Neglected and abandoned

What another rollercoaster of a week this was for me. My emotions surged from confidence and excitement at the road ahead to near utter despair at our current situation.

As I mentioned last week, I am taking the month of July to focus on one of the three teams I manage. This team is responsible for the maintenance of our legacy platform. No real pressure—we just need to continue to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars every year. 😳

We were preparing for a release this week. I knew it was likely to be impacted by the severe outage we dealt with earlier, which I described a couple weeks ago.

But when I realized how little we were actually able to include in the release, I was affected emotionally. More than I expected.

I messaged my wife:

I am so demoralized this morning. The Legacy team is struggling so bad.

I need to think through things and figure out how to approach it. I’m so frustrated right now.

Luckily, I saw my therapist during the week and was able to process some of what I was feeling and gain some insight. I realized things weren’t actually going that poorly. We certainly had some improvements to make, but they were small adjustments.

My big “aha” moment came as my therapist drew parallels between the team and little boy Ben. She reflected back that this team had been left alone for a long time, essentially neglected and abandoned. Of course that was emotional for me.

It struck me that the reason I was responding so strongly was not that I was overly frustrated—I was triggered.

In that moment, I was liberated.

Fallen away was the pressure that I had to come up with every step to get us out of the situation we were in. I realized that all I needed to do was to be willing to sit with the team. I just need to provide the attention and recognition that they have been lacking for so long.

Serendipitously, I started reading Leadership Is Language by L. David Marquet. One of his earliest points is that we often start meetings in the exact wrong way. We begin by discussing solutions to a problem, and then maybe vote on them after the discussion. This has the effect of anchoring us all to the loudest, or most persuasive, or first person to share. Instead, we should start with voting and only then discuss.

With only hours to spare, I revamped my approach for our planning meeting later that day. I created a few polls in Zoom so we could start by voting simultaneously and without being influenced by others.

One of the most illuminating questions was, “What should be our single top focus in this coming sprint?” With four people, and seven options, we got four different answers.

In the end, I listened much more than I talked during the planning meeting. That’s always a goal of mine, and I so rarely accomplish it.

Our approach for the coming two weeks ended up different than I would have structured things. But it was the team’s plan, and I still felt confident it had a good chance of bringing us success. So I’m on board. This is now my plan too.

I scheduled extra 1:1s with everyone on the team so I can get more of their thoughts and listen to where they think we should head next.

Things aren’t perfect, but they don’t have to be. I’m in a much better place than I was earlier in the week, and I feel much more hope.

We’ll see how the next little bit goes. However it is, I’m in for the ride.

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