By Bia Dimovski, Senior Agile Coach
To effectively encourage growth within product teams, you must not directly measure growth based on promotion to management.
Growth encouragement isn't about meeting some quota as part of a job description. Most people on product teams are interested in something other than simply climbing the corporate ladder. They are interested in growing and developing their skills and gaining new experiences that will support their vision and goals within their interest area.
To encourage growth, you must tap into that true motivation and learn about your team member’s individual goals. But they will only tell you this if they feel they can trust you as a team leader and coach. If there is no trust, encouraging growth within your team(s) becomes an uphill battle no one wins.
Encouraging growth within product teams is like that one art piece that's never finished and keeps morphing into something different every time the artist spends time with it. Unlike that art piece, encouragement still needs to be completed by design. It is continuous. It is evolving. It is different for different teams.
In the role of a team leader, you are also a coach, and it is up to you to discover what encouragement looks like for your team. To do this, you must build trust within your team(s) to pave the way for promoting the type of growth that yields meaningful outcomes.
What those significant outcomes are will become evident over time. It could be that the team is more creative, cross-functional, open to pairing and learning from each other instead of guarding their secret trade, or more open to feedback and experimenting than before.
As a team leader, people development must be your number one priority. It is your ticket to minimizing or even eliminating product development-related headaches later.
But still, how do you do that? How do you build that trust, discover how each team ticks, and align the stars for everyone? There can be as many personalities on a team as there are stars in the sky – or at least it feels that way some days – and only one of you. Plus, if people development is to be your focus, who will ensure the actual work gets done and done on time?
Guidance for People Dev
There are a few constant elements for encouraging growth within your product teams. They are not rules but guides to help you discover and build your base, just as you will help your team(s) members find and develop their own.
Here are four guiding principles for encouraging growth within your product teams:
Understand why the team exists. You can map most team function-related issues and inconsistencies back to everyone on the team, including the team leader, having a distorted picture of the end goal.
Respect team members working styles by focusing on each contributor's outcome(s). Managing your team's work is not being a responsible team leader – it's being annoying. Letting your team members manage their work in their style will help you build trust, which encourages growth within your product team(s).
Make time for feedback and take a sincere interest in ideas, concerns, and questions from individual team members. Team leaders who are most effective in encouraging growth within their team(s) keep their schedule as open as possible so they are available for their team members.
Connect with each team member on topics related to their professional development and general interests in life. When done organically and with genuine intent to learn, it fosters a level of openness to growth without emphasizing growth. It simply happens.
These guiding principles are not checklist material. They are the basis to use in building your coaching habits and regularly reflect on your progress as you work with people on your team.
The next time you are stuck on ideas of how to encourage growth within your team(s), pause and reflect on your coaching style as a team leader. Then use the above elements as your guide in modifying your coaching habits based on what works best for each product team. Still wondering how to proceed or have questions on this topic? Reach out, and we'll be more than happy to assist!
Bia Dimovski is BreakFree's Senior Agile Coach. She participates in project team engagements and coaches our clients on how to be successful, initiating action-based discussions and recommendations for beneficial Agile Scrum practices specific to their needs.