Agile leaders maintain an environment of trust and support that is necessary for healthy team dynamics. Especially with all of us working remotely it is more important than ever to step up and lead differently.
These are the top three skills necessary to becoming an agile leader that gets real results.
1) Manage relationships not people:
Focus on the relationships between people in your organization, not on the individual people. Of course, care and concern must be paid to the people who report to you, but remember that you are not the only wise guy in your organization.
When you focus on just the person and not on the relationships around this person, you impede their personal growth & learning. How? by making them dependent on you.
An individual has relationships with their peers, with others in the department, and with the organization at large. Shift your focus and help your people to nurture positive relationships so they can support each other. Together this creates exponentially more learning opportunities because the person can reach out to others to work through their challenges. They are no longer just dependent on you to solve their problems.
A team and an organization with healthy relationships between its members can readily adapt and thrive.
Next time when you hold your regular one on one, ask them which relationship is important for them to strengthen, and how you can support.
2) Manage context not tasks:
Your team members notice how many times tasks move back and forth before they move forward. Distributing work, and then checking in on your team members to get progress updates may eventually get the job done, but leading agile teams requires that you manage the environment in which the work happens.
What kind of machine does your developer use? How long does it take to run all unit tests? I was once coaching at a big Fortune 100 company, where the developers were using outdated machines that took 30-45 mins just to boot up. And this was the norm, unacceptable, sigh!
We are in a knowledge-based creative economy, and mundane hindrances get in the way of thinking differently. When your team members are focused on avoiding pain, they are not creating gain.
Leaders create conditions for great work. Make tools, infrastructure, information, support, coaching, and help readily available to your people and they will outshine your wildest expectations from them. Provide tools and support that make work fun.
Next time when you hold a team meeting, just ask your team and they will tell you about these mild annoyances that make work frustrating for them to do.
3) Stay consistent, be the compass:
Leaders who lack clarity confuse others by sending mixed messages. If you champion quality, do not send a mixed signal to your team by asking them to skip on unit-testing, just this one time. This confuses people. And any short term gain you make comes at the expense of your long-term credibility.
Not all managers are expected to lead, but all leaders are expected to manage. Engage in dialogue with your team to develop a shared long-term vision, the true North. And to do it well, you have to be authentic and remain true to yourself. This is the consistency that you should expect from yourself.
Learning and changing your tact as a situation evolves helps a leader to be agile. Managing through uncertainty requires that you maintain a steady moral and ethical compass. It is not just about the goals, but also about how you get there.
When in doubt, ask your team. It will help you to get a clear picture of the situation. You may not have the full picture and your team can help you see your blindsides. It is only human to not be perfect.
Next time you talk to your team member, ask them about a situation where your behavior was unexpected or surprisingly pleasant. You have to lean on others if you want to grow as an agile leader.