Autonomy, Empowered Teams, and Flatter Hierarchies 

A few tips on how "shared leadership" can be implemented in any team.

Is your team also trying out more shared leadership?

Recently, we have been having a lot of conversations on the topic of shared leadership, whether it works for specific teams and contexts, and how best to introduce it to teams used to more traditional vertical leadership.  Shared leadership is an important aspect of working in an agile-inspired way – gone are the days of top-down instructions and fixed leadership roles.  Nowadays, we are focused on ensuring that the best-suited person leads and that how things are done are decided by those doing the work.

Of course, as we work in different spaces and time zones, it becomes more and more challenging to make sure that changes in how we work and interact are more effective.  Our communication is more asynchronous and our coffee breaks no longer allow for quick check-ins by the water cooler making it more difficult to get the feedback we need.

So we at Fugu wanted to collate some common challenges we’ve been hearing and to share our thoughts on how to tackle these effectively.  Hopefully, our content is useful for you…

Challenge 1: Keeping alignment when experiments are run simultaneously

Running experiments to try to solve complex problems is becoming more and more common, so much so that many teams are now also trying out different ideas and approaches simultaneously to innovate even more quickly.

But this can mean that work can be done twice… or that different groups develop different understandings of the problem to be solved and end up too far apart.

  1. Create clear problem statements that should be the basis of the experiments
  2. Or if you can’t, check back later to align on problem statements
  3. Use update rounds for flash feedback to keep everyone working on the same problem but not the same solution

Challenge 2: Balancing giving space and support when empowering

It can be difficult to know how much free rein is the right amount when increasing empowerment in a team. Is requesting a specific outcome too restrictive?  Should I wait for people to come to me with problems, or should I be checking in with them more frequently? 

We’ve compiled a guideline for you to differentiate between shared leadership that drives powerful outcomes, and its extremes of over-empowerment and vertical leadership.

Challenge 3: Making asynchronous communication work for your project

Often when we think of teams with asynchronous communication, we think of teams of digital nomads developing apps across 7 time zones, but the reality is that having a different lunchtime to your colleague in the same city can already create the same scenario. 

Whether it’s trying to coordinate with a night owl when you’re an early bird or your parallel role supervising Zoom school for the kids, we are all learning to communicate differently with our teammates and colleagues.

  1. Include your availability and time zone in your email signature – you’re more likely to contacted in the right manner (email or chat)
  2. Overcommunicate requests and expectations – define vague terms such as “review” and use done criteria
  3. Written meeting minutes and updates are great for referring back to… and for reducing how many people need to be present in a meeting.

We hope that you find this article interesting and informative – tell us what resonates with you and what challenges we can help you with by getting in touch.