Encouraging the Organization (Part 5 of the Agile Leadership Engagement Series)

While the product teams deliver the vision and mid-level leaders are removing big impediments for them, now is the opportunity for senior leaders to show transformational leadership.

Transformational leaders have shifted from day-to-day command and control tactics to a focus on aspirational and directional vision. They set up networks and connect the organization in ways never thought possible. Most importantly, they are building people up and are concerned about the overall health of the people in the company.

To be the transformational senior leader your agile organization needs every day, here are a few tips to try:

Be visible. Tom Peters calls this MBWA – Manage by Wandering Around. As Mr. Peters states “this is a metaphor for being in touch, a metaphor for not losing touch with your employees, your vendors, your customers.” Use your wandering time to continue to communicate and promote the vision but primarily to build relationships.

But stay out of the way. While wandering, don’t use this time to get to involved with the details of the products, as tempting as it will be. Use this time to get a pulse of the organization. This is your chance to show trust and begin to learn about people and how they do their job everyday. Ask powerful questions and build empathy for what the people of your company do to bring the vision to reality.

Temper your reaction to “failure.” The heartbeat of a team will be influenced by the reaction of its leaders, every time. Over-reaction will cause the team to lose faith and courage. This may be a good opportunity to coach and mentor a product owner but you must be able to trust them completely. Also, your mid-level leaders are watching so provide a good example for them.

Monitor what needs to be monitored. And nothing more. Focus on key performance indicators for the features the teams are developing and other meaningful organizational metrics. It’s easy to bog a team down with status reports and data requests but try to keep this to a minimum.

Make everyone feel bigger and confident. Be a genuine, full-force encourager. When you encourage someone you give them heart, you give them strength, your give them energy, you give them courage. The origin of the word encourage is actually “to make or put in courage.” How much courage have you put in to someone today?

Imagine a fully encouraged and engaged workforce, aligned to a shared vision, working collaboratively and without fear. I believe it is possible but it will start with small changes and daily decisions.

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