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Building Resilient Teams

A recording of our recent Lead Time Live panel, plus meeting notes

October 21, 2021

In this Lead Time Live Panel on November 10th, 2021, Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range, leads Lena Reinhard, Jen Dennard, and Dan Shapiro in a panel discussion on running remote teams.

They discuss how to build your own personal resilience as a leader, as well as how to build resilient teams.

Check out the recording above, or a copy of the live meeting notes below (original Range Meeting notes here).

Building Personal Resilience

You need resilient leaders to build and lead resilient teams. What’s a mindset or practice you’ve found useful for cultivating your own resilience in the face of challenges?

Lena

  • Having something to cling to is one of the key traits of resilient people. Could be values, etc. Something that remains stable in the face of change.
  • Leadership values: arrived at them over time after making lots of difficult decisions. Able to use them for guidance going forward.
  • Clear strategy: helps orient self to provide stability for the rest of the team.
  • “Guide posts”

Dan

  • Loss aversion: isn’t true for Dan. If he thinks about something horrible that might happen, it becomes paralyzing.
  • When difficulty arises, thinks about the worst case scenario, reaches personal peace with the bad thing happening, and then turns towards opportunities for growth. Finds reaching towards goals more motivating and enabling than focusing on the loss.

Jean

  • Understanding how to overcome each individual challenge can also be empowering. Developing plans for recovery up-front.

Jen

  • Asks self “what about [that worst case scenario] feels so bad?” Takes a curious approach to adversity.
  • Thinks about her own abilities. The sense of ability and support is something that can’t be taken away.

Building Team Resilience

What practices have you found most effective in building resilience on teams?

Dan

  • Antipattern: secrecy. People working in silos results in a thriving rumor culture. In the absence of context, everything was a big deal.
  • “Building up callouses”: sharing enough of the rough stuff so that people have the context to react to any given change.
  • Shares pretty much all information during company all-hands. May shock new hires, but transparency becomes the norm and people learn to be resilience when not all news is good.
  • This is opposite from cultures where truth is only followed by bad news.
  • Monthly all-hands with full business update, and weekly all-hands that do deep dives into specific topics as a way to share information.

Jen

  • “Building up a habit”: what you do on a daily and weekly basis with your team is what prepares them for uncertainty in your business.
  • Only focusing on the positive metrics leaves the team unprepared to handle the negatives.
  • Different people process things differently: in addition to announcements during team meetings, also follow up with email, other ways of communicating, etc.

Lena

  • The bone analogy: our bones are always growing and being damaged and are always there. Supports the idea of building habits to keep the bones healthy.
  • Difficult to build resiliency “quickly” in response to things like the global pandemic, etc without habits.
  • Create safe space to talk about even the little things that go wrong on an ongoing basis to help build those muscles.

The importance of gratitude and reflection

Cultivating gratitude is an important practice for resilience - all too often it’s easy to gloss over a seamless launch or something really great someone did on your team. How do you encourage your team to pause and celebrate and appreciate what’s going well?

Jen

  • Integrating gratitude and celebration into existing habits. In Range, we’re able to encourage people to share things or people they’re thankful for into their Check-ins. It also helps to have the gratitude shared across the team and amongst peers instead of just in one direction.
  • We do a “gratitude corner” during our cycle recaps where teammates can thank each other instead of just from the leader.

Lena

  • Can be difficult when the focus is on “learning on failure”, which results on a lot of time being spent on the bad parts of a project.
  • Make a Slack channel, document, shoutouts during company meetings as opportunity to share specific instances of gratitude. Visibility helps make it a normal part of the culture. Models the behavior you want to normalize.

Dan

  • Seen a poor example of gratitude being shared for people that nobody knows, eventually spirals into a competition of who gives the most thanks, etc.
  • The opposite extreme is having a culture where nobody says thank you in public settings (as an attempt to avoid the first example).
  • Creating structure for times to share something they’re proud of or something they want to thank someone for. Resulted in a “torrent” of thank you’s. Became a Slack channel. Is now a normal part of company culture.
  • Surfacing situations where somebody on one team could really use a “thank you” from people on other departments, levels helps promote cross-team gratitude.

Lena

  • Senior-level positions do express fear of forgetting people during thank-you’s. Ways to address: still give specific gratitude to people. Also go ahead and ask for feedback about who’s doing the work and who deserves kudos.

Jean

  • Fear as a leader: giving “thanks” to a person on a team that turns into weird team dynamics. Asking for more feedback from teams also helps this.

Realism, Transparency, Positivity

When we talk about celebration and gratitude, you could imagine a version of that that is very sugar-coated, and people don’t talk about the real stuff. How do you balance positivity/optimism with safety to talk directly about real problems? As a leader, how much transparency is useful?

Dan

  • Announced great company news, but company hesitates to celebrate because there’s other problems that haven’t been addressed yet.
  • Opposite extreme of no celebrations also felt empty.
  • “I’m a professional optimist.” As a leader, it’s actually his job to highlight the optimism of what we do. It doesn’t need to ignore challenges, but it’s about making sure the positives don’t get lost.
  • Being mindful of “scope” when working with challenges and opportunities. If it’ just a small group who has challenges, then don’t expand it to the entire company.
  • Accept the reality of what’s happening, and find balance in it.

Lena

  • People know if you’re glossing over things or being overly-optimistic. Sad customers, tech, etc are a normal part of the process. Hold both and make space for both the positives and the negatives.
  • Create clarity around the good and bad things. “Here’s what we’re doing about X” as a way to reduce uncertainty.
  • Be present with your team and listen to them. Understanding how our teams are doing and being able to reflect that back via one-on-ones and open conversations as a way to keep those healthy channels open for feedback.
  • Following up on feedback with actions to build trust. If they see changes in response to their feedback, then they’ll be more likely to keep providing feedback moving forward.

Jen

  • Does an individual feel like they have agency over a problem? This is determined around whether a problem is acknowledged by the company, acted on, etc.
  • Sharing news that others don’t have agency over or can’t be part of the solution can be damaging for people’s sense of agency at the company in general. Responsibility of leaders to not share certain news.
  • Create dedicated spaces to celebrate wins and then to discuss the losses at different times.
  • Allow your team to be part of the solution.

Jean

  • +1 about being clear on why you’re sharing something with the team (selfish or problem-solving?).
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Range Sneak Peek

In the panel, Range's co-founder Jen shares a sneak peek of a new reporting feature in Range, that helps leaders analyze their team's status updates by any topic and time period they choose. Check out the demo here, and stay tuned for launch news!

Upcoming Event

We'll be running regular Lead Time Live events, and hope you can join us for the next one on December 8th. Jen Dennard and Jean Hsu will be running a workshop on Looking Backward, Looking Forward, that will equip you with the tools you need to lead your team in 2021 reflections and kick-off 2022 planning.

Reserve your spot

Building Resilient Teams
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