I’ve had great experiences leading people in STEM roles; but I’ve also led teams of people you might not think about as “technical.” In high-growth or fast-paced environments, it’s easy to overlook or undervalue people who aren’t writing code, and it’s also important to remember that those same people and teams often represent the most diverse parts of the organization.
These essays and projects reflect some of how I go about creating diverse, psychologically safe, and inclusive teams.
Open door guides
One project I am most proud of involved guiding the development of guides to a company open door policy. Our CEO had been talking to women around the company about the challenges they faced, and one that came through clearly was an uncertainty about how to navigate open-door conversations with their managers and leaders.
The project wasn’t without controversy, and finishing it meant finding common ground between a number of stakeholders who couldn’t always agree on what language to use, or how to create an approach that empowered employees and educated managers.
Over the years since we finished the project, people have let me know that the guides have been useful to them as they’ve tried to figure out how to approach their manager with a problem. And a senior leader who felt resistant to the project when we first developed it told me over lunch one day, “you were right: we weren’t really listening to people. Those guides helped us do a better job.”
Managers and inclusion
As much as two years of pandemic were challenging and disruptive, there was a certain democratizing quality to everyone having the same-sized tile on a group video call. As businesses begin to shift their teams to a hybrid-remote footing, some old challenges are presenting themselves anew:
- Is everyone on the team part of the conversation, or are people struggling to be heard?
- Do the people in the conference room make sure they’re talking to the people on the screen as well as around the table?
- Does the team share the responsibilities of note-taking and facilitation equally? Or recognize that one person’s chore is another person’s development opportunity?
Technical leadership groups – architecture groups, steering committees, tiger teams, etc. – can gather senior talent together to solve big problems. The last thing a lot of the people on these teams want to do is spend time thinking about how they’re organized or facilitated. These notes on technical leadership groups can help avoid a few common pitfalls, set the right expectations on how the groups should work, and point out that running these groups inclusively is a way to ensure the next generation of technical leadership is being prepared.