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Joao Fernandes
Joao Fernandes

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Hacking People Growth - Part 1

This piece is centred around one of my favourite areas of management: personal development. The inherent ties between performance management and personal development sometimes lead to the creation of processes that compromise the latter. This is one of the main reasons that I decided to invest time to investigate and create a process (or even small framework) to help the people I am responsible for, in their personal growth. Something that would be useful for them to plan and track their growth on a personal level and that was not tied to the company’s performance management system.

What is my role?

The first thing I did to start building such a process was to look at myself and my role, and establish what were my responsibilities to my team members regarding their personal development. After some thinking I outlined four main responsibilities:

  • Raise and ensure self-awareness
  • Understand their concerns and motivations
  • Help defining the direction of their growth
  • Create an environment propitious to their growth and remove any impediments that might affect it

Raising Self-Awareness

What could I do so that my team members had proper self-awareness? It is very important for one to know where he is in order to know where he needs to go and where to concentrate his efforts.

“Feedback is a gift only others can give” – Marshall Goldsmith

We already had a 360'ish feedback process that everyone did at the end of each quarter, backed up by a form with closed and open questions. Despite the information gathered being valuable, some aspects of this process fell short. The feedback form did not satisfy the needs and was not applicable to everyone. Every person at different points of their career need different kinds of feedback. Also, the period that everyone was asked to collect feedback was 1 to 2 weeks before the end of the quarter. This made the feedback to be somewhat rushed, due to the fact that everyone was asking for it at the same time.

To try and tackle these problems and improve the feedback process, I suggested a Continuous Feedback process consisting of four steps:

  1. Start by making a list of people to collect feedback
  2. Plan and schedule sessions with each person to collect feedback in person
  3. Regularly discuss with manager and compile all the info in a useful manner (e.g. 4. Start/Stop/Continue)
  4. Take action promptly

By spreading the feedback process throughout the quarter, the person can gather information from different points in time, which did not happen previously (everyone just remembered things from the previous 1 or 2 weeks). The absence of the form and the collection in person also helped the person to collect more useful and appropriate feedback. The list is not meant to be fixed, one can add and remove people freely and re-plan accordingly. For example, if I do pair programming with a person during a whole sprint, it makes sense for me to ask feedback from that person at the end of the sprint. The continuous aspect of this process also incentivises the person to take action on the feedback received and measure the results of that action quickly (think rapid prototyping of personal growth).

But the main reason, and the main thing I wished for my team members to take from this process was to have the mindset of continuous feedback. To make the process more natural and automatic. After all, if in our development work we constantly inspect and adapt, why don’t we do it with ourselves?

The next part will continue on how I tried to understand better every person’s concerns and motivations and help them defining the direction of their growth.

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