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LEADERSHIP HACK #1: begin a decision by asking “what do you see” not “what should we do”
Tom
30 Aug

I’m interested in Leadership of engineering teams – which is really, like all leadership, about being interested in people.  David Marquet is giving his 13-week leadership course to Next Jump employees.  The first class was this week.

His introduction made two key points:

Don’t assume everyone sees what you see.  Speak up.  Leaders create safe environment to speak up.  Bad things happen when people don’t feel safe to speak up.  Like “space shuttle exploding” kind of bad.

Individuals jump from OBSERVATION to JUDGEMENT to ACTION very quickly.  Leaders need to slow down this process for a team.  In a group debate, begin with “what do you see” not “what should we do.”

This second point is important & takes some explaining.  Here is David’s summary of whole topic:

http://davidmarquet.com/2013/08/start_with_observations/

Bottom line: a leader needs to begin a decision by asking “what do you see” not “what should we do.”

The assignment after class, was to try this out.  So I did.

SITUATION:  One of my teams recently had a member leave the company.  The team lead asked for a replacement.   Whenever someone leaves a team, my inner voice says “something is not right.”   It’s a common feeling in management.  You get asked to hire more people into a team that is in flux & you have this feeling of discomfort.  That we are hiring “just because.”

So before just doing the kneejerk thing and hiring the replacement or simply saying no – we talked about “what we each see.”  I brought the team together.   We talked about what we SAW.  What our JUDGMENT was.  And what our ACTIONS will be.

From my POV:

  • What I saw = from the person leaving, lots of effort and hours.  But results were not apparent to me.
  • Judgment = the environment for this role is not setup right.  What is the expectation of the role?  How is success measured?  Do we even need this work done?
  • Action = reflect on this.  Define what we want from the role before adding a new person

From team POV:

  • What they saw = danger.  Same work, less people.  More work coming.
  • Judgment = no matter what, there is a lot of work coming in Q4.  We will need more people.
  • Action = hire fast

This was cool.  My action was 180degrees opposite from the team’s action.   The blend of these perspectives is what we decided to do.  Hire with urgency, but in parallel fix the organization design.

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