Transcript: #7 – Women in technology

This is a transcript of Episode 7 – Women in technology. You can also listen to episode 7.

CYAN TA’EED

Clearly, I think that anyone who’s trying to hire in tech will definitely tell you there’s a pipeline issue. There’s not enough, we aren’t getting enough female candidates.

KERRI RUSNAK

I have a very distinct memory even being six or seven and having this perception that I should be good at social and English and maths and science is for really smart kids and it seems to be the guys.

EM CAMPBELL-PRETTY

I can remember being asked by senior leaders why do people leave and, you know, it’s not pleasant.

ANDY KELK

Welcome to Feel – a podcast about leadership. My name’s Andy Kelk. We’re back after a break with a brand new episode. If you’ve missed out on earlier episodes, you can get them from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud or feelpodcast.org

This time around, we’re talking about diversity – particularly in the technology sector – why it’s important and what organisations can do to get a more diverse workforce.

Studies suggest that women make up just one quarter of the workforce in information technology with many women leaving the industry mid-career.

But technology hasn’t always been a male-dominated industry. Pioneers such as Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper are two of the foremost figures of computing’s early days and programming used to be seen as a female-oriented career.

To start our discussion on diversity, we’ll hear from Cyan Ta’eed, co-founder and executive director of Envato on why it’s important to have diversity in an organisation.

CYAN

I think tech is an amazing space to be in, I think it’s a space where you can have a great deal of influence and you can make a difference in the world. And I really want everyone to have the opportunity to make that difference and to build things that will help a diverse range of people to make their lives better. So that’s the sort of the reasoning that really resonates with me.

But additionally there’s research that backs up the concept that it makes for stronger teams. It makes for teams that are better at problem solving, that can think about their customers more effectively, that can problem solve in a way that a very homogenous team maybe can’t.

ANDY

A 2013 survey by Credit Suisse Research showed that companies with one or more women on their board delivered higher returns on equity and had better average growth than those that didn’t.

Em Campbell-Pretty, enterprise lean and agile coach backs up the theory that male dominated firms are undesirable:

EM

A very, very common pattern that I observe walking into large IT organisations is that 90% of the management will be male. So again, that’s hard. That’s weird. And it’s not good for balance.

Another study released recently says how do you get brighter teams? Teams with women on them are brighter teams. And it’s clearly the diversity more than anything else that makes a difference.

ANDY

What factors are driving women away from workplaces? Kerri Rusnak, formerly of the REA group and now VP of technology operations at Home 24 believes that pay is a big factor.

KERRI

I think the numbers show that there are gaps and there’s significant gaps. It’s not a difference of 5 or 10 percent. In women in IT it’s significantly lower than men and that has to be looked at. Those are massive. If you looked at a society and said that only 25% of the population can read, you’d go “what the hell is this society doing if only 25% can do something?” And then you look at those statistics again and say and now in leadership positions when they’re actually running these teams, what’s that percentage? And that’s lower. And you’d have to say, if you looked at that, in any other form of evidence and anything else at a scientific level, there’s something going on.

I know my own experiences from pay, I’ve felt that I’ve had to negotiate much harder to get pay rises. I feel that there’s an unfair demand on people having to negotiate deals. And I think too that women are, and I’ve read an article that says a lot of the feedback that women get in their performance reviews tends to focus on emotional and personality traits versus skills traits. And I’d never thought about it but then I went back and read my own performance reviews across the years and, sure enough, the comments that are made are about my personality or about my emotional state and they’re not about whether or not I need to develop hard skills in other areas.

ANDY

When it comes to jobs in technology, women are at a particular disadvantage because of the perception of the skills required and that those are inherently male skills. Em Campbell-Pretty debunks that view.

EM

There’s a whole thing that I quite buy into – Carol Dweck’s work on mindset; Linda Rising talks about it a lot as well – this conditioning that we have growing up. “Boys are better at maths”. And they’ve done all these tests where they tell kids : “boys are better at maths” and they take an exam and boys do better. Then they tell kids that everyone’s good at maths and the girls do better than the boys. So there’s a whole heap of stuff in there that’s more than just women in IT. It’s just a whole world of stereotypes that really influence how we are. There’s real empirical evidence that you’ll actually mould your behaviour to reflect the stereotype.

I think the other thing on women in tech and women in IT is frequently those who do well are perceived quite negatively. There’s another test, quite famous, where they get people to look at the leadership behaviours, I think of a Henry and a Harriet or something. Exactly the same document, just change their names, Henry’s a great leader and Harriet or Helen, or whatever her name is, is bossy and aggressive.

ANDY

So women are dropping out of the technology industry and that leads to a problem for all organisations. But there’s also an issue with the pipeline of people studying science, technology, engineering and maths. Steve Hardisty, director of engineering at Rocket Internet.

STEVE HARDISTY

There’s a basic economic problem of supply and demand. The rates for women going into universities and doing computer science is dramatically lower than it was, I think at any point since we’ve been doing computer science. We’re basically rock bottom. In terms of sheer numbers we’re probably better off but in terms of percentages we’re a lot worse off.

And it’s not because the colleges are doing anything wrong per se. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. But the sheer numbers on the supply side are just skewed horrendously.

Even if we didn’t have brogrammers and we didn’t have environments where blokes are encouraged to be blokes, which often can be mutually exclusive to being a friendly environment. Even if you solve that problem, and that is a huge problem than absolutely has to be solved, the supply side is still so horrifically broken.

ANDY

Em Campbell-Pretty also focuses on the culture of organisations.

EM

My experience being a business person or any person working closely with IT teams in large organisations was not a very pleasant experience. It can be very boysy, it can be very inappropriate and I was young when I got into this. I can remember being maybe just 30 and on the receiving end of quite aggressive behaviour from senior IT leaders that were old enough to be my parents. It’s not a great dynamic.

I can remember being asked by senior leaders “why do people leave?” and I say, well you know, it’s not pleasant. It’s not pleasant. And I’m sure it’s just water of a duck’s back for guys but I think sometimes it’s a bit different. I mean I didn’t enjoy it but I coped and I can see why a lot of people just say “I’m going to go and work somewhere where people are nicer to each other.”

ANDY

As well as changing culture, Kerri Rusnak thinks we should change the image and perception of what a career in technology actually entails.

KERRI

If I look back at my own journey when I chose IT, I would have never once thought about it. For me, IT was a very solitary experience. It was highly technical, it was maths-based and, if I think about it, I remember even in elementary school feeling as though the guys were good at maths and I wasn’t. And I have a very distinct memory of being six or seven and having his perception that I should be good at social and English and maths and science is for really smart kids and it seems to be the guys. And I do remember having this sort of distinction at a very young age. Now, if maths and science is important in terms of being in IT, and I’m not good at maths or science then therefore I’m not designed for IT. And that’s a false assumption.

I think there’s this real assumption that IT is technical and by technical, it’s engineering, and by engineering it’s maths and/or science. And if I’m not good at those things then that’s not the career for me.

But in IT I don’t think we sell enough of “Hey, yes, you might use technology, big deal, we’ll talk about that later, let’s put that on a shelf. But did you know in IT you can change the world?” We don’t talk enough about the power that technology has to change the world and that the skills, we’re going to teach you; don’t you worry about that, you don’t even need to know math anymore; you don’t actually need to program properly anymore; the languages now are so advanced that it’s actually more the thinking, the logic and if you’re willing to engage in that, you’ll be able to do some really cool stuff. And if you can’t then you’ll have a team, don’t worry about it But we don’t sell that. We don’t sell enough about what’s possible with IT, we talk more about the skills of IT.

ANDY

So what are some things that any of us can try to do to change the gender balance in technology companies? Cyan Ta’eed from Envato has some ideas.

CYAN

Clearly I think anyone that’s trying to hire in tech will definitely tell you there’s a pipeline issue. There’s not enough, we aren’t getting enough female candidates. So from that point of view, I listened to a really interesting talk from Debbie Sterling, the founder of Goldieblox, and she grew up in America in the South. And she just got dolls and teddy bears when she was little. And when it came time to do engineering, which is something she was quite interested in and passionate in, she found that she was very far behind when it came to her spatial awareness. One of her theories was that she had never been given anything to do with construction when she was a little girl. And all the boys had been building things in Lego and doing shop and constructing and finding out about the engines of cars. And she’d never had any exposure to any of that stuff. So she hadn’t developed any of the basic skillset that one develops as a child and so she had to play catch up. And I think that’s a bit of a barrier for many women because they just assume that “I’m just not good at this stuff”

So, I guess, if you’re just looking for something really basic to do, when it comes time to buying presents for your daughters, your nieces, your family, friends, children, buy the girls Lego. Buy the girls things that they are going to need to construct and actually requires spatial awareness. That’s a really basic thing that you can do.

There’s lots of stuff. There’s apps, there’s development apps that you can give to children. Interestingly enough, I’ve had five or six men in the last couple of weeks say to me that they’ve become interested in diversity in tech because they’ve had a daughter who said “I want to do what my daddy does” and they’ve thought “I don’t want her to be in this industry the way it is at the moment, this industry needs to change.” And that’s been their spur to action. Which has just been really, you know, it’s quite touching in a way to see these fathers really taking it on because suddenly there’s this immediacy for them.

ANDY

As well as working on the pipeline or supply of young women wanting to learn technical skills and get into the industry, it’s also up to companies to make changes about how they recruit.

CYAN

You can definitely look at your hiring processes. And you can say “OK. What do our job ads actually come across like? What sort of language are we using there? Do we have really, really clear criteria in terms of our hiring – exactly what we want in a hire so that our unconscious biases aren’t coming into our selection?”

Likewise, once you’re actually managing a team, if you have women in your team or a diverse team which, ideally, we should; you can be thinking to yourself “OK, what is my criteria for promotion? What is my criteria for salary raises? What is my criteria for giving people opportunities?” And you can become more aware of the differences between men and women and how they’ll typically ask for things and their typical confidence levels.

Without wanting to generalise, I think once you really start to dig deep into this you can see, as a manager, perhaps you can start to look beyond your unconscious assumptions about what makes a leader and what makes someone who can manage a team and what makes someone who can get the opportunity to manage a project. And start to consciously think: “OK. What criteria am I using here?”

ANDY

And once women are in your company, you also need to focus on keeping them there. Cyan goes on to explain what Envato is doing to retain women especially as they become mothers.

CYAN

We’re looking at it in a couple of different ways. The first way is we’re really trying to make our work environment friendly to women who have other responsibilities, who do want to go and pick up their kids, who have another side of their lives, who can’t just be at work from 7am to 7pm every day. So, we have things like a very flexible work from home policy, flexible working hours. That makes a difference.

We’ve got a really good maternity leave policy but we’ve realised that it’s not only to do with “Oh, you can have 18 weeks of paid leave off and 2 weeks of unpaid partner leave”, it’s also “OK, well what’s our process when women are leaving?” to make sure they feel like they’re still going to be included when they’re away and they’re still going to have their job and we still care and we want them back and we want them to feel like they’re still a part of the company while they’re away.

And when they get back, how are we helping them transition back in so that they don’t feel they’ve been sidelined or undermined or anything else. Even as a founder, coming back after both rounds of maternity leave, and this is as someone who was talking shop for two hours every day at least, keeping my oar in. All the new people, everything changing, it’s very jarring. So that’s been good for me personally because it’s helped me to understand just how challenging it is to come back from maternity leave and how it does knock your confidence around briefly and you need support in order to push through that.

The scenario you really don’t want to have is to have women departing the company because it’s just too hard. Because they say “you know what, everything changed, I wasn’t supported, I’m not sleeping, I’m expected to do the same level of work within the office as I was before, there’s been no gentle transition for me so that I can get back in the game slowly. This is too hard, I’m just going to leave.”

ANDY

A very common theme – that it’s just too hard and that women either don’t start out their careers in technology or they try it but a variety of factors drive them away. While there’s plenty of discussion around changing education, promoting coding or adjusting hiring patterns, it’s up to existing organizations in the industry to take a look at themselves and to change. Those very same male dominated organisations. This is not an issue just for some of our society. This is an issue everyone in technology needs to think about and act upon.

That’s it for this series of the Feel podcast. I hope you’ve enjoyed listening.

If you like what you’ve heard in this series, please consider rating and reviewing the show on iTunes – it gives valuable feedback and helps others find out about it. And if you want to discuss things directly, get in touch on twitter – @feelpodcast, or contact me via the website – FeelPodcast.org

I’m Andy Kelk, this has been Feel. A big thank you to Alex Stokes, Cyan Taeed, Em Campbell-Pretty, Kerri Rusnak and Steve Hardisty. The show’s music is by audionautix.com and our website is FeelPodcast.org.

#7 – Women in technology

In this episode, Andy Kelk looks at diversity in technology companies – why it’s important and what organisations can do to get a more diverse workforce.

You can also read a transcript of episode 7.

Featuring contributions from:

cyanCyan Ta’eed
Cyan is co-founder and executive director of online marketplace Envato. Cyan is passionate about gender diversity in technology and encouraging diverse people to get interested in tech and start-ups.

 

Em Campbell-Prettyem
Em is one of the founding partners of Context Matters – a consultancy specialising in enterprise adoption of agile software practices. Em has previously worked as the General Manager for the Strategic Delivery group within Telstra’s BI Centre of Excellence.

 

Kerri Rusnak
Kerri is a leader in the technology and IT industry and works as the VP of Technology Operations with Home24 in Berlin. She has a wealth of experience in leadership, team performance and culture.

 

Steve Hardisty
Steve is director of engineering with Rocket Internet. As a developer and people leader, Steve has built a reputation as an innovative and transformational leader.

Transcript: #6 – Innovation

This is a transcript of Episode 6 – innovation. You can also listen to episode 6.

EM CAMPBELL-PRETTY

My number one belief is the biggest impediment to innovation is actually time.

MIKE BREEZE

The marketplace that we have at the end of the two days to showcase all of the ideas, we’re getting four to five hundred people coming. It’s amazing.

NEIL KILLICK

“Right, we want you to innovate NOW” and then people are sort of expected to just come up with these ideas and that’s your innovation.

ANDY KELK

Welcome to Feel – a podcast about leadership. My name’s Andy Kelk. So far in this series we’ve covered everything from culture through to remote and distributed working. If you’ve missed out on earlier episodes, you can get them from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud or FeelPodcast.org

In this episode, we’re looking at innovation – how are smart companies creating new ideas and getting everyone involved?

The management consultant and author Peter Drucker said that “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” In an age where the world seems to be moving ever-faster, all organisations seem to be in search of the new, the different, the innovative. But how many of us are prepared to stop doing something old in order to get there?

An innovation is a new product, method or idea. But it’s more than just something new. I spoke to leaders in companies with strong innovation cultures to get their views on what innovation is and how to promote it. Kerri Rusnak, formerly of the REA Group started with her definition of innovation.

KERRI RUSNAK

The analogy I have for innovation is like a joke or something that’s funny. The reason I say that is something is funny and makes you smile because there was one intended outcome and then something quirky and unexpected happened that pleased you in a delightful way. And I think innovation’s a bit like that. If you put something together, you expect to have one outcome and then somebody’s come up with something else it’s kind of the same but different. It’s unexpected and isn’t that cool? When people feel like “what a delightful surprise, it makes me smile and isn’t that cool?” That to me is an innovation.

So it has to be something, it’s an evolution usually of something. It’s not an innovation if it’s not useful and it’s generally not an innovation if it’s so new that nobody actually gets it. People can adapt their minds to an evolution of ideas, in terms of “I have a product which does this and now it also has this other cool thing and it lets me do two things” or it’s the extension of something and I think if we think about innovation as evolution – the delightful surprise that makes you smile – then you’re probably getting closer to it.

I think of the things that I think are really innovative and cool that I want to be attached to as a consumer or part of the in-crowd or whatever are the things I’m like “that’s cool, what a clever idea because it’s kind of like this but they’ve done something surprising and different”.

ANDY

Almost all organisations want to be creating something clever, cool and different. Even if it’s just a new way of doing old business. But innovation doesn’t just happen when we want it to.

How can we create the right conditions for it to thrive? Em Campbell-Pretty, an enterprise lean and agile coach, thinks that most companies don’t give enough time to the process.

EM

My number one belief is the biggest impediment to innovation is actually time. And everything I’ve done, everything I look at tells me that if you give people time they will innovate. It’s that whole intrinsic motivation piece; Dan Pink and Drive: autonomy, mastery and purpose. If you give people time and space they will innovate. I know so many techies who go home at night and code and play with stuff, the same stuff they do at work, they do it in their own time because they choose to. So there’s definitely something about time in there.

ANDY

When she was working in the data-warehousing group of a large Australian telco, Em set aside specific time blocks for people to experiment and try new things.

EM

We set up what we call the innovation challenge. And we said to the teams “you’ve got 10% of your capacity each iteration to invest in innovation” – like the Google 10% time idea – and “at the end of the iteration, we want you to share your innovations with all the other teams and we’re going to vote for the best innovation and you can’t vote for yourself.” So crowd-sourced what the other teams find most valuable and then we would give $100 cash to the team that came up with the best innovation.

And I think we just thought they’d go to the pub or something. The cool thing about this is they went to Coles and bought crisps and lollies and biscuits and what have you, came back to the office, sent an email to everybody on the floor saying “Snacks at our place. Come visit us. Come see what we did.” So that part? Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Loved it. And just never saw that coming.

A little way into it we also got a cup. What was really fascinating was, when we had the innovation cup, there was far more fighting over this cup than there ever was over the money. People got really really precious about who had the innovation cup. So that was kind of interesting as an experiment.

ANDY

The REA Group also allocated a proportion of time to innovation each month, but found that there were limitations. At the time, I was working with Mike Breeze who is an iteration manager at the REA Group; we both wanted to find new ways to spark innovation.

MIKE

I think what we quickly found was we weren’t really being very constructive or productive in that time. There wasn’t much being produced. There was very little being produced and there wasn’t much accountability to actually show what was being produced and then, obviously, that creates a friction with the rest of the business, they’re like “Well, what are those guys spending 20% of their time on if we never get to see it.”

So we had a few iterations on that and then introduced the Atlassian FedEx Day concept which, I’m kind of paraphrasing, you spend a certain amount of time but you must showcase what you’ve built at the end of the time, I think that was the key thing. And then, along with that, a higher focus on actually shipping something – which is why they called it FedEx days.

So we switched to that format and that was brilliant. I don’t know whether it was a day then or a day and a half, but if you wanted to join Hack Day as it was then, we didn’t have many people joining. It was maybe nine or ten devs, you said what you were going to work on, you worked on it for a day and a half and then you presented a showcase on what you’d built or managed to build or hadn’t managed to build but the important thing was you stand up in front of your peers and you show them what you’ve been working on. I remember that was really important at the time because we were still not far away from those geeky, introverted devs with our headphones on. So to actually stand up and present to your peers was a big thing for most people.

There’s a video somewhere of people doing just that in front of the CEO and the head of product and the CIO and they’re excruciating. I look at them now and think “[laughs]”; just crazy stuff. That was the first change. And it was very small then, it was nine or ten developers. I tell stories about it now and I talk about nine or ten knock-kneed, skinny, geeky developers standing up, terrified, in front of the CEO and the head of product and the CIO pitching these incredibly nerdy projects but it just slowly grew from there.

ANDY

Mike goes on to tell me how the hack day concept has grown up.

MIKE

We have a stand-up at the start of Hack Day on a Thursday morning and we have up to 20, 25, 30 teams coming up and pitching ideas to 300 people, talking about the ideas that they’re going to try and build over the course of the two days. And then the marketplace that we have at the end of the two days to showcase all of the ideas, we’re getting four to five hundred people coming and it’s amazing.

If we talk about the way the actual format’s evolved. When we first switched to the FedEx Day format, we organised a big showcase meeting where we’d try and convince people from the business to come and look at what we’d built. And each of the teams or devs would queue up one at a time and present their ideas. And really very quickly within two to three of those, it was excruciatingly boring. We couldn’t get people from the rest of the business to join because they would have to sit through all of the presentations to get to the one they were interested in.

Instead of presenting them in turn and making an audience sit there and absorb if for two or three hours, we would have what we call a marketplace. Which is a bit more like a conference setup where you have a big floor area and each of the teams sets up a stall and they pitch their project from that stall and people just wander around to the projects that they’re interested in and see the ones they want. So if someone from sales or product or anywhere else in the business has only got ten minutes, they can come up and quickly see which ones they’re going to be interested in, go and listen to the pitch, and then leave again. And that was immediately successful. It was incredible how much of a change that made.

And that’s the first that we suggest when we go and talk to other companies – just change that around and you’ve still got everyone pitching but they all do it together and you get a sense of energy from that. You can have food available. And really we bribe the rest of the business to come and join the marketplace by having free beer and drinks and food and whatnot. And that creates an instant buzz.

And then we developed that further. Instead of having the CEO and head of product and CIO voting on who they thought, we came up with the idea of giving everyone some fake money whether it’s three pebbles or three coins to spend; they go around and look at all the ideas and, almost like a venture capital setup, they decide which three teams they’d spend their money on to give them money to start up an idea as a company. That was an immediate hit as well and we still do that in some form. So the team with the most coins, notes, pebbles at the end of the day is the winning Hack Day team.

And we’ve had a trophy, a perpetual trophy which has got 14 or 15 winners over the three or four years we’ve been doing that and that’s become a much-loved prize for the winning team to take.

ANDY

The REA hack days have been recognised by many other organisations as a great example of innovation at work. But the concept doesn’t work for everyone.

Other organisations prefer to try and create the right conditions for innovation to happen at any time. Neil Killick, agile portfolio manager at MYOB, explains what’s important to him when thinking about innovation.

NEIL KILLICK

We talk about clarity of direction and where we’re heading and those kind of things and it’s almost like the case with innovation that you actually don’t want to have a direction as such. Because if you’ve got an explicit direction of where you want to head you’re actually boxing your thinking to some extent. Where with innovation it’s truly about brand new ways of thinking and approaching problems in a different way and looking at the market in a different way.

So often you see this thing where companies talk about “Oh, we need to innovate so that we don’t get disrupted.” So you try and create this start-up culture in the company to be able to do that but then you realise “But we can’t do that across the whole company.” So you end up with an innovation team or an innovation project. And I guess hack days is an example of that. You’re boxing your innovation into this particular timeframe where “Right, we want you to innovate NOW.” And then people are expected to just come up with these ideas and that’s your innovation.

ANDY

Could hack days lead people into thinking that, because they’re running them, they don’t need to innovate outside of those timeboxes? Steve Hardisty, a senior engineering manager at Etsy, warns that might be the case.

STEVE HARDISTY

The issue I have with them is kind of like tech debt days where you’re going back through and doing all the shit you should have done for the rest of the year and you just didn’t. It feels like that, it feels a little contrived. And you employ 160, 200, however thousands of engineers, people who are very smart, a lot of them are very passionate about their jobs and then for a week a year or two days a quarter you give them the ability to flex their intellectual muscle. OK, what happens the rest of the year?

And it doesn’t mean you should have hack weeks all the time, there has to be some organisation around doing large, complex things. But where’s the idea generation happening the rest of the year? You’ve employed all these people with unusually high IQs, why not use that a little?

So I think they’re a good thing, but they do feel like a sticking plaster rather than actually making people feel empowered to have ideas and to execute on ideas the rest of the time.

ANDY

If innovation is ongoing and not just a timeboxed event then it becomes commonplace and nothing out of the ordinary. That’s certainly how Alex Stokes, consultant and founder of agily.com.au, sees it.

ALEX STOKES

My partner’s role is programme lead for the innovation team; there’s a Chief Disruptive Innovator that he reports to at his work. Yeah, real job titles. So, as a term I think it’s probably overused and there’s a bit of hype around it but I think it’s just stuff that we’ve probably been doing for a while and encouraging for a while.

So I hope what it means is that organisations will collaborate more between functional boundaries instead of having ideation happen in marketing, and having a team called product that design a product and then a team called delivery or IT or whatever that deliver a product. I hope it’s something that means that companies cross-pollinate a bit more.

And that would fit in with the moving of org structures; moving away from functional org structures and having more teams that are like little cells that form around a product or an offering for as long as that product or offering is relevant.

And then if you look at the true innovators, the start-ups that are three man bands or very very small companies, that’s essentially how they operate because that’s all there is. “There’s only the six of us, so we’re doing everything.”

ANDY

By creating the right organisational structures and allowing people more latitude to explore, we can start to create the right environment for innovation. Steve Hardisty tells the story of Forward3D, a digital marketing firm who ended up in a very surprising line of business.

STEVE

They’re a group of designers and engineers and various people interested in building products in London and a group of people there did some work to work out what was the best value Google AdWord. So, cheap but people are interested in it. So they bought all these AdWords, they built one-page websites with pictures of the things and a ‘Buy Now’ button.

And the best value was parrot cages. So they just built this website, just a picture and a ‘Buy Now’ button but it didn’t do anything but they tracked how many people hit buy and looked at the conversion rate. And then they went to the pet shop around the corner, offered to sell their parrot cages, did a good job of that; they went to the wholesaler of the parrot cage guy, built a website for the wholesaler, did very well from that; a guy in Holland went to jail or something, he was Europe’s biggest importer of parrot cages, they bought his stock and his warehouse. And now these four guys in the corner of an office in Camden are Europe’s biggest importers of parrot cages. And they got there through just this crazy process.

And that can only really happen when you allow people the latitude to do that work. And the other thing is knowing how to execute on an idea is important. One thing I think we’re fairly good at at Etsy and what Forward, the parrot cage people in London are very good at, is understanding what the minimum viable product is to understand the value of an idea. And that doesn’t mean building all of the infrastructure out, it means building the minimum thing; so long as it looks good enough, looks like it should be there and it appears to function then from there you can understand how good something is. And with websites that’s easy to do.

ANDY

So what can you do to create the conditions where people are able to come up with new ideas? Neil Killick thinks a lot of it is about the expectations the leader has for their team.

NEIL

It’s cultural. Which means it’s really complex. But it’s how we, as managers and leaders, establish a culture where people are completely unafraid and actually encouraged and rewarded for coming up with new ideas and throwing things out there and experimenting, trying new things. And acknowledging that 99% of them or maybe more are going to be a complete waste of time and failures. But that that’s OK.

As soon as you put a box round it and go “This is fourth experiment you’ve done and we’re not getting any results from it” then straight away you’re now thwarting innovation. Because you’re now putting pressure on people to come up with this winning idea and they’re going to put more investment and time into it than perhaps they should and they’re not going perhaps test their hypotheses with the right people or they’re going to start feeling more biased towards that particular thing. Because that fear is there that they’ve got to innovate more quickly or they’re going to be in trouble.

ANDY

It certainly is possible to foster innovation and creativity in everyday work although it’s not easy. But then hack days and other timeboxed events are about more than just new ideas; they’re also great tools for bridging divides and creating a strong culture. Kerri Rusnak explains.

KERRI

The experience here certainly has been, I think, the majority of what Hack Day stands for us is the culture. And it is a culture of innovation but it’s more importantly a culture of collaboration, of showcasing, of trying new things out and celebrating that ability to try something new out. It’s timeboxed which also reinforces this agile mentality of “you can achieve incredibly great, wonderous things within two days and that’s a mindset you should take into your day-to-day.”

I think, even in agile, even though we have iterations, it’s easy to let iterations tick away as numbers without the intention behind the iteration which is “I’m timeboxing this and I’m creating tension in the system to drive an outcome” and really force you into the mindset that a lot is possible in a short period of time; more than you could ever expect. So I think one of the things you see in hack days, certainly the culture, yeah that’s true, I think we talk about that a lot; but I think it’s also that mindset of cross-collaborative work forced into a short period of time develops a mindset that great things are possible without an endless amount of time.

ANDY

And those benefits are not just restricted to the techies and the product teams. As Mike Breeze explains, at REA, Hack Days are a whole-company event.

MIKE

Hack Day’s got to that point, that size where the whole company gets involved. On any given Hack Day team we have salespeople, we have product people, we have people from our helpdesk; our old CEO, he joined a team at one stage. So we have fully cross-functional teams working on these ideas and that means all of our people are meeting different people that they wouldn’t normally work with on a day-to-day basis. So it opens up all sorts of new relationships and whatnot through the building. And that really has a great effect.

And so now it’s recognised at board level; we played a Hack Day video at the AGM a couple of weeks ago and everyone loved it. It’s amazing to have gone from those nine knock-kneed, skinny, geeky developers, terrified and pitching to now the board sees it and our shareholders know about it and they recognise it as a valid means of building culture and technology in the company. It’s an amazing story.

ANDY

An amazing story, it certainly is. Innovation will always be an elusive quality for many organisations and thinking of innovation just as the responsibility of one team or as a one-off project will only get you so far. Creating the right conditions for new ideas requires time, bravery and support. But if you get it right, there’s always an amazing story to tell.

Next time on Feel: diversity – why is it important and what can organisations do to increase it?

If you like what you hear in this series, please consider rating and reviewing the show on iTunes – it gives us valuable feedback and helps others find out about it too. And if you want to discuss things directly, get in touch on twitter – @feelpodcast, or contact me via the website – FeelPodcast.org

I’m Andy Kelk, this has been Feel. A big thank you to Alex Stokes, Em Campbell-Pretty, Mike Breeze, Neil Killick and Steve Hardisty. The show’s music is by audionautix.com and our website is FeelPodcast.org.

#6 – Innovation

In this episode, Andy Kelk looks at innovation – how are smart companies creating new ideas and getting everyone involved?

You can also read a transcript of episode 6.

Featuring contributions from:

Alex Stokes
Alex has over 17 years experience in IT software delivery and specialises in Agile adoption and organisational transformation. She has worked for Australia Post, AIA and ThoughtWorks. Alex is the founder of Agily – a consultancy with expertise in agile & lean approaches to software development.

 

Em Campbell-Prettyem
Em is one of the founding partners of Context Matters – a consultancy specialising in enterprise adoption of agile software practices. Em has previously worked as the General Manager for the Strategic Delivery group within Telstra’s BI Centre of Excellence.

 

Kerri Rusnak
Kerri is a leader in the technology and IT industry. Having worked as a Head of Technology for the REA Group in Melbourne, she has a wealth of experience in leadership, team performance and culture.

 

Mike Breeze
Mike is an iteration manager at the REA Group. He has previously worked for NAB, Shell and UBS. A software engineer by background, Mike’s passion is in building happy and successful teams. He is currently working in Xi’an, China.

 

Neil KillickNeil Killick
Neil is a program delivery manager at MYOB in Melbourne. Recognised as a leading voice in the agile development community and experienced at speaking at conferences across the world, Neil is a passionate advocate for systems thinking and working smarter.

 

Steve Hardisty
Steve is a senior engineering manager with the online marketplace Etsy. As a developer and people leader, Steve has built a reputation as an innovative and transformational leader.

Transcript: #5 – Remote and distributed working

This is a transcript of Episode 5 – remote and distributed working. You can also listen to episode 5.

NEIL KILLICK

If you think about the word “Remote”: someone is remote to you but, for them, they’re not remote.

MIKE BREEZE

You need the travel to share the context and build the relationships.

EM CAMPBELL-PRETTY

If you get to three months and you haven’t had face-to-face time, it starts to, you start to become strangers again.

ANDY KELK

Welcome to Feel – a podcast about leadership. My name’s Andy Kelk. So far in this series we’ve covered four different topics around culture, motivation, influence and talent. If you’ve not heard those episodes already, you can get them from iTunes or FeelPodcast.org

In this episode, we’re looking at remote and distributed working. Does everyone need to be in the same room to succeed?

A couple of years ago, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Meyer caused a stir by decreeing that employees would no longer be allowed to work remotely. A lot of debate ensued over the choice between fostering collaboration through geographical closeness and providing flexibility with remote working. Richard Branson weighed into the discussion: “To successfully work with other people,” he said “you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision.”

I spoke with leaders who can see both sides of the story to find out where the balance lies between being together and working as you see fit. Em Campbell-Pretty, an enterprise lean and agile coach, is a believer in the value of people working in the same place.

EM

I’m definitely not a fan of working distributed. But I understand there’s realities. But I really, honestly believe that most organisations are doing it on cost basis and it’s a false economy.

Working remotely as an individual, I’ve never really been keen on it for people who are part of scrum teams. I think it hurts the team.

ANDY

Working as part of a team is an order of magnitude easier if everyone is in the same place at the same time. Kerri Rusnak, formerly of the REA Group explains.

KERRI RUSNAK

Remote working for short periods of time is fine but I think ongoing it is not, it does not create a collaborative environment and I want people in the office. I want people in the office at the same time. Now if, as a team, we decide that’s from ten til six, that’s fine; if we decide it’s seven til three, that’s fine; I don’t care; if we decide that we’re going to have a siesta in the afternoon for three hours and then we’re going to come back to work, let’s do that.

But the reason it’s important is from a process… if you think of it as you have a factory and you have a series of assembly lines and they all join and you turn two or three of those assembly lines off, you’re going to end up with wastage at various points because somebody’s generated all this work and needs to hand it to somebody else in terms of a conversation or a review or whatever it is. And then that person’s not there, all of a sudden there’s a standstill, there’s an overproductivity in one and there’s an absolute mountain of work to come back to for the other person. And while the third line down might be still working for a while, then they’re going to hit the backup on that productivity as well. So there’s a very practical aspect to that.

The other one is around cultural norms, being able to have the conversations which you need to have enough face time with somebody and observation about what they’re like day-to-day, what’s normal for them, in terms of when they drink coffee, when they’re reading the board, how they normally, the tone of their voice, you pick up all of these things subconsciously about people. If they’re not in front of you, and that’s a limitation perhaps at this stage of just the technologies. So perhaps if we get better technology you can see them doing that but they happen to be projected onto a screen, that’s fine.

But until we have that, you miss that. And then when you get an email you don’t have context because you don’t know is that normal for them? or they actually really pissed today? Are they really angry about something? or are they down? Or are they responding to something else? Are they stressed out? What’s going on with them? You don’t know the context that they’re coming from. And you have to have that filter of context plus message to make any meaning. If you don’t have both parts, you’re kind of lost.

ANDY

However, both Em and Kerri agree that you do need to have some amount of flexibility for people to live their own lives. So how do you decide when and how people can work remotely? Em Campbell-Pretty:

EM

I think my instinct these days would be to say it’s a team decision. So, you need to work from home for whatever reason, you work it out with your team and it comes down to: is the team going to be OK that day or number of days; does the team know that you need quiet time to think. Most agile teams have a reasonable amount of empathy so I think, for me, it’s a team thing.

ANDY

We’ve talked about empathetic teams before in this series and empathy is one of the main results of people being together as Alex Stokes, consultant and founder of agily.com.au describes.

ALEX STOKES

You know, a lot of it is trust. So, once you meet people, you put a face to a name and you’ve talked about some little chitty-chat that’s got nothing to do with your daily work then you’ve had that social exchange and then “Now I like you, because I’ve got something in common with you.” So then work stuff becomes much easier. So how do you do that if you’re in Germany and in a different timezone to me? I guess you just work harder at it and, to be honest, people are doing it, they’re doing it anyway.

ANDY

Many teams use co-location as a way of building trust and empathy in their teams. But being physically close and having a strong team are not necessarily the same thing. Neil Killick, agile portfolio manager at MYOB explains.

NEIL

Remoteness isn’t so much about physical location it’s actually about your goals and whether they’re shared or not. When people are both fighting for the same thing and trying to achieve the same things, you actually find a way to work together to make that happen regardless of where you are geographically. And on the other end of the spectrum, you can be sitting next to someone and not talk to them and not have any idea what they’re doing or how it relates to what you’re doing.

So, co-location in itself isn’t actually… it’s almost like it’s the practice but it’s not the principle. It’s almost diving in with a practice and not understanding the real nuances of it. On the surface of it, getting people in a room – you feel like it’s always going to be the most effective way of achieving something and in most cases it is going to help if only to form relationships that are required to work with people.

If you’re trying to work with someone remotely and you’ve never actually met face-to-face and you haven’t built that initial trust and relationship it’s very difficult to meet good outcomes. So I’d always say that even if you are going to be working remotely with someone else, it’s still really important to get together at the beginning of that collaboration to have a better chance of success.

ANDY

Jim and Michele McCarthy in their book “Software For Your Head” discuss the difference between geographical closeness and mental closeness. They describe some core protocols which include mechanisms for teams to “Check In” and become present.

As they say: “Whether the members of a team are dispersed across the world or crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in rows of cubicles, distance is always the central issue among collaborators. The remedy for distance is presence. The distance that must be surmounted, is the psychological distance (or the ‘headgap’) between people rather than the amount of physical space between their bodies”

So while physical presence can help as a short-cut to psychological presence, it’s not enough. We also need to work on how to bring people closer together mentally.

If we accept that physical presence is not always necessary, then we’re free to explore the benefits people get from being physically distant. Alex Stokes sees advantages to knowledge workers in having flexibility to remove themselves from a group.

ALEX

The coding thing is almost a no-brainer. Because, geez, you can get a lot done when you’ve got peace and quiet and some time to think. And surely technology can afford us the ability to collaborate and pair-program. If we can play games online, surely we can do that stuff.

ANDY

Neil Killick also sees the possibilities of getting people collaborating across physical distances.

NEIL

I think my views on this have changed over the years. I’ve probably at the beginning, a bit dogmatic about the whole co-location thing and “It’s absolutely crucial for success” and as we’ve seen the reality of the global economy and how we work is that people do need more flexibility in working from home and working from other locations and working across countries and cities, etc. That’s the reality of modern working life and many many companies do it very very effectively.

ANDY

One of the companies trying very hard to do remote working effectively is the REA Group. They have a number of teams located in Xi’an in China. I spoke to Kerri Rusnak when she was working with the REA Group and she sees lots of unexpected benefits from embracing remote work.

KERRI

I think we’re doing a really great job here. I do think it is something worth pursuing because I think, even from a social context, it’s a responsibility we need to have in terms of generating income across other geographical areas in the world. And if we’re pushing the boundaries in terms of making remote working possible even when it’s not optimal. That pressure and that tension in the system will create a better outcome. And the more we can do that, that means that more people will be able to mobilise for example, unemployment in regions like Alice Springs.

You have a lot of people there who just don’t have employment. If you don’t have employment, you don’t drive education; if you don’t drive education you have a lower performing society. Now, if we can start dialing people in and making it such that they feel collaborative and part of the environment day-to-day then all of a sudden you’re getting a better result for a community. And the community then has a better result, is more productive, increases the overall standard of living for everybody within the broader community and then across the country.

And if we can start thinking about that from a global context in terms of mobilising near-shore development in developing countries, it’s great. And I’m actually really happy that costs start to increase and we’re like “Maybe we have to get out of China because the cost of labour’s increasing”. What a beautiful result that is. That’s a great result. “Maybe it’s time for us to move into Vietnam because it’s cheaper.” Perfect. Because you know what’s going to happen – again we mobilise that society and that society grows and becomes more educated and the amount of money that they get from that then has more positive benefits and you start to see a global chain reaction of things.

ANDY

So if you can see the benefits of building a distributed team, how do you go about starting one? What are the hurdles? Mike Breeze, an iteration manager with the REA Group has worked closely with the team in China since the beginning.

MIKE

It was terrifying at first because you’re meeting all these Chinese people. They’re all very good people but we make the joke all the time in Xi’an even now that they look the same to us and we look the same to them. So the immediate terror was “How am I going to learn all these people’s names let alone pronounce the names”. But we just jumped straight in, made a joke about sitting down and brute force phonetically learning how to say the names, and feeling stupid for a while and then it all just got more comfortable really quickly.

ANDY

Aside from language, another hurdle can be the conversations which happen outside of formally arranged meetings. The side-conversations that people have without even thinking about who else needs to be in them. Kerri Rusnak has seen that be a challenge.

KERRI

It is interesting when I go to China and I’ll do sessions with the team in terms of “Hey, this is where we’re up to, this is what we’re working on, and this is the why behind that” that they’re just like “Wow! Really!” Because you don’t realise that while the VC’s running, it’s just people working on tasks. And while we try to dial them in for as many meetings as possible, the meetings themselves are captured points in time, they’re snapshots in time of a state that exists and they might get that state every one month or three months from various levels of different messages.

They do not have the context of the informal conversation that happens day-to-day in the lunchroom, that happens in stand-ups when perhaps they can’t quite hear all the messages. That happen once people walk away from the stand-up and then you might get four people that are all of a sudden like “Hey guys, shall we talk about this?” and then a decision comes out of that. They go over and talk to somebody else. They talk to somebody else. All of a sudden, stuff has shifted within less than five minutes and they weren’t a part of any of that.

Multiply that 100 times over an iteration and iteration after iteration with two separate teams it becomes more of an issue. Of course, you learn to manage that better in terms of being more mindful about when those things happen what they usually look like and then dividing the work in such a way that they become more autonomous in terms of that work and driving that work themselves. Then it becomes more functional. But it is still a challenge.

ANDY

How you break down the work is something that Mike Breeze has also spent a lot of time solving.

MIKE

There’s a distance, obviously, and a time difference. So we concentrate more on making sure there’s clean work available so that there’s less need to come back and ask questions. You need to be available when the team up there needs to ask questions but if you have more of a focus on having the work clean so that when they pick up a story and go with it there’s less thrash.

And always, because of distance and the fact that they’re in a different location, is context. Giving enough business context so that they can make decisions on their own if we’re not there.

ANDY

Seeing people face to face is important in building context and understanding. However, the value of a personal connection is only temporary. Em Campbell-Pretty:

EM

That decays though. The one thing with that is it decays and it decays – not horrendously fast – but it does decay, it needs to be maintained. I get the feeling that if you get to three months and you haven’t had face-to-face time, you start to become strangers again.

ANDY

When you have teams in different locations and you need to maximise face time, paying for travel and technology can be an expensive business. Alex Stokes has worked with an offshore team in China and seen the impact of not investing adequately.

ALEX

It was so hard. Crazy stuff like my team didn’t even have access to dial internationally. How are you working? It was very hard to get these guys on the phone. They weren’t great at speaking English and our Mandarin was worse. They preferred to talk in email. That’s the kind of situation you walk into. Video conferences helped a lot. Seeing faces just seems to help an awful lot.

But going there was fantastic and meeting them but you can’t take the whole 40 person development team over there. I know REA do quite a lot of swapsies and so do ThoughtWorks – that’s good. But the company I worked for weren’t that generous. Really you need to pay that tax of travel to do that. We brought a lot of people over when we could but not as much as we would have liked to.

ANDY

Mike Breeze is a person who has had to pay the tax of travel when working with the team in China.

MIKE

We always tried to do 4 trips a year to Xi’an but we never managed to do it. So it was between 2 and 3 trips a year up to Xi’an and usually the same number of trips where we’d have some of the team come down from Xi’an to work with us here. That worked pretty well with us. That was about the right number.

And what we always noticed was – even with, we had amazing team morale and sense of team between the two sites and there’s genuine friendships, we’re still very good friends with the original people that were working on that team. Even with the close relationship, after a month or two where we hadn’t done any travel, whether it was Melbourne to Xi’an or Xi’an to Melbourne, we noticed that maybe due to a lack of shared context or perspective it got harder to communicate over the VC or via email or anything and as soon as we did some travel again that clicked back in. So we just always tried to make sure that we got some sort of travel every few months to make sure we were keeping in sync.

When I’m talking about it with other companies, not every company’s going to have the travel budget that we’ve insisted on for ourselves from the start. But every one of the delivery centres that I’ve seen in China, the ones that are really working well they’re doing regular travel backwards and forwards to support it. I think that’s a big difference between working as a partnership with the remote delivery centre versus just outsourcing where you’re throwing work over the fence to them. you need the travel to share the context and build the relationships.

ANDY

In addition to traveling to be together, technology can play an important part in making everyone feel included. Steve Hardisty, a senior engineering manager at Etsy has used video conferencing software to bring people into the office.

STEVE HARDISTY

One of the things I really like is having computers with cameras and their faces on so the person on the team, they have a computer on a pedestal with the camera so that you can see them at all times and they’ve got the camera pointing at their face and they can see you and they’ve got a microphone and you can have free conversations. They have stand-ups around that person’s monitor.

There’s a lot of communication at Etsy happens through IRC; so that creates a much more level playing field, of course. Also, having an advocate. So when we have remote engineers on teams I’ve directly managed, having someone on the team who’s much more cognisant of other people has always helped so “Oh, don’t forget about such and such a person” when we run any kind of meeting, when you have a postmortem, when you have a retro, when you have a planning meeting, whatever it might be. Making sure that the remote people are involved which sometimes is really hard.

ANDY

Communicating via text-based conferencing software such as IRC, HipChat or Slack can certainly level the playing field. Neil Killick goes one step further from computers on pedestals to telepresence robots.

NEIL

There’s even those robots that you can drive round the office and just go up to someone and have a conversation with them remotely. Your face is on an iPad and you’ve got the camera and you can see where you’re going, you drive up to someone’s desk and have a chat with them. At the moment this is still quite expensive technology but I imagine it’s not too long until it’ll be a lot easier to do that stuff.

ANDY

When I visited Mike Breeze at REA’s Melbourne office, he showed me the always-on video conferencing system that they use to stay in touch with their team in China.

ANDY

Let me describe what I’m seeing. I’m standing in an area of, we’ve got about 24 or 28 people who can sit in this team area and then right in the middle, right next to the window is a big TV screen, camera on the top of it and what I can see at the other end is the office in Xi’an. Mike, just talk me through how this works.

MIKE

OK, so we call this our always-on set-up and the first thing there is that it’s always on. We have a simple set-up is a television like this, a camera and a microphone and in Xi’an, our team has exactly the same set-up. The idea is that we can see them during the day and they can see us during the day.

ANDY

So I’m seeing now somebody walking across the office, I can see a couple of people sitting there pairing at a computer, I can see cards on the wall and I think you said before that we can actually move the camera as well. Can we give that a go?

MIKE

We’ve moved beyond Skype and if I can work out how to use the remote control…

ANDY

We’re zooming in on a poster which is probably an A3 poster and it’s at the other side of the room… in China.

MIKE

We’ve evolved beyond the ghetto setup of Skype with remote cameras and we’re using some Cisco hardware and we’re sending it down a dedicated WAN link which we have bought from Telstra. And Telstra are big enough to have a dedicated line going into Xi’an which doesn’t go through the Great Firewall of China. So it’s stable and it’s uninterrupted and we get guaranteed bandwidth. And it really is changing very quickly the way we work with our teams.

ANDY

And can we try some audio? Can we see if that’ll work?

MIKE

Shall we call them over?

ANDY

We’ll just get them to say hello to us.

MIKE

Hey Shi Jie, Hi Shi Jie. Andy, meet Shi Jie.

ANDY

Hi Shi Jie.

SHI JIE

Nice to meet you!

ANDY

But technology alone is not enough. It just creates a gateway between two locations. For success, you also need to breed team relationships. One way that Mike found to work is by using fun.

MIKE

Here at REA, we eat lots of cake. There’s cakes everywhere, all the time. If we… it might be just shipping a really tough story or getting something done, we’ll buy cake and we’ll eat it together. So if we’ve done something together as a distributed team, we might order a cake for the team in Xi’an, we get one here and we bring the table over and we cut the cake and eat it together over the VC. And you have to choose a time where it’s appropriate to be eating cake in both locations – that’s no so hard, you just eat cake at any time. So things like that just to build that sense of team together.

One of the newer teams here at REA, they had a distributed bake-off earlier this year so they organised a recipe for each end, booked a meeting room, the lead up that end in Xi’an went and found all the ingredients, someone here got all the ingredients, and together while the VC was on they mixed all the ingredients. They made these cookies which didn’t need to be baked so mixed it all together, put them in the fridge and then came back later in the day and ate them together. So it’s basically finding any way that you can to build and bring a sense of team.

ANDY

Building a sense of team might also require changing your perspective on who – and indeed where – you are. Neil Killick:

NEIL

If you think about the word ‘remote’: someone is remote to you but for them they’re not remote. It’s very easy to categorise the people that aren’t you; you categorise them as something like the offshore team or the remote team or whatever. And actually, from their point of view, they are where they are and you’re the remote team.

ANDY

Whether we’re remote or local, we need shared goals, close communication, empathy towards each other and systems of work that let us become autonomous. Technology will help us bridge the geographical divide but whether your colleague is next to you or a thousand miles away, you need to bridge the mental gap and work together to deliver success.

Next time on Feel; innovation – how are smart companies creating new ideas and getting everyone involved?

If you like what you hear in this series, please consider rating and reviewing the show on iTunes – it gives valuable feedback and helps others to find out about it. And if you want to discuss things directly, get in touch on twitter – @feelpodcast, or contact me via the website – feelpodcast.org

I’m Andy Kelk, this has been Feel. A big thank you to Alex Stokes, Em Campbell Pretty, Kerri Rusnak, Mike Breeze, Neil Killick and Steve Hardisty. The show’s music is by audionautix.com and our website is FeelPodcast.org

#5 – Remote and distributed working

In this episode, Andy Kelk looks at remote and distributed working – do you need to be in the same room to succeed?

You can also read a transcript of episode 5.

Featuring contributions from:

Alex Stokes
Alex has over 17 years experience in IT software delivery and specialises in Agile adoption and organisational transformation. She has worked for Australia Post, AIA and ThoughtWorks. Alex is the founder of Agily – a consultancy with expertise in agile & lean approaches to software development.

 

Em Campbell-Prettyem
Em is one of the founding partners of Context Matters – a consultancy specialising in enterprise adoption of agile software practices. Em has previously worked as the General Manager for the Strategic Delivery group within Telstra’s BI Centre of Excellence.

 

Kerri Rusnak
Kerri is a leader in the technology and IT industry. Having worked as a Head of Technology for the REA Group in Melbourne, she has a wealth of experience in leadership, team performance and culture.

 

Mike Breeze
Mike is an iteration manager at the REA Group. He has previously worked for NAB, Shell and UBS. A software engineer by background, Mike’s passion is in building happy and successful teams. He is currently working in Xi’an, China.

 

Neil KillickNeil Killick
Neil is a program delivery manager at MYOB in Melbourne. Recognised as a leading voice in the agile development community and experienced at speaking at conferences across the world, Neil is a passionate advocate for systems thinking and working smarter.

 

Steve Hardisty
Steve is a senior engineering manager with the online marketplace Etsy. As a developer and people leader, Steve has built a reputation as an innovative and transformational leader.

Transcript: #4 – Influencing

This is a transcript of Episode 4 – influencing. You can also listen to episode 4.

KERRI RUSNAK

As a leader, I sell vision; vision and motivation.

STEVE HARDISTY

I’ve definitely done some things that are kind of Machiavellian in some ways to influence people.

EM CAMPBELL-PRETTY

Nobody likes to be changed. No-one likes to be told what to do. Everybody loves an idea that they came up with themselves.

ANDY KELK

Welcome to Feel – a podcast about leadership. My name’s Andy Kelk. So far in this series we’ve looked at culture, developing talent and motivating teams. If you’ve not heard those already, you can get them from iTunes or feelpodcast.org.

In this episode, the focus is on influence. How do you sell an idea and make it happen?

Dwight Eisenhower once said that “You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” This raises the idea that being a leader isn’t just about simply forcing others to adopt your ideas. It’s much more subtle and it requires a two way conversation.

I spoke with a number of leaders who spend a lot of their time trying to change organisations and get ideas to work. Em Campbell-Pretty, an enterprise lean and agile coach agrees that forcing people to do things isn’t the best approach:

EM

Nobody likes to be changed. No-one likes to be told what to do. Everybody loves an idea that they came up with themselves. And sometimes it’s just a lot of talking. A lot of talking, a lot of ideas and just let people simmer on them and come back to you in three months and they’ve had a brilliant idea. That sounds a little bit familiar.

People need to digest information. There’s a lot of stuff in the brain science world that talks about how we process information and what actually happens when we sleep. We really do need time to process information and make connections. Sometimes they come easy; sometimes they don’t.

ANDY

The neuroscience, if you’re that way inclined, centres on memory consolidation and a process called long-term potentiation. Essentially, there is a research which shows that sleep is essential for information to be moved around from short-term to long-term memory in the brain. Without adequate sleep and rest, the brain struggles to process new information.

Trying to change people by telling them what to think is a mistake that Neil Killick, Portfolio Manager at MYOB has made much earlier in his career:

NEIL KILLICK

To be honest with you, probably in my earlier agile days, I think a typical pattern is when people become aware of agile and start to understand it, their natural tendency is to want to evangelise about it. They go “this is brilliant. This is the way you should do things.” And you start trying to go on this path of convincing people who might have been working in a particular way for 30 years and be actually extremely experienced, knowledgeable business people. And basically you’re coming along and going “Oh, you’re doing it wrong.”

It took me probably a few years to really realise that trying to convince people, change people is just a path to hurt and failure. So influence for me is not about trying to change people’s mindset into what my mindset is; it’s more about helping them with what needs they’re trying to meet, and really understanding it and having empathy for it and via things like leading by example, and the way that you approach your work and the way you address people and do things in meetings that can show that there are alternative ways of doing things and alternative ways of thinking about things.

Plant little seeds where people then… you might have, in your mind, been very adamantly against something then all it takes is one particular visualisation or some word or sentence that then makes you go away and think about it. It’s not like you’re just suddenly go “oh, you’re right. I was wrong for 30 years.” But you go and read more about it. You then realise that there’s more than one point of view on it and that’s a starting point.

And you might learn everything there is to know about the other point of view and still believe your own point of view. But the important thing is you’ve gone out and realised there’s other alternatives. Even that step means that you might ask different questions and approach things in a different way when you’re with people rather than just always asking the same questions.

So rather than an exec saying “when am I going to get this?” for example, they might start understanding a bit more about how typically agile software development works and lean thinking and systems thinking and then start asking more about “what are the customer outcomes we’re going to try and achieve in this next few months.” So you’re framing things in a way that’s more about the outcomes rather than just “when am I going to get this thing?” You can only really do that once you’ve acknowledged that there are different ways of thinking about things.

ANDY

Being challenged is all part of influencing people. It’s part of the process of having an open dialogue. Once we accept that this is not a one way process – not “Do as I say”, we need to embrace the other side of the conversation as well. People have acted in certain ways for many years and won’t just change because you say so. So you need to listen to what they’re saying to you. Em Campbell-Pretty:

EM

I have been challenged at all levels by all individuals. I think it’s so personality based. People on the ground doing the work always say “Buy I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I’m an experienced IT professional. I’m a data-warehousing expert. I’m an Oracle expert. I’ve never had any problems before. Why do I need to change?” That’s really really common.

There’s “I’ve been doing agile and it isn’t working.” You get that a lot as well. In some ways, the senior leaders go “OK, so what you’re saying is if you do things differently I’m going to get better results?” “Yes” “OK, well, I don’t have to do the hard work. So go forth, get me better results”

I’ve been running a bit of a dialogue about the frozen middle because, of course, I was middle management or thereabouts at Telstra. And middle management have this really awful position in many ways. You’ve got some senior leader goes “That agile thing, that lean thing, that’s brilliant, people are getting real results with that. You should go do that with your team.” “Great, thank you”. And eventually the team gets on board and goes “actually, this is kind of fun but the organisation is getting in my way. can you help me?” The middle manager runs back to the senior exec and goes “the organisation’s getting in my way, can you help me?” “Oh no, you need to work that out” “OK. Good. Thanks”

ANDY

One way of effecting change is to demonstrate its importance through actions. One person who’s done that is Steve Hardisty, a senior engineering manager at Etsy:

STEVE

I would say, certainly, the way I’ve influenced people as I’ve got older and as I’ve got more experienced has changed an awful lot. It’s a much more subtle art than I think I appreciated when I was programming. When I thought it was just you tell people to do a thing, you use reason and you use logic and then you shout at them. And that’s clearly, in hindsight, completely ineffective.

I’ve definitely done some things that are kind of Machiavellian in some ways to influence people. Machiavellian’s perhaps not the right word but where I’ve influenced the people around them to influence that person. These kind of indirect tactics of manipulation to get the result I wanted from someone else.

Actually, a really good example is using peer pressure as a powerful tool. We had, on one team, no culture of testing. no culture of unit testing, integration testing. There’s manual testing but that adds time, it’s still a valuable thing but you can clearly gain confidence and speed through writing automated tests. The way we went about instilling that in the team was to get someone. There was one guy on the team in particular who was very enthusiastic about it. when we started talking about how you get better at your job and testing was one of those things, he was very enthusiastic about self-improvement and, through him, I influenced everyone else on the team. So I didn’t necessarily have to work hard on all of the people in that team, I just worked hard on this one guy. and then his infectious attitude helped everyone else upskill and now he does it across the company. So he’s spent time with teams who are nothing to do with his core area of expertise and helped instill a culture on that team of testing.

ANDY

The key can be in what you ask for and how much change it requires. After all, if people can’t conceptualise a change they are much more likely to be resistant to it. However, if the change doesn’t seem that big then people are more willing to give it a go. Em Campbell Pretty certainly advocates that approach:

EM

Always ask for something small. So ask for something that people can give you. So don’t go and say “I want you to launch SAFe and agile release trains” unless they’re asking for that. That’s a pretty intimidating conversation. Instead, “what’s the problem you’ve got?” “I’ve got a prioritisation problem, I’ve got a delivery problem, I’ve got a whatever” and go “OK, well here’s a little something that we can do that might help you a little bit with that.” “OK, that was good, that worked. Got any other ideas?” “Here’s another little thing we can do” “Where are you getting these ideas from?” “Oh, you remember that SAFe thing I mentioned? The agile release train thing I mentioned?” “Oh, OK, so if we put all these pieces together, we get more of that?” “yes”

People have got to come to their own realisations. I think that’s really really key.

ANDY

Of course, this is all a lot easier when what you’re trying to influence people to buy into is something that you believe in yourself. This is certainly something that has helped Kerri Rusnak, formerly of the REA group, be successful:

KERRI

I think anybody is a good salesperson when they’re coming from a place of honesty about something they believe in. And I think that’s why you want to work for great organisations is because, when you work for a great organisation that has an authentically valuable product or service, the sell is easy because you’re coming from a place of inspiration and you’re motivated. And people are attracted to that. So if you want to be a good salesperson, be those qualities and then the sale will happen and all you need to do is basically open your mouth and let the words fall out. It almost becomes very easy.

When I’m at my best, I’m a great salesperson in terms of whatever I’m selling. As a leader, I sell vision, I think is my asset that I have to sell; vision and motivation. You guys are ultimately responsible for doing whatever needs to happen. Don’t ask me to write the code. That would be a very bad idea. But that’s my sales job that I have to do and I think I am quite good at that.

ANDY

Influencing and selling are really two sides of the same coin. Author Dan Pink, who we met in the last episode on motivation, argues as much in his book “To Sell Is Human”. Whether we’re selling a product or service for money or selling an idea, the skills required are the same.

Pink has repurposed the old “ABC” initialism – made famous in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. No longer does it mean “Always Be Closing” but instead it stands for “Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity”.

Attunement is the basic skill of empathy – mimicry, if you like – and showing the other person that you are engaged. Buoyancy is the ability to come back after a knockback. And there will be challenges in influencing, as we’ve seen. Clarity is the ability to help others see their needs and identify their problems and then to show them how you can help.

Stories are a great vehicle for achieving clarity of problem and solution as Em Campbell-Pretty explains.

EM

People tell me my stories are very compelling and I am a storyteller. I’m very passionate about what I believe in so I think that comes across and I’ve had a lot of success. So I can sit down with people and they can say “Well, here’s my problem” and I can say “Well, I don’t know, but here are things I’ve done in the past and they’ve worked and you might want to try them.”

Really, for me, and I was having this conversation with a client yesterday when I was training : “How do you sell this? How do you convince people?” I said “Just get them to try something. Anything. Just a really small thing. Something you know works.” Get them to try a really small thing that’s all you generally need to do. Get them to try a small thing. Nine times out of ten, that thing’s going to work and that creates the opportunity to have a further conversation about doing more innovative stuff.

ANDY

Start small. Try something. And once you try it, get someone else to try it too. Build a snowball one flake at a time. Neil Killick:

NEIL

Finding your sphere of influence and then trying to, step by step, increase it by maybe one person. So if you know you’ve got a bit of an alliance of four people that have a similar vision to you then it’s like “let’s try and find someone else who can also join our coalition of the willing and find a way to really expose the problems we’re facing and the people in the company are facing and how we can move them forward by thinking about things slightly differently.”

ANDY

The more people who get behind you, the easier it is to make a change. The more evidence you can point to and examples of how things could work, the easier it is as well. Em Campbell Pretty:

EM

I think it’s nice to be able to point at things where there’s a lot of empirical evidence for. The class I was teaching yesterday, I was talking about team sizes and why small team sizes work and : “It feels wrong. It doesn’t seem right” and I said “well, here’s the science.” and I drew them a little diagram and said “Google it. There’s heaps and heaps and heaps of empirical evidence and… I don’t know. Otherwise, just try it. You don’t have to believe me. Just try it. Try it’s always my thing. Here’s your problem, here’s your story. Try this. Try anything.

ANDY

Try things, use evidence, empathise and be honest, listen and converse, work through the challenges. Changing an organisation with new ideas is never simple, but then what worthwhile activities are?

Next time on Feel; remote and distributed working – do you need to be in the same room to succeed?

If you like what you hear in this series, please consider rating and reviewing the show on iTunes – it gives valuable feedback and helps others find out about it too. And if you want to discuss things directly, get in touch on twitter – @feelpodcast, or contact me via the website – feelpodcast.org

I’m Andy Kelk, this has been Feel. A big thank you to Em Campbell Pretty, Kerri Rusnak, Neil Killick and Steve Hardisty. The show’s music is by audionautix.com and our website is feelpodcast.org

#4 – Influencing

In this episode, Andy Kelk looks at influence – how to sell your idea.

You can also read a transcript of episode 4.

Featuring contributions from:

Em Campbell-Prettyem
Em is one of the founding partners of Context Matters – a consultancy specialising in enterprise adoption of agile software practices. Em has previously worked as the General Manager for the Strategic Delivery group within Telstra’s BI Centre of Excellence.

 

Kerri Rusnak
Kerri is a leader in the technology and IT industry. Having worked as a Head of Technology for the REA Group in Melbourne, she has a wealth of experience in leadership, team performance and culture.

 

Neil KillickNeil Killick
Neil is a program delivery manager at MYOB in Melbourne. Recognised as a leading voice in the agile development community and experienced at speaking at conferences across the world, Neil is a passionate advocate for systems thinking and working smarter.

 

Steve Hardisty
Steve is a senior engineering manager with the online marketplace Etsy. As a developer and people leader, Steve has built a reputation as an innovative and transformational leader.

Transcript: #3 – Motivating your team

This is a transcript of Episode 3 – motivating your team. You can also listen to episode 3.

NEIL KILLICK

Motivation and engagement initiatives have the opposite effect. It’s basically saying “we believe we’re not as effective as we want to be because you guys aren’t performing as well as you should be.”

ALEX STOKES

If you know what they love and what they like and there’s an opportunity where you can help them do that; you can create that for them; and you’ve got to do it unselfishly, I think.

STEVE HARDISTY

I work really well when I do things I enjoy. The difference was that then I was afforded that freedom and my enjoyment of the job just exploded.

ANDY KELK

Welcome to Feel – a podcast about leadership. My name’s Andy Kelk. So far in this series, we’ve looked at culture and at developing people. If you’ve not heard those episodes already, you can get them from iTunes or FeelPodcast.org.

In this episode, the focus is on motivation; how do you get people engaged and pointing in the right direction?

I read a quotation this week from leadership coach Don Gray which said “If managers didn’t demotivate employees, they wouldn’t have to look for ways to motivate them.”

I spoke with leaders with many years’ experience of working in teams and leading them. Neil Killick, agile portfolio manager at MYOB agrees that acting with the sole intention of trying to “motivate” people is not the right way to approach the problem.

NEIL

We identify engagement as a problem so then we go “right, we’ve got to put initiatives in place to engage people” and the people who are already engaged are going “no, I don’t want this. I’m already engaged” and it actually disengages you. It has the opposite effect of what it’s intended for.

Motivation and engagement initiatives have the opposite effect. Because it’s basically saying “as a company, we believe we’re not as effective as we want to be because basically you guys are not performing as well as you should be.” Rather than going “we’re not performing as well as we should be because of the way some of the decisions we have made as leaders have led us down that path.”

 I can’t tell you how excited I would be to work in a company where the leaders are basically saying “you know what, the only reason we are where we are now is because of your guys’ hard work. We’ve actually made some mistakes in how we’ve done things and in the kind of culture we’ve tried to promote. And we acknowledge that and we’re going to try and fix that.” People are going to go away going “that’s awesome. It’s no longer the carrot and stick, being whipped into action and do more and give more of what you’re doing.”

ANDY

Steve Hardisty, a senior engineering manager from Etsy has seen an example of a leader who has actively demoralised his team:

STEVE

Our manager organised a meeting at 8:30 on a Monday morning and no-one turned up; which seems pretty obvious now that no-one would turn up for a meeting at 8:30 on a Monday morning. You’ll forget; you’ve just had a weekend and you’ve got things like a family.

And as soon as I walked in he came up to me, put his face 3 inches from my face and asked me if I was lazy or incompetent. This is first thing on a Monday morning. I was like “excuse me?”
“Are you lazy or incompetent?
I said “well, I think I’ll go with lazy.” It was, like, “what a ridiculous clown of a human being.”

And the thing is, you do something like that and you raise the stakes so rapidly; if it doesn’t work out you look like a bit of a ****wit and you lose a lot of credibility. There are definitely different ways of doing things and I think if that person had a little more self-awareness, they probably would have gone “whoops, I shouldn’t have organised a meeting for 8:30 on a Monday morning.”

ANDY

While such blatant demeaning of team members is, thankfully, a pretty rare occurrence, a lack of self awareness can manifest itself in other ways. Alex Stokes, consultant and founder of agily.com.au:

ALEX

There’s a few occasions where I think it’s happened or happened to teams around me or to some of my teams; and the person would be none the wiser that they’ve done that. And it’s just what they’ve done to be successful in their career up until that point has worked to a certain degree. And then, they wouldn’t necessarily recognise that it’s a buzzkill.

There was a guy who, I was at an offsite and we were at a dinner. One of my colleagues at the time said, at the dinner, he said “has anyone read Five Dysfunctions of a Team?” and our boss at the time said “No. And we’re not going to become a bookclub.” Talk about burst our balloon. I was like “Wow, a bookclub would be ace for a start. And don’t we want to be the curious types that are out there reading books and thinking about the things that make teams successful, etc.” So that was a bit of a motivation killer. And we were already in a bit of a headspace of “what are we doing here?”

ANDY

Self-awareness is so important because, as a leader, the little things you do really matter. Little things like sending an email. Steve Hardisty:

STEVE

A lot of the culture of a company, I don’t know if it’s 100% influenced by the people at the top but it’s certainly 100% wrecked by the people at the top. That’s another thing to be aware of. So, if you manage managers, being aware that you can do things which can absolutely break a culture just by sending an email. And setting up the wrong expectation of “what does holiday time mean?” or “what hours should we work?” and things like that. Handling that wrong can just break a whole culture.

ANDY

Neil Killick also suggests taking care when using emails to communicate.

NEIL

It’s amazing, the power of an email being sent out by the CEO that, if worded wrongly, can actually have a devastating effect on the culture. I’ve actually seen cultures where, on one day, you’ve got  quite a nice engaging place to work, it’s friendly, you feel like everyone’s trying their best and trying to make things happen and then an email gets sent out along the lines of “we need to restructure ourselves because we’re just not delivering quickly enough” implying “guys, this isn’t good enough, you’ve really got to step up your act”.

Even if it’s not in those harsh words, smart people can read between the lines and you go “what?” These are people who are giving everything, these are people who are consumed, in a good way, about trying to do the right things for the company and they’re basically being told “you’ve got to do more. You’re not doing enough.

 I’ve seen that have an instant impact on culture. All of a sudden, things are quiet; where there were conversations and people designing things on whiteboards and collaborating in the way that you’d want, you’re just getting silence and people at their desks, typing away with their headphones on.

It takes years to establish a great culture and make it a great place to work and it can take days to destroy that. When the leaders of your company are not acknowledging their own failures, everything is about the people that work for them. It’s a problem.

ANDY

So… doing the wrong thing can be terribly destructive and can demotivate your people more than you realise. What can you do to get it right? Kerri Rusnak, formerly of the REA Group, believes the key is in your mindset.

KERRI RUSNAK

If you want to be motivating, be motivated. So come to work every day motivated. If you want to be inspiring, be inspired yourself. I think, as a leader, my job is to come in in a really really strong positive frame of mind and spirit. You come into the office and it’s everything that you are and the way you smile and you engage people and say “hello” and go around at take time to talk to people.

But people need to know that I myself am motivated, I myself am inspired. And, by that, they’ll feel that too is also possible for them. And that comes across from one-on-ones and discussions and speaking to the team. Come from a place of motivation, come from a place of inspiration, reflect on the personal journey and the meaning of what you’re doing and you can accomplish great things.

ANDY

Neil Killick believes that the work you do and the pleasure that gives will ultimately determine your motivation.

NEIL

It’s about fixing the environment and creating a better environment for people to do knowledge work. Which is what we do. We think for a living, we create for a living. We don’t respond to very transparent carrot-and-stick mentality of “if you do this then you’ll get this reward.” That’s not how we are motivated.

It comes to autonomy, mastery, purpose. It comes to intrinsic motivation that knowledge workers have. The reason we’ve chosen this living is because we’re creative and we want to think for a living, we want to solve problems. We don’t just want to be put in a box and told “Here’s your jurisdiction and here’s what you need to do.” We’re not motivated by that.

ANDY

Autonomy, mastery and purpose are the three key motivators that were identified by popular business author Daniel Pink in his book Drive. Autonomy refers to the desire of all of us to run our own lives and work the way we see fit; mastery is the urge to get better at what we do and to continually improve ourselves; purpose is the need to be part of something bigger than ourselves and something meaningful. By tapping into these three intrinsic desires, motivation is sure to follow. But what about money?

Well, for tasks which require lots of cognitive processing; knowledege work being a great example; financial rewards have been shown to have little effect and, in some cases, to actually worsen performance. In his speech at the TED conference, which you can watch online, Pink talks about an experiment done at Princeton University where one of the groups was offered a financial reward for completing a puzzle quickly. The other group just completed the puzzle without any mention of a bonus. On average, the group who were offered a reward took 3 and a half minutes longer to complete the task. And similar results have been replicated in other studies for many years.

Pink also points out that rewards can destroy the intrinsic motivation gained from doing a task – a phenomenon known as the overjustification effect – where the subject of the reward eventually loses interest in doing the task for its own sake and becomes hooked on the reward.

So, instead of focusing on how we can use money to motivate people to get a job done, let’s focus on those intrinsic motivators. Mastery of skills and having the opportunity to do something enjoyable was a big motivator for Steve Hardisty:

STEVE

I had a manager who made the observation that I work really well when I do things I enjoy. I’m multiple times more effective. I think that’s probably true of everyone. The difference was that then I was afforded that freedom and my enjoyment of the job just exploded.

Sometimes there’s simple things like that that you can do that really help people. Maybe it’s not that simple, maybe there’s things going on under the hood which are fairly complex. But nonetheless, there are definitely things like that where I’ve seen people have such positive experiences from their managers.

ANDY

A good manager understands their people and engages with them. Recently, I saw the movie The Imitation Game; in it, the character of Alan Turing is not connecting well with the team he’s leading. On the advice of his fiancée, he comes in one day with an apple for each of them and proceeds to stumble through a joke. It’s an inflection point as they the team then starts to rally around him.

Life, unfortunately, is never as simple as Hollywood depicts, but engaging with people on a personal level and not just as cogs in a machine goes a long way to setting up an environment where great things can happen. The power of personal relationships is one of Kerri Rusnak’s ingredients for motivation:

KERRI

You have to first engage people as close personal friends and people you truly care about. And always looking for the best in people.

I would just say stay out of the detail, keep engaged at a very personal level, don’t come in with too many rule. When you start making things too regulated, that kills motivation.

Motivation will come from the accomplishment of a challenge. But if you’re falling behind, what good is it going to be focusing on now we have this massive gap. What you want to focus on is where are we going? And keep redefining where you’re going. When you miss the hoop, when you miss the goal, just reflect on why are we missing that goal? What’s going on? What’s missing here? What are we going to do? Why has that happened? What’s the information telling us? Where did that come from? And does it still matter? Is this actually still relevant? Is it just that the budget or the estimate was wrong? And I think this is often the case. We create unrealistic goals, lofty goals and that’s what’s wrong. It’s not the team’s achievement or the team’s capability that’s wrong; it was our original estimate, our original goal.

ANDY

Having the right goals and spending time fixing the system of work is also important to Neil Killick

NEIL

If you focus on creating a better environment then people will become more engaged because the work is more interesting and the way things are done is more conducive to a happy, productive workplace. Obviously, things like an obvious support and trust from management and leaders, the sorts of decisions that managers and leaders make and the way they act with you and the way they design the way that the work works; shows you that they believe in helping you have a more happy and productive environment.

For me, it’s really important to have the autonomy to be able to achieve outcomes but also have real clarity about what I’m supposed to be achieving in terms of the business goals and customer goals and these kinds of things.

Also, the way we’re measured, in terms of: Am I being asked to collaborate with people who have different goals from me? In which case, collaboration is actually unlikely to happen. Because we have different goals.

These are kinds of things that, if you’re seeing these obvious problems happening, the smart people in your organisation are going to become disengaged because they’re like “well, it’s pointless engaging in this because it’s a bit of a facade. Because I’m being told that I’ve got to collaborate with people and then you’re giving me completely separate goals that are in conflict with those people. So what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to make a good decision?” So, I think, providing the information for people to be able to make good decisions in their work and be consistent with that is motivating and encouraging.

ANDY

A common theme which comes through in all of these conversations is that you need to treat people like adults. Talk to them as equals. Don’t demean them. Trust them. Don’t bribe them with rewards. Support them. Make expectations clear. Then you’ll be on the way to a happy, motivated team.

Next time on Feel: influence and persuasion; how do you sell an idea and get people on board?

And if you have a story to tell about leadership and organisations, I’m looking for more people to talk to for upcoming episodes. Get in touch on Twitter – @feelpodcast or contact me via the website – FeelPodcast.org

I’m Andy Kelk. This has been Feel. A big thank you to Alex Stokes, Kerri Rusnak, Neil Killick and Steve Hardisty. The show’s music is by audionautix.com and our website is FeelPodcast.org

#3 – Motivating your team

In this episode, Andy Kelk looks at motivation – how to get people engaged and pointing in the right direction.

You can also read a transcript of episode 3.

Featuring contributions from:

Alex Stokes
Alex has over 17 years experience in IT software delivery and specialises in Agile adoption and organisational transformation. She has worked for Australia Post, AIA and ThoughtWorks. Alex is the founder of Agily – a consultancy with expertise in agile & lean approaches to software development.

 

Kerri Rusnak
Kerri is a leader in the technology and IT industry. Having worked as a Head of Technology for the REA Group in Melbourne, she has a wealth of experience in leadership, team performance and culture.

 

Neil KillickNeil Killick
Neil is a program delivery manager at MYOB in Melbourne. Recognised as a leading voice in the agile development community and experienced at speaking at conferences across the world, Neil is a passionate advocate for systems thinking and working smarter.
Steve Hardisty
Steve is a senior engineering manager with the online marketplace Etsy. As a developer and people leader, Steve has built a reputation as an innovative and transformational leader.