The importance of asking to the team why we do what we do

Months ago I’ve asked to my team the reasons they’re doing what they’re doing in our Developer Relations team. We were reorganising a little bit our internal structure, and knowing the true reasons moving each one is a great way to understand if we’re assigning the right projects to the right people, potential career paths and, if the matches are done in the right way, it helps to attenuate stress and make the team empowered and propositive in the daily work.

I planned to frame the conversation during the usual in-person meetings (1:1) we have: it’s not an argument suitable for a discussion around the coffee machine, as it could go very passional and personal (and generally does) so an environment able to provide the right privacy is fundamental. In addition, these may be the kind of discussions requiring a decent amount of time, half an hour at least, so 5 mins break in the middle of other duties is not enough.

In order to avoid the “out of the blue” effect when asking the question, I first sent an email quoting Simon Sinek’s video discussing the importance of the motivations in what we do, an anticipating that I would have been very happy to have such conversation during one of our next 1:1, in order to discover the real team passions and build or refine future activities, even potential 20% projects, on top of that.

Then I prepared myself. For transparency and equality, I needed to be ready to provide my personal reply to the question, my whys, if asked. Maybe not everyone would have been interested (turn out everyone was!), but in this case doesn’t count if you’re the most junior or the most senior team member: it’s all about us as human, so we’re all equal.

Finally, during the first 1:1 available and without incumbent duties coming, so the atmosphere was relaxed, I started to ask. Ask if it was ok to ask such question. Ask if, to make the conversation more comfortable, I should have first started with my motivations. Asked if there were additional questions about the reason I was asking. Once cleared all the doubts (and the email I’ve sent really helped to set the right tone and expectations of the discussion), people started to tell me their whys.

And it was amazing. And I felt privileged to be part of such conversations, to discover so much about my colleagues.

I wouldn’t say something totally unexpected has been surfaced, at the end we know quite well each other and DevRel team is auto-selective enough that you don’t stay if you aren’t highly motivated, with lot of passions well known and shared. Instead, I was surprised by the accuracy of the particulars, all the little things, often very hard to spot, that added together clarify a lot why it’s so obvious that this person is your colleague, the life paths that have brought her in the team, how much diverse and peculiar we are, even if we share lot of common trains.

And that it doesn’t exist (yet) a school or academic curriculum that brings you to a Developer Relations or Community Manager career path.

Highly suggested as team building activity!

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