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Imagine being in a team when the manager gets you all together to present a plan for a new project starting in a few weeks. It doesn’t have to be a software project, it could be anything. The plan includes the vision for the project, timescales, and people’s names against areas of work. After a run through of the plan, the manager closes the meeting without an opportunity for input from the team. Maybe it’s not too difficult to imagine! It’s a shame, one, because this is typical of many teams and two, there is a manager who is clearly not part of the team. The effects may not be visible until it’s too late.

This approach has many negative effects on the team that could become serious issues. It creates an atmosphere in the team that does little to promote openness. This can be put down to the attitude of the manager who has a belief that they are superior and know better than the team as a whole. For me, it’s a toxic attitude that does not match tech teams who need to work together at a fast pace. We’re human and not perfect, in the complexities of our modern systems to think one person knows everything would be arrogant.

It shows humility to ask the team to pick holes in the plan. Even if you’re confident the plan is watertight giving the team time to speak creates openness and inclusion showing that we’re in this together. It should never be seen as a lack of confidence from the manager more of a sign of trust in the people that will be doing the work. It lets people know they have the power to question without being immediately shot down. It allows people to think about the problems at hand, not just being told what to do but be part of the how this will be done.

It creates psychological safety so the team knows they are in an environment where they can take the risk of saying something without getting shut down. Everyone in the team should feel included and that they have a voice which will be heard. This is an important topic and one which every leader needs to understand and put every effort into getting right. It’s the leader’s job to invite participation from those less forthcoming then respond in a respectful way no matter what is said. I have experienced countless times when someone’s only contribution has sparked more conversations which in turn has led us to change our approach in some way. This wouldn’t have happened if the first voice didn’t feel comfortable to raise their question.

Asking the team to tell you what is wrong with the plan opens the possibility that some areas could have been missed. Inviting this dialogue can generate commitment from the team even at this early stage and helps them believe their input is valued. The more this happens people feel comfortable voicing opinions resulting in the team trusting each other. It’s the leader’s responsibility to create this safety and maintain a place where people can feel confident expressing themselves in their natural way.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to only project plans but in every conversation with the team.

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