If you start accepting minor improper behaviors within your team, the battle is already over…
What leaders can do if your team culture and values are in flux.
Rapid response when your values are at risk
We have a very diverse team in terms of gender, color, age and nationalities which we are very proud of and know about the importance of our values to keep this team performing without any hassles.
It happened during a virtual retrospective, where one of our team members has put a sticker on the board mentioning about some male people’s behavior and commanding attitude. I was instantly alarmed, as we had almost a gender break even in the team and don’t wanted to have this behavior part of our culture.
Once we spotted this sticky on the board, we started to ask about the author about the sticky but could only catch silence from the team. At this stage, we could only talk about the topic and and condemn this attitude. We finished our retro by going through all the other topics but mentioned to follow up on the urging topics which were discovered.
Right after the retro, I went on a private call with my trusted, at that time, lead engineer (Princiya) who embraces the same values as I do. She mentioned, that she got an Idea who could have been the author of the sticky and promised me to get back soon after contacting that person. Just an hour after our call, she came back to me and said, she found the person — one of our female long term interns.
She had been part of the team for more than a year and established herself as a solid contributor. The only issue about her in general, was her time budget as she needed to study at the same time and give her the possibility to do so. That meant to her, that she only got the small tasks to do but never the challenging aspects but knew that she could finish bigger stories within a sprint.
We knew, that we had to respond rapidly to this situation and scheduled a 15 minutes call for the whole team on the next day — which happened to be a no meeting focus day — but sometimes things are just more important than focus.
The message should be clear:
- We don’t want to focus on the special situation,
- We want to remind us about our core values,
- We want to remember the basics of human interaction.
“…treat every team member the same way as you would like to be treated.”
Every member of the team joined on the next day for the call and I started to give a brief overview about the situation and reminded us about the following: “Please treat every team member the same way as you would like to be treated” and that our team setup is such a valuable good we need to protect at any time. Diversity makes us stronger and delivers better results as we have so many different viewpoints towards our product, user interface, code, documentation and the team itself.
“Diversity makes us stronger and delivers better results as we have so many different viewpoints towards our product, user interface, code, documentation and the team itself.”
Soon after, we went back to business as usual, but I could feel the raised awareness within the team. During my 1on1s, I got very positive feedback for my swift response regarding that matter and even some members didn’t know about those issues beforehand. Being clear in such situations and taking a direct position toward important things, will spread alignment and room for the important things to solve — building a product or solving difficult engineering problems where it’s about the WHAT without distractions by the HOW.