Free as in Puppy?... or Free as in Beer?)
Isabel was my muse for today's post.
While "pretty" is not a word you would use to describe her (Why do you put a collar on a pug? So you know which end is which.), she is affectionate and loves being around people.
The problem was, we were short a couple of people yesterday around our house, leaving just me, and a list of things I needed to get done. We moved recently, (highlighted in another post here) and the new house doesn't have a fenced yard like the last one, so Isabel cannot roam freely. Added to the mix was an extremely hot day (over 30 degrees C) which doesn't go well with a black dog. So I put her in my son's room (where she normally spends her days) while I went about my task list.
When I let her out of the room, instead of heading for the door like normal, she beelined in the other direction. Since her primary responsibilities around the house are sleeping and "hoovering" any food scraps left around on the floor, I really didn't think much of it... until I went downstairs.
There... in the middle of the carpeted floor... were two presents... one liquid... one not. Without a robust vocabulary and lacking opposable thumbs, she left me a message in one of the only mediums she had at her disposal. She clearly wasn't pleased to have been left alone.
Right now you will know if you are a dog person, or not. If you are not (and I'm not judging you), you may fail to see why I'm writing this on a technology leadership blog. Perhaps I've convinced you that you will NEVER get a dog. But I digress.
Having a dog around the house has made me aware of how they communicate with us. They don't have words in our language, but can certainly make a point. I could have viewed Isabel's contributions as a major inconvenience (which admittedly at the time, I did), or see she was trying to say something to me - in this case "I AM NOT HAPPY ABOUT BEING IN THE ROOM".
So where does this fit into leadership?
I assumed that putting Isabel into the room yesterday was the most logical, safe, and convenient thing to do. And in many ways it was.
There are many decisions that you and I make as an IT leader that impact our teams that are the most logical, safe, and convenient thing to do. So we do them, and move on to the next thing.
Do you stop and take a scan of how your team is responding? Have they been sending subtle, or not so subtle messages about the projects they are involved in, their workload, their need for more challenge, and so on?
Let me give you an example of what a subtle message may look like.
Does the chatter in the room go quiet when you enter? Has your team quit coming to you with ideas to improve things?
I think you see the picture.
Building trust with your team is a continuous process, and the responsibility of the leader.
So today I am thanking Isabel for reminding me that I may need to view things from a broader perspective, and that it may be time to spend some "quality" time - getting real feedback, and not just "update" time with my team.