When coaching our delivery teams, it is critical that we set aside specific time for inspecting and adapting together because it helps us find opportunities for ourselves and our teams to grow and improve. To me, retrospection is the most crucial aspect of creating and leading great teams, as it provides a concrete foundation for understanding how we can deliver more effectively and work with others to build a specific plan for achieving that outcome.
While we typically carve out time for our teams to retrospect on improving, my aim when working with my customers is to foster relentless improvement as a mindset— not just an event that the teams participate in. By exemplifying the traits outlined below, leaders, coaches, and team members can better identify and solve the problems around people, culture, and process that are slowing you down.
Through my experience as a coach, I’ve noticed that the people and teams who best exemplify a continuous improvement mindset are the people and teams that:
1. Don't Fear Failure
The most important aspect of a continuous improvement mindset, in my opinion, is being able to fail forward and do so with grace. Learning from a failure is one of the best ways for you and your teams to grow and improve. As a leader, it is also important to face a failure with an attitude that helps your people get better so your people will grow.
2. Accept Feedback with Grace and Vulnerability
We often hear people say that “feedback is a gift,” but very few people truly exemplify this key trait. By welcoming feedback early and often, we can find ways to improve that aren’t obvious to ourselves. One key here is to figure out how you personally receive feedback and find the time and space for people around you to provide you feedback in a way that makes you feel comfortable.
3. Measure What Matters!
It is difficult to improve what you can’t measure. However, people and teams tend to use metrics in a way that do not foster conversation around how we can improve. Find the metrics that help you discuss the problems you want to solve and collaborate on how you can go about improving those metrics in a way that makes you or your team better every day.
4. Exemplify Radical Ownership
When you come across a problem or an issue or receive feedback, OWN IT! If you and your teams can own a problem, you can begin to break down the reasons why that problem existed in the first place. Instead of placing blame on someone else, take radical ownership and know that you and your teams can always be a part of every solution, even the ones you do not directly control.
5. Be an Empathetic Listener
Empathetic listening allows us to feel what others are thinking and feeling in a conversation. By walking with those around us, you can better understand the culture of how your team works and the culture of the organization around you. Empathetically listening when problems arise is an important part of identifying solutions that can help you improve yourself and your work environment.
Call to Action
Here is an idea: As you head into your next team retrospective, write down these continuous improvement traits and bring them to your conversation. Do you or your team fear failure when discussing issues? Is feedback well given and received? Are you measuring the most important items that will help you improve? Are you and your team owning issues, or placing blame elsewhere? Are you all truly listening to one another, or just looking for a chance to talk?
Considering these traits and working to incorporate them into your day-to-day activities will help you build your continuous improvement mindset and will not only set you up to be high performing, but also create a culture or trust that is critical to our delivery.