This post is the sixth part of a ramble-rant about the software business. The current posts in this series are:
If you read this blog you already know I share a lot from my life. I think that's a cool part of blogging and I praise folks for being transparent. Everyone has a different tolerance for transparency. It's like a sweet tooth: most people like sweets some of the time, some like sweets way too much, and some can't stand sweets.
Some folks can't stand transparency, others share too much information, and most find themselves in the middle somewhere. I try to strike a balance online and as a team leader.
How Do You Know You're Doing It Right?
Heck I don't know! What works for me works for me. It may not work for you. If I'm getting requests for more information and requests to share less, I feel like I'm in the middle of my target audience; that target being people who are comfortable with the amount of information I share.
I don't share everything. I don't even share everything technical. Some of the things I don't share are business-related - things like personal projects I'm tinkering with that may have business value in the future. I don't share proprietary Unisys information at all. In addition, I don't share everything that's going on personally. I draw my own line and it's in a different place than some, although it leans to the transparent side.
Applied To Leadership
Ask the folks on my team and they'll tell you I'm like this at work too. Most of my team know a lot about what's happening in my personal life. They know when I'm going to take a road trip and where I'm going. They know my kids - mainly because I work from home and my kids can (and do) occassionally, though not often, pop into my office when I'm in the middle of a conference call.
What does this transparency at work do for me? Well, it keeps life simple, for one thing. You get the same Andy in the community that you get at work. In the community, I Am Here To Help™. At work, I Am Here To Help™ too. (Note: I wish I'd thought of the ™ symbols on my own, but I didn't. My boss - whom I'm trying to talk into blogging about the software business - started applying ™ to several phrases he repeats to his team often. I thought it was cool enough to steal the idea!)
I find transparency is contagious. It also breeds trust, respect, and loyalty. I've learned the best way to encourage loyalty is to engender it. In other words, be loyal to folks if you want their loyalty.
"Big Words Andy, But How Do You Pull It Off?"
Another excellent question! I find lots of opportunities to engender loyalty by observing others. A few others know how to inspire loyalty, but this minority is far outweighed by those who know how to squelch loyalty in its tracks.
An example: Once a project is complete and running in Production, managers will be lining up to pat the development team on the back, buy them lunches, and tell them what a great job they did. There is nothing wrong with this and it's perfectly normal. The opportunity lies in the fact that while the work is in progress, these same managers are composing nasty emails and making threatening phone calls and, in general, not being very polite. What those managers do not realize is: The work they will later be patting the developer on the back for doing - the very developer they're currently threatening - is being done at the very moment the manager is behaving badly. As I mentioned in IT Coaching - Software Well Done, Part 1, the manager is simply "punching the developer in the brain" with this behavior. And make no mistake, this slows down development; and consequently, delivery.
The opportunity here is to praise the developers "mid-stream." Let them know - while the project is still under development, and especially if things aren't looking good - that you have the utmost confidence in their ability. The effect is astounding.
One important note: Don't lie. Don't tell the developers you have confidence in them if you don't. They'll figure it out as soon as you lose your cool after an onerous meeting with the client and come yell at them... they're smart like that, those wily developers.
You can help your team deliver more and effectively and sooner if you inspire them. Transparency helps, as does support during the "winter months" of a project's development cycle.