Every team member has a role to play when it comes to building an open and collaborative culture. That being said, we naturally look towards our team leaders as role models. As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility (if it’s good enough advice for Spiderman, it’s good enough for us) – when you’re leading a team, it’s important to remember how influential your actions and attitude can be.
At the recent Atlassian Summit, co-founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes spoke about how Atlassian values openness and transparency, and how important it is for them as founders to promote these values. It’s something the Atlassian tools are designed to facilitate – take Confluence as an example, where settings are open by default.
Openness pervades product design and philosophy at @Atlassian
How can we encourage this openness across teams? While everyone has a part to play, leaders can contribute in a major way by allowing themselves to be vulnerable. It’s something that may not come naturally to someone in a leadership role, but if anything, that makes it more important. The journey towards a culture of transparency and openness isn’t always an easy one, but it’s significant: it builds trust and reinforces an honest, positive culture.
Take the following story from Mike Cannon-Brookes, which he told during the Diversity in Tech panel at Summit. When Atlassian went public in 2015, there was, unsurprisingly, a lot of celebration on the cards, which meant a lot of travelling, flying from city to city sometimes multiple times in one day.
Understandably exhausting, which is why Mike found himself unable to make one of the Atlassian office celebrations. He chose to be open about this, writing an internal blog post, and instead of being disappointed he couldn’t make it, which was what he had feared, the Atlassian teams instead appreciated the honesty – even seeing it as a reinforcement of the importance of work-life balance to the Atlassian culture.
Seeing leaders embrace openness and honesty like this has a direct and positive impact on team members.
We know that diverse teams and businesses see more success: gender-diverse companies show a 15% likelihood of financial outperformance, and ethnically diverse companies show 35%. Despite this, the tech industry is still overwhelmingly white and male.
Changing that is a huge project. It’s something that won’t happen overnight, but embracing policies that help build a culture of diversity and inclusion is essential for truly high-performing teams. You want to hire people who have the same values as you, but that doesn’t have to mean hiring someone who looks and sounds like you. This is often the risk of hiring for “culture fit”, where unconscious bias comes into play.
So where do you begin?
It’s easy to look at diversity and inclusion as something secondary; a worthy goal for an organisation, but not something that is business-critical. But one key way of securing investment in diversity and inclusion measures is to present the facts, figures and data as you would when making any business case. It’s a proven fact that diverse teams work better. The numbers should speak for themselves.
It’s a proven fact that diverse teams work better. The numbers speak for themselves.
It’s also important to remember that diversity is one thing, but inclusion needs to go hand in hand with it. Businesses often focus on “diversity” first, and then “inclusion”, but hiring a diverse team will only get you so far if they then leave because of a hostile environment! What is empowering or a perk for one person won’t be for another, and that’s something businesses should consider from the very beginning as they put in the groundwork and build policies that will shape team culture.
A good team is made up of different people, all of whom have different personalities. Your teams are more high-performing like this, but inevitably there will be the occasional moments of conflict in among your collaboration. After all, we’re only human.
If you’re Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founders of Atlassian, you resolve conflicts via a good old game of rock paper scissors (as revealed at the ‘Ask Atlassian’ keynote at the recent Summit).
When it isn’t quite that simple, one of the keys to resolving conflict quickly is not only knowing that people on your team have different personalities, but facilitating the understanding of how those personalities interact. When your team understands the best ways of communicating with each person, the path to collaboration is much smoother; conflict is less likely to arise in the first place, and when it does, it’s much easier to negotiate and get everyone back on track.
And remember, a little bit of conflict can be a good thing! It can be a useful tool for identifying areas for improvement.
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