How to build muscles as a team

written by  Ryan Seamons

What I’ve been learning

I injured my finger a few weeks back and had to splint it full-time for 6 weeks straight (facebook post with more details). I couldn’t bend the first knuckle at all. This week I was able to begin bending the joint again.

It was hard.

While I knew it was ok to exercise, it hurt and I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do. Now, 5 days into exercising my finger back, I’m at around 30-40% movement. It’s painful work and some days it’s easier just to put it back in the split and not think about it. But I know I need to put time and effort in so that I can use it in the future.

It’s been a first-hand less in how hard it is to rebuild muscles.

Having muscles as a team is a common analogy for a team skillset. Leaders will say, “Yeah, we don’t have very good muscles for [insert activity here].”

Examples I’ve heard include:

  • experimentation

  • meeting management

  • clear and compelling communication

  • fast decision making

  • focusing on user value (outcomes) vs building solutions (outputs)

I realized this week how helpful this analogy actually is.

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How can you help your teams build their muscles?

  • If you haven’t done something for a long time (or ever) it’s going to be rough at first. There’s often an initial dip in performance when making a change.

  • Exercising a single muscle is hard enough for someone recovering from an injury. Building muscles as an entire team takes coordination and motivation beyond “hey, we should do this.” That’s why the best leaders spend a substantial amount of their time getting a team aligned and communicating to keep them on the right track, especially when making a big change.

  • Building muscles takes time. It’s a struggle but that means you’re growing (see this article about what it takes to build actual muscles, spoiler alert: lots of pain and work). New team habits won’t form overnight.

  • Expecting perfection for a new skill will result in discouragement and team members falling back into old habits, figuratively putting the splint back on.

  • Get help. Rebuilding muscles in your body works much better with coaches, trainers, physical therapists, doctors, etc. Too many teams try to do this without any expert help and end up wasting time and energy.

The shaping of team habits is a powerful way for leaders to impact their organization. Remember to get help, practice patience, and be realistic when you’re building new muscles as a team.

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What I published

The product manager IS NOT the CEO (LinkedIn Video)

Get Aligned at Work (LinkedIn Video)

In response to the question: What else should be on a list of analytics needed for growth?

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@JeffChang30 Conversion funnels

In response to the question: What does the future of work mean to you? (Thread)

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@briannekimmel It means having a mindset of creation vs production. The industrial and information ages are in the past.

The future is ripe for companies and individuals who prioritize learning and creation.

Creating and learning are looking more exponential in nature than linear.

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

1/9 Too many teams screw up product roadmaps because they skip the strategy. 👇 #strategy #prodmgmt

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

When you try to go agile but want to keep your deadline-driven approach. #agile #prodmgmt

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

Too many teams and PMs suffer because they don’t understand that the product manager is not the CEO of their product. #prodmgmt #product #leadership

What have you been learning about?


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About the Author

Ryan Seamons
writes about more human approaches to modern management.

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