Episode #140 – Our Ideal Team

Featured speakers:

Derek Neighbors Derek Jade Meskill Jade Roy van de Water Roy

Derek Neighbors, Jade Meskill, and Roy van de Water discuss:

  • Our ideal team.


Jade Meskill:  Hello, welcome to the “Agile Weekly Podcast,” I’m Jade Meskill.

Roy van de Water:  I’m Roy van de Water.

Derek Neighbors:  I’m Derek Neighbors.

Jade:  We were talking about some of the common problems that we’ve run into on different teams. I was wondering, what is the ideal team, that you would want to work with?

Roy:  I think for me, the ideal team that I would want to work with, is a bunch of people that I trust implicitly. They should be people I trust with my life, let alone a software project. I think that’d be huge.

Derek:  If there’s all sorts of traits, I definitely think I want to be with people that can be vulnerable with me, and that I can be vulnerable with them on a deeper level than just the work. I want to work with people that are highly passionate about the work they’re doing. I want to work with people that are interested in learning new things.

I want to work with people that want to have fun. I want to work with people who want to get results, and they’re able to balance all of those things.

They’re able to balance, there’s a time to learn, there’s a time to have fun. Ultimately, that has to be balanced with what that deliverable is, whatever that is, and is willing to have conflict to balance those things.

I look at it as if you look at Aristotle or Socrates, or any of them, and you need to talk about virtue. There’s, you go too far to the right, it’s bad. If you go too far to the left, it’s bad.

There’s this constant tension of trying to keep that needle or keep the guitar in tune, so to speak, as we have a guitar on the table here. I want to be on a team that understands those types of things and is having the conversation about, “How do we keep in tune?”

Opposed to being stupid and focused on one thing and not understanding the ramifications of other things. I guess depth, a team that has philosophical depth about the work that they’re doing.

Jade:  Those are really awesome things. How do you get to a team that functions like that? You can’t just assemble it out of box and magically you’ve got that. [laughs]

Roy:  You hire a project manager, and he says that everybody is required to be all of those things that Derek just listed and that they all have to trust each other.

Jade:  Post them up on the wall.

Roy:  A good way to make people trust each other is trust falls in all courses, all that stuff.

Derek:  I don’t know. I [inaudible 02:47] . I don’t know if I’ve seen it. I think that that’s hard because part of the only way to get some of the trust…Some other way to get that depth is to have that vulnerability.

That path to getting that vulnerability requires exploring all of the edges and doing all of the things which a lot of times ends up in no results or results without any meaning or without a whole lot of fun.

You know, “Hey, great. We got all the results we wanted, but nobody wants to do the work anymore. Because we had to slave and drive, and it was miserable to get there, but we had some success.”

Or, “Hey we had a total blast, but it sucked because it couldn’t last because we didn’t get there.”

I think it’s hard to get that flavor and that character with the same group of people. You almost have to have some runway.

It’s not like, “Hey, boom, this is going to happen.” “Do these 10 steps and by Monday…” You’re going to be a team that is rocking and rolling.

Roy:  Let’s say I have a team of a certain number of individuals and they either know each other or don’t, or whatever. They’re not this team yet.

I have the time to give them runway to form. How do I get them to actually become that ideal team and not become a collection of individuals that are only caring what their self‑interests are?

How do I make sure that the team is progressing towards that ideal vision you described?

Jade:  You can’t make them do anything. You can only…

Roy:  Influence.


Jade:  You can only act the way that you would want them to act. It seems silly and basic, but that’s really all that you have control over. If you exhibit integrity…

Roy:  That means you have to be a member of the team in order to model that behavior, right?

Jade:  I think so. I don’t know how you can…I think you can lead by example, but it’s difficult if you’re removed from the team itself. You can do it if you have some interaction with them, but you can’t do it from afar.

Derek:  I don’t think you can do it from a total afar. I don’t know if you can do it if you are on the team per say. Maybe.

Roy:  From what I heard Jade say, he was saying in order to get the best results, you should be…It’s easiest if you’re on the team and I think I’m hearing you say it’s easy if you’re not on the team?

Derek:  I think some of it might depend on how you define “on the team” for me. The way that I look at that, the more I…I like metaphors. I think they’re a good way to explore ideas.

If I look at successful teams, whether it be sports or successful results, the two things that come to mind immediately for me recently are…If you look it like Chris Powell’s “Extreme weight loss” which you guys may or may not be familiar with. This guy who takes people that are 300 pounds and get some to 150 pounds in 365 days. It’s like hardcore stuff.

He can’t lose the weight for them, but what he can do is he can say, “Are you committed to losing weight? If you’re committed to losing weight, I can help teach you ways to lose that weight to get healthy and I can help hold you accountable for it.”

I think that’s part of it. If you have that mix of people, do all of those people agree on those things? Do they all agree that what’s a good team looks like? If they do, are they willing to let somebody, including each other, lift them up to that accountability and coach them towards the practices that will get them there?

Roy:  In that metaphor, I’m just picturing it in my head and it seems to me, if this Chris weight loss guy was also large and said like, “Hey, we’re going to do this together and we’re both going to lose 200 pounds”, I feel like his job would be easier. He’d have more credibility.

Derek:  Yes and no. The downside, he would have the…

Jade:  You’re going to get more empathy.

Derek:  He would have the empathy side, but part of what he would lose is the, “Who are you to tell me that running 10 miles a day helps me lose weight when your fat ass still weights 300 pounds?” You lose some of the credibility there. I think also you potentially lose some of the accountability. Because it’s like, “If I see you eat a candy bar, then maybe it’s OK for me to eat a candy bar, because I’m a fat, can I do want to eat the…”

It becomes easier, and I see that is probably the one of biggest things I see on teams, is, let’s say two people, “I totally want a pair program, I’m totally committed to it,” and the other person, “Yeah‑yeah.” It’s like the first time the other person is like, “I’m going over here and work on this real quick for a second, and then the person is like, “OK.” Then pretty soon it’s like, “You guys haven’t paired in a month.” It’s like, “Oh yeah, but we still really want to.”

They were both complicit in it because it was easy to do, where if you had somebody who said, “Hey, you guys said you were pairing today and I haven’t seen you pair all day. What’s going on?” They don’t have to be on the team or be one of the people that is pairing in order to hold that accountability there.

Jade:  I think in that case like in your example, that person is part of their team. Even if he’s in a coaching role, he’s still part of…They’ve decided to come together to achieve some outcome. They might not be doing the same work or doing whatever. I’m saying, “I’m willing to accept your influence on me.”

Derek:  That’s why I said it depends on what you consider on the team. If we’re going after a shared result together and we’ve both got vested interest in that result, I would say we’re on the same team. Our roles on that team might be different.

Maybe the role of Chris Powell is to be that coach and that mentor and that accountability person and that ability to motivate, and do those things, and get to the bottom whatever facilitate doing that. I think they’re still part of that weight loss team together.

I would say that when the people got to the end of it, they didn’t go, “I did this all on my own.” I assume my other analogy would be Phil Jackson. Somebody who’s repeatedly won at the highest level with multiple teams, multiple different players.

This is somebody that was able to get a collective group of people to believe…

Roy:  What sport are we talking about?

Derek:  It’s basketball.

Jade:  [laughs]

Derek:  …In a style or a system or something around that and then hold them accountable to executing against that.

Again, I would say, “Hey, he got a championship ring right along with the teams that won championships form. Was he part of the team? Yeah, but he wasn’t a guy on the court necessarily putting the ball in the net.

Roy:  The definition of an ideal team change over time, like I heard you describe, and I have in my own picture and I’m trying to fill in my opinion of what an ideal team looks like has change over time, is that telling me that’s always emotion and therefore unattainable?

Jade:  I think it’s a reflection of your own maturity, what you think the ideal team is.

Derek:  I think if you’re in search of excellence and search of constantly improving, yes. There is no destination called perfect team. There is a journey to perfect team.

Jade:  I’ve seen glimpses of some of these things that we’ve talked about, all throughout my career in different groups and different teams that I’ve worked with, but never the whole picture. Because my expectations are constantly rising.

My expectations for myself and the people that I chose to work with, they’re always getting higher and higher and harder to reach, but I think that’s what makes it the ideal.

Roy:  How does a team on the road to perfection deal with poisonous elements on that team?

Jade:  You got to turn them or get rid of them.

Derek:  Yeah, I think if…

Jade:  There’s no easy answer to that.

Derek:  I think if you’re really talking of accountability from that stand point. A, are they on the bus? Do they agree with the things that they have been agreed upon? If the answer is no, that’s probably a pretty good sign that either you’re on the wrong team, or they’re on the wrong team.

If the majority of the team is saying, “Hey, we’re going in this direction.” and you’ve got somebody that says, “I refuse to go that direction. I want to go to this direction.” From a philosophy or accord of value, vision, mission kind of thing, somebody has to either re‑calibrate and put the line in his mind, like “We’re headed to New to Mexico. If you’re headed to California, get off and get on the California bus.”

Those become pretty cut and dry. I think it’s kind of dry for everybody.

If you’re the person that wants to go to California, you’ve realized the bus is going in that direction, it’s pretty easy to get off the bus because you know. I think there are the ones where it’s, “Hey I’m not necessarily disagreeing with where we are going there,” but maybe there’s personality involved, maybe that implementation. “I think we should be going on a plane, not on a bus.”

I think those, you’ve got to deal with through the kind of accountability, the conflict all of the steps it takes to really form within a team and deal with those issues. It’s just like you go get married right away. You might, “Hey, we both have the same dream of where we want to be when we grow old, have kids and everything else,” but in there we realize, “You like to put the toilet paper rolled down, I like to put it roll up, and, we need a box that out and figure out how we’re going to [inaudible 12:22]

Roy:  It’s roll up by the way.


Derek:  Put the roll up in the thing. It doesn’t mean we should go get divorced because we just [inaudible 12:29] We got to figure it out. I think that exist in teams too.

Roy:  It seems to me though that those start becoming some really dangerous questions to ask as you may find that you’re on the wrong bus, so to speak.

Derek:  Yeah. I’d like to say that, earlier you can have conflict, and the better you get in dealing with that or getting results from it, the better you’re going to get to a better team. Because either you’re going…

Roy:  I don’t want to be half way to California before I find out I’m headed to New York. I’d rather find out while I’m still Texas so I can…

Derek:  Yes. A, it’s much less painful for everybody from a stand point of, “I’m not now stranded somewhere halfway in between,” but it also makes the ride so much more enjoyable. If I can get the distractors off the bus 10 miles in, now I’ve got a thousand miles of much more fun travel.

Jade:  It’s easier to say it, but to actually do it. There’s a whole human element that gets involved that makes it very difficult.

Derek:  If you’re not doing this right now, you are a bad human being.


Jade:  [laughs] What’s the first step that somebody should take? If they say that, “I know that I want to reach whatever my perceived ideal is.”

Roy:  I think that is the first step…


Derek:  First step of self awareness.

Roy:  I don’t think many people know where they actually want to go.

Derek:  I’ll say that’s the biggest problem with teams I’ve encountered lately. Is team members who don’t really know what they want. Or they say, “I want X,” but in reality none of their actions match X. You’re sitting there…

Roy:  They probably really believe they want X too.

Derek:  I think they haven’t really thought about it. It’s the classic case of, “The world has told me I should be an accountant. Secretly I want to be the lead guitarist for whatever, but I just know that’s not possible.”

“When people asked me every year for the last five years what do I want to be, I’d say I want to be an accountant. Then I say ‘OK, I want to be an accountant.’ I spend all of my time playing guitar in the garage and I never pick up a financial journal, never go talk to any other accountants.” It’s like, “I’m not believing you want to be the best accountant in the world. I think your interest lies elsewhere.”

Jade:  That is very hard to be honest with yourself. I think that goes all the way full circle to the only person that you can change is yourself. If you want to influence people, you need to start acting in the way that you want the rest of your team to behave. That’s going to be hard when you’re not in sync, not the band, but yeah. [laughs]

Roy:  Nsync, it was easy for them.

Jade:  Yeah.

Derek:  Backstreet Boys was way better.

Jade:  On that note, I think that’s all the time we have. Thanks for listening. We’ll catch you next time.


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