Maya, a tech lead at LM solutions asked their new employee Sarah for an informal catchup over coffee. After exchanging some pleasantries, Maya mentioned that she noticed Sarah was unusually quiet in the previous two team meetings. “Is something holding you back?”, she asked.
Sarah replied, “I did not understand the solutions that were being discussed in the meeting. Also, I had some questions. I reckon it is because I am unaware of these systems. So I thought it was best not to waste everybody’s time by asking those questions.”
Then she continued, “There also were some instances where I had some ideas. However, I figured I was wrong because no one else came up with those solutions. So today, I spent some time understanding these systems more so that I can participate better in the future meetings”.
Now Maya, understanding the fears that Sarah had, said, “I am happy you acknowledged that you have a lot to learn, and I’m happy you’re taking actions for it. I would also like to mention some important points that I would like you to start doing.”
Seeing that she had Sarah’s complete attention, Maya continued, “When you’re unsure of something, ask questions. Do not let the fear of feeling embarrassed, or the fear of looking ill-informed hold you back. You’ll be surprised at the number of people in the room with similar questions.”
“Secondly, whenever you have ideas, express them. Yes, we do doubt ourselves often and yes, sometimes our suggestions might not work. However, listening to those new perspectives, can help us come up with more interesting solutions as a team. For all you know, your suggestion might be the best one out there. So do share your thoughts openly.”
“I will try”, said Sarah, fidgeting nervously.
“And I will do my part to make it easier for you”, said Maya with a smile.
Sarah smiled back unsure of what that meant. Then they went back to their desks and continued with their work.
The next day, there was another team meeting to discuss the new feature that the team would be adding to their product. The team members were discussing potential solutions.
Maya noticed a confused look on Sarah’s face and asked if she had a question. Sarah, still a little shy, pushed herself to ask the question. “Is there some reason we are thinking about it this way and not that way?”, she asked.
“Oh that’s a very good question”, said Rob. “There are some historical reasons for this”, he said and explained those reasons. Then the team continued with more discussions.
Sarah, a little more confident now, tried to make a point. As she started, John interrupted her to make his own point. After John finished making his point, Sarah tried to speak up again. However, she was interrupted again, this time by Sam.
Rob, noticing this said, “I think Sarah has a point to make. Let’s hear her out first.”
Everyone then turned their attention to Sarah and heard what she had to say.
“This is an interesting solution, but it might not work in our context”, replied John explaining the reasons.
Then some other options were discussed and a decision was reached.
The team members left the meeting feeling happy that everyone’s ideas were heard and a decision was taken.
Now, there are some points from this story that I would like to mention explicitly.
- The team members were encouraged to speak up, ask questions and give suggestions without fear
- It was also recognised that this change wouldn’t magically happen overnight
- Many team members were observant, understanding and put efforts to hear other people out
- They actively seeked other people’s opinions
- They helped others ask questions bravely so that everybody could participate effectively
- One of the best parts was that they encouraged their team members to be brave and not perfect
I hope we all, everybody, can help lift each other up this way. Then, we will all grow as a team.
Thanks to QA TechTalks for providing me a platform to convey this message in the form of a video.