We are officially UX crazy, and for good reason. Software cares for users in a way I wasn’t sure was even possible, thanks to the litany of work done to care for them. I thought about it recently when I saw this amazing tweet:
That is care in a nutshell. Empathy is not reached in a vacuum, however. Ethnographic research, user personas, ecology maps and countless other documents can be created from scratch to help paint a better picture of what would make users feel cared for.
As much as UX strategists care for the user, I care for my teams the same. When tweets like this pass through my feed, I sometimes get a little melancholic because I want that same passion for the user to translate to the people standing with me every morning at 9:45. Thank goodness for Esther Derby. This tweet from a presentation she gave helped put things in perspective:
Derby has been leading the charge for team experience before she wrote her cadre of agile books. She speaks from a voice of empathy and compassion, which should be the voice we all speak from in and out of the office. When I have heard her speak previously, I think of our amazing UX strategists at Bottle Rocket and wonder if we could care for our teams with that same fervor. With that in mind, I would posit that we paint Agile leadership in a new light: as Team Experience (TX) Strategy.
The points Esther makes encourages leaders to think about their teams the same way UX leaders think about users. If we can utilize these four steps every day, we can see that we’re not just leading project or product teams. We’re caring about the team’s experience of making amazing things.
You can’t care for your teams until you spend time observing them.
There are two parts of observing, the first of which is observing them in team interactions. Let the alpha dogs have their time, which means letting them talk and the omegas intake. Winston Churchill once said:
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
The second part involves more than just spending time with your teams. Ask their managers about them go to meetings without you. Engage with them on social media. All of these help fill in the gaps of who they are outside of team interactions.
If you can have a clear picture of who your teams are in and outside of your experience with them, it will go a long way towards caring about their TX.
Validate the idea before taking that next step.
I’m an idealist at heart, which means I can be a bit “touchy-feely” about team strategies. I must fight that urge when leading my teams, because I must take what I observed and validate it scientifically before I develop action plans.
How I would interpret the pitfalls of business change management strategies relates to ideal versus real-world scenarios. Leaders often plan based on the ideal team, not how they actually are. As a TX strategist, I must plan not for the team I wish I had, but for the team right in front of me.
That means real measurements such as team-member satisfaction and sprint efficacy. As them to rate me as a leader, and each other, then use that data for true feedback before setting a plan in motion. This data helps when questions arise, and solidifies morale as you move forward.
The hardest part is acting upon that data.
Observing and analyzing provides a spring board to real change. It will hurt a little, which is how you know you’ve found something worth striving for. I can’t begin to imagine the team dynamics you work under. Your situation is unique to just you, and because of that I can’t imagine how hard it is to improve your team’s experience. The good part is, I know what’s waiting for you once you act.
Positive growth fuels more than morale. It improves productivity and builds consensus for the next item in your transformation backlog.
If you can measure the areas that need growth, imagine what the measurement around team successes will look like. The presentation slides practically write themselves. To set the stage for action, make sure your team is writing a story for success before you even get started. That way, when action is needed, you can point to the success story that you all are trying to achieve. That’s an ideal even a scientist could get behind.
What does it all mean in the long run?
I heard an amazing question from a speaker recently that I have started asking regularly. It is uncomfortable for not just me to ask, but for the person I make the request of. I haven’t figured out an easy way to ask it, so I would suggest just getting it out of the way and ask for forgiveness later. If you want to be a true TX expert, you have to put it out there regularly:
“What’s it like to sit on the other side of the table from me?”
If you pose this to team members, friends, loved ones, and family members, you will find new things to work on. The bad news is you may have to eat some crow to a few of these folks, but the good news is you will be on the path to TX gold if you model this behavior. Others will start doing the same thing and before you know it, selflessness will spring up.
You may have not planned on forging a career as a TX Strategist, but if you can follow Derby’s steps toward better leadership, you will care for teams the same way she does.