One of the main curriculum points from the Seattle leadership camp was providing peer-to-peer feedback. I’d originally imagined this to include the introduction of some prompts and techniques for providing feedback in a positive way. We did cover these items, but as things fell out, we ended up spending a lot more time focusing on what we called a Micro-Posse. (More on the name later.) The essence of a Micro-Posse is a group of three to six teammates who are designated to provide feedback to each other. We were exposed to these ideas through Alyssa Weatherford and Reid Koss who shared the small group techniques that both Riot and Sockeye* use and immediately it made sense to employ that structure for the rest of camp. We used our Micro-Posses to provide peer-to-peer feedback and provide a venue for small group discussion.
Sockeye’s small groups, called Hate Posses, focus on goal setting, analysis and feedback. Sockeye will often provide space for Posse meetings by cooling down together. That time can be used for something as simple as a check-in or could be more targeted, looking specifically at a team or individual goal. It also came up in the course of Riot’s work that creating in-practice time to meet was essential. Everyone is present and committed at practice; expecting these kinds of groups to operate outside of practice is facilitating failure.
Riot’s groups, called Micro Communities, function in a similar way and with similar goals. Given the name, it’s not surprising that Riot does community building work with their Micro Community, often having internal competitions that pit the communities against each other. But the coolest thing I heard about is called hot-seat feedback. The person on the hot seat can open with a self assessment and then the rest of the group takes over. Taking turns, each member of the Micro Community delivers a positive and a delta. The person in the hot seat is forbidden to reply or question until the entire group has gone. At the end of the weekend, Reid, Alyssa and I did hot seat feedback about the week of camp. I’d been puzzling all week over something I called mecro, which is the implementation piece between the macro (big picture stuff) and the micro (the details). I’m generally a macro guy, but I’m also pretty good once things get down to the nitty-gritty; it’s the in between stuff, the mecro, that causes me so much trouble. Both Reid and Alyssa had the same delta for me – that I’ve got to communicate better – and I had a little aha! Communicating the big picture I’ve built in my head will help bridge the gap for other people. Better communicating could help cure my mecro woes. Would I have figured this out on my own? Probably not.
The language around these groups is really important in shaping people’s expectations and experience. The campers had an immediate negative reaction to the name Hate Posse that took me by surprise. I had recognized ‘Hate’ as a classic example of Sockeye’s joking, cavalier exterior. In a brilliant twist, the name makes the groups lighter (the name is a joke) and heavier at the same time (you’re prepared for hard words). Riot’s choice of Micro Community also communicates a message to the team about the essential nature of the group – community conveys trust and unity above all. Even something as subtle as ‘delta’ makes a difference. I usually cringe when I hear a ‘good’ comment paired with ‘something you could do better’, but as a math nerd, I liked the idea of a delta with its implication of change.
Returning to Seattle leadership camp, we decided we wanted to form small groups to use for the remainder of the weekend and we needed a name: Micro-Posse was the obvious choice. (Hate-Community was a distant second.)
*Thanks to those two teams for their willingness to make the process public. Any mistakes in describing their process are due to my faulty memory.