At the start of 2018, Lead Backend Developer, Ben Lobaugh, announced that he was starting a new daily call that anybody on the WebDevStudios (WDS) team was welcomed to join. It would be a quick 15-minute call to chat about personal growth, leadership, and inspire a productive and passionate remote work environment. He named it the WDS Growth Calls.
Since the call was taking place before the workday begins each morning, I didn’t immediately join because as a West Coaster, the call starts pretty darn early. Although we’re only talking about 15 minutes, I really enjoy sleeping and I thought the extra 15 minutes of sleep was more valuable. Then one morning, my dog woke me up extra early with an urgent need to be let outside. There wasn’t enough time to go back to sleep, so I poured an extra large mug of coffee and hopped on the call. That one call was enough to change my schedule so I could join every morning.
The format is simple. Ben starts the call by reading that day’s topic and passage from John Maxwell’s Daily Reader. Sometimes, he’ll have a specific question or two about the day’s topic that kicks off the conversation. Most days, that’s not even needed, as somebody typically has a story to share related to the topic. From there, we discuss how to use similar situations in positive ways.
For example, a recent topic centered around encouraging the dreams of others. We discussed ways to handle situations where somebody’s dream for their future might not sound realistic to you. Do you offer words of encouragement? Do you tell them you think they’re crazy? How about shifting the conversation into what sort of skills they might need to attain that dream?
Many times, the topic is bigger than a 15-minute call can handle and we end up having a follow-up chat via Slack throughout the day. I asked Ben what made him decide to start this call.
The old adage, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,’ is near and dear to my heart. I want to be a conduit for others’ success in life. From an early age, people have come to me for help. I would help to the best of my ability, but I knew my efforts were mediocre and I was missing out on something truly powerful and transformative. Personal growth is a passion, and when I ran across John Maxwell’s teachings, things began to click and I knew I was on to something big. I had found that missing piece. In 2017, I became a John Maxwell Certified Team Member (JMT). The JMT provided me with the training and resources to help others that I had been missing all my life. When I looked around WebDevStudios, I saw that we had technical growth programs but nothing growing us as individuals. I wanted to start something that would be impactful and more than a one-time event—something that was continually valuable for everyone on the team. A short, 15-minute, daily call is how the vision shaped out. The call was designed to be an open-format discussion over a particular topic which I would read at the beginning. Topics range from managing your emotions, to teamwork, to leading teams, with the core of every call growth-oriented.
For me, the calls have been extremely beneficial. The most obvious benefit being that by starting each day with a little critical thinking, I have found that I’m immediately more engaged in my work each morning. When the call ends and I dive into work, my brain is already in gear and ready to attack the day. While this is a great benefit and I’m certainly not discounting it any, I dare say it’s the second best thing to come from the calls.
As I mentioned earlier, once the topic is read, somebody has a story to share that relates. It could be a situation that came up at a previous job, something that happened with a mentor or mentee, or even a situation involving family members. No topic is off limits and sometimes the stories can get deeply personal. I remember a story a coworker told about a painful memory they had when they lashed out at work out of frustration and immediately regretted it, not because they got in trouble or anything like that, but because their action hurt somebody’s feelings and potentially ruined a relationship. I felt for them because I’ve been in that situation myself. It was a great reminder that we all make mistakes, but we can learn from them and become better leaders.
As a fully remote team, it can be tough to get to know your coworkers deeply. We don’t get the opportunity to regularly head out for a drink after work or hang out on the weekends. During business hours, we’re pretty much in constant contact, but that’s typically to discuss the task at hand. We use Slack and have a number of topical channels to discuss things like sports, TV shows, etc, but it’s not the same as being in the same brick-and-mortar office day after day. Building relationships takes an extra effort. Having this opportunity to learn more about my coworkers has been extremely gratifying.
There has been one other benefit of the growth calls, and from the name of the call it should be obvious: personal growth. Since I started joining the calls, I’ve had countless opportunities to think back on situations in my business career, in my social life, in my family life, and even in my marriage that are similar to those being discussed on the calls. Learning how others have handled similar situations can be enlightening.
While there isn’t always a 100% right way to handle a situation, there’s almost always a wrong way. I have already found that by applying some of the lessons I’ve learned from the calls in my day-to-day life that I’m having better and more engaging interactions with coworkers, clients, friends, and family.
I encourage you to create a group of your own and start sharing. You’ll be glad you did.