My Biggest Mistake

Some time ago I identified one the biggest mistake I’ve made in working with colleagues:

I provided a lack of explanation and emotional background for my decisions.

I’ve brought a person directly to the top of thoughts in a very fast way.

Why?

  1. I thought that my decisions are clear enough even without explanation
  2. I didn’t want to waste the time of me and colleagues to explain the whole context and the way I’ve used to make my decision
  3. In many cases, a key part of decision making is based on personal emotions and feelings. I decided to hide this subjective part for some reason: my vision was that decisions made based on emotions and feelings are subjective and will be not supported by colleagues. Another reason: it’s usual in our world to hide emotions. Why? It’s a good topic for the next post.

I used the same approach for a long time before I’ve realized:

  1. Colleagues are struggling with me because my decisions were unclear for them. They didn’t make the same logical path to the decision. As a result, all my results were not natural, but synthetic from their perspective. They didn’t trust me. Now: I’m proving my personal logical path to the decision I made. It’s amazing: people understand me much better. They don’t argue over my decision but provide logical counter-arguments against some points of my logical path.
  2. It’s become clear to me that if I’ll save time during an explanation of my decision or idea, later I’ll need much more time and emotions for a long discussion and arguing. Now: I don’t care how much time I need for explanation, I put this decision to my colleagues: they need to decide to hear my explanation or stop me if they catch the idea.
  3. Emotions and personal feelings play a big role in many decisions. Avoiding them in explanation makes the result not clear. People will just don’t trust it. From the other side hiding of emotions is not good for your emotional state. It’s depreciating for yourself. Psychology says the right thing: don’t hesitate to describe your emotions. Now: I’m honest with my colleagues: I put my emotions and feelings in the logical path to my decision. And it’s awesome. I’m totally clear to them and it’s much easy for them to support my decision and ideas.

As a short summary if you want to see people understanding you and following your ideas:

Don’t hesitate to use the time of your colleagues for honest explanation of your decisions.

Also, the idea can look like this

To understand you, people should go through the path you’ve made.

Open problem:

If you always provide a whole path to the solution to your colleagues, remember:

It’s just YOUR path and it was just YOUR efforts to build it.

Sometimes the problem should stay unexplained to let people decide which path to choose or build their own and get new experience. Don’t take away such an opportunity from your colleagues.

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Meetup. Right format

In my previous post, I’ve described some initial thoughts about employees Communities. At the bottom of the article, I’ve identified the list of problems we’ve met during our long way to build effective Communities.

Let me share now some solutions we’ve found. I hope it will save you time if you’ll decide to make similar things.

I’ll start with Meetup since it plays a really big role in Community processes: it makes possible to share knowledge, select the most professional employees, identify trends and directions for investigations, etc.

So

What is the best format of the meetup?

In the beginning, we’ve selected “training”-like format:

  • We should prepare and share only high-quality content during meetups. It will be more positive feedback from participants, it will be more informative and effective.
  • To share such kind of content we will need around 1 hour
  • Our goal was to involve as many participants as possible. In other words, we wanted to make our communities as big as possible.

After some meetups, we’ve realized that the selected format doesn’t work. Reasons:

  1. Presenters are not happy to prepare detailed and complex content. They didn’t want to spend their time even for money. After some meetups, they skipped the opportunity to present something.
  2. Such kind meetups were rarely since we’ve searched for presenters and they spend a lot of time to be prepared before the meetup. After some time they were not regular till the total cancelation.
  3. Employees and Reporters have no opportunity to join 1-hour meetups during the working day. After the working day, they prefer to go home and spend this time with the family. Before working day – they prefer to sleep in their beds.
  4. Our goal to build a big community from scratch is not real: meetups/communities were made without a special “friendly domestic” atmosphere, it was no discussions, participants were afraid to share their small topics, etc.
  5. Profit from high-quality content was not so big as expected. We realized that to make it work it should be in training-format, but it needs much more efforts: it needs practical parts, dedicated trainer, well-prepared materials, budget.
  6. When we’ve tried to build a big community – not all community members were motivated to play an active role inside of the community. They worked even as de-motivators.

After all of these facts, we’ve made our key conclusions:

Meetup is not a training

The key goal of the Meetup is not to educate or train, but give a communication point to discuss and share ideas, knowledge, ask for help or consultation, etc.

Meetup should be easy to perform. No prepation needed!

It should be easy to share knowledge. Even small topics make sense for the meetup. No preparation is needed. You need to share the knowledge/questions/results which you already have!

Meetup should be informal

Meetup should have “open” atmosphere which should grow smoothly with community size. Only motivated employees should participate. No needs to grow the community by employees who are not motivated. The community should grow naturally. Even 4 employees enough to start.

Meetup should be short and regular.

We decided to move with 30-minutes meetup per week or two. Short meetups easy to perform since you need not prepare different content, they are not boring and don’t need your time during the working day. Regular meetups provide the feeling of community, live process. It motivates to participate and makes it clear. It makes the people organized.

The last note for today:

Meetup should be online

The offline format is not scalable and works just if you have a single office. In other cases, you need to be scalable to involve motivated people from the whole company, record it if needed, etc. It’s even simple to organize. We’ve tried to organize mixed (offline+online) meetups, but it’s increasing complexity: it’s hard to speak with the community, if you provide both options people prefer to join in online mode, you need to prepare the room, projector, microphones. As I said before – it should easy, not like this.

Don’t worry if you think that you will lose some special feelings in an online format. In the IT world, you need to be ready to communicate online. It’s a really unique case if the team is not shared. Start to work online ASAP.

Good luck! Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’ve any question.

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Even one good word

The emotion of this week:

Even one positive feedback can give you enough energy to move to your goal.

As a result, don’t skimp on a good word. Say it even “in credit”!

Perhaps it will serve as the basis for someone’s goals or dreams.

P.S. don’t hesitate to say “Thank you” at least  😉

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Communities. Beginning.

Before I’ll start, let me describe our company: it’s an international IT-company with 900+ employees, providing software development and IT-consulting.

Around 2 years ago I got the opportunity to boost the technical level of the company.

A not easy challenge, but it was a great opportunity to try my approaches and visions.

In the beginning, it was different kind of questions to solve. Let me share the most important of them: 

  1. How to identify directions for improvements?
  2. How to form the team which will make it possible?
  3. How to make it work not one time, but day-by-day?
  4. How to make it work with a small budget?

   I don’t remember how it happened, but a wonderful answer to all these questions came from my subconscious: let’s build communities for each work area: Business Analysis, Java Development, JS Development, DevOps, Quality Assurance and so on.

Let’s clarify my understanding of the Community:

Community – is an open informal group of employees who are interested in knowledge sharing in a specific work area. 

Let me highlight few words:

Open – it means that all employees can be a part of the community. No restrictions related to experience. Why? Each person can be helpful! Sometimes proactivity and creativity of the young people are vital for the work process.

Informal – it should be a friendly and homelike atmosphere between community members. Why? It should easy to share knowledge and even small achievements. Members should be loyal to the experience of each other and ready to help. There is no community without easy communications. 

Interested – means not-indifferent and proactive. Why it’s important? An indifferent employee has no energy to get or share the experience. Such employees are more like zeros for the community. In all cases, they are welcome. Important note: be sure they don’t demotivate other community members. Such kind of people exists as well. 

So how communities will help with the questions from above? Let me answer in a different order and elaborate community idea.

  • How to form the team which will make it possible?  

Let’s begin with regular Meetups where community members will share knowledge, discuss trends, new approaches, problems, solutions. Here it will be possible to identify the most professional and proactive employees for other activities. Additionally, we can select the most experienced member to help with community leading. Let’s call them Community Lead. The most regular meetups members will form the Community Core. This formation will be really useful with performing of the most important and complex work.

  • How to identify directions for improvements?  

It will be possible during meetups discussions. Especially during discussions of the new trends and existing problems. Additionally, we can send regular Newsletter with the review of existing trends, useful resources and so on. Responsible member will get new experience and share it with the whole community. All of these will cover one big goal: Aligning of the company with future trends, but it’s not all. Community efforts can be applied to cover more areas: mentoring, training of employees, providing consultations and help other employees and projects, knowledge mining (research) and sharing, organizing of technical events (i.e. Hackathons), Sales Support and so on.

  • How to make it work not one time, but day-by-day?  

With the structure from above and regular activities (i.e. Meetups, Newsletters etc), Communities will become an integral and permanent part of the company. After some time it will be possible to identify, describe and support related processes to make them stable and effective.

  • How to make it work just with a small budget? 

The secret is that Communities are helpful not only for the company but especially for the employees themselves: they get new skills, new experience, help, field for creativity. Just for free! As a result, the company can pay just for extra efforts like community leading,  meetups organizing, newsletter preparation, but as a result get a really great profit and help. 

I hope the concept of communities has become more understandable and simple. 

Unfortunately, the greatest difficulties in creating something are rooted in details.

The devil is in the details

Let’s highlight the top of problems met on my way to communities building. 

  1. How to find initial community members?
  2. How to communicate with the community?
  3. What the best format of the meetup?
  4. Who is the best Community Lead?
  5. How to make Community processes stable?
  6. How to motivate employees to join the community?
  7. How to launch a pure technical community with many introverts inside?
  8. How to apply community efforts in the best way?
  9. How to make the community part of the company processes?
  10. How to measure community profits?

Like in movies, let’s answer on these questions in the next posts. See you! 

By the way: let me wish you a happy and prosperous Happy Year!

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Emails writing

Defacto emails are the most important and useful channels for work conversations. Better is probably the talks in person.

Emails allow you to discuss details and you can return back to them anytime.

Since it’s not direct conversations, you are hidden behind the words. That means that you need to pay extra attention to how they are used to be correct and gentle.

Let me share with you some materials which can be helpful during email writing. It includes:

  • Keyphrases to be polite and official in emails
  • Examples and templates for different email types
  • Linking words

All these you could find in this shared folder. Enjoy!

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Catch the problem

Hi again.

Let me start with the joke:

The husband is the last person who was informed about wife’s adultery.

Let’s be frank, in case of work each of us was such a “husband”. Doesn’t matter if you are a manager or employee.

I don’t know how about you, but I want to prevent such problems 😉

So what I really want to say?

I think,

Large number of critical problems of the company or team can be prevented by improving of communications.

It looks like general words, but what really should be improved?

If we’re talking about communication you need to have a way to communicate 😉 – communication channels.

Setup communication channels.

Just do it! You’ll be surprised what kind of “fish” problems you’ll catch.

There’re many options to use: Regular meetings with the management, visiting a pub with the team, face-to-face meeting with team members etc.

Let me continue the analogy with fishing: communication channels will work as “nets”. They will catch important information about the problem before it will bite you.

Like in fishing, to catch important information you should be patient: you need to make communication channels work not from time to time but on regular basis!

Communication channels should work on regular basis.

Yep, it needs efforts, but only in this case you’ll have notable results.

One more point: channel should work in both directions. You need to have the ability to contact all needed persons. Nothing should disturb them to provide information to you.

It should be easy to communicate in both directions.

From my experience, to make it work you need to build quite informal, positive relationships. Try to allocate time to persons if they want to talk. Don’t be like “always-busy man”.

A little informality in communication makes it more humane and open.

So what to choose?

For the specific fish problem, you need to have a special net communication channel.

I suggest to start with the well-known channels  (they can be used together):

  1. Message-oriented channels (i.e. skype groups, project mailboxes, company newsletters) – to get/send information. This channels can be used as the basis for other types.
  2. Group meetings (Skype call with the project team, etc) – to detect the problem and get an overview
  3. Meeting in person (Performance review meeting, progress check etc)- to understand the problem and get a personal vision of the situation.
  4. Informal meeting (i.e. barbeque, drinking beer in pub etc) – to understand roots of the problem.

Let’s select something and make it regular!

Last note for the case if you’ve supervisor, but there is no communication channel between you.

If you want to avoid the situation when after a long time manager will inform you that he is not satisfied with your work and you’re fired:

Doesn’t hesitate to ask your manager for a regular meeting with you.

The supervisor will share his concerns before they become fatal for you. On another hand, It will help you to share your problems and achievements!

Ok, let’s stop to talk and start the fishing 😉

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