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Tricia Broderick: How to create a support network within your organization

In this episode, Richard interviews Tricia Broderick, an agile coach at Agile for All and an Agile Alliance Board member. She tells us how the feeling of being supported increases the success of the team and shares how to build a support network within any organization. When you finish listening to the episode, connect with Tricia on LinkedIn and Twitter, check out her blog Lead to the Edge, and visit her website at www.agileforall.com.

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TRANSCRIPT

Richard 00:11
Richard:
Hi friends, welcome back to With Great People, the podcast for high-performance teams, I’m Richard Kasperowski. Building a strong support network is a crucial pre-condition for building a thriving society, be it a society as large as a country or as small as a two person team. In this episode, I talk with Tricia Broderick, an Agile Coach and an Agile Alliance board member. Tricia tells us how to build a support network within our teams and how this support could increase the confidence of team members to make informed decisions, take calculated risks, and enhance the team’s success. To support this podcast, visit my website kasperowski.com.

Richard:
Our special guest today is Tricia Broderick. Hi Tricia, how are you?

Tricia:
Hi, thanks for having me on.

Richard:
My pleasure. Will you introduce yourself to our listeners?

Tricia:
Sure. I never know how deep you want me to go. My name is Tricia Broderick. I have been in the tech industry now for over 20 years. I’m a computer science grad. Many people don’t actually realize that I started off actually with attack in coding. You don’t want me coding anymore, it wouldn’t be pretty. But I have been in the Agile Community now officially since 2007, but I actually got exposed to extreme programming back in 1999. And so I’ve been around for quite some time doing different things, lots of different roles from developer, to project manager, to director of development, to now coaching and training and consulting out there.

Richard:
All right, so this is the podcast about teams and about the best teams that people have had in their lives. When you look back at all the teams you’ve been on, and this is work teams or not work teams, and it’s really any group of two or people, who have a shared goal. What’s the best one of these that you’ve been a member of in your life?

Tricia:
I feel like now I get to choose and I feel like I’m choosing my favorite right now, between works. I’ve been really lucky that I’ve gotten exposure and been part of multiple amazing teams throughout my career. But I think the one that stands out the most for me, the one that I’m going to play favorites to, is my senior leadership team while I was at TechSmith. I think the reason it stands out the most for me is because it was a different level. I had created a lot of strong development teams, Scrum Teams, combine teams, whichever just teams in general, working on different things.

Tricia:
But this was the first time that I had created truly a high performing leadership team that across multiple teams and really watched people level up their leadership abilities, not just in what we were delivering in terms of value for our clients, but in terms of their growth and development for themselves, and then watching them grow and develop others. And so I think it was me realizing the scale of the impact a great team can have. And so it probably stands out for me as my favorite, but they’re all my favorites. So in case [inaudible 00:03:27].

Richard:
And my next question is, which one of your kids is your favorite kid now?

Tricia:
Yeah. [inaudible 00:03:39].

Richard:
Tell me about your best kid ever. All right. Oh, actually I want to know more. Tell me more about TechSmith. I don’t know this. What was it?

Tricia:
So TechSmith is a independent software vendor company, actually headquartered in Michigan. They make a lot of visual communication software. So Snagit, Camtasia Studio, whether it’s screen captured and video capture and editing tools. It was probably the first company that I worked for where I had clients and customers that loved what we were building. We built things that met requirements before delivered to different financial institutions. This was my first company that I truly… You were hugged when you went to a conference. And when somebody realized that you made Snagit.

Richard:
How beautiful?

Tricia:
And it was really an incredible experience in that regard, in terms of being a leader, in terms of what we were doing in terms of this connected environment that we were changing, versus what it used to be, where it was everything was just independent on your own machines. And now suddenly everything’s connected, everybody’s expecting to get data and get videos and visuals instantly. And it was really innovative. It continues to be an incredibly innovative company. I’m still an amazingly big fan of them and follow them and still know a number of people that work there.

Richard:
Awesome. All right. So this senior leadership team at TechSmith, we’ve already started going back to them. I can see from your face, you’re thinking about this awesome group. When you take yourself back to this awesome group, take this mental field trip back to that senior leadership team, if you could summarize the sensation of being with them, doing that work together, re-experience what it felt like, and then summarize that experience in one word. What would be your one word to describe the experience of working together with that team?

Tricia:
You’re not going to make this easy for me are you there? I like it. One word, supported.

Richard:
Supported.

Tricia:
You’re going to go with supported.

Richard:
And what does that mean to you in this context?

Tricia:
There’s no roadmap, there’s one way to create a high performing team. There’s no one way to be a great leader. And no matter how many times you are successful, doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful the next time. And there’s an element of being with people, being connected and feeling, you said at the beginning, more than two people with a shared goal, but being part of something where you truly are invested in.

Tricia:
You feel the sense of ownership and you don’t feel alone, you feel like you can experiment with others and that they’re there and to support you and that they’ve got your back and that they’re excited and watching them support each other was probably as the leader, one of the things that filled my take and filled energy for me as watching them challenge each other and then support each other as well as their teams and themselves. And so I just think it’s a different feeling than just not feeling alone, but truly feeling challenged, and yet someone’s got your back.

Richard:
And let’s expand on this. So what else subjectively about this team went into it? How do you know it was such a great team? What were the subjective feelings that go along with supported?

Tricia:
Well, I think one of the things that stands out for me the most now, and it’s probably why the one comes back to me the most and stood out when you forced me to declare one of favorite, is that we remain connected. Out of that group of individuals that came together, I still hear from a majority of them. When we do see each other, it’s almost as if no time has passed. There are still times when I’ll get a text from somebody, I just got a text a couple of weeks ago, and it’s like, do you got a couple of minutes? And we just can still work through a couple of things.

Tricia:
One of the former members actually spent the holidays, one of the days over here at my house in Colorado. Even though I now live in a totally different State and not everybody still works at TechSmith, there’s still a bond and a connection there. And I think that’s part of what truly made it feel supported because it was a by choice. It wasn’t just obligation to be there. And so that continues no matter how much time has passed. And I think that’s one of the reasons that it stands out the most for me as I go forward, is that it still doesn’t feel like it was forever ago.

Richard:
It doesn’t feel like it was forever ago. So it continues, it endures.

Tricia:
Yeah. We have one of the members is now with Ultimate Software down in Florida, and I know that either one of us could contact each other and immediately try and figure out how to support each other or how to take time to just chat or talk, versus somebody else’s in Seattle, somebody else’s… We’re all over the place now. And yet we still make time if needed, when we’re needed and it doesn’t matter. And so it’s a really nice feeling to not feel like it was, “Oh my gosh, how many years has it gone since I’ve talked to you?” And that not be the case.

Richard:
Great. All right. And this same team. So that was subjectively, how do we know it was a great team? How about objectively? Do you have any data, any facts, anything, anything empirical that somebody outside of the team could have observed?

Tricia:
Yes. And in strange ways that it’s still subjective, I guess, in some ways. I don’t know if I ever declared any knowledge work objective. But a couple of things happened that made me really realize that this was different. One just scale. The sheer volume of what we could get done dramatically increased, versus when it was previously as a sole leader, trying to make sure everything’s done as the hub and just what you could all get done dramatically increased. Two, the quality of what they were producing, my senior leadership team was producing, was beyond what I could have ever done myself. I challenged them to come up with some improvements and some goals for upcoming years and what they collaboratively work together in creating was so much better than I could have ever envisioned myself. So I think the quality dramatically increased.

Tricia:
The other element was the way that TechSmith worked at that time was we had two different engineering departments. I was leading one, somebody else was leading another as the Director of Development. And we started actually having people wanting to be in my engineering unit, which from an executive whole perspective of regret that I had in terms of it didn’t make from an overall healthy company perspective and something that I now would do differently a little bit, but there was a concerted effort to create an environment where people felt that they were doing quality work for solving hard, challenging, innovative problems, and feeling, and yet having fun, and wanting to be there.

Tricia:
And it was very intentionally created. It wasn’t something that just happened. And now I can’t always say that was very intentionally of how it happened. That was sometimes experimental and definitely, Oh, so that has having that effect, but it was intentionally to create that environment where we talk about in the Agile Community so much, and to have others not really be able to express why or how, but yet know that this was that type of environment for me was a win, was a situation down to little things.

Tricia:
We had one guy roll his desk out in the parking lot. And in Michigan, you only get so many nice days a year. And the rest of the team rolled their desks out because they were a team and they needed to be together. It’s just strange things that… Versus when we first started with the, what do you mean, I don’t get my own office? And the change in mindset, the change in the approach, the understanding of the power of working together was very powerful to me. I don’t know if I would still call that objective versus slightly more subjective, but I’m going to go with that. Because I don’t know, even know if I have any more data left from any of that stuff too.

Richard:
I love the story of one of the people moving the desk outside, and the whole team joining, because [crosstalk 00:12:55], so we got to do this together.

Tricia:
It was together. One way or another.

Richard:
This is silly, but there there’s one concrete behavior that went into this being a great team. They followed each other out into the parking lot. What were some of the other concrete behaviors? Specifically, we’re talking about the leadership team. So what were some of the concrete behaviors that you engaged in together as a leadership team that went into this team’s greatness?

Tricia:
Yeah. I too jumped out immediately when you said it. I’m sure I can think of even more, but two immediately are things that I now actively continue to look for in high-performing teams. One is a desire to give and receive feedback and not do it anonymously. If this was a muscle we had to build up, this wasn’t something that we were accustomed to, this is tough, feedback is tough for anybody, whether it’s even positive or negative, constructive or positive. Give me a compliment and watch how fast I can deflect that thing. It’s actually harder for me sometimes to take the compliment feedback than the constructive criticism. And this was something that we built, we kept building onto, we kept making it just an expectation and doing it, not through me as a hub as the executive, but directly.

Tricia:
And what does that mean? And one of my favorite moments was a lead developer sitting in my office and going, can I? I Would like to give that feedback directly. How can I do that? And going, “Yes. Yes, this is happening.” And now it became just a expectation and a standard so much that I had somebody reach out to me a few, a while after I had left and moved to Colorado to say it made them sad that he was in a meeting, he was presenting something and he got done. And he was like, “And nobody gave me any feedback.” And I always had you or others to give that. And I think that just became such a normal, but in a positive, not a, let’s gear up for the end of the year performance reviews and slam you with a hundred thousand things.

Tricia:
And so that was one element. And then the other one that came to my mind really quickly was something a UX designer had said, but really applied to everybody. And in my department was we’re getting… How did she put it? Something to the effect of, she said it as, when my going away surprise party that they did was, we’re so used to change that when things are not changing more now uncomfortable, and for me that was… She couldn’t have given me a better compliment. Even though it was, I’m not even sure she really understood fully what she was impacting me with was just an element of, we’re constantly experimenting.

Tricia:
And it’s okay. And we don’t have to latch so onto something, whether it’s good or bad until we truly experience it. And even if we experienced it one way, doesn’t mean it stays that way. And so to just start getting used to embracing change as a constant, but doing it in a way that goes back to feeling supported, was really two things I think that immediately jumped to my mind when you asked the question. I’m sure there’s tons more, but those were the two that jumped to my mind immediately.

Richard:
Nice. I want to dive a little deeper into this feedback behavior. What was the style of feedback? How did you encourage people to give and receive feedback? How did this practice get spawned?

Tricia:
Oh, you want me to go on a soap box? That’s where you want me to go?

Richard:
I’m really curious about this. This is something that I like to teach people about, but we’re talking back before I knew about feedback as a positive thing. I had always experienced it as something that gets done to you at the end of the year like you said. And there’s a hundred thousand things that you can’t really pay attention to because it’s too much much information. So how did this idea spawn? How did you grow this practice of feedback?

Tricia:
I spawn this out of pure hate. I had so many pet peeves and annoyances and frustrations when it came to feedback because yeah, and it was weird for me because even if I’d get this glowing performance review at the end of the year, I would concentrate on that one negative thing that was said, but it wasn’t even that negative. But yet for me, it was like, might as well have not said anything good. And it was, I never seem to be healthy mentally, whenever this stuff came around. And I started thinking more in terms of when did I feel healthy mentally, when it came to feedback? And it was always more around the feedback I got from my mentors. And it was always centered more in terms of like David Hussman once asked me to do something and he was challenging me.

Tricia:
And he just sent it back to me he’s like, “No, no, no, you can do better.” And I wasn’t insulted. I wasn’t. I’m like, “Oh yeah, I know I can.” And so I was like, how do I create feedback in an organization that have more of that feel, where it doesn’t feel like I’m just judging you, but I’m actually challenging you. And I’m doing it in a way to that’s really about you, not about what you’re doing for me. And I think that’s part of the challenge that comes in organizations is, so many of the performance reviews are about your goals for the company goals. And that’s important, I’m not dismissing that. I had somebody once to go, “Well, that must be nice. She can just pay anybody if she wants. And she doesn’t have to worry about delivering for clients.”

Tricia:
I’m like, “First of all, that’s obnoxious. And second of all it’s, we’re not cogs in a wheel with it.” And you can put all the goals at a company level, but if they can’t feel personally, truly they can move that, that’s not helping them grow. And so I started really coming at it from that growth mindset, that experimentation in terms of looking at it. And honestly it was trial and error to really start. And I had a couple of principles that I think have stayed with me almost the whole time. One, I never gave feedback I couldn’t own myself. So as the leader, or as the manager, I didn’t play any of the somebody told me, I don’t think that’s true, but some… None of those games, if I couldn’t own the feedback, that feedback wasn’t getting delivered, because that was something that had happened to me multiple times where it’s like, “I think you’re great, but some people think…” And I’m like, “What do you do with that?”

Tricia:
And then you create a lot of trust issues. So it was always really important that I gave feedback that I could speak to, give specific examples to, that I could do. And I’m not doing these in any order, I’m going off the top of my head, so another key principle was I had to really be in a mind space that this was given to them because I’m trying to challenge them, not because I’m reprimanding them. And if I really have somebody that’s not doing their job, that’s not feedback for me. That is something that I need to be directly getting training. What’s going on? Directly addressing, I don’t want to intermingle those two things. If I have a performance, actual performance issue where somebody is not doing their job, that is nowhere in the same vicinity as feedback for me, that is something that is directly a plan that has to be addressed immediately with very, very clear things separate, does not wait for reviews, does not wait. It is instant.

Tricia:
Luckily I haven’t had too many of those situations, but I did make a very clear distinction between those. The other principal that I had was really focused. I don’t know if this is the right formula. Honestly, it just worked for me for awhile. Is I would try and do three, really like, here’s the things that I’m seeing you stand out this month, or this quarter, or this… Whatever the frequency, it was never just yearly. It was month or less. So I guess that’s another principle. It was frequent. Here’s the things that I see really you standing out from. And here’s the thing that I want to challenge you in with it. The way that I twisted it a little bit for my senior leadership, because that’s the team that we were speaking specifically for that I leveled it up was I gave them information, but that was just information I wanted them to.

Tricia:
What are the three things you’re most proud of? And what is the thing you want to challenge so that I can support you on? Because at that point, unless you’re talking about they’re not doing a good job or not doing the job at all, what they want to challenge themselves with is going to be way… They’re more invested in it. Though, to have more ownership, they’re more likely to make progress on it than me telling them to work on something that they don’t really want to work on. I’ve had people telling me for years, do more writing, do more writing. I don’t want to do more writing guess what’s not been done? More writing.

Tricia:
And I think we tend to focus a little bit on that versus letting them challenge themselves. So I wish I would have done more of that. I’ll tell you something else that I wish I would’ve done more of now that I didn’t do for that team though. Two, that I have a principal now is just timing. One, I started reading a lot more about some of the neuroscience that’s out now. So it’s not my fault. I didn’t know about it then, because it’s just neuroscience now, but in terms of how our brains actually start to protect ourselves, depending on where we are in terms of positives to negatives. And I do think there were times that because my frequency was like, just do it frequently, make it a no big deal thing and constant, I’m not always sure that they were in a space to need it or want it in that moment.

Tricia:
In the next round, I think I will create something to have some way of an indicator of, do I want this feedback now? Or do I not? Because we were doing it even in little moments like finish a meeting, I might give you a quick, here’s something you awesome you did, here’s something I would see. And I would even crumble up the paper afterwards, because it wasn’t about logging it. It wasn’t about documentation, it was just me constantly challenging you and leveling you up and then asking for it as well. One of the hardest things is the mixed messages you can send as a leader of going, “Hey, what am I doing? What do you want me to be doing more of, less of?” With those things and craving that environment.

Tricia:
Because if it’s just one way, it starts to branch over into that, here’s what you need to do, feeling not, here’s how I’m challenging you. But it’s hard. I don’t go under the whole, this is the perfect wording because every deaf person is different in terms of how to word it for that individual. There’s definitely pros and cons. There are definitely don’t do certain things, but I think it’s way more about the relationship and the trust between the individuals as to how you can and deliver that feedback.

Richard:
All right. I love that I get to talk with awesome people like you about interesting topics like this. And every time I do this, I learn something. So as you’re talking, I’m thinking about some of the people who work with me and things I could be doing better in my relationships with them. So I’m going to try some of this later on today.

Tricia:
Well, and it’s hard. It’s hard to not do the harsh startup where you’re annoyed by something and you want to quickly just respond to it. But the reality is getting to behind why they’re doing that thing. Because unless you think they’re maliciously trying to piss you off, the reality is, there’s something else is going on and finding that balance with it. But it’s hard. Our brains are wired to protect us. And none of this makes it easy at times.

Richard:
Yeah. So there’s so many, so many good ideas in that brief expository about feedback. What other advice? Is there any other advice you would give to listeners for how they could reproduce the success of that leadership team?

Tricia:
One of the things that we did was actually followed, it was called The New How process. God, I’m going to blank on the-

Richard:
The New How. What is that?

Tricia:
The New How. I’m going to blank on the author’s name. But I had somebody in the office give me a book. I read it. It was called The New How. It’s been around for quite some time. And the essence of the book was about a lot of times how there’s what she called an air sandwich, where the executive team will get together, they’ll do a lot of brainstorming and they’ll have this vision. And then there’s this level of, once it gets put down, how it morphs and gets implemented and executed is very different. But a lot of times the managers in the middle is, why is it really happening? And do those two things connect? Why we have so much of a gap often in terms of vision and implementation and not a true sense of shared ownership throughout the organization?

Tricia:
If it really boiled it down, it was basically problem solving. It was figure out the problem, come up with possible solutions, implement one of the experiment. The actual process itself that’s documented in the book and I’m not giving it specific names or the names that she gave, wasn’t really that honestly like, “Oh my gosh.” And yet having it gave a roadmap for my team to work together and going, “No, I’m not going to just give you the solutions. This is the step we’re in. You’ve got to go brainstorm the possible problems.” And they had to go through the process. They went through it hating me at times. I’m pretty sure there were multiple times that they were like, their bonding was over their angst at me for making them do this. But it actually helped because then it became less of a dependency on me and that this was my brain child of how we’re going to do this, but “Hey, we’re going to experiment with this book and what they’re saying and let’s try it.”

Tricia:
And it really did help keep us going in terms of momentum. I’m a big fan of John Kotter’s, Leading Change and different models along those lines. And this one did the same thing for us with that. So I think having something bigger than any one team needs to address, for us, we needed a bigger superordinate goal. And that was specific to our development team. That our team could actually feel like they could make a change on. It couldn’t be just make our customers happy. Yes, that’s beneficial but yet, how every one of us could implement that could be drastically different. They needed a problem that they felt a true sense of control and ownership over that they wanted to work on.

Tricia:
And for them it was how do we create a cohesive engineering department? And out of that came all these amazing ideas of, everything from shared communication boards, to a riff off of, I think it was Google’s 20%. They actually had a, make TechSmith better by Monday, Fridays. So every Friday that anybody in the department could work with anybody on any different thing and they could make TechSmith better by Monday initiative. I would’ve never come up with it. It was brilliant. But they had these bigger super oriented goal that crossed their individual teams and their individual client goals to come together to work together. And I think having that process, which gave them that bigger goal is really one of those things that helps cement them together.

Richard:
Beautiful. I love the name of that practice. The let’s make TechSmith better by Monday, Friday.

Tricia:
Yeah. I don’t think they still do it, but it was a really amazing experience. It was something that if I go back as practitioner again, I would definitely try and do another round of that.

Richard:
Yeah. All right. Now, is there anything else you’d like to add? Anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

Tricia:
With making teams great, I think the thing I advocate the most for is two parts. One, I am not a friend of Dilbert. I really disliked the Dilbert cartoon. And here’s why, is because everybody it’s about learning and unless you’re a leader and then you’re an idiot. And I just don’t believe in that. And so I think there’s an element of, stop vilifying managers and executives, and instead creating a space where they can learn and feel safe to learn and experiment too. And I don’t think we always create that. We want them to solve all of our problems. And in the end, the reality is the only way our problems get solved is by having leaders that don’t solve our problems, that create spaces where we can all share the ownership and feel a sense of investment and feel sense of place because that’s where the best innovation comes.

Tricia:
But it’s a scary place for leaders. It’s a scary place for teams and my leaders that really have… Like what my colleague, Jay Calvary says, “The good intention leader that don’t be a jerk leader,” is really a great step. And it does make a difference, but you’re also the hope often, you hear that. You’re also the person that says, “I can’t possibly take a day off. I can’t let any balls drop.” And when you’re in that mindset as a leader, chances are you have all the ownership.

Tricia:
And so if you’re finding your team’s not stepping up to the next level, as hard as it is, start from within, start with yourself and it’s scary and it’s tough. And honestly, it’s not super supportive in the industry, which is why I hate the Dilbert cartoon and some of the commentary that we have even in the Agile Community, but it’s necessary. And so that’s where I advocate for, I speak to is being a leader is hard and there is no one way, there is no one approach and there’s a lot of pressure. And so we have to do a better job at supporting our leaders so that we can create these great teams, so that we can create these environments where people are just kicking butt and taking names. And that’s what it’s all about for our clients, for delivering value, for ourselves in terms of our own growth.

Richard:
Beautiful, beautiful. And if any of our listeners would like to contact you, is there a way they can do that?

Tricia:
I am on LinkedIn, just with my name. I am on Twitter, but I only respond to direct tweets. I am on Twitter, but I’m not actively on Twitter unless I’m at a conference, then I’m actively on Twitter. I also have a blog, leadtotheedge.com. And I post a lot of short, because I said the writing things, see that was one of the challenges of the writing thing earlier. But I write just quick, little short, often ranty topics, because that’s my job out there on the blog as well. And then also with Agile For All, our website as well.

Richard:
All right. Tricia Broderick, thank you so much for making the time to chat today. I really enjoyed hanging out with you. Thanks so much.

Tricia:
Thank you. Thanks for having me. And it’s always a pleasure every time.

Richard:
Hi friends, thanks again for listening. And remember to support this podcast, visit my website, kasperowski.com.

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