My Drivers

This document covers some of my drivers; why I get up in the morning, why I love the work I do, and why I get involved in various community events.

I have written this in combination with My Communication Style to help others understand me and how I operate.

My primary driver is the success of others, I will cover this aspect in some depth. But, I also recognise that there is a balance between the business’ needs and the needs of the individual, so I have added a section to cover how I work to balance these needs and help to generate a mutually beneficial situation.

# Success of Others

I get a huge amount of satisfaction from the success of others. Where possible I will work with individuals to ensure their happiness and self-worth is prioritised. I recognise that everyone has a different view of success, and just because your view of success is not the same as mine it does not mean one of us is wrong.

To fulfil my desire to see others succeed I try to learn what people want, what they perceive success to be, and how I can best help them on their journey.

# Fulfilment

Fulfilment is vital for people to enjoy their life. Fulfilment at work and in personal life can often be conflicting. I love to work with people to find the balance that will provide the greatest level of fulfilment in all aspects of their life, but my primary focus (and the area I feel I am best able to help) is in creating and maintaining a fulfilling career.

I place a high level of importance on aligning work with the drivers of an individual. Using myself as an example, for much of my career I have been very focussed on producing code, it provided the greatest fulfilment to me; over time the joy of code has dwindled and I now get much more satisfaction from other aspects of my work. When the business’ needs and my source of fulfilment has fallen out of alignment I have found I rapidly lose interest in my particular role and this has a negative impact across my life. I actively work to help people identify what fulfils them and then (to the best of my ability) work toward providing that fulfilment.

# Servant Leadership

Although I understand the need for management, I much prefer the concept of servant leadership. I enjoy helping others to solve problems and to reduce or remove impediments that prevent or slow their ability to achieve their goals.

As a leader I work with individuals and teams to optimise processes, identify bottlenecks and provide the best work environment possible. Where possible I will encourage the individual or team to resolve their own problems, I will coach and mentor them so they can remove barriers themselves, and when required I will provide direct assistance.

I believe each level of leadership exists primarily to serve those below them in the corporate structure. For this to work effectively it required a high-level of empowerment and autonomy.

# Empowerment, Autonomy & Growth

Providing teams and individuals with autonomy and empowering them to make decisions is vital in my leadership style. I believe individual and collective growth is important, and this can only be enabled by giving people the freedom to expand beyond their comfort zone when they want to, and to stay within their comfort zone when they need to.

I believe decisions should be made by the lowest possible level in a corporate structure. By empowering and then supporting people, it can reduce the management overhead and can provide a greater level of satisfaction to those involved. By helping people learn from mistakes, recognising their successes and coaching them in decision making, both individual and team growth and confidence can be achieved, which in turn helps them achieve their career and workplace goals.

# Honesty, Transparency, Consistency, Clarity & Communication

To truly support empowerment and autonomy a high level of honesty and transparency needs to exist. This means that communication needs to be open, it needs to be frequent, it need to be clear, and it needs to be consistent.

When decisions are made they need to be relayed to the appropriate people. Both the decision and the process used to reach the decision need to be well defined and easily communicable. Systems thinking needs to be used to ensure there is consistency and that other parts of the system won’t trigger changes in the decision.

By combining honesty, transparency, consistency and clarity in all communications, all stakeholders will understand why a decision has been made and the impacts of the decision. This will lead to greater empowerment and autonomy in decision making.

# Empathy, Safety

To achieve growth, the individual must feel safe. This, of course, includes physical safety, but emotional safety is also vital. It is important to recognise that everyone is fallable, when we make a mistake we need to feel safe to admit it, and we need to know we will not be punished. If this safety is provided, then we can use our failures as learning experiences and ultimately use it to grow.

In order to provide an emotionally safe environment I invest a lot of energy in empathy. I try to understand the different perspectives of others, I try to view the decision making process that was used, and I try to acknowledge that there any many aspects of their life that I am not privy to. By working to understand and/or acknowledge the different influences in someone’s life, I can feel and demonstrate a greater level of empathy for them and ultimately provide them with an emotionally safer environment in which to operate.

# Health, Mindset & Variety

The final aspect of the success of others that I will focus on is the health and mindset of individuals and teams.

As humans we have both physical and mental health considerations. Research shows that 20% of the Australian population will experience a mental health issue in any given year; this could mean that each of us will experience a mental health issue every 5 years, or that in any given year at least one person in a team of 5 will have a mental health issue. With this level of prevalence, I work on an assumption that several people I encounter each day will be affluent by an issue; it is my duty to ensure that I do not make the issue and worse, and if possible the I improve the situation.

I am open about the effects of impostor syndrome on my life, I will talk factually about mental health issues I have experienced both personally and within my family (although this takes some additional trust), and I will talk about the benefits of physical health on mental health.

Throughout my life I have learnt the impact mindset can have on mental health. I will, to the best of my untrained ability, help people to find a positive mindset, to cope with adversity and to discover healthy coping strategies that work for them.

I will also do my best to provide variety. As humans we get bored of repetitive tasks, this boredom can lead to a number of mental health issues and a loss of feeling valued (connecting boredom to these issues is beyond the scope of this document).

# Balance (Business vs Individual)

As a leader in business it is important to balance the needs of the individual and the needs of the business or customer. Without employees, the business will not exist; without the business and customers, employees will not have a job. Finding the right balance will vary for every business and individual, but I believe the key focus is on ensuring a sustainable balance is found for both parties.

# Predictability & Responsiveness

To varying degrees, most people love predictability; this is also true for a business as it allows planing and forecasts to be accurate. Unfortunately neither the business nor the individual can provide perfect predictability.

From the individual’s side, sickness and accidents happen, unforeseen events occur (a blocked drain, an issue at a child’s school etc), and external events impact our day. This means that businesses have to be responsive, they need to change plans and schedules and they need to make allowances for the individual’s home life to impact the business.

From the business side, the unplanned events are often caused by external factors that the business chooses to prioritise. This can include customer’s needs being prioritised, unexpected changes in legislation or event natural disasters.

The balance between the individual and business need for responsiveness and the desire for predictability requires some allowances to be made by both sides. Sometimes an individual will need to work longer hours to achieve meet the business’ needs, but this needs to be countered by allowing them time in lieu at a later date (or other compensation that is appropriate for them); sometimes an individual needs to take some time off in the middle of the work day, this can be achieved by allowing them to work additional hours at a later time.

To truly enable the balance between predictability and responsiveness it is vital for both parties to be open and honest about their wants and needs. This allows for expectations to be set early and ensures that negative impacts from one side can be balanced in a way that’s acceptable for the other side.

# Direction & Freedom

Unlike the predictability and responsiveness balance, direction and freedom is somewhat more one-sided. Individuals generally love freedom. Most people like to have choices in what they do and how they do it. On the other hand, businesses require a relatively set direction and like to dictate what needs to be done and when.

For me, finding this balance is about aligning the individuals desires to the business need. Most people want to see their employer succeed, it provides stability in their role and reduces stresses associated with wondering if they will still have a job and money. This means that most people will undertake tasks that they may wish to avoid, but if too many of these tasks are required they will seek employment elsewhere.

Allowing individuals and teams a choice in work tasks helps to find this balance and is a key part of the methodologies used in Scrum. If the business maintains a value driven product backlog and the team are able to choose the tasks to undertake from that backlog, they will generally select tasks that provide a high level of value. In cases where the high value tasks do not align to their ideal choices they will also select some lower value tasks that do align. This gives the individuals within the team the freedom to undertake the tasks they want to do, but allows the business to influence the direction.

In my experience, the best way to balance direction and freedom is to allow the individual to drive the balance. This requires the business to be transparent about their needs, and to educate about the drivers behind these needs.

# Sustainability & Productivity/Delivery

We’ve all been in situations where pressure is applied to deliver. Many of us know that this is not sustainable. Yet businesses still push for a high delivery rate. I’ve often seen the comment “in this business, if you do your job well you get rewarded by doing someone else’s job as well,” I aim to avoid this situation. When balancing between sustainability and productivity, it is important to seek regular feedback from the individual to ensure they perceive the delivery rate to be sustainable.

I’ve experienced workplaces where employees are pushed to deliver until they burn-out, then they are replaced. By finding a sustainable delivery rate and recognising that plans are not always accurate, sustainability and the well-being of the individual can be prioritised. From a business perspective this will reduce costs (hiring new employees is expensive), and will lead to happier, more engaged staff. From an individual perspective, the workplace will be a more enjoyable place to be and we will (hopefully) get greater satisfaction from our jobs.

Throughout my career I have always been conflicted when I have met expectations in terms of my role, but have not fulfilled the hours I am employed for. As a leader I am more focussed on expectations being met than on the number of hours worked. Having said this, I am also conscious of not expecting people to regularly go beyond the agreed hours.

I understand that sometimes individuals can get in a state of flow and this can result in tasks being completed much more rapidly than expected, I also know that being in this state can rapidly lead to exhaustion. Other times we find ourselves struggling to concentrate, and this can cause tasks to drag well beyond the expected timeframe. By acknowledging this, and focussing on the outcomes delivered, I deprioritise the number of hours worked.

If an individual is regularly working additional hours to meet expectations, then it is important to renegotiate the expectations; this can include a period of lighter duties, providing additional time for education and development, or a change in role.

# Outcomes Over Outputs

Many businesses and leaders focus on outputs. I’ve seen this reflected in KPIs based on the number of lines of code written or the number of sales calls made in a day. I believe this focus is detrimental to both he individual and the business.

Using the example of the number of lines of code written, it is easy for a developer to reformat code to take additional lines, it is also possible to write inefficient code that is much longer than the efficient options. Using the number of lines of code as the measure of output will also discourage clean-up and optimisation tasks that remove code.

For the sales call example, contacting 100 potential customers in a day and getting 0 positive responses provides less value to the business than contacting 1 potential customer in a month which leads to a multi-million dollar contract.

I am focussed on the value provided to the business and customer. If a customer requests a specific change, and this is assigned to a development team, I will be just as satisfied with a procedural change as I will be with a code change, as long as the change provides the best possible value to the customer.

By focussing on the outcomes over outputs I believe individuals are able to focus on the value they are providing and gain a greater level of satisfaction by knowing they are making a difference; I also believe this will lead to the best service provision to customers and will ultimately increase the value the business can provide to customers.

# My Tools

Many of the items I’ve outlined in this document require a high level of feedback. I have a number of ways I like to use to gather this feedback.

# Retrospectives

Scrum style retrospectives are important for teams. I have seen these sessions used to varying effect, but when run properly, there are an invaluable tool for both the team and for leaders/managers.

The retrospective is a safe place for the team to share their issues, both good and bad. It can be a place to raise process and procedural problems, to recognise improvements made, and to work to improve the value delivered by the team.

I’ve written about What Scrum Lacks and the Misuse of Retrospectives previously, and this provides more detail about my thoughts on retrospectives.

# One-on-Ones

Not all issues can be raised in a team environment such as a retrospective. I like to run a one-on-one every week. The one-on-one is a safe space for open discussion; it is primarily led by the employee. By having a regular one-on-one, it means there is always an opportunity for bidirectional feedback without any attention being drawn to either the manager or the employee.

I have previously written One-on-Ones Don't Exist in the Scrum Guide - Why do we do them?, which provides a more detailed view of my thoughts about one-on-ones.

# OKRs

When implemented properly, OKRs can be very beneficial to both the individual and the organisation. OKRs are a good way for organisations to provide some direction to teams and individuals, whilst still allowing freedom.

The best implementations of OKRs have no more than 5 OKRs defined at any level. The first OKRs to be defined are at the company level; based on these, appropriate OKRs are created for departments, then teams, then individuals. At each level the OKRs are derived from the parent level. Parent level OKRs do not need to apply to all divisions at the lower levels, this allows for the addition of OKRs that relate more specifically to the department, team or individual. At least one moonshot OKR should be included at each level.

If OKRs are not available from a higher level, I will work to generate appropriate OKRs at the level I am empowered at, and then assist in implementing them for other staff.

# Learning & Development

Individual learning and development is important to maintain abilities in a changing environment, and to encourage growth. Development is a mix of different sources, but also requires a balance between the business and individual needs.

I am currently working on an article about the “70-20-10 Learning and Development Model,” and I will link to this once completed. This article will cover the difference sources of learning and development.

I also have views on how to balance individual development desires and business requirements, and I proactively work with policy makers to ensure this balance is achievable and beneficial to all involved.

As a leader I will proactively work to help individuals define a learning and development plan and will then work with them to ensure they meet their goals.

# Heart of Agile

Throughout this document I have referenced many items that are considered part of Agile, or that are part of Scrum. Although I have a leaning toward Scrum (mainly due to exposure and knowledge), I am not tied to it as an Agile methodology.

I am currently learning more about, and becoming more involved in Heart of Agile. At the core of Heart of Agile are four imperatives:

  • Collaborate
  • Deliver
  • Reflect
  • Improve

Empowering teams to choose the process and methodology that works for them, results in improved delivery of value. Guiding teams to ensure their work patterns include the four imperatives of the Heart of Agile ensures the team is enabled to perform at a peak sustainable level, and that they have the opportunity to be fulfilled as individuals and as a group.