Have you ever looked around you at the eyes of others? Your child as they head off to school. Your fellow commuters on the train each morning. Your co-workers you spend so much time with. The people who work for you and make you successful. Where ever you find yourself look at those around you. Are their eyes shiny?
In his Ted talk Benjamin Zander asks “Who am I being that my child’s eyes are not shiny?”
Over my career I have lead many teams on all kinds of projects. In my early days of being a Project Manager (this is a long time ago) I can remember dragging my team through the drudgery of the PM reporting. If you’ve ever worked with one of these PMs you’ll know what I’m talking about. I would bring the team together and put the Gantt chart up on the screen and go through it line by line, asking for updates, taking notes, etc (as if anyone else cared about all the details I am dutifully tracking in my “accurate” schedule). People usually showed up to these meetings, but were often distracted and distant until I woke them up and asked for their part of the update.
Flash forward many projects and years. I was leading a project with a team starting to adopt Agile practices. My beliefs have shifted significantly and I no longer lead with my Gantt chart (largely because I came to see the fallacy of predictive scheduling). My team is managing their own work and schedule using a kanban board. I used this information to feed the Gantt chart the organization required me to submit, but I don’t remember ever showing it to my team. The team was actively engaged in keeping things up to date, and largely I was there to support them.
In which of these two stories do you think I remember the most shiny eyes?
In story #2 I remember people asking me process questions about some future step and my usual answer was “I don’t know … but I’m confident we’ll figure it out together when we get there”. I remember a developer on this team who at first stood quietly in the corner (without shiny eyes). I would regularly remind her she’s the only one on the team who can deliver value, and make sure her voice was heard (didn’t take long for her eyes to shine). By our third iteration everyone on the team had shiny eyes and things were really starting to happen. The team moved from doubting Agile could help them, to delivering valuable features with high quality to the customer’s test region every 2-3 days!
So what about the team in story #1? People coming into meetings plopping themselves down to put up with a PM thinking he had all the answers. Rolling their eyes when I required a change request to make even the smallest change to the plan. Or sitting quietly in a fog while I tried to get them to provide all the details required to build my schedule. I don’t remember shiny eyes!
In my studies of The Leadership GiftTM I have come to always be questioning “what am I attracting?”. Back in my early PM days I considered myself a pretty good PM because I could create a good schedule (along with the other things PMs do). I remember thinking people would follow me because of that. However, recently in some reflection I have come to question if I ever really believed in those things. If this is true then I highly doubt my eyes were that shiny. So when I wasn’t seeing shiny eyes perhaps it was really a reflection of myself? What was I attracting?
If you’re a manager or leader look at the eyes of your team. Do their eyes shine? If not ask yourself “who am I being that their eyes do not shine?”