soft is good?
In each workshop we facilitate, we remind the crowd of some essential rules. The first being “ step up, step down”. This simple statement covers a key aspect in teamwork: group-awareness and self-control.
I recently talked about the “soft-skills” movement going on in the recruitment field, with a special focus on Adecco’ s CEO for One Month campaign. It was the first time that I went through a recruitment process. In my head, the exercise compared to riding a bike: the first times are hard, but you eventually warm up to the task and slowly develop reflexes that you use at all times – whether it be answering to trap questions or selling yourself with the right buzz words. In this case, there is no space left for “softness”, only automatisms.
are you seriously gaming?
During our CEO for One Month Bootcamp, we experienced Scalaris Solution, a new assessment-center concept. This startup aims to provide the recruiting firms with the most “true to self” candidate portrait – bad pun intended. To analyze personalities and behaviors as rightfully as possible, scalaris’ team gathers the applicants in teams to confront them to a shifting, challenging, and unknown environment. In short, Scalaris creates a context in which nobody could be walking around busy faking a personality.
This is how we ended up in a line, blindfolded, in a dark room, all waiting for a game master to unleash us. Yes, I am talking about an escape game… and no, we didn’t save the world – pretty much the contrary. Even though we almost all – virtually – died poisoned by a crazy scientist, the whole process highlighted some really interesting patterns, either group or individually related. For instance, sometimes, a clear hierarchy started to show, while in our case, leaders regularly changed according to the skills needed at the moment.
who wears the leaders' hat?
As a new methodologies’ geek, I’m pretty keen on the rotating leadership concept. We organically used this at the HIVE in our project (MERGY). The person in charge during a sprint was the one with the most skills in the field. But I never thought of it in the way our jury at Adecco worded it, which echoed a saying one facilitator at thecamp shared with the HIVE during an Agile Walk: “Great leaders know when to step up and when to step down”
I remember that at first, I immediately felt like this sentence was bullsh*t. The mains questions being: How do you lead when your voice is not heard? And how the heck do you lead a team if you are not the voice of it? Finally, I wondered, how can a team function if nobody is representing it?
A GOOD LEADER?
design according to your needs
The same time our HIVE staff repeatedly told us throughout the residency how they made the choice to “hire strong personalities”. And indeed, one of our strengths lied in our ability to step up and speak for ourselves – maybe too often at times. However, some even took on the responsibility to speak up for those who may not have had the will – or the voice – to express themselves. By doing so, the firsts felt like they re-established a certain balance in the group, allowing all opinions to be heard. But exchanging with the latter, I found out their opinions were actually far from what we expected – and therefore voiced out of goodwill.
I especially remember one heated debate-night. Leaving the room at the end of the session, everybody felt like we were on the same page. Actually, we weren’t; some voices were omitted.
As it appears, the pressure of global consensus prevented diverging opinions to rise up. So, what did it say about the group? That some voices may weigh more than others? That some were not actually included in the decision-making process? Or even that some voices were not considered as valuable as others?
Nowadays, listening is considered as essential in every leader’s skillset. We realised along the way, that what we weren’t really listening to each other at first; rather waiting to say what we thought. Meetings were hours-long, precisely because we didn’t build on each other’s discourse.
Over time, we
slowly learned, both within the HIVE and our projects, to progressively listen better to each other’s needs and work our best to fulfill them.
With MERGY, we started first by stating our own needs when working on a project (for organization / visibility / communication / etc.) and then held regular feedback sessions to check in with them. If those needs were completed, we kept the methodology going. If not, we adjusted our procedure accordingly. This particular process allowed us to understand better each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and triggers. Instead of sticking to a precise methodology, we had to properly design our own, prototype it and iterate continuously. I can’t say the end product was perfect – certainly not -, but it was slowly adapting to its users aka, us.
With all those elements in mind, I’d like to reconsider the initial question:
A GOOD LEADER?
listen, then speak
Maybe the saying “A great leader knows when to step down” is – in a way – wrongly worded. A great leader doesn’t “just” know when to step down. A great leader is, after all, a great collaborator. And a great collaborator knows when to step down to give space to its fellow teammates. In the end, rather than speaking up for people, we should try to create a space in which everybody feels okay to speak up for himself / herself. And for that to happen, the first step is indeed: step down.
It’s refraining for those who need to raise their voices and express themselves – myself included. But whenever might be the time when you speak up, know that your voice will still be heard. Don’t be this guy speaking
instead of for the group; let the group speak for itself. Not only will your peers feel more at ease, you might even be surprised how having a different perspective on that will feed yours. Teamwork takes times and effort. You can’t just claim a corporate culture and expect it to be a roaring success, you have to work to sustain it.