Eric Giles- Case Study

V-Teamwork Alumni - Eric Giles

Solutions Architect - Contracted to Queensland Curriculum Assessment Authority

Eric Giles

Tell us what you do and what your work typically involves.

It’s a very broad, multi-dimensional brief. In a five-year program, in excess of 100 people are working to design and implement a new State education certification system, I am the bridge between the business stakeholders and all of the technology stakeholders. In a nutshell I have to make sure the new systems meet the needs of the program.

I spend my time moving between the people who work with code, databases and data structures on the one hand and the people who run the business on the other. My work is about understanding what they really want to get out of the program of work, and making sure the two ends meet. I also get involved in coordinating technical aspects for large-scale events for stakeholders.

How has V-Teamwork helped you develop as a contributor?

Since doing the program I am now really good at ‘closing the loop’ on my commitments. It’s quite powerful: I promise people what I’m going to deliver by when and when I deliver it I say “as promised”. This has deepened people’s trust in my decisions so we get things done faster.

It’s better in the other direction too. I’ve changed the way I approach asking for things. I’ve developed a strong habit of checking with people that they clearly understand the value of what I am asking for.

This extends to my team: I pay a lot more attention to how people on my team go about getting what they need. Before V-Teamwork I operated a lot more transactionally and so did the people around me. Now, I notice when people are asking for things that the other person doesn’t really understand. And I have the skill and inclination to step in smoothly and ask a simple question or two to clarify people’s understanding.

I think V-Teamwork gave me a really good jolt: don’t just work at the surface level, go that little bit deeper, ask that little more to clarify, be that little bit more explicit, ask other people to be a little more explicit…on a big project like this it saves a lot of time.

Something else: In V-Teamwork we worked in a virtual simulation, so for much of the time I couldn’t see the faces of the people I was working with. I learned to become more sensitive to the tone, pacing, responsiveness in people’s voices, and more aware of what was going on in the coordination and mood of the team. Now, in my real-world work where I’m face-to-face, that increased sensitivity pays off: the nonverbal information and the nuances of the way we work together is so much richer for me.

My ‘sense of the meeting’ is stronger. I’m better at picking up when people aren’t ‘getting it’, so I take an extra minute of time to understand the situation, or ask the extra question. I find myself jumping in with questions like: “does anyone have another way to look at this?” “Are we missing anything here?”

The payoff is big: in this kind of project  a small mistake undetected can have a huge cost. There have been plenty of occasions where we’ve avoided two weeks wasted work on the wrong task. That’s a pretty big saving in terms of cost and frustration.

What did you  enjoy most about your V-Teamwork experience?

I loved the sheer power of this kind of learning: it’s totally experiential and practice-based. Going through an intensive experience and watching others go through the same thing at close quarters, and then hearing everyone’s different reflection on the experience. You get to hear it all - every word.

I relished the opportunity to listen to other high achievers trying to learn things in a different way — it was really really valuable to hear and to watch their learning experience. There were a lot of moments when I was watching someone else reflecting on their leadership or giving feedback and I’d say to myself: “ahhh I can see what’s going on here” – I think I learned as much through that as I did from my own direct experience.

It’s in the nature of the course – nobody gets to sit back: you must have your turn , you must lead or provide feedback… and you get to hear everybody. There’s no other learning experience I’ve had where it works that way.

Let me explain more: in a classroom or offsite, the  leader will ask “are there any questions?” and somebody puts their hand up to ask about content. I take something away from that and I also take something away from side conversations in the class. But this was different: you all go through the same process and the feedback is shared with all the other team members – you’re exposed to everybody else’s experience and they get exposed to yours – that’s really different and I got tremendous value from that.

I’ve thought about this a lot. It’s similar to the abstract power of metaphor: the little bit of abstraction from your direct participation means you get a lot more from the experience.

How did your learning in V-Teamwork show up in your work? Can you give an example?

Since V-teamwork I’m much better at intervening smoothly without micromanaging: I instinctively make moves to set people up for more effective coordination. I take steps early in any process to make people coordinate more frequently and effectively.

It’s making a huge, huge difference in project time saved and re-work avoided: I reckon that in the last year we would have easily saved six people working for eight weeks if I’d had the opportunity to do more of this in some of the high level planning meetings.

A specific example is sprint planning meetings. People sit in the meeting thinking and talking: “how much work is there? How will we do it? How long will it take? Now, I can easily see when there are missing conversations. For example sometimes people don’t really understand what they’re committing to and I can see that they are probably going to get a surprise when they’re doing the work. I prompt the missing conversation and we get a better outcome.

If you’re still not sure, here is a little bit more about us...

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After doing the program, executives, managers and team members are delighted at the way they can create a collaborative culture, hold people accountable and transform previously difficult relationships.

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Through our work with executives and managers at multinational tech companies and major government organisations, we know what’s involved in leading high-level, high-performing teams, and we’ve ensured that our program will deliver results for the most senior of managers.

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Our program is founded on world-leading research in behavioural science, games and gamification, biology of cognition, philosophy of language and somatics.

Our own team brings together more than a decade of experience in ontological and somatic coaching, action-learning methods, management consulting, organizational development, and user experience design.