In software development we have a term for design or architectural decisions that will ‘save time now,’ but will not be great building blocks in the future called ‘tech debt.’ A similar phenomenon may happen in project management that I’m calling morale debt: a decision is made that will not build up, empower, or strengthen the team, but will produce a sense of expediency.
It is known that tech debt will need to be repaid, often with interest, but leading people into morale debt comes with a steep cost that can be much greater to recover from. Once a leader forces an issue, violates trust, and removes ownership from individual contributors earning trust again can take months to years.
Morale debt may cause an entire organization to operate with great dysfunction [see also: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team] because at the core of morale debt comes a destruction of trust. You don’t borrow from a pool of funds, you reset to a negative balance instantly, and the payback must be done in installments, it can’t be repaid in 20 minutes. All apologies only start on the path to reestablishing trust. Steps will have to be taken to regrow trust and a new history of trust will have to be created.
One violation, but hundreds of steps to correction. On top of that morale debt may cause teams to dysfunction as sides become politicized and so causing trust to be lost and morale to be destroyed could be needing repayment for months at different layers.
Morale debt is not insurmountable, but if you ignore it, you will be crawling on your knees for miles in the hope that penance has been paid. Don’t do it. Move slower; move deliberately; check your emotional intelligence, and seek counsel from those you trust.
Debt sucks, morale debt may be a death knell for your organization.
As a citizen: go vote. Russia, and any other foreign influencer, cannot be influential if you’ll just go vote with an informed mind.
Don’t read a million newspaper headlines, read real articles. Don’t read Facebook rants, read real research. And vote. Every time. With information.
Every citizen who can legally vote, should. Then the meddling accusations go away because informed citizens are protecting their country through civic duty.
When was the last time you were encouraged? What sort of day did that help you have? I encouraged one of my team yesterday because I could see a few events in recent history had put her on guard. We talked about framing. We talked about how she could take action without overstepping her bounds, but still move with confidence.
She shared some concerns she had and we talked them through. I think we left the room heading in the right direction emotionally, and with a clear sense of purpose. Not only that, but with her having some autonomy and letting her shown what she had mastered so far. It was great because I got to do a positive thing.
How intentional are you about encouraging your team, to be a beacon of hope?
– the MGMT
If there’s one thing that we all need it’s the truth. What we don’t need is a bunch of glad handing wrapped around the problems we’re facing. There may be a few members on some teams that are genuinely unable to deal with the reality that they need to grow, but maybe those are people who shouldn’t be on their teams, but instead go back to Oz, where nobody ever dies and nobody is ever harmed (except the witch).
When you have to deliver bad news check your culture and make sure that the pooh sandwich isn’t part of it. The pooh sandwich is traditionally called a $#!t sandwich, but we don’t use that sort of language here. You make the buns out of complements, but deliver the fecal matter in the middle. The supposed psychological benefit is that you start and stop on high notes. But it is better to be transparent and real. If you’re frank with me I’ll be frank with you.
Before delivering the tough talk you’ll want to think about what you’re going to say to be clear. How can you let them know what the expectations are so that they will not misread things. I tend to want to pad everything so nobody gets hurt or has any sense of offense, but this is not that time. You need to be clear more than you need to be a cloud of corrective light. It doesn’t mean you should be kind, it means you shouldn’t have on kid gloves and mask the issue for fear of causing someone to have to grow.
You may need to come up with a plan for how you expect them to address thir issue. You may need to plan a meeting in a week to review how things are being addressed. You may need to have your own personal plan outlined.
Once you clearly speak the concern or issue you need to ask your team member if they understand. You need to get that they get you. Then you need to ask them if they have questions about what you said, what you’re expecting, etc. Then ask them if they would like some examples of how to plan and execute the change. Many people won’t want it, but be prepared.
I don’t like bad news! But I like the trust that comes with honesty. If you need me to up my game then tell me so. Honesty builds trust, evendors if it makes us sore a bit. Keep the pooh sandwich off your managerial menu.
How have you received bad news?
– the MGMT
When I think about what the most important ingredients for a team dynamic are I think of caring.
Does your team sense that you’re aloof? Do you focus on the next career move? Do you ignore their problems? Do they find you difficult to engage? Do you care? Do they know you care? That’s a lot of questions, but caring is an important thing to reflect on because if you don’t care about your team, as a group and as individuals, they’ll pick up on it and you’ll be losing their focused energy if they have it to give. Caring for your team is critical.
I was asked in an interview once, “What is your greatest weakness?” And my answer was, “I care about my team too much.” I really invest myself in them and I want to know them and I want them to know they’re cared for deeply and personally. Sometimes this can color my perspective. However, if I’m not deeply invested in those I’m working with then they’re not likely to put in the effort required to exceed expectations and deliver on what we own as a team.
What are your most important team dynamic ingredients?
– the MGMT