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Jennifer Britton was our special guest.


[00:00:00] Yegor: Hello everybody. This is Shift-M podcast, our next episode, and we have a special guest, Jennifer Britton, who is a writer, a coach, a trainer, a blogger, a book writer, Jennifer, present yourself, say a few words about yourself please.

[00:00:17] Jennifer: Well, thanks for having me here. First of all, great to connect to and I have spent the better part of the last 30 years working with teams and groups all over the world. I have a very rich past life as a leader within the global sector. But for the last 15 years I’ve been running my own business potentials realized in Canada, work with clients around the world to help them with better conversations whether it’s helping a virtual team, you know, really get the results they want or whether it is working with a healthcare team in a hospital. So that’s a little bit about me, I’m an author, I’m a coach, I’m a [inaudible voice 00:00:58], because that’s how I started out as a leader myself. I worked for the UN, and with Global Complexity. Today you know we don’t just ever have skills in one area. We have cross cutting skills hopefully. 
 [00:01:08] Yegor: Well, that’s great. And you are right now in Toronto?

[00:01:10] Jennifer: Yeah, a little north of Toronto. So I make Canada my home now and as I said though I get to work with people all over the world thanks to technology. So in any given day like today you know, crossing the world from time zone to time zone.

[00:01:24] Yegor: That’s awesome. So the subject we decided to dig for today’s discussion is herd instincts. Can we use this word in this language because we have it in Russian, but do you have that in English?

[00:01:42] Jennifer: Yeah. You know it was funny, a herd instinct, when I first read that I thought “Ok, I better go look for the official writing” and it took me back to some writing of Freud from 1920’s, like, you know, the way I’m interpreting it is how do we really work with any entity team or group, when everyone’s thinking the same, is that what you had in mind for a conversation today?

[00:02:02] Yegor: Yes, exactly. That’s the problem actually, when people in the team, they tend to follow the majority instead of thinking independently, and in some cases that’s good and in some cases it’s not very good. So that’s going to be my questions, a lot of questions about your experience and how you deal with them and do you have that, have you seen that?

[00:02:19] Jennifer: Absolutely. It’s a really rich area I think you know you have organizations and teams across the spectrum, some that are very set in a herd mindset and others that have learned to work outside, so it’s really looking forward to our conversation today.

[00:02:33] Yegor: So what do you think in general, that’s my first general question, so what do you think in general, is it a problem? Do you see a problem where people actually instead of thinking independently, they just follow the majority and just say “Whatever everybody says, I’m going to just confirm that”.

[00:02:56] Jennifer: Well you know we live in a world where there is tremendous diversity. So I never say never. I think, again, you see the spectrum of organizations that fight against the tides of change and want to all think in the same boat, yet in today’s world of complexity and change I think we really need to foster diverse perspectives in a… let me say it in a respectful way, we need innovative thinking and innovative thinking comes from having diverse views, diverse vantage points, diverse skills. The challenge I think today for most organizations is how do we find enough common ground to do that respectfully and effectively.

[00:03:37] Yegor: But you know you definitely deal with project managers, right? People who manage teams. And I think for them, I am also a project manager. When the team, let’s say there are 10 people in the team and everybody has his own opinion and everybody is trying to somehow not maybe fight with me, but argue with me in every point, that makes it really difficult for me to manage such a team. They sometimes do what I said and just do it because you know because I say so.

[00:04:10] Jennifer: Yeah well that that’s the leader’s challenge, right. How do you provide structured direction that allows space for people to bring their best talents to work. And that’s a little different too, than herd mentality. So there’s a really wide range that we can talk in today, in terms of how do we help teams do their best work. You know really allow you as leader, as project leader to set the course of direction but also ensure that there’s enough diversity that exists so that you really bring your projects in on scope, time and budget right. Ultimately that’s what we want to do. And so if the team is stuck, that’s where we often find some of the challenges in getting projects completed.

[00:04:51] Yegor: And have you seen, maybe you can give some real examples, have you seen situations when the team is not progressing, when the project is not is not running as it has to, because there is not enough innovative thinking in sight the team?

[00:05:09] Jennifer: For sure. And you know I think also prefaces from my former world of work in the project and program realm, we as project managers don’t operate in a vacuum. We work through a network of stakeholders that also are sort of tangential, but bringing it down to our own team. Yes, what do we do when projects are running, and that’s where we really need to take a step back and look not only at interpersonal dynamics, but also the results, right, teams excel when they can focus on the results, so we need to go back to the drawing board. If we look at the research of teams, is there a clear vision, do we have clear goals? Do we understand how my goal and my work plan interfaces with your work plan, and as project cycles have become ramped up across all industries in the last several years and decades, how do we ensure the team can run quickly without getting in its own way? And I think you know across industries we no longer have the luxury of time. So you know whether it’s intentional or not, people are tripping over each other and as a leader, I think the role of the project manager is becoming so much more team oriented than it used to be years ago. It’s really about managing workflow. Now there’s so much workflow plus team dynamics and how do we help team learn to work together, understand how team member A impacts B and getting that done in a very short cycle of time.

[00:06:34] Yegor: You said team oriented, what does it exactly mean, what is the goal, what is on the opposite side if one side that’s team orientation, what’s on the other side?

[00:06:43] Jennifer: I would say, you know, in its most extreme individual orientation. So are you operating and I see this a lot of my work across industries, you have a group of people, a collection of people that call themselves a team, but they’re really not a team. They are a collection of individuals. So that’s what I would term as the extremes and you know teams if we really look at them in their totality is what are they bound by. Are they all working in the same direction, or are they bound by that common purpose and mission? Are they really working for the same endgame or end results, or are they just being lumped together, because it’s a quote unquote project or initiative?

[00:07:37] Yegor: And who defines this orientation, the project manager or everybody in the team? 
 [00:07:42] Jennifer: I think it’s the project manager, the team, the organization even, right? We do it from a macro lens. How is the organization also holding teams? Is it compensating people as individual contributors yet asking them to be a team? That’s a whole other layering of this beyond herd mentality. So I think you know as with anything it seems everything is interconnected. It can be interconnected if that’s the way we’re going to look at it. That is this organization looking at things through a systems lens of interconnectivity or is the organization really a whole series of silos, which is a whole different way of operating.

[00:08:23] Yegor: So if on one side we have individual orientation where everybody like you said is driven by individual personal motivational factors which could be money, or could be something else, and the on the other side we have team orientation where what we do have there, how do we motivate people to work?

[00:08:40] Jennifer: You know if we look out and think of your own experience in projects, you know, projects are teams, I think, and we will all still be motivated at different levels, by different things. But when you’re really in that team where you’re aiming towards the same end result and you want to get that result. So let’s say it’s an infrastructure project to get a road built. You know the end result is getting that road done on time, scope, budgets. Why are people motivated for that? Could be multiple reasons there but are they connecting their motivation to the end results enough so that we’re able to pull together and again going back to stakeholders you know how do we enrule others externally, other partners into the vision as well. So I think some of that, and you asked me a few minutes ago that is it the team, is it the project manager - I think you know the team definitely needs to… it is not in full ownership of this, but they’re also looking to the project manager to take the lead on setting the context, on inspiring the vision, on encouraging people to connect what they’re motivated by why they’re motivated with a bigger picture.

[00:10:00] Yegor: How can we do that? If I’m a project manager, I’m thinking about my personal work. So when you try to reflect on my experience, so what do I do with the team, I have let’s say five programmers and I know what to do with them on the individual level, like I can talk to each of them and say “Ok, here’s the scope for your work, and when you complete this scope, you’re going to get that amount of some benefits, I don’t know, some rewards. But you’re suggesting to look at this group as a team, and then how do I communicate with them, how they define their goals?

[00:10:30] Jennifer: And I think this is a great question, and you know one of the additional questions we want to ask is is there work interdependence with each other?

[00:10:38] Yegor: Oh definitely. Yeah.

[00:10:39] Jennifer: Yeah. So again like I think, a starting point and its multiple layers, it doesn’t happen overnight, but one of the starting points is helping people see how I might work with you and work with [inaudible voice 00:10:52] team and how my work really is interconnected because I think if we see ourselves as individual contributors then you know that’s our motivation. We don’t see the bigger picture. So the leaders rule as much as the leaders’ role is changing, I think it’s always been helping people see the bigger picture. When I worked for global organizations, my role as a program director, as a program manager was to help people see the bigger picture, to help people connect how does my work here in X country connect with someone in Y country. And so it is about talking beyond the practical, tactical “This is what we need to get done today”, but helping them see the bigger picture of the scope, and part of that connection. You know that virtual teams, intact teams, whether or face to face, or virtual. A lot of this comes down to communication and making sure that we have ways that are meaningful for the contacts, we operate with them to make sure that we do see those connections and we have feedback loops across the members of the team.

[00:12:04] Yegor: So you are saying that if we have a group of programmers sitting and working on some software package in China, but that’s definitely a part of a bigger project, so if we go to that group and tell them what is the overall goal of the bigger project they are working on where that particular software package will be used, they will care about all of that information and that will motivate them?

[00:12:27] Jennifer: Not necessarily, but they need to understand why am I being asked to do X by Y period. Like why is it so essential for me to get that code and I have to say “I haven’t never worked in IT. It’s not my area of expertise, I don’t lead in this area.” But you know what. How does my work connect to the bigger picture? If I think I have all the time in the world to get to milestones without understanding how my work connects to the bigger picture, it’s very hard for me to even care at times. Why am I doing this? Am I just working in my little bubble or am I working and connecting with others?

[00:13:09] Yegor: Well you’re speaking now about yourself or you know from the experience so by interviewing some teams and knowing it from some research? So what do you think?

[00:13:18] Jennifer: So I was a team leader for 15 years. I’ve worked in healthcare, in education, in infrastructure projects, and so whether you’re an engineer, a GIS specialist, a doctor or a nurse, a general support, we need to understand how does my work impact with others.

[00:13:52] Yegor: Let’s say you’re a nurse or there’s a group of doctors and nurses in one department of the hospital. So do they need to know how they work actually affects the overall metrics of the entire hospital or not?

[00:14:08] Jennifer: So if you look to lean six sigma, they would say absolutely, at some level whether it’s macro or micro, how does my work impact overall project flow. So you know again, we can split hairs on what the exact scenario is. But I think if we look back to the writing in the 1990s, when small teams operate and are efficient when I have shared vision, shared mission, when I understand why they exist, we can flash forward to the early 2000s and the writing assignments next you know it starts with Why? Why do we exist? What’s the purpose to show up at work every day? And you have a big difference between engaged organizations and disengaged organizations. So I got needs to be part of the dialogue as well. What type of organization are you working with? How are people motivated? Is it money? Is it mastery? Is it purpose? Those are all different drivers for team members today.

[00:15:02] Yegor: Uh-huh, so now we are getting to the point where we define different types of teams, so and some teams people may be like you said money driven or mastery driven, and for them or for some of them, maybe for some teams this vision, this purpose may not be as important as for other teams. Did I get it right?

[00:15:23] Jennifer: Absolutely. And again going back to your example of leading a team of programmers, they’re going to be driven by different things as well. Is it speed, is it efficiency, is it getting this code completed faster than the other people? Am I being compensated on an hourly rate? Am I being compensated on a project rate? And that can vary tremendously across the globe as well. So the other piece that I think makes it even more complex and not crystal clear. You’ll notice I’m like balking at even saying it’s this way because it’s not this way, and it’s not in that industry right now, is this a team that’s operating in one geographic location or globally. Those all layer multiple levels of complexity for leadership.

[00:16:12] Yegor: Oh, that’s true. And you know I work mostly with programmers and very often people complain about the situation with the management which, most probably read some books about motivation and instead of defining clear and explicit goals for individual programmers and defining the connection between their results and their rewards, they are just trying to feed them with the big ideas and purpose and the vision, which is not a replacement for the clear instructions, on the clear definition of task. Programmers complain about that, saying that instead of telling us exactly what needs to be done and how bad results will affect my personal benefits, then you just give us the global vision which is too vague for us to understand. And it’s not really a replacement. So have you seen that or…

[00:17:06] Jennifer: Oh yes. And I think again that’s a cross sectoral issue you know for different people at different levels. What is the most important driver? We do need the vision, but does that vision get communicated to different people in different ways, depending on their own orbit and their own scope? And you know what, a lot of these in our conversation right now are really pointing to an individual of each person in addition to their role. Are they clear about their role? Are they also getting to loop into other team members? We often talk about something called the six factors of team effectiveness. It’s all about having like communication vehicles between team members. So maybe if I’m hearing a message from you as my leader, I interpret it one way, but if I now hear that same message from a peer, it may come across as also really different, because they’re now translating it through their lands or their perspectives. So again you know going back to team versus individual, are we also building an opportunities for the team members to get together whether it’s virtual or face to face. You know it doesn’t matter, we need to have a conversation somehow to share information, share rules, how is my work impacting yours, how am I getting in the way of your project completion as well.

[00:18:31] Yegor: And have you seen situations where people are actually saying that they don’t need to know the real one, they don’t want to hear about the motivational speeches and everything, they just want to do their job and get back home?

[00:18:46] Jennifer: Absolutely! You know, and we have a solo entrepreneurs, solo entrepreneurs are individual entrepreneurs. There’s so many options in today’s world of what kind of workplace contacts do you want to work with.

[00:18:52] Yegor: What do you think is going to be the future of the world. Let’s look like forward for 20 or 30 years. So how the world will look, will it be the world of entrepreneurs, individuals, or the world of teams and groups?

[00:19:05] Jennifer: That’s such a great question, Yegor. I’m not really sure or not, but I think the world will continue to get more global, people who want to work in teams will have to have competency to work within teams. It’s different to work in a team today, a team that’s changing every two weeks versus you know 20 years ago teams that were together for years. And if you look to some of the writing in my line of work, we refer a lot to Amy Edmondson, head of Harvard. And Amy has studied, she calls it teaming. This rapid cycle of team development which is just even from where we were, 10-20 years ago, that’s much more commonplace today than it was. And so if we look to what the future might bring with all of the changes globally, it’ll be very interesting to think what what teams, what the workplace even can be and what skills are not just leaders but are all team like, again, look at my language. But if you are working with others what skills do you need to have in order to work with others, whether it’s a team or a group. And I think years ago people could live in their little box. But today for a variety of reasons, whether it’s budget, workflow, you know, virtual and remote teams like we need to work with others. We can only do work on our own so far before we do have to reach out and work with others. And I work a lot with remote professionals. You know, I will sort of put that on the table. And you know even as remote professionals while, well professionals can do as much as they want on their own. The challenge today is how do I build relationships to become more effective so that I can get the information, the tools and resources to do my work effectively. They’re having to look outside.

[00:21:01] Yegor: And that change because of how you think, so why 20 years ago we had a different picture and now we have what you are saying we’re having now?

[00:21:08] Jennifer: Well you know, so 20 years ago I was not living here in Canada. So it’s interesting to think I can only see certain changes, but I think what I have seen in North America, since coming back to North America is just a whole wage compression, budget compression, international economics. I think for some organizations they have really learned to leverage technology and use virtual relationships as a way to bring the best people together without physically having to bring them together. And that’s an opportunity we didn’t have 20 years ago, if you had met me I would be logging 156 days a year on a plane, or a train, or in an automobile. Today I do most of my work virtually. I do the same or different impact but I don’t have to travel like I did. So you know technology has also afforded us some really amazing opportunities. So I’d like to look at it as an opportunity, but it also requires that people work in different ways which is some organizations have embraced it and some organizations haven’t.

[00:22:27] Yegor: I think that those organizations who won’t manage to embrace it, they will fail somehow, right, in the future?

[00:22:36] Jennifer: Time will tell. Time will tell. If you look at writing like people from Jim McAllen’s “Good to great”, “Built to Last”, it will be interesting to have more researchers like his team, looking at what really is helping teams excel, what is helping organizations excel in the longer term. Is technology a really important part of the puzzle, is learning how to collaborate work across differences. So again, going back to the whole notion of like herd instincts, you know herd instinct presupposes that everyone’s going to think the same way, with technology because we’re working across geographic boundaries, industry boundaries, we recognize quite quickly that we all bring different skills to the table. If we can’t figure out a way to make that work, we fail, if we can make to figure out a way to make that work, we can really succeed. And I use the collective “we”, because this is what I see in teams and organizations across the world right now, either organizations try it for a while and for whatever reason can’t make it work, people can’t make it work. Territorialism, other things or you have others that recognize you a lot. I’ll bring my piece, you bring your piece together, we can put it together. They need to be very specific on outcomes. Going back to your comments earlier around goals, really, why are we doing this? What’s the driving force?

[00:23:56] Yegor: You know, I’ll give you some statistics and I would like to hear your comments about that. In the IT world, in the world of programmers and the IT engineers right now the average programmer, software engineer changes the job every single calendar year.

[00:24:19] Jennifer: I can imagine. Yeah.

[00:24:22] Yegor: So that’s really frequently. It didn’t happen 10 years ago, it definitely didn’t happen 20 years ago. So now we are we’re dealing with a situation where people you know are completely disloyal. Let’s put it this way. So they don’t stay with the company approximately for longer than a year. So does it seem like individualism is coming up and is finally starting to dominate in this industry? I’m not sure about other industries.

[00:24:45] Jennifer: You know, it’s interesting and well I think that the windows of change may not be a year. I think across industries just the portability of careers and the portability of roles and jobs is changing dramatically. And so this is where a sabby leader, whether it’s a project manager in IT, a project manager in healthcare, a project manager in infrastructure development plays a key role, is on a multiple set of layers, so how does he or she help that new person orient, understand the team culture or culture they’re stepping into, organizational culture is what I mean, how we do things here. Are all the members understanding how they operate, what are the expectations? Is the expectation that you are going to loop others into the loop, or are you going to work in these little pockets. What are our goals? So going back to some of these fundamentals that we’ve been touching on in the conversation so far. That’s where I think the leaders are also being called forward to make sure that they’re.. while it’s an investment of time early on, it makes it much easier in the long term. And I saw this in my former career. I was in a role as a leader 3 to 36 months. That was all I had in my location. If I was not building capacity at the local level or with a local team, I would fail. I would not be promoted to the next level. And with rapid cycles of teaming, it’s a different way of working. And so to your point exactly. These are the stats that are showing up in IT, what does that mean in terms of how project teams need to come together, need to communicate, need to be able to run effectively, because you can only push it for so long before something will really break down. And I’m sure you see that in your work. You have teams that can make it work. Leaders that can make it work regardless of who they’re having to work with.

[00:27:04] Yegor: Okay, you wrote quote actually in one article I read recently, again, it gives the statistics and demonstrates that people change their jobs quite frequently, it says “workers who stay with the company longer than two years are said to get paid 50 percent less”. It seems that now we have to change jobs and it’s not just want to, but we have to do that in order to make as much as we deserve. So people who don’t do that, they are getting paid less and that means that they are less professional engineers.

[00:27:35] Jennifer: You know it speaks to something you know around industries HR has been talking about the need for taking charge of your own career, doing the professional development, I think this is where for anyone, at any level, you know, how are you building your skill base. How are you seeking out projects programs that are going to help you grow as a professional. Things that you can take, skills that can be portable for you, whether you’re at that organization for another year or another three years. But I think it’s a reframing to how we approach our work and some of that can go to meaning some of that, can go to revenue, to write like there’s different drivers,do we want to enjoy our work, or do we want to push hard in our careers for a decade, for a few years. Those are all decisions we can make.

[00:28:32] Yegor: And the herd instinct. So when I stay in the team, when I stay in the group, according to the statistics so I have to constantly think about what’s my next step and what should I do in order to go against the team, in order to quit the team and [inaudible voice 00:28:56] the different team now. So it seems that’s the time of people who are individual thinkers because if you think like everybody else, you’re going to stay in one team for longer and then you’re going to lose it eventually. So to not move from one team to another, you have to think independently, and the statistics demonstrate that.

[00:29:15] Jennifer: For sure. And I think again, this is where sabby leaders encourage what we often call constructive dialogue or constructive interaction. It’s no surprise that looks like radical candor, like Kim Scott and others, are on the New York Times, that are best sellers for a long time because I think this is an area we all struggle with whether it’s financial services or healthcare education or IT. How do we have difficult but respectful conversations, so that we have a safe space to bring an oppositional point of view in a way that is productive? But also it is in a way that we’re not necessarily following the pack, which is really what herd instinct is, and we know that for a variety of reasons we need that innovation, workforce’s industries need innovation right now more than ever. So as leaders we need to… again going back to Amy Edmondson, she writes a lot about psychological safety, you know Google recently looked at their project Delphi, what made teams excel and teams that could constructively interact. excel that they needed to have quote unquote, what Edmondson calls “psychological safety”, they needed to know that they were not going to be losing their job for something they said in contradiction. And when you have cultures of fear rather than cultures of constructive dialogue, people will go with the herd because they’re scared for a variety of reasons, they’re not wanting to do anything else because they will lose their job, they will be you know there will be retribution in some way shape or form.

[00:31:03] Yegor: And what would you recommend for project manager in that aspect, so what to do in order to encourage people to think individually, but still stay within the frames of discipline?

[00:31:16] Jennifer: You know, again I think this is where we can draw on a variety of different resources. This is where you go from helping the team have a common framework for having these difficult conversations. In my own work I see a lot of it boils down to, I’d love to offer an alternative perspective but if I do, I’m going to be shut down because people don’t need to receive it or don’t know how to receive it. And I also don’t know how to share that. So whether it’s using frameworks that already exist, you know, difficult conversations, radical candor - these are all different resources that people can tap into. We need to start the conversation and we need to be modeling it as leaders as well. So if we’re not demonstrating that with our own superiors in an organization, how can we ask a team to be candored or bring an oppositional vantage point, if we’re always saying “yes” to certain things as well. So modeling in an organization is really important. How are we modeling it. How are we getting skills. How are we equipping the team with skills.

[00:32:28] Yegor: And what happens if somebody goes against the team and against the will of the project manager are somehow, against some you know fundamental beliefs at some points. Then what do we do, do you have any real examples, can you show…

[00:32:46] Jennifer: You know what, there are performance issues versus personal issues. So is this a performance issue? I think a lot of times we get really mixed up. Oh I can offer that feedback, but you know what, yes you can because this is a performance issue. So I continue to point or I work back to that amazing writing of Robert Mager. He did a lot of work in a performance improvement realm in 70s, 80s and 90s and he has a whole model called the “performance tree”. And it really starts to break down, why are you seeing performance issues. You know, is this person just trying to be difficult or is there a reason because goals aren’t clear or the person doesn’t have resources or other. So I think we want to avoid or we want to think through you know when we see divergent ideas. Divergent ideas does not mean a performance issue, there can be cultures that anyone who goes against the herd, becomes that performance issues that need to be performance managed. Divergent thinking does not equal bad performance. That makes sense. So let’s go to you again. You know your context. What might an IT team issue herdishy look like. Is it everyone saying “yes” to the project leader. What might the herd mechanism look like in IT right now for programmers?

[00:34:19] Yegor: Well, the biggest problem is that in IT we constantly have technical conflicts aside from personal stuff, which is professional teams don’t usually have a lot, but we have technical conflicts, meaning that one person thinks that this is the right way to do this technical stuff and somebody else thinks differently and then they clash and they start having the discussion and then the decision is made by the team and by the majority. So who supports who, so if the majority supports one person, then the other person loses. And it’s not really good because good technical decisions sometimes get not enough support, because people just vote for the friend. They just you know they just want to stay with the team, they drink beer with this guy, and they just want to support the friend instead of thinking what’s really technically important, instead of saying “I don’t know, I’m not going to support anyone because I’m not an expert. So leave me alone, just you know decide it within yourself.” They just to get there. I’ve seen it many times personally so I’ve seen that when you can’t fight with the majority because if there are like 15 people in the group, and then 10 of them say that Michael is right, then it’s almost impossible to do anything because everybody in the top management, on top of the group, they will look at the group and they cannot also go against the majority.

[00:35:47] Jennifer: Yes, exactly. Because going back here when your original questions or statements, because they’ve opened up the space for participation, you know, in a participatory decision versus should the leader be making a decision in this instance, right?

[00:35:56] Yegor: Exactly, yeah. And that’s a problem, you know, for the management, for team, for everything, for projects. 
 [00:36:05] Jennifer: For everyone. Yeah. It’s a question of when do I invite input as a leader. And when is it important for me to take the responsibility of making a decision. And I think across industries this is a challenge for new and experienced leaders. Am I meeting at the appropriate times? Am I setting up these cycles? Time and time again, which are creating warm, sounds like that team as it is in its own cycle. You know they’re going to keep voting the same way, because their friends…

[00:36:48] Yegor: They will just keep supporting the same person, you know, then it turns into the politics. So people, instead of earning technical knowledge and expertise, they just fight for the territory and then everybody suffers in the end, I blame project managers in this case.

[00:37:08] Jennifer: I think it’s very easy to fall into our own rhythms, right? We have a way of working and often it’s when we get that feedback that we do hear that out. You know what I do need to make a decision, I think, and why I’m sort of smiling here early on in my career, I was thrust into a leadership role at the age of 26, managing a multinational team. And you know, I had always heard “Oh it’s best to let the group decide”. Well I had some excellent feedback from one of my team members that said “We need you to step it up, Jennifer”. And I realized there are times when as a leader, you need one to involve everyone, very important, very important. But there are other times when as a leader you need to make a final decision. And if team dynamics are not working, that’s a time where the team leader needs to step back and ask what’s going on here. And is there something else that’s needed if the team is cycling into unproductive behavior, unproductive results? Because that’s going to have a huge cost, if the team keeps doing this. Who’s the best place person to answer that? Is it the team leader or someone else or organization that the leader needs to live in or other?

[00:38:23] Yegor: Now that’s true. Yeah, it’s difficult to resolve that situation, because when the team is already like that, when the team is functioning according to that simple social rules instead of technical rules, then it’s difficult for a project manager, especially the new one, when the new one joins the team replacing the previous one, then looking around, you just see that the one big group is fighting against another small group and then you don’t want to become the victim of this fight. You want to somehow control that situation and then you just say “Ok do whatever you guys think. I see you’re in the majority. So do what you say”. And that’s the instinct, of course the majority consists of people where just a few of them are technically capable of really making the decisions. The rest is just followers. It’s just herd instinct, they just join the biggest group and it’s safer for them. 
 [00:39:26] Jennifer: And so that raises the question too for the project manager. When does he or she need their own sounding board. Things can get heated so quickly in a project team. And so how do we create those destined points, whether we have mentors or other so that we can also take as much of a neutral view on a situation, to notice the patterns that are happening, because teams are an organism in and of themselves, and they can cycle through these very negative patterns. Time, and time, and time again if we’re too much in it, we may not see that happening, right, because it’s such a reactive environment. So I think for everyone again, even in light of you only have one year in a role. We need to build in like micro reflection points. So I’m not talking days at a time, I’m talking windows 5-10-15 minutes, but you really take a step back regularly and ask what’s happening here, what’s working, what’s not, you know, is this an organization team, that I want to be part of a year from now? How can I contribute? Is it time to move?

[00:40:37] Yegor: And you know what I found, again my personal experience, what I found as a cure for the situation where I just explained, with the politics are happening instead of technical conflicts. I found out that the best way to resolve that is to define it, to move people to the individual level, to define their personal individual motivational points, and to make them individually responsible for the overall result. In that case, they will stop thinking as a herd, as a group of people just running forward, not thinking about what’s the right way, but of individuals where each of them will think for his own or her own self, and fight for individual results, in that case they will just not be able to build a pack and vote collectively, they will always vote individually, which is kind of goes against this team orientation.

[00:41:35] Jennifer: Well, yes, and you know, I make excellent teams are able to do more when they bring their best as individuals. You know there’s a bit of a fallacy thinking that teams are just are just teams, they all do the same thing, they’re all responsible for the same thing, when in fact team members are really clear on their rules, right, individually. How does my work support my neighbor’s work? How do I need to show up so that they can be successful, so that we all can be successful? So again research wise, you need to clearly define the goals, performance measures, roles, along with the vision which as you said a while ago, the vision may be too high level an issue to really orient people towards, as you think about your immediate project, who needs to do what, by when? And how are we all going to know and what happens if this milestone is not met? What’s the implication for the entire team? And that to me is the individual side of teamwork, right. We’re clear individually on what we each need to do, so that overall we can be successful.

[00:42:43] Yegor: Well, that’s definitely true, what you are saying is absolutely true. But in the majority of situations I’ve seen project managers are not capable of defining that motivation on a very precise level. What they can do is just say “Hey guys, we have a great vision let’s move on, let’s move forward, let’s let’ do it and then that’s it”. So instead of actually looking at how to motivate every individual person, how to put those motivational factors together, so that the team becomes motivated, it’s a hard work, it’s difficult to do and project managers are sometimes too lazy, sometimes not competent enough, and that’s why according to my experience projects fail a lot because of them.

[00:43:36] Jennifer: Yeah, and you know just as you’re sharing this, mentioning this, I think this is where over time, because I’m imagining it’s not just the IT programmer, that’s new thing every year it’s also those project managers, this is where building your leadership toolkit and really looking at how can you work, you know, skills and team leadership skills and virtual team leadership skills in helping people connect with their strengths, so that we really can understand what’s needed to make projects successful. And if our team is changing, it’s likely we’re going to be changing regularly as well. So getting into our own rhythm as leaders of understanding “Okay, when I inherit this new team or if I’m getting like jetted into this this team that already exists, how do we work through the checklist? Are we clear on what needs to get done by when, who’s who on this team, what skills strengths do they really bring? How are we different and what’s our common ground?” So it is adding another layer, but I think against the backdrop of statistics and context at sabby project managers will continue to invest in their ongoing development, continuous development has been a thing that’s been talked about for years under many-many different layering. Today it’s like always be learning, 20 years ago it was, you know, continuous development, you work, you know, virtual relationships. I think that’s the other piece working effectively cross culturally and globally - that’s a whole other layer on top of what we’ve been talking about today as well.

[00:45:12] Yegor: Yeah. And you’re absolutely right that even though one individual programmer moves to another company every year, but the entire team doesn’t move that fast. So the team stays and even though they will lose time to time some people but overall group they stay for way longer than a year. So definitely the team dynamics has a much larger time perspective than the timeframe of one person working in the team.

[00:45:35] Jennifer: For sure, you know if we look back to the writings of Peter Senge back in the early 1990s, his whole body of work is around systems theory and if you hold a team as a system, you know the players can change. The people can change but there’s a team culture that gets built up over time. The team culture can be just what you’ve talked about today or it can be something very different. And so it’s really important I think for leaders to recognize it. Yes, while you may be changing team composition, there’s a lot of important stuff to be focusing on in terms of what is a culture you want to create, are people excited to do their work, are they proud of doing their work, are they getting well compensated, because it is often the project manager that gets asked about these things from others in the organization. So lots of layers here to be looking at.

[00:46:35] Yegor: And do you think we are looking for some major changes in the area for the future, I mean the area of this motivation and team dynamics, or what’s the strategy? That’s my question.

[00:46:45] Jennifer: So what’s the strategy. You know again looking back to 20 years ago.

[00:46:51] Yegor: Let’s try to look like 10 years.

[00:46:52] Jennifer: Okay, 10 years, I think again if we look at the immense amounts of change going on geopolitically across the world, it’s the context we operate with, when it’s changing every day and that will change the way workplaces operate. So how do we not only get our results done quicker, faster and better, but hopefully how our people are feeling supported in an environment, how they’re feeling like they maybe can go against the grain once in a while, that they’re safe to do that. Are they’re even getting exposed to others in an organization. You know you talked about the herd mentality. You know of course I’m always going to align Suzie or Sujit, if that’s the only people I know and spend time with. Am I being you know provided opportunities to grow, be part of cross-functional teams, be part of virtual teams or special projects where I have to learn how to interface with others. And so I can actually look to other industries, much of that’s been very commonplace for years because of budgetary reasons, so we’re also building cross poly national opportunities, so that if I have friends across all teams, who do I vote for now? It’s a little harder on that mission.

[00:48:18] Yegor: Well, sounds interesting. I think we’re on the same page with the majority of questions. I would like to summarize all this. It’s difficult to align individual motivational problems with the team situations, and team objectives, and team vision. And I think that’s the brilliance of a project manager can be shown up exactly there, in ability to align those two things, what the team has to do versus what each individual wants to do.

[00:48:50] Jennifer: Yeah, really well said, and I think brilliant project managers also recognize it comes down to the important one on one relationships, knowing your team, knowing that their drivers are, helping them connect their motivation to the bigger picture appropriately, just as you said, if you’re always talking about vision and that’s not resonating with the team, you need to be bringing it down the level to be talking about goals and roles and you know tactical practical projects stuff. 
 [00:49:21] Yegor: Yeah. All right. Sounds great. I really enjoyed the conversation. I took something from it. I hope our listeners will take something important for them. 
 [00:49:31] Jennifer: Well thank you Yegor. And you know again I appreciate it as well just hearing about just the rapid pace of change. And again I hope listeners listened and thought about the things, that they can affect change around. So thank you for your time today.

[00:49:48] Yegor: Absolutely. Thanks for joining. Hope we see you again sometime.

[00:49:51] Jennifer: All right, take care. Have a great time.

[00:49:54] Yegor: Bye bye.

[00:49:55] Jennifer: Bye bye.

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