Not too long ago, I had an interesting conversation with some friends about parenting. One of the topics we discussed was our experiences correcting children. Lots of good ideas were shared, but one in particular made me think about managing software.
I know, it doesn’t sound good to say that a conversation about correcting children reminded me of software developers. However, before anyone gets upset, let me say that the conversation also reminded me about managing friendships, my siblings, and just about anyone else I interact with.
The idea is wonderfully simple: when someone is doing something unacceptable, you should correct them quickly and then follow-up with an increased show of concern for the individual.
How many times has someone on your team done something inappropriate and everyone ignored it because they hoped it would go away, but it didn’t? The longer you wait to say something the more uncomfortable it gets and the harder it becomes to do anything at all. It’s far better to speak up immediately, when the problem has just happened. This shows respect for the person and respect for the people they are affecting.
But this is only half of the advice. For some people it’s way too easy to walk around correcting everyone all the time. If you stopped there, you’d make the problem worse. Correction is only part of what you should do. You also need to promptly follow-up to let the offender know that you still appreciate them and that they continue to be a valuable team member.
If you always catch problems quickly and correct them before they become habits or established behaviors, you can prevent the buildup of those slow-burning negative feelings that can destroy your team. Don’t let your fear of speaking up, or your inability to show an increased appreciation afterwards, be the reason your team becomes dysfunctional.