that kicks down the doors.” My job is often less about telling people what to do, and more about empowering my team to achieve the collective goals of the project, sprint or release. So whether that proverbial door be external-or-internal to the team, it’s my mission to find an expedient means of resolving issues and removing impediments, and hopefully without having to expend to much political capital in the process. It has been my experience that at what I would call the “tactical” level, servant leadership exemplifies the management qualities that must be present in order to facilitate the team growth and buy-in necessary to allow the team to realize their full potential, which in turn allows for things like recognition, constant communication, and trust to exist.
Perhaps even more importantly, I strongly feel that management cannot “force” a team to have any of these attributes, we can only act as stewards for these positive conditions to exist. There is no artificial means of having “trust” suddenly exist within a team. So while it is a leader’s duty to identify a path towards achieving these ends, ultimately the path will need to be walked by the team, with us leading the way and kicking down the doors.
I really think that Harrison hit the nail on the head with his article, showing that a good (agile) team requires the right kind of management support, and that this selfless and empowering approach allows for management to trust the team, and for the team to trust management. In a way, it’s this relationship of management-team/team-management that calls directly on the rule of reciprocity, allowing for everyone’s collective professional needs to be met by everyone “anteing up”, and it’s in this approach that an agile team exemplifies a truly powerful team.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this blog post are the author’s alone and do not represent the view of the author’s employer.