Setting others up to succeed

2019-01-12

You don't need rank, or title to set others up to succeed. All you need to do is recognize an opportunity and ask the right questions. I've gotten work closely with a brilliant mentor. He excels in testing and know how to teach to boot. But he wasn't thriving at our client. He's expressed frustration with his client reviews in the past. He couldn't find the right place to help the client teams learn and value his experience.

Then about a two months ago, our team split in two. My mentor and I were group with three brand new team members. And I saw an opportunity. Since our team members were new, the team was in the forming/storming stage. It was a time we could move towards good principles. So I asked if we could add unit testing as a standard task for estimation. I suggested that we needed UI level unit tests, because our React UI had grown large and complex. Having unit tests would increase the confidence of our newer team members. The team agreed, and so we began to check for unit tests with our code reviews.

It is worth noting that I hadn't planned this to be a step towards encouraging my team to learn from my mentor. Nor had I planned that it would produce an opportunity for my mentor to engage and being to love his work again. I only sought an incremental improvement. Scrutinizing and testing our code was a way to do that.

As the team adjusted to doing unit tests, I used many code reviews to spread knowledge. I would recommended a team member to speak with my mentor, because of his skill in the area of testing. Or I would spend some time sharing what my mentor had taught me. As a result, He and I both spend time with our new team members teaching them how to unit test both with ease and efficacy. After a while, the new team members would seek out my mentor's help before a code review!

This week, I realized what I had done. One of our Junior team members mention that the unit testing had caught a bug before the QA. He mentioned this unprompted during our daily stand-up. It was then that I recognized the change I had help to bring about. I hadn't forced it. I had not even set out with that whole end or this particular path in mind. I knew I wanted our team to follow good principles. I knew I wanted to help my mentor enjoy his work again. I knew my mentor was a bastion for the practice I started encouraging on the team.

I helped guide the team into fertile territory to help solve both problems. I never had to mandate anything, nor did I ever wield authority. I only suggested improvements. And I referred them to a wiser man than I. I have mentioned influence in previous posts. I think this is an example of what it looks like. And I want to encourage the reader in their good work. You can improve the world around you, if you can pick a small next step, and build on it.