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[Article] You need to stop running because people are getting hurt


Jimi Wikman
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In the last 3-4 years I have noticed an increase in the speed of which things are done within companies. By that I do not mean that we produce things faster, I mean that we take decisions or share information faster. That may sound like a good thing, but as always when things are done fast the quality drops. What I see however is even worse and that is that people, often young people, are getting hurt.

Management is not an easy profession, regardless of position in an organization. There are important decisions to make, ton of information to absorb and people that need to be cared for. This is nothing new, but what is relatively new is a sense of urgency,  that seem to spread to an almost frantic pace these days. In some cases it's more like full panic mode even.

I have seen organizations that spend more time in meetings than actually do anything on a management level. Some organization even take this to a whole new level. The lack of proper communication and a complete lack of trust within the organization lead to hundreds or even thousands of people who spend most of their days shuffling information back and forth in meetings.

This is a very, very dangerous situation because when managers process information with no context and little to no actual knowledge of the topic they process then poor decisions are taken. If you add a constant stress to that situation where managers spend 30+ hours in meetings with other managers then the decisions quickly become erratic and irrational.

I see this in many large organizations these days and I hear it from friends and colleagues in other organizations as well. Most agree that while this has always been the case in management to certain extent, it has never been as bad as it is today. No one seem to think that this is something that will change anytime soon either. Quite the opposite as we have seen this slowly escalate over the years and it has come to the point where people are getting hurt mentally and physically.

I have seen people pass out in meetings and more than one person that leave mid day to never come back to their work again. I see daily people in the development areas with dark rings below their eyes and tired eyes. I hear people almost weekly that ask to leave their assignment due to health issues or mental fatigue.

Everywhere I see the same tragic trend and that is that management is running frantically making poor decisions with little to no communication. People are frustrated, confused and more often than not they are becoming defensive as their managers mistrust everything they do. More often than not there will be control mechanisms that are implemented to control rather than improve the work.

This will make people feel like they are constantly being judged and mistrusted. With an increased pace from the managers demands that comes with unclear information and little to no access to clarification there is no wonder people are breaking down. In some companies there are even activity based offices as icing on the cake to make things even more stressful for the already battered employees.

People are getting hurt from this and you have most likely seen more than one employee cringe when you mention the Agile word or the Activity based Office. That is not because they are against these things, it's just that they are so abused by managers to avoid taking proper responsibility for making sure that communication and interaction are working.

 

There is still hope!

It is easy to blame the managers for the situation, but the fact is that most managers are really, really great people. They are also suffering from the situation of an increased pace and stress.  I know more than one manager that have taken a time out in the bathroom where they silently cried over their hopeless situation. So the managers are not the problem, it is the collective sense of urgency and lack of control.

 

Step 1 - Reduce the meetings.

Meetings are the cause of many issues today. We have meetings for almost everything with little to no thought of why we have them. Many managers are easily in 20-30+ hours every week and most meetings include 10+ people where half is just there to make sure they do not miss information. If you want to measure something, then this is something to measure to reduce waste of resources and cost.

Make it mandatory with one full day with no meetings. This allow managers to process the information and make educated decisions what to do next. For best effect, make it the same day for everyone.

Also follow up on meeting statistics to make sure that no more than 15 hours each week can be allocated to meetings. That is 3 hours each day, which should be more than enough if you have the communication and information strategies in place.

 

Step 2 - Establish trust.

Control is a big problem if there is no trust in the organization. The reason for that is that no matter how well the development teams are doing it will not matter of the management chain can not feel sure about that. If all managers are always sitting in meetings, then how will they get the information they need and how will they have time to forward this information up the management chain? The first step is of course to free up time by reducing the time spent in meetings.

The second thing is to clarify responsibility. It is very difficult to provide the right information if you do not know what is expected from you. Once you know what information you need to provide, then the flow of information will improve with relevant information.

Once you clarify responsibility and expectations you will reduce confusion, which in turn will reduce frustration. Clarity also will make it possible to provide accurate information from the development teams when it comes to estimations. This will make it easier for manages to feel that they can trust the information from the development teams. This is done by having clear role definitions and a proper process for clarifying requirements for the development teams.

 

Step 3 - Establish proper communication channels.

The last "easy" fix is to make sure you have communication channels. One thing that I see often is that just to implement a documented decision process will improve the understanding in the organization a lot. If you can understand what a decision mean, why it was taken and who took the decision, then it is much, much easier to understand. Verbal decisions are easily misunderstand, easy to override and easy to ignore. So make sure that important decisions are clearly documented and easily accessed.

No common way of working is also a big problem. You should define a baseline for everyone to avoid that everyone in your organization create their own way of working. This is especially important in the handover points where you handover information between different groups. If this handover is done in dozens or hundreds of different ways, then that will not only cause confusion and frustration, it will cost thousands upon thousands of dollars.

Having a common way of working does not mean that you can not have different ways of working. It just mean that you can understand the reason for having a different process as there is some need that the common way of working can not fulfill. The changes are not arbitrary as they are when there are no common way of working.

 

Step 4 - Take care of your people

No matter where you are in the organization you have people around you that you work with every day. Make sure you take a moment on a regular basis and look at the people around you. If you see someone that does not seem to feel well, then make sure you act on that. You can support the person by talking to them and listen to their problems, you can tell your manager or your managers manager and you can contact HR. 

If we fail to see the people around us that are slowly being broken down from stress, then that person could end up being sick. Some refer to this as "hitting the wall", others being "burned out". This is one of the most devastating events in  a persons life and it is something that you never really get over.

 

So take care of yourself, the people around you and please, please....
stop running, because people are getting hurt.

 


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    • By Jimi Wikman
      Almost every day I see someone posting about stress related illness. I meet people who I see are close to hitting the wall and burning themselves out on a regular basis and it makes me sad. Why do we struggle with this and for what purpose? How can you come back once you hit the wall and what do you do to come back?
      25 years ago I hit the wall. I burned myself out and spent a year in rehab. It was so bad that I once went to the store to buy milk, but had to stop halfway home and call a friend to drive me home. I lived 10 minutes from the store. This experience is one of the worst I have ever experienced and the effect of it will never go away.
      This is why I react when I see people do the same stupid thing as I did and work yourself to the brink of exhaustion. No one will ever thank you for getting burned out and the road back is very long indeed. The worst part is that it is almost impossible for anyone to understand the way getting burnt out feel, so it is hard to find someone to talk to.
       
      How to burn yourself out
      Working hard is not the same as burning yourself out. Working hard is for me how you should work. It is when working hard under constant negative stress happen you risk burning yourself getting burned out. The tricky part with this however is that everyone have different things we respond to with negative stress. This makes it hard to know when you are risking your health and when you are just working hard.
      Stress is when we trigger our natural defense mechanism called "fight-or-flight" or stress response. This is one of our strongest subconscious mental responses and as such it is often something we are not even aware of. In short it is the way our mind defend itself from harm. What we protect ourselves from varies from person to person and it is triggered differently in different people.
      You can for example be a person that handle chaotic environments such as restaurants well, but get stressed over meetings with authorities or economic problems. Other people can be very sensitive to uncertainties and require structure and order to avoid stress. Since this is individual it is very hard to know when you are hurting yourself from stress, or even what type of stress that is harmful. There are symptoms however that you can look out for to help you identify these types of issues
      These symptoms are borrowed from WebMD.
      Emotional symptoms of stress include:
      Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed Avoiding others Physical symptoms of stress include:
      Low energy Headaches Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea Aches, pains, and tense muscles Chest pain and rapid heartbeat Insomnia Frequent colds and infections Loss of sexual desire and/or ability Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing Clenched jaw and grinding teeth Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
      Constant worrying Racing thoughts Forgetfulness and disorganization Inability to focus Poor judgment Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side For me the most common symptom is low energy. I call this "the hole" as it feels like you are trapped in a dark hole mentally. I get this quite often and that is because of my duality in personality where I am both extrovert and introvert. That means that I spend a lot of energy being extrovert at work, but then I need time for reflection for my introvert side to balance that out.
      Not having enough time for reflection at work is one of the most damaging things you can have. This is why the word NO is so important as well as the ability to dedicate time for reflection. Many organizations adapt a policy called No Meetings Day, which basically locks time from being used for meetings. This is so time can be spent on work and focused reflection.
      I have a theory that the reason why so many poor decisions are made in organizations is because everyone is constantly running. With no time to reflect decisions are made in the fight or flight mode. The problem with that is that when you are in that mode you suppress your prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is often referred to the "modern brain" since this is where our ability to plan and take long term decision. This area is also responsible for empathy, which is why some managers appear to be assholes.
       
      How to avoid getting burned out
      Balance you energy
      The first thing I suggest you do right now is to make a list of things that give you energy and what drain you of energy. This is your balance list. This list will help you understand how you are doing mentally and you should update this often in the beginning. For me for example it cost energy to go to parties and I gain energy from writing or watching movies. For you it can be that it give you energy to go to parties and it cost energy to write reports. It all depend on your personality and there are no right or wrong answers.
      Do you have time to do your work?
      The second thing you should do is to look at your work. Do you have enough time to do your job? If the answer is no, then you will burn yourself out sooner or later. This is why many people in stressful jobs jump between employers as the time constraint trigger the fight or flight response. You either get into conflict with your employer or you leave if the stress get to much. So if you are in a situation when time is not enough, then you should talk to your employer to reduce the workload. If that is not possible, then find new employment if possible.
      Do not forsake reflection due to social demands
      Thirdly, and this is mostly for my introvert peers out there, make sure you do not forsake reflection in order to be socially accepted. I know many introverts who feel obligated to go to parties or be social when they should spend time reflecting. This is especially problematic when you are young or when you invest heavily into social media. Do not be afraid to shut down, even if you feel that people think you are weird. You are not weird and everyone that actually matter will not only understand, they will support you in that decision.
      Reflect and listen
      This is important, because it is when you stop to reflect that you can see the signs of you being in danger of burning yourself out. For me I write things like this and as I write I reflect on my own state of mind. For you it can be a walk in nature, mindfulness or just having a cup of tea on the terrace. Also listen to what others are saying. If people ask if you are ok, then stop and reflect instead of instantly respond that you are ok. I actually had members of my team ask me this a coupe of years ago and it led to me taking a few days off as I was getting burned out
       
      What do I do if I burn myself out?
      Ask for help!
      This one is the most difficult one for many. Asking for help is for some strange reason considered to be a weakness, but it is in fact a strength. The ability to ask for help prevent many, many issues in life and I think it is also a prerequisite for personal growth. So do not be afraid to ask for help if you start to feel some of the symptoms above. Go talk to a doctor and also consider talking to a therapist as the injury you have sustained is a mental one. Only the symptoms are physical.
      Accept that you are injured
      Being burned out is not something you can "get over" or "snap out of". It is not you being lazy or weak. It is a mental injury as well as a physical one as your long term exposure of stress hormones have damaged your central nervous system. You need to treat this as a physical injury and by this I mean that you need to give it time to heal. Just as you would not keep running on a fractured leg you should not continue working in the same stressful way with a stress related injury. Let it take the time it need for you to heal.
      Talk to someone who understand
      This is extremely difficult to do, not just for you, but also for the people around you. Many who get burned out are people that naturally work very hard. To these people it is difficult to handle the situation as it conflict with their self image. As people around you do not understand and tell you to "get over it", that affect your self image even more. For this reason you should find someone to talk to who has been in the same situation as you have. Understanding that you are not alone and that this is not something you can just get over will help with those feelings.
      Fill up on positives and cut away all demands
      Nothings feels as heavy as having things that you must do. It can become paralyzing to the point of giving you panic attacks just to meet someone for coffee. So try to cut away on all things that you feel must be done and focus on things that fill you with energy. If you feel like meeting someone or doing something social, make sure that you give yourself a way out if needed. When I meet with people who have suffered a stress related injury I always tell them that if they need to cancel they just send a text. No explanations or excuses are needed. I also advice them to tell others that they are meeting that if they can not make it they will send a text and that they don't need a text back. Most people will understand that and it reduce a lot of the stress.
      Drugs is not the answer!
      When stress related injuries happen your instinct is to avoid the pain it brings. Most turn inwards naturally and avoid people to protect themselves. For some this is either not enough, or they can not handle the social demands. So they turn to drugs to take the edge of the pain and to hide from the world in a sense. An increase of substance abuse, regardless if it is alcohol or drugs is not actually helping however. In fact since your mind is already experiencing depression and low self esteem combined with a reduced capacity of your rational thinking adding drugs and alcohol will only increase the risk of self damage such as suicide.
      Know that you will be ok
      Depression often comes with stress related injuries. Self doubt and the sense of being worthless is common. These things can lead to thoughts of suicide as you see no way out of your situation. This is why it is important to get help early because no matter how bad your situation is and how deep into the darkest corners you find yourself I promise you that you will be ok. Just like all injuries they will heal in time and just like all pain it can become unbearable if you carry it alone. So ask for help and know that the pain you go through is temporary and will eventually fade. 
      You will be ok.
       
      Take care of yourself out there
      Getting burned out is becoming more common these days as we sacrifice empathy on the altar of efficiency. So take care of yourself and balance those energy levels. Talk about it often with friends and family and reflect on your current state of mind regularly.
      No one will ever thank you for working yourself into the wall. Surprisingly enough most people will appreciate you for saying no if you have to much to do. Saying no takes courage and it has nothing to do with weakness.
      You are an amazing person and you deserve a wonderful life. So take care of yourself and make sure you never hit that wall.
       
       
    • By Jimi Wikman
      Almost every day I see someone posting about stress related illness. I meet people who I see are close to hitting the wall and burning themselves out on a regular basis and it makes me sad. Why do we struggle with this and for what purpose? How can you come back once you hit the wall and what do you do to come back?
      25 years ago I hit the wall. I burned myself out and spent a year in rehab. It was so bad that I once went to the store to buy milk, but had to stop halfway home and call a friend to drive me home. I lived 10 minutes from the store. This experience is one of the worst I have ever experienced and the effect of it will never go away.
      This is why I react when I see people do the same stupid thing as I did and work yourself to the brink of exhaustion. No one will ever thank you for getting burned out and the road back is very long indeed. The worst part is that it is almost impossible for anyone to understand the way getting burnt out feel, so it is hard to find someone to talk to.
       
      How to burn yourself out
      Working hard is not the same as burning yourself out. Working hard is for me how you should work. It is when working hard under constant negative stress happen you risk burning yourself getting burned out. The tricky part with this however is that everyone have different things we respond to with negative stress. This makes it hard to know when you are risking your health and when you are just working hard.
      Stress is when we trigger our natural defense mechanism called "fight-or-flight" or stress response. This is one of our strongest subconscious mental responses and as such it is often something we are not even aware of. In short it is the way our mind defend itself from harm. What we protect ourselves from varies from person to person and it is triggered differently in different people.
      You can for example be a person that handle chaotic environments such as restaurants well, but get stressed over meetings with authorities or economic problems. Other people can be very sensitive to uncertainties and require structure and order to avoid stress. Since this is individual it is very hard to know when you are hurting yourself from stress, or even what type of stress that is harmful. There are symptoms however that you can look out for to help you identify these types of issues
      These symptoms are borrowed from WebMD.
      Emotional symptoms of stress include:
      Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed Avoiding others Physical symptoms of stress include:
      Low energy Headaches Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea Aches, pains, and tense muscles Chest pain and rapid heartbeat Insomnia Frequent colds and infections Loss of sexual desire and/or ability Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing Clenched jaw and grinding teeth Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
      Constant worrying Racing thoughts Forgetfulness and disorganization Inability to focus Poor judgment Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side For me the most common symptom is low energy. I call this "the hole" as it feels like you are trapped in a dark hole mentally. I get this quite often and that is because of my duality in personality where I am both extrovert and introvert. That means that I spend a lot of energy being extrovert at work, but then I need time for reflection for my introvert side to balance that out.
      Not having enough time for reflection at work is one of the most damaging things you can have. This is why the word NO is so important as well as the ability to dedicate time for reflection. Many organizations adapt a policy called No Meetings Day, which basically locks time from being used for meetings. This is so time can be spent on work and focused reflection.
      I have a theory that the reason why so many poor decisions are made in organizations is because everyone is constantly running. With no time to reflect decisions are made in the fight or flight mode. The problem with that is that when you are in that mode you suppress your prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is often referred to the "modern brain" since this is where our ability to plan and take long term decision. This area is also responsible for empathy, which is why some managers appear to be assholes.
       
      How to avoid getting burned out
      Balance you energy
      The first thing I suggest you do right now is to make a list of things that give you energy and what drain you of energy. This is your balance list. This list will help you understand how you are doing mentally and you should update this often in the beginning. For me for example it cost energy to go to parties and I gain energy from writing or watching movies. For you it can be that it give you energy to go to parties and it cost energy to write reports. It all depend on your personality and there are no right or wrong answers.
      Do you have time to do your work?
      The second thing you should do is to look at your work. Do you have enough time to do your job? If the answer is no, then you will burn yourself out sooner or later. This is why many people in stressful jobs jump between employers as the time constraint trigger the fight or flight response. You either get into conflict with your employer or you leave if the stress get to much. So if you are in a situation when time is not enough, then you should talk to your employer to reduce the workload. If that is not possible, then find new employment if possible.
      Do not forsake reflection due to social demands
      Thirdly, and this is mostly for my introvert peers out there, make sure you do not forsake reflection in order to be socially accepted. I know many introverts who feel obligated to go to parties or be social when they should spend time reflecting. This is especially problematic when you are young or when you invest heavily into social media. Do not be afraid to shut down, even if you feel that people think you are weird. You are not weird and everyone that actually matter will not only understand, they will support you in that decision.
      Reflect and listen
      This is important, because it is when you stop to reflect that you can see the signs of you being in danger of burning yourself out. For me I write things like this and as I write I reflect on my own state of mind. For you it can be a walk in nature, mindfulness or just having a cup of tea on the terrace. Also listen to what others are saying. If people ask if you are ok, then stop and reflect instead of instantly respond that you are ok. I actually had members of my team ask me this a coupe of years ago and it led to me taking a few days off as I was getting burned out
       
      What do I do if I burn myself out?
      Ask for help!
      This one is the most difficult one for many. Asking for help is for some strange reason considered to be a weakness, but it is in fact a strength. The ability to ask for help prevent many, many issues in life and I think it is also a prerequisite for personal growth. So do not be afraid to ask for help if you start to feel some of the symptoms above. Go talk to a doctor and also consider talking to a therapist as the injury you have sustained is a mental one. Only the symptoms are physical.
      Accept that you are injured
      Being burned out is not something you can "get over" or "snap out of". It is not you being lazy or weak. It is a mental injury as well as a physical one as your long term exposure of stress hormones have damaged your central nervous system. You need to treat this as a physical injury and by this I mean that you need to give it time to heal. Just as you would not keep running on a fractured leg you should not continue working in the same stressful way with a stress related injury. Let it take the time it need for you to heal.
      Talk to someone who understand
      This is extremely difficult to do, not just for you, but also for the people around you. Many who get burned out are people that naturally work very hard. To these people it is difficult to handle the situation as it conflict with their self image. As people around you do not understand and tell you to "get over it", that affect your self image even more. For this reason you should find someone to talk to who has been in the same situation as you have. Understanding that you are not alone and that this is not something you can just get over will help with those feelings.
      Fill up on positives and cut away all demands
      Nothings feels as heavy as having things that you must do. It can become paralyzing to the point of giving you panic attacks just to meet someone for coffee. So try to cut away on all things that you feel must be done and focus on things that fill you with energy. If you feel like meeting someone or doing something social, make sure that you give yourself a way out if needed. When I meet with people who have suffered a stress related injury I always tell them that if they need to cancel they just send a text. No explanations or excuses are needed. I also advice them to tell others that they are meeting that if they can not make it they will send a text and that they don't need a text back. Most people will understand that and it reduce a lot of the stress.
      Drugs is not the answer!
      When stress related injuries happen your instinct is to avoid the pain it brings. Most turn inwards naturally and avoid people to protect themselves. For some this is either not enough, or they can not handle the social demands. So they turn to drugs to take the edge of the pain and to hide from the world in a sense. An increase of substance abuse, regardless if it is alcohol or drugs is not actually helping however. In fact since your mind is already experiencing depression and low self esteem combined with a reduced capacity of your rational thinking adding drugs and alcohol will only increase the risk of self damage such as suicide.
      Know that you will be ok
      Depression often comes with stress related injuries. Self doubt and the sense of being worthless is common. These things can lead to thoughts of suicide as you see no way out of your situation. This is why it is important to get help early because no matter how bad your situation is and how deep into the darkest corners you find yourself I promise you that you will be ok. Just like all injuries they will heal in time and just like all pain it can become unbearable if you carry it alone. So ask for help and know that the pain you go through is temporary and will eventually fade. 
      You will be ok.
       
      Take care of yourself out there
      Getting burned out is becoming more common these days as we sacrifice empathy on the altar of efficiency. So take care of yourself and balance those energy levels. Talk about it often with friends and family and reflect on your current state of mind regularly.
      No one will ever thank you for working yourself into the wall. Surprisingly enough most people will appreciate you for saying no if you have to much to do. Saying no takes courage and it has nothing to do with weakness.
      You are an amazing person and you deserve a wonderful life. So take care of yourself and make sure you never hit that wall.
       
       

      View full blog article
    • By Jimi Wikman
      It seems that the terms "leader" and "manager" are used a bit casually when you look at role descriptions and titles. The thing though is that they are not interchangeable, but actually have a very distinct definition in my opinion. Leaders lead and managers manage after all and those are two different skill sets.
      Are you a project manager or project leader? That is a question almost no one ever ask, because in most people's mind they are the same. I would argue however that it is not because for me there is a very big difference between someone who lead and someone who manage.
       
      A manager manage.
      "Management (or managing) is the administration of an organization, whether it is a business, a not-for-profit organization, or government body. Management includes the activities of setting the strategy of an organization and coordinating the efforts of its employees (or of volunteers) to accomplish its objectives through the application of available resources, such as financial, natural, technological, and human resources. The term "management" may also refer to those people who manage an organization. "
      - Wikipedia
      Someone with the title manager is often someone who do not directly interact with the people they manage. They handle things like finances, stakeholder communication and reporting. In many ways managers work upwards to satisfy the need of those higher up in the hierarchy. People are often handled indirectly by managers and focus is on delivery and the promise given to those higher up in the organization.
      Henri Fayol have a definition I think is quite accurate:  "to manage is to forecast and to plan, to organize, to command, to co-ordinate and to control."
      Managers need strong skills in strategic planning and structured organization. As they often do not directly work with the people they manage they don't need strong charisma or empathic abilities. That is not to say that managers have these abilities, just that it is less required than for leaders.
      Managers focus on the promise of delivery.
       
      A leader lead.
      "A leader is one who influences or leads others. 
      Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual or organization to "lead" or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations. Specialist literature debates various viewpoints, contrasting Eastern and Western approaches to leadership, and also (within the West) United States versus European approaches. U.S. academic environments define leadership as "a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task"
      Someone with the title leader is someone who directly interact with the people they lead. These are people who manage day to day activities within the team to ensure that the team are doing well. Leaders work downwards towards the team they lead and will shield them from the demands from those higher up in the organization.
      Unlike management, leadership cannot be taught, although it may be learned and enhanced through coaching or mentoring. Erika Andersen, author of "Leading So People Will Follow," says, like most things – leadership capability falls along a bell curve. So the fact is that most folks who start out with a modicum of innate leadership capability can actually become very good, even great leaders.
      We can define a leader and someone who possess a degree of leadership. Leadership can be defined as "The act of inspiring subordinants to perform and engage in achieving a goal."

      In order to have others follow you, you need leadership skills and the respect of those that you lead. Empathy is a crucial skill as is charisma and compassion. As a leader you are also responsible for the promise of delivery and need organizational and strategic planning skills. It is just less required than for a manager.
      Leaders focus on the promise to take care of the people.
       
      Blurred lines between manager and leader.
      It may seem that I make a hard distinction between managers and leaders. I know that the lines between the two are not as cut and dry as this article may suggest. Many managers are also great leaders and many leaders are great managers. The point I try to make is that the titles are not interchangeable, but they actually have a definition.
      I think this is important because as long as we mix these roles when describing what role we actually are looking for, then we will continue to get the wrong skill set. This is even more confusing when adding a role definition based on an ability such as leadership.
      Are you a sword or a shield?
      This is a question I often ask when someone tell me they are a manager or a leader of some sort. Being a sword means that you will sacrifice the people to fulfill the promise of delivery. A shield on the other hand will protect the people even if it means sacrificing the promise of delivery.
      Both of these types of managers are needed in an organization and you can often see the correlation when an organization are over representing one of the two. To many swords lead to a detached workforce and health issues among the teams. To many shields lead to difficulties to grow and economical issues.
      In my perfect world we have a mix of both types throughout the organization. A higher focus on swords are at the top of the hierarchy and a higher focus on the shields are at the bottom. If we combine this with good communication and an organization model that focus work, then you have a perfect work environment.
      So...are you a manager, or a leader?
    • By Jimi Wikman
      It seems that the terms "leader" and "manager" are used a bit casually when you look at role descriptions and titles. The thing though is that they are not interchangeable, but actually have a very distinct definition in my opinion. Leaders lead and managers manage after all and those are two different skill sets.
      Are you a project manager or project leader? That is a question almost no one ever ask, because in most people's mind they are the same. I would argue however that it is not because for me there is a very big difference between someone who lead and someone who manage.
       
      A manager manage.
      "Management (or managing) is the administration of an organization, whether it is a business, a not-for-profit organization, or government body. Management includes the activities of setting the strategy of an organization and coordinating the efforts of its employees (or of volunteers) to accomplish its objectives through the application of available resources, such as financial, natural, technological, and human resources. The term "management" may also refer to those people who manage an organization. "
      - Wikipedia
      Someone with the title manager is often someone who do not directly interact with the people they manage. They handle things like finances, stakeholder communication and reporting. In many ways managers work upwards to satisfy the need of those higher up in the hierarchy. People are often handled indirectly by managers and focus is on delivery and the promise given to those higher up in the organization.
      Henri Fayol have a definition I think is quite accurate:  "to manage is to forecast and to plan, to organize, to command, to co-ordinate and to control."
      Managers need strong skills in strategic planning and structured organization. As they often do not directly work with the people they manage they don't need strong charisma or empathic abilities. That is not to say that managers have these abilities, just that it is less required than for leaders.
      Managers focus on the promise of delivery.
       
      A leader lead.
      "A leader is one who influences or leads others. 
      Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual or organization to "lead" or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations. Specialist literature debates various viewpoints, contrasting Eastern and Western approaches to leadership, and also (within the West) United States versus European approaches. U.S. academic environments define leadership as "a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task"
      Someone with the title leader is someone who directly interact with the people they lead. These are people who manage day to day activities within the team to ensure that the team are doing well. Leaders work downwards towards the team they lead and will shield them from the demands from those higher up in the organization.
      Unlike management, leadership cannot be taught, although it may be learned and enhanced through coaching or mentoring. Erika Andersen, author of "Leading So People Will Follow," says, like most things – leadership capability falls along a bell curve. So the fact is that most folks who start out with a modicum of innate leadership capability can actually become very good, even great leaders.
      We can define a leader and someone who possess a degree of leadership. Leadership can be defined as "The act of inspiring subordinants to perform and engage in achieving a goal."

      In order to have others follow you, you need leadership skills and the respect of those that you lead. Empathy is a crucial skill as is charisma and compassion. As a leader you are also responsible for the promise of delivery and need organizational and strategic planning skills. It is just less required than for a manager.
      Leaders focus on the promise to take care of the people.
       
      Blurred lines between manager and leader.
      It may seem that I make a hard distinction between managers and leaders. I know that the lines between the two are not as cut and dry as this article may suggest. Many managers are also great leaders and many leaders are great managers. The point I try to make is that the titles are not interchangeable, but they actually have a definition.
      I think this is important because as long as we mix these roles when describing what role we actually are looking for, then we will continue to get the wrong skill set. This is even more confusing when adding a role definition based on an ability such as leadership.
      Are you a sword or a shield?
      This is a question I often ask when someone tell me they are a manager or a leader of some sort. Being a sword means that you will sacrifice the people to fulfill the promise of delivery. A shield on the other hand will protect the people even if it means sacrificing the promise of delivery.
      Both of these types of managers are needed in an organization and you can often see the correlation when an organization are over representing one of the two. To many swords lead to a detached workforce and health issues among the teams. To many shields lead to difficulties to grow and economical issues.
      In my perfect world we have a mix of both types throughout the organization. A higher focus on swords are at the top of the hierarchy and a higher focus on the shields are at the bottom. If we combine this with good communication and an organization model that focus work, then you have a perfect work environment.
      So...are you a manager, or a leader?

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    • By Jimi Wikman
      If you have worked in IT in the past 10-15 years or so, you probably have endured the endless regurgitation of meaningless information in a daily stand-up. You have probably felt the anxiety of being judged and been annoyed over your teammates doctoring their results to look more productive. You probably also wished you did not have to go to the meetings once or twice. What if I told you there is a better way to manage daily stand-ups? Because there is.
      First let us figure out what the purpose of a daily stand-up is and where it comes from. The need to organize groups and to collaborate is as old as time itself and while many consider the daily stand-up, or daily scrum to originate from the Scrum framework, that is not true. Regular meetings have been a common practice since long before Scrum, and it is also why it is the most used aspect of Scrum in less than Agile work processes.
      What Scrum did however was to add psychological stress to the formula with the intent of increasing productivity. This was done by putting emphasis on proof of progress rather than collaboration. It is an effective way to shame people into becoming more productive, and it is a typical behavior for extroverts to seek the admiration and praise of others. The downside is increased levels of stress, which is counterproductive. In many cases it also leads to manipulation of data and fragmentation of work, especially in continuous delivery situations where people tend to work on multiple things at the same time.
      For many years Scrum had three questions that was the law to regurgitate every daily meeting:
      What did I do yesterday that helped the development team meet the sprint goal? What will I do today to help the development team meet the sprint goal? Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the development team from meeting the sprint goal? In the 2020 scrum guide they have backed off from this a bit, but they still focus on the feeling of guilt by pushing the conversation towards progress.
      This is even more emphasized in the statement of the benefits of the daily stand-up:
      Again this is clearly written from the perspective of an extrovert because for many introverts this is NOT a forum for improved communication. The idea that the daily stand-up eliminate the need for other meetings is not true. It most certainly can consolidate questions into a more focused forum, which does reduce the need to bother developers and others multiple times, but you often find reasons for more meetings, not less.
      How do we make this better?
      Let us first decide why we want to have daily meetings in the first place. The most obvious reason is to gain control. This is how most managers that are detached from the team see the daily stand-up because it is the only way they can stay on top of things, so they can look good in other meetings. That is not what daily stand-ups are for however and as a manger you should instead manage your time and make sure you work with the team and not act as a proxy.
      The reason we have daily stand-up should be to make sure everyone in the team have a voice and to make sure everyone is informed. By making sure everyone in the team get a voice we can find impediments and help each other solve problems. We can lift concerns and ask questions in a safe setting that allow the team to feel safe. It allows for a common forum for information, so everyone can feel that they have the information they need at all times.
      We do this because questions and doubt are the bane of productivity and team health.
      The first thing we do is to remove the time cap. Our minds are very sensitive to time and performance under pressure, so we remove that. Instead, we add a 30-minute slot every morning where we spend as much time as we need. Sometimes it is just 5 minutes, sometimes we extend the 30 minutes and change it into another type of meeting.
      The second thing we do is remove the need to report what has been done. This is the cause of much anxiety and in a healthy team you should not need that type of information anyway. Instead, we focus on questions, impediments and requests for help. We make sure everyone in the team get a chance to speak, and we make sure that everyone feel safe, so they dare to say what is on their mind. This is important because one thing we want to capture is if time estimates need to be extended or if new tasks might be needed.
      We sort things that come up as team related or personal, so we can focus on the team related issues first and then take personal questions after the meeting to make the disruption as small as possible. To make this disruption even smaller we put the daily meeting as early as possible without limiting peoples freedom. This means that you most likely have people in the team that have kids or other family situations that require them to have some flexibility in the morning and afternoon. 9 or 10 are common times, but you can just as well do this after lunch for example. The aim is to avoid disrupting the team as content switching is bad.
      The final part is for the team lead and architect to inform the team of things happening outside the team that is relevant to the team.
      I strongly suggest that you make this daily meeting as comfortable as possible instead of actually making it an actual stand-up. The reason for that is that most people are more likely to raise questions and ask for help when they are comfortable. If you can align this around a coffee break or breakfast, then that is excellent.
      The summary:
      Schedule the meeting as early as possible without limiting the flexibility of your team members. Go around the team and let everyone ask questions, request help and raise concerns if there are any. Team lead and Architect give information relevant for the team. Confirm activities such as additional meetings or request for information or to solve impediments Grab some water or coffee and then return to work again. I find that these types of daily meetings often lead to better productivity for the simple reason that people feel less stressed when they get information and can get their problems solved. The outcome of these meetings often lead to technical discussions to answer technical questions and sometimes new activities to refactor things that might not have been captured otherwise.
      So if you are stuck in a daily routine of regurgitating Jira numbers where you feel the need to adjust numbers a bit just to look good, then I suggest you give this approach a try instead. 
      Management by fear and intimidation is a poor substitute for making your team feel safe and informed.

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