Trusting your people and giving them autonomy is all good and well, but as Jurgen Appelo keeps telling us, delegation is a complex process. One of the things you need to do is to provide employees with the tools to resolve their issues themselves. In other words: they need knowledge and skills. In all the companies I visited, there were great coaching and mentorship programs to do precisely that.
Teach them how to organize
At Futurice they’re taking coaching and growing to the next level. Actually, their team of coaches is called the CTO Task Force. The team is responsible for continuous support. Think of competence development, facilitating meetings, personal coaching & mentoring and so on. Also, every employee has access to a mentor to help with his or her personal growth. Those mentors play several roles. The traditional one as mentor, coach, teacher and sparring partner. But sometimes they’re the ones you need for a hug or as a listener.
Those mentors have an important job. And they aren’t just more experienced colleagues, they take regular trainings themselves. It’s important to realize being a mentor is not a full-time job at Futurice. So they still work on client projects, write code etcetera. It’s the best of both world: they’re people who know (and do!) the everyday work and who know what it takes to help others.
External coaches or different roles
Similar ideas you can find at Vincit. Although they’re concentrating less on mentorship, there is a team of coaches helping people to self-organize. The unique thing in their situation: They work with several external coaches; everyone can schedule one-on-one meetings if they think it would help. Yep, you read that right. Vincit spends a lot of money on professional trained external coaches to help their own people deal with personal issues and development.
A while ago I talked about this with Lasse Koskela from Reaktor. Surprise surprise: They have a great program as well. What was interesting about their approach: The roles of people at Reaktor can easily change. When I talked to Lasse he was an Android developer working in a team. Several months before that he had a different role, as he was busy coaching teams.
Select your own leaders
People work in more stable teams at Ministry. A company that a while ago took a radical decision. They removed managers completely. Decisions are made together, as a team. Well, some teams really struggled for a while. But they made it work eventually by sending delegates to the company leaders. Explaining they might nog need managers anymore, but they surely needed Team Leaders to keep the whole picture and help with administrative tasks. The solution: Employees select their own leaders. Of course, being selected as a leader doesn’t mean you know how that works. So company leaders began developing a leadership program. One of the things they do is organizing regular talks with all the team-leaders outside of the office. Just one-on-one’s so people can share experiences and exchange tips.
Trust works both ways
These are just a couple examples of the endless possibilities. For me there’s a great lesson to learn. The funny thing is, it creates trust that works both ways. The company will get better results quicker. The worker feels he’s trusted enough to invest in.
See you next week,