'Changing your management style is also a change'
Lacey Lemaire lives for agility and continuous improvement – and will still admit that change isn’t easy.
Ms Lemaire, for most people change is uncomfortable. How do we overcome our inner need to stay put?
Of course, that’s a question of motivation – but I think in organizations, it’s mainly a question of leadership. If you’re facing an obstacle, in the traditional directional leadership-style you’d probably send out one person and say: There’s a problem, go fix it. How will you ensure, though, that fix works for the whole team?
So, what’s your take on such a situation?
I’m advocating for transformational leadership which means leaders work with their teams to identify needed change. To map out the vision and the execution strategy and then also execute it jointly with the teams. I spent some time working on a test rig for an aviation client. There are so many people and entities involved – management, team, suppliers – that a joint framework is essential. We introduced Scrum and started refining the user stories with the relevant partners as well as the teams which had to do the work. So as a group, as a unit, you figure out: what are the things we need to adjust? What do we want and need to do? That way, your teammates or the people you’re managing feel comfortable to say ‘Hey, this isn’t really working for me because of this reason’ – and you can properly integrate those concerns. That’s agile transformation 101.
Is that something that executives find hard to wrap their head around – that listening to teammates and other “soft skills” are essential for a project’s success?
I think leadership is opening up more and more to the idea as courses on EQ – short for Emotional Intelligence – continue to trend upwards. Again: change is hard, and changing your management style is also a change. But we’re starting to realize the way we worked before may not be the most value-adding in this day and age, with technology rapidly expanding and changing the way we work.
So, having EQ is crucial?
Yes, in my opinion it’s the layer that goes across whichever methodology you pick. When anyone tasked with the management of people utilizes their EQ, it opens an opportunity to build trust, make others more comfortable around you, get into that ‘friend’ category. Those in administrative or engineering roles can all benefit from being mightily aware of daily interactions, the effects those interactions have on those around you. Learn from that and decide, how you can improve yourself. Companies need leaders that can ‘walk the talk’ – who listen and learn from what is being said and from what is not being said.
How does a change in management style affect the workplace culture?
It is a change in mindset that needs to be understood top-down and bottom-up. It changes in that employees are encouraged to self-manage. Agile techniques are designed to empower flexibility and team contributions. There is also a working relationship change in that there really isn’t a manager specifically directing tasks down to others. It’s a team deciding what they want and need to do, deciding what would add the most value to the customer.