To make sure your team keeps on developing, you need leaders like Berit Karlsson who is finding new ways of continuous learning at work. Let’s see what we can learn from this inspiring and energetic servant leader from Gothenburg.
“I am the kind of leader that stands in front of my team when its windy and behind them when the sun is shining. Right now, we are digitalizing the B2B customer journey from end to end. Our mission is to bring Telia closer to our enterprise customers by an improved online availability. Something that we hope will lead to increased sales and self-service. It’s a big job and I lead over 30 people in five development teams. My job is to make sure that everyone delivers to their absolute best capacity. But it is also my job to ensure that everyone grows and learns new things at work. By a clear focus on reflection in the projects, we improve ourselves and make sure that we avoid doing the same mistakes over and over again.”
Learning by working
“In all my teams I use a method that we call a “retro”. Basically, it means that every two weeks, we look back at what we have done, what we have achieved and what we have learned. I gather the team together to understand how to move forward. Has there been any change in the requirement? In the brief? In the budget or other resources? By always looking back and reflecting together, I can ensure that we don’t just continue working in the same way. But the key is to put the learnings to work, so after reflecting on these areas, we decide how to change and improve ourselves before we throw ourselves into the next sprint.”
Reflecting makes leading easier
“These retros have made our work a lot better, and everyone feels that they grow with the team as we put new learnings into practice straight away. I also try to reflect on my own actions and my way of leading, to continuously learn and contribute. Reflecting really makes my job as a leader much easier as all the people I lead in my teams are constantly growing and developing professionally.”
Respect is key in my leadership
“To me, respect is key to leadership. I show respect for everyone, regardless of their position or title. One way to show respect is to be transparent and open about everything. By being clear you offer people an opportunity to make active choices, and clarity is a respectful way of conveying your expectations. But by creating clear goals, I also make sure that my teams have a greater precision in what they do. In other words, I stand a much better chance of knowing that they will do what they should be doing, and not focusing on the wrong things.
Leading by being there
“I am a tech girl by heart, and I used to work as an IT architect. But even though I have an understanding of what we do, I almost never get involved in the solutions. Still, I believe that leaders should work close to their teams. Every day I sit in with the teams to get a sense of what is going on, how are they doing and what is the spirit like. Without that feeling, it is almost impossible to lead a successful team. It is also an effective way for them to reach out to me, without e-mail or other formal ways of keeping in touch and get the feedback you need from your leader. Besides sitting in with the teams, we do almost daily stand-ups, where we go over the day to day issues. This is when we identify blockers for instance, which is something that I often get involved in. By eliminating blockers, we make sure that the team can just soldier on with their task at hand. To sum it up; we do not just work in agile ways, we are agile.”
Does learning by working, work?
“The the approach we have in my teams, really drives change. Just look at the number of projects we deploy today, compared to just a few years ago. We have gone from 74 releases every year to 4 400 new deploys last year. That is one example of what a little reflection now and then can do.”
“Right now, I am building a house south of Gothenburg together with my partner, who is a builder. We do most of the work ourselves, but we have had help from an architect to do draw the house plans. It is a really interesting project; I get to do more basic carpentry stuff as I am not a trained builder. But I think that I am contributing a lot in the planning of the project. I make sure that we know what to do in the upcoming week and make sure that everyone in the team knows what we are doing. And I am creating a common log for us to always be on the same page. Sometimes all this planning drives my partner crazy, but he admits that my planning is really valuable. So, we add value to the project in our own special ways.
These are Berit´s key advice to other leaders. To her leadership is about respecting everyone and value what they bring to the project. To learn from your experiences, you need to allow time to reflect. And if you find yourself stuck, never hesitate to explore a new direction with your team to move forward on a fresh path.