concocting  extraordinary  teams

April 08, 2006

Catching the right stuff

"I am often mad, but I would hate to be nothing but mad: and I think I would lose what little value I may have as a writer if I were to refuse, as a matter of principle, to accept the warming rays of the sun, and to report them, whenever, and if ever, they happen to strike me."

E. B. White

One of the things a coach does is "sit outside" the team, keeping watch. Why? Because culture change is hard, and sometimes it's impossible to see what's really happening from inside the team, because there are no reference points. The coach offers a point of reference outside the team, and can beneficially "catch" things happening and point them out, to enhance learning.

What kind of things do I catch? Well, obviously I'm watching for behaviours or language from the old paradigm that creep into the new patterns we are trying to adopt, diluting the experience. But you know, one of the most enjoyable things I do as a coach is to catch people doing the right thing. When people are caught up in the moment, when they've "got it" and are finally doing naturally what we've been teaching... when they do the right thing for the first or second time - take a moment to notice it.

I'll wait for a break in a discussion and say: "Did you notice what Jane (a designer) did? She's pretty sure she knows the answer, but she made a point to ask the Product Owner to confirm her thoughts, because the Product Owner is responsible for the direction of this product. That's great! That's just what we want to be doing!"

There will be lots of time to discuss what we wish we'd done better - over lunch, or at the retrospective. But we'll forget the things we did right, because they just came naturally at the time. I mean, who remembers what Fido looked like at 4 months of age? He grew a little each day, and suddenly he's not a puppy any more!

So, do it when you notice it happening. It's like taking a snapshot - freezing the moment for a second, to enjoy it. Your teams are doing things right all the time - and working hard to make it happen. Give them the reward of heartfelt praise and encouragement in real time - they deserve it!

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