Forming a team is always awkward at first. You are all new to each other, nobody knows what anyone likes or dislikes, and you are all in the same boat trying to figure out how you can all work together.
Instead of letting people stumble upon how you operate tell them upfront! You can do this in a clear focused way using what I like to call The Drucker Exercise.
The Drucker Exercise
The Drucker Exercise is a powerful relationship building exercise to help you and your team gel at the start of a project.
By sharing the answers to four simple questions:
- what am I good at?
- how do I perform?
- what do I value?
- what contribution can be expected from me on this project
you give your team the means to figure out how best to work with you, while at the same time setting expectations around how you can best work with them.
For example, spend two minutes thinking hard about what you are world class at and what you can do better than anybody else.
Understanding your core strengths is good to two reasons. First, it raises your level of self awareness (necessary for spotting opportunities where you can really shine). And secondly, it tells others where they can expect you to excel and where you are really going shine.
The next question to ask yourself is around performance.
How you perform is giving team members a heads on where your magic comes from. Are you a morning person? Let them know. That way they won’t schedule meetings with you during your most productive hours.
If you enjoy collaborating, but occasionally require moments of solitude, let them know that too so they won’t be surprised when you grab your laptop and head down to the coffee shop for some private brain storming.
The next question has to do with your values.
Values are about what you stand for. There are stake in the ground that let’s people know what’s important to you and what you care deeply about. Letting people know what you stand for is important because it gives them insight into what they can expect from you, and better predict how you are going to act and behave.
For example, say on your last project you were perpetually being asked to cut corners, hack, and take every liberty with the code base in the name of speed. Quality was all but thrown and the window and you felt bad coming in every day knowing you weren’t going to be able to do your best work.
If quality is important to you on this project then set that expectation upfront. Let the team know you are going to stand for shoddy craftsmanship. Your code is always going to be accompanied by a suite of automated tests you won’t tolerate bugs—of any kind.
Which brings us to our last question. What can the team expect from you on this project.
This question really gets into what role(s) you can be expected to play on the project.
If you’re a developer with a passion for user experience, let them know that in addition to cutting high quality code you would like to participate in designing the user experience.
If you were an analyst on the last project, but are now stepping into the role of project manager, let them know they won’t be able to count on you for analysis during this project as you will have your hands full learning the ropes of project management.
Setting expectations about roles at the beginning of the project is good because if there is any confusion about who is doing what, this brings it out on the table for all to see.
Then if any expectations need to be reset (including yours) you can do it before the project begins, and avoid having to reset expectations later.
You don’t have to wait for a new project to do the Drucker Exercise. You can do it right now. Yes it takes courage to share this kind of stuff with your team. But when you do the response is almost always the same: “This was most helpful. Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner.”
Of course the real power of this exercise comes from doing it as a team and sharing your thoughts with others.
For the full story behind the Drucker Exercise get a copy of the paper Managing oneself and give it the full read. You won’t be disappointed.