My first “Ask Me Anything”

2018 began in a rough tone. The year before was a rough one. I had some challenges professionally – an element of my team was cut and another one was sent to work as an outsourcing – and I had a tough financial setback in my personal life. But I kept moving forward, I kept optimistic, and I kept working hard. It eventually paid-of for a great 2018. I felt that I did learned so very much. I felt that all those issues and setbacks helped to my improvement as a person, and as a leader. I believe that we should share all the teachings that life provides, so I thought on doing my very first “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session.

I wrote on my social networks that I would be receiving questions related with Servant Leadership, Engineering Management, Agile, eXtreme Programming, People and Teams.

To prevent this post to reach humongous size, I will answer one question at a time per post. Here it is, the first one:

What was the principle/idea that had more impact on your work this year? Why?

Rui Barbosa (Sr Web Engineer at Hexis Technology Hub)

I tried to choose just one but I could not. So let me say Transparency and Gratitude.

Although those concepts were not new to me – I read a few books on Servant Leadership, Personal Development and Trust – I never felt what crystal clear transparency was within a team (let alone within a whole company), nor I ever seen gratitude displayed in this fashion.

Transparency, how does it works? Let me split it in two parts, business and people/teams.

Business wise, it all starts in our CEO and the Top Management layer.

Everyone is seated in an open space, even the CEO. He is as accessible as anyone else. There are no barriers to reach him or any director.

When the year starts, the CEO and the Board of Directors have a meeting to define the organization annual objectives. We use the OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) framework. Afterwards, those objectives are presented to the entire organization. Everyone knows the organization’s Why and Where To. Each quarter, each team will define their OKRs to fulfill the company’s OKRs, and will present to the entire office. Everyone are on board with the company’s goals and with each team’s goals.

During the year, any decision the he takes, alone or with the Board of Directors, will be presented and opened for debate with the entire office. Everybody may raise concerns, questions or doubts. He will answer each one of those. If needed, the decision may go back to the drawing board, if someone saw something that he or the Board of Directors did not caught before hand.

I believe this is the easiest half of the transparency concept. Now, let me dive in the trickiest one, People/Teams.

Any director has some sort of tool to work their team momento. I’m not talking about management tools. I’m talking about coaching tools. In my team we do regular 360º sessions.

How does it works.

At least once in every quarter we get everybody in a meeting room, with no phones, no distractions, and no time limit. We take turns giving feedback to each one. For instance, we start with the director. Each team member will provide feedback, good or bad, in a safe and human environment. The other part must listen, and if wanted, may take notes in a paper and in the end should give thanks for the feedback.

If some internal issue or in-between teams arise then we immediately schedule a session.

This sort of feedback also goes all the way up, I mean, if anyone felt harmed with something that a member of the Board of Directors or even the CEO said or did, it should be said so in a safe environment. No one will take it personnaly. And believe me, everyone knows how to say “I’m sorry, I did wrong, I will learn and improve my behaviour”.

This is the level of transparency that I praise the most for having the contact with, in the past year.

I believe that Gratitude comes as a consequence of all that transparency and trust. For instance, we took pride in thanking every colleague that did something good. Sure, in a daily basis it may fall in overuse, but in key moments it makes wonders to the person and to the company.

Again, it goes all the way up the ladder. It is usual that our CEO give praise and thank personnaly every each one of us for something that happened during that year. And believe me, a good leader has to be vulnerable and humble to do it….as any Servant Leader should.

2 Replies to “My first “Ask Me Anything””

  1. Can you go deeper in what is a “safe and human environment”? Moreover, doesn’t disclosure personal issues to all the company arise avoidable problems (p.e. people feeling too exposed)?

  2. Rui, first there is a typo … I meant “safe and humane”.
    Let me dive into your additional question.
    If I see someone’s performance drops, I will ask what is wrong. I will not wait for the next quarter performance evaluation. The situation is occurring now, so it have to be addressed now.

    Of course I will talk with that person in a safe room. That means “behind closed doors”. That means “I will not use that information for the person’s harm”. That means that I believe that that person trusts me as much as I trust her. Sure, the level of detail for personal issues goes as deep as one feels at ease with. I will try to provide questions so the person bring his own solutions.

    The big question is not “if will that sort of issues occur” but “when”…people will have personal situations, period.

    It may be something light as a new born baby and some rough weeks lacking proper sleep.
    It may be a really sick close relative.
    It may be some inner situation like depression, anxiety, etc.

    That person will not have the right mindset to perform an “A-level” work. That is a fact!

    That person’s work will be impacted. That is also a fact!

    The team will notice it. That is also a fact!

    When I say “a humane” work environment, I mean that instead of being concerned about performance, I want that person to feel backed up to face the situation in hands and bring the best game he can deliver in that period. Sure, it will not be an A-level. I will, without disclosing details, inform the team that that person needs some slack. I will provide some workarounds so that that person may have additional “free” time.
    Due to transparency, that person might talk with the team afterwards. I strongly believe in “community”. And in a community, everyone works for the greater good. That means helping his teammates so the team stays strong.

    Does this answer your question?

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