ENGINEERING MANAGERS INTERVIEWS
#4 Admit Failures As a Leader — Jana Reichel, Team Lead @AroundHome
Jana Reichel transitioned from a Scrum Master role in a team in free-now to a Team Lead at AroundHome. She has a wide perspective on what it means to be a leader in both roles. We talk about the difference between a Scrum Master who is a servant leader who acts more like a “buddy” for the team members and the Team Lead who is their manager. Of course, you can still be a servant leader when managing people. Jana says it helps to state clearly which hat you are wearing at any given moment.
“In the end, this is all about empowering your team. When you are aware of which role, which hat I am wearing right now — am I the friend, am I the leader, am I the Agile Coach? And really make it explicit to your team in which position you are at the given moment — am I giving advice out of my personal experience, or I’m actually using my veto right as your Team Lead? And I say: “No, it’s not going to happen we’re going to do it this way because of this.” Of course you have to explain the reason why.”
Understanding different perspectives
Jana worked for a while as a Product Owner, so she understands the product and business perspective, and she also did some coding during her student years. And then for many years, she worked as an Agile Coach. It all helps her to understand different setups and perspectives which helps her a lot to ultimately make decisions given all those different perspectives.
It’s not just about coding
Again I go back to what I discussed with the previous guests —the developer or QA role is never only about coding, testing, or anything in particular. If you want to grow and progress in your career you need to get out of your comfort zone and learn about the whole product lifecycle process.
“It’s not just about coding. (…) It’s about helping others. It’s about moving your product forward. So that also means you are refining tickets you are working on concept with the Product Owners and Designers. And this is also part of your job.”
Tell me how you deal with failures and I’ll tell you what’s your org culture
An important aspect of psychological safety, trust, the team, and the organizational culture is how we deal with failure.
“How do we deal with failures? Is it okay to fail? And what are the consequences? Of course, usually there are no consequences because the things just happen, they’re just there. No one’s going to come and yell at you or punish you for whatever you have done. But the team has to learn that over time.”
“The first thing that you can do as a leader is admitting failures yourself, and say “Hey, I didn’t really react well in that situation. (…) I want to say sorry that this turned out that way.”
In the interview, Jana gives an example of how she reacted in one situation and how she came to the team and apologized the next day. Explaining also why that particular topic triggered in her a strong reaction. Jana shows how being humble and leading by example can lead to creating a culture of mutual respect and a relationship based on trust. Making mistakes is human, we all make them, it is inevitable. It is how we react to them that proves the organizational culture.
Fall back on Team Agreements
Jana gives a tip about remembering the action items from the Retrospective meeting. Creating and updating Team Agreements on every Retrospective is a great way to foster continuous improvement and record action items from the meeting. This is a way to foster a continuous improvement culture.
“So when the team doesn’t stick to the Team Agreements I remind them of it.
And it’s either in in team meetings like in the daily or other ceremonies that we are having, or I also remind them in one on one sessions whenever I see that things are not working.”
Listen to the full episode on Spotify for more leadership tips from Jana: