Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Guide: Agile Leadership (1) - Grow, don't exploit

The first part in this agile leadership series is the question: "How do I get the most out of my employees?" The answer is simple: Grow them. Here are five anti-patterns for managing in an agile environment, including ways to improve your behaviour.

Do you grow those who work for you?

Focus on existing capability

A tester is a tester and will always be a tester? No! People were not born tester and probably did not get a degree in testing. Someone made them be a tester.
Like they learned testing in the past, they can learn new things today and tomorrow. Of course, "tester" is just a placeholder for any kind of role you have in mind for a person.
Find out which challenges your staff would like to tackle and then provide the opportunity!

Expecting sacrifice

Your organization has goals, and you want motivate people to reach these goals together with you. You can't rely on people to always have the same goals like your company does. When people set back their own personal goals in order to advance your goals, there better be something in it for them. In cases where you can't naturally align them, at least make sure that there is a sound relationship between your company goals, employees accomplishing them - and rewards for personal sacrifice!

Taking mastery for granted

People like to master skills, but they still want to get something out of that. You can't expect a developer to become an expert in lots of engineering practices and still work for junior level pay. In a world where the War for Talent is fully engaged, you want to make sure that people don't have to worry about paying their rent, otherwise they will leave. When people develop new skills, especially when they master an extremely rare talent, keep the pay up to date.

Taking undue advantage

Just because people have mastered a skill does not mean they lose the autonomy to do what they like. For example, just because your quality expert has mastered TDD does not mean that they want to abandon whatever they are doing and become a professional TDD trainer. This one will backfire most sorely when you exploit people's abilities without considering the impact on the purpose of their work.
When people achieve mastery in an area, make sure they feel it is appreciated and valuable, not a drag or pressure.

Being generous at their expense

When you think that employees have signed a contract which legally forces them to invest their life for the company, think again. In the era of Knowledge Work and Talent Shortage, it's the other way around: You have managed to acquire a desparately needed talent to voluntarily dedicate a portion of their time to your company, and you better use that opportunity well! Expecting your employees to invest overtime, inconvenient commutes or even their hard earned money for your purposes is thebest way to sustainably repel talent,
Honour your employees' voluntary commitment to your company. Find the best possible ways that they feel their resources are well invested. Never make unreasonable demands. When people go beyond contractual limits, always make sure that it's appreciated.


Exploiting your employees will negatively impact these three dimensions, reducing the effectiveness of your company and ultimately resulting in disgruntled employees who will have no alternative to leaving.
Growing your employees will positively affect all of the dimensions Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, resulting in highly motivated employees who will do their best to advance your business.

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