Posts Tagged ‘team work’

Unrelentingly Positive

I drug myself out of bed this morning for yoga and an hour later, was happy that I did.  Some yoga classes have themes, this on did- unrelentingly positive. Turns out a fellow yogi put a comment in the comment box earlier that week thanking the teachers for always being unrelentingly positive.

It is really hard to be grumpy around a positive person.  Now I admit that sometimes the overly bubbly in-your-face happy person can roll your eyes and walk away.  But the majority of the time, a positive person makes you shed some of those discouraging thoughts.  The power of a smile, a laugh, and some optimistic outlooks can improve any situation.

Those who know me would probably classify me in that unrelentingly positive category.  It’s true, I’m an eternal optimist.  I smile all day.  I try to make people laugh when they are taking themselves too seriously.  I pretty much believe that ever person and every situation can make a turn for the better.

I just wish more people tried being unrelenting positive periodically.

Emotions and outlook are one of those herd mentalities.  I see it at work every day.  You get a few team members complaining about something- say the number of issues in the software for a new product.  They complain to a few people in the halls.  They mention how buggy the software is in meeting.  Next thing you know everyone is complaining about the poor health of the software.  Then I start hearing more people, different people, make comments “There is no way in hell we’ll hit a product schedule”, “I heard the software team has no idea how to even solve these issues”, “Wow, we’re going to be working late nights for months”.  Suddenly I am surrounded by a team of 30 Debbie-downers.

It’s pretty hard to motivate a team of Debbie-downers to be creative about solving problems when they think there is no hope for the project.

There is hope to turn these negative emotions into positive ones.  It takes the a few leaders to role model positive thinking.  To speak up in the face of negativity. “The software team is making great progress.” ” They are on the brink of a break-through. ” “The extra time has allowed us to make our part of the product even better”.

Just like the herd mentality that got everyone stuck in negativity.  A few positive people can lead the team in the opposite direction.  You work better when you’re happy.  You look for ways to improve your contribution.  The team likes to get together and talk about the opportunities.  As a result, the product out the door is ultimately better and everyone wants to work together on the next one.

Give it a try…be unrelentingly positive for a day.  Then try to keep it going for a week.

You’ll be amazed at the impact.  You’ll be happier and people will enjoy working with you and for you.  People won’t be able to be grumpy around you- which means you’ll be surrounded by more positive energy.  A win for everyone.

Pulling a Fast One

I had a great mutual complaining chat on Friday with a co-worker about a two members of our project team who were attempting to pull a fast one over the rest of us.  Here’s the context…

We are simultaneously working on two products- Product A and Product B.  A is the money maker for our division and flagship product of 2010.  B is a strategic product being developed in parternship with another company.  They share some common development peices.  Each one is very important to the organization, but at the end of the day, it is all about making money in 2010.  It’s about being a sustainable, money making organization.  As a result, the priority if we have to make tradeoffs between the two is Product A.

Here is where the “fast one” comes into play.  One of the lead engineering managers is actually prioritizing B with his team, in hopes that no one will really notice and he’ll still get A out on time.  Unfortunately, his manager knows this and is in on it.  Whenever anyone else on the team questions him about the priorties, he always says A first.   We can’t really prove he isn’t telling the truth, but you can sense it by the program updates.

Why does he feel he can do this?  Does he really think he’s smarter than the rest of us?  Does he just think he can get away with it?  It’s not really a problem if both products get to market on time and adhere to their schedules.  It does add unnecessary risk to product A in several ways- less ability to compensate for slip ups and unknown issues we encounter, other functional areas of the product have to work extra to compensate, and general lack of transparency within the team.

In my company pretty much everyone is an engineer.  What I mean is that our marketing team- they’re engineers, our manufacturing team- engineers, our project managers- engineers, our people managers- engineers.  You get the picture.  Engineers think they can do everything.  We’re the people who think we can do it ourselves better than almost anyone else can.  We know we’re smart and think we can learn fast and execute well.  For the most part we can- though sometimes it’s alot better to have someone with expertise and skills in that area.  (that’s a whole other post…)

Part of thinking we can do everything also means we typically think we’re smarter than those around us- even fellow engineers.  So some believe they can pull a fast one over the rest of the team.  They really can’t though.  You look at their body language, the words they use, you poll their team- it’s pretty obvious what is going on.

The sad thing is how much this single action affects both product teams.  Without transparency, and with the engineering director supporting this manager, not correcting him, other people will start to follow suit.  They will start saying one thing, and doing something else.  Pretty soon, the whole team suspects everyone else of not telling the complete truth.  We start pointing fingers and blaming each other.  We spend more time covering our own asses than working together to constructively solve problems and get products out on time.

It’s a vicious cyle that sadly starts with just a single pair, thinking they can sneak something past of the rest us.  That they’re just a little smarter.  That their great engineering skills will enable them to solve their way our of whatever issue this priority change will get them into.  I just hope our team confronts them and are able to change it before we become completely dysfunctional.