Breaking Free from What's Been Holding You Back

 Photo by felip1

Photo by felip1

“I don’t feel like an impostor anymore because of you!”

That was part of the greeting I received from someone very excited to see me at Agile Midwest last week—all because of a coaching conversation we’d had two years ago. It was incredible to see how happy she is now.

In March, I’d shared a story at Scrum Gathering Canada about how I initially felt like an impostor as an agile coach. I didn’t feel like I compared to other agile coaches I knew. It took me a while to realize that every coach is different. Sharing that story and how each day I told myself, “I am an agile coach” until I believed it felt freeing. And it got tweeted:

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 8.02.15 AM.png

Impostor syndrome is normal, and yet it can be so isolating to experience. It can hold us back. I started reading How Women Rise recently, and it includes 12 self-limiting habits common to women—habits that we can change if we can notice them. The message has been resonating for me, and as I’ve brought it up in conversations, it seems to resonate with others too.

How have you shifted away from thoughts and behaviors that may be getting in your way?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Learning from the Agile Community

 Photo by awee_19

Photo by awee_19

My first agile meetup was in April 2009. I was going alone and didn’t know what to expect. My experience with agile was limited, and I was shy. Awkward small talk while waiting in line for pizza. Uncertainty about where to sit. Gratitude when the session started because I could relax and listen.

Thankfully my shyness wore off, my agile experience increased, and I’ve since welcomed a number of folks to the Dallas-Fort Worth agile community. Local meetups and events are great opportunities to learn and connect with others. Many people—myself included—are relieved to discover that they are not alone in the challenges they face in agile adoptions.

I wrote about my community experience as part of Tips from the Trenches, a compilation of wisdom organized by Yves Hanoulle for Scrum Masters and currently available on LeanPub.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Reading Recommendations for future Agile Coaches?

 Photo by Rich Renomeron

Photo by Rich Renomeron

I love to read and have been using Goodreads for nearly seven years to track books I want to read in the future--now my "To Read" list is nearly as long as my "Read" list! Needless to say, there are a lot of great books out there, and only so much time available to read them.

Recently Bob Galen and Allen Holub posted lists of books for folks getting started with agile, and there are great titles on both. It got me thinking about the knowledge needed for more experienced practitioners. A colleague once asked for recommendations that would support his growth from Scrum Master to Agile Coach, and here's the list I came up with:

  • Succeeding with Agile by Mike Cohn
  • Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins
  • Becoming a Technical Leader and/or Are Your Lights On? by Gerald Weinberg
  • Talk to Me by Sue Johnston  
  • Liftoff: Launching Agile Teams & Projects by Diana Larsen and Ainsley Nies
  • Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
  • The Art of Agile Development by James Shore
  • Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo
  • Switch: How to Change When Things When Change is Hard by the Heath brothers
  • Drive by Daniel Pink

The list is a few years old. What books would you suggest?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Being an Agile Warrior

 Photo by Ty Crockett

Photo by Ty Crockett

A few years ago, I heard a manager talking about the interview he went through for his current role. In it, the interviewer asked how he felt about agile. He replied that he’s an “agile warrior.”

As I listened to him, this silly image of a samurai-like warrior appeared in my head. Agile warrior? Not quite.

To be a warrior means to be your true self in the face of difficulty and for the sake of something bigger than personal ego. A person who knows that the world is a hunting ground and everyone is an ally. A person who lives in “lions roar” knowing that there is a wisdom aspect to all and everything.
— CRR Global glossary

Eventually I decided to start a coaching circle at Improving, and I wanted to name the group. The word “warrior” kept popping up in different contexts for me. A fellow coach and CTI student suggested that I read The Four-Fold Way. The description of the warrior archetype shifted my understanding. An agile warrior has a strong ability to show up, be visible, and empower others through example and intention. Our coaching circle was named the Agile Warriors, and we explored topics that would make us stronger agilists and developed skills that made us better warriors.

Not long after, Vic Bonacci asked me to contribute a topic to his Agile Coaching Cards kickstarter. My friend Ty recently came across my card during a visit to St. Paul, Minnesota and sent me the photo. What would it mean for you to become an agile warrior rather than a worrier?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

The Importance of Vision Statements

 Photo by Phil

Photo by Phil

There’s lots of advice out there about creating vision statements or defining a purpose—at least five articles appeared in my blog feed on the topic in the last 2 months. A strong vision statement resonates with people, aligning them in creating a future that would not otherwise exist. Vision statements start with the goal of inspiring others. They create a sense of purpose for people to rally around.

Personally, I like vision statements that capture the aspirational sense of what could be possible. There’s a dream-like quality to the vision, and sharing it with people evokes a response; an energetic bond is formed through the vision. The visionary inspires the vision-runner to make it a reality. A shared purpose or goal is established.

The best thing a Product Owner can do to truly take ownership and inspire others is to establish and communicate a clear vision for the Product. Why are we building it? Whose lives will be improved by it?
— Don McGreal

One source suggested then making the vision concrete. Elaborating more details about what reality would be like if the vision is achieved. While I appreciate making the vision more vivid, I’ve found that shorter is better when it comes to documenting it—an elevator statement is easy for people to remember and expand upon. A few go on to add measurable goals to the vision—to make it more real. In my experience, people can get tripped up on the measurements and struggle to remember the vision itself with such specifics defined. And the other elements of the vision—the captivating essence and the dream of what can be—may be lost.

Connecting the vision with the audience is key. I’ve witnessed leaders communicate their vision and listeners become confused or lose interest right away. Using language that people understand—putting the vision in real words rather than lingo or jargon—can make it more attractive. It’s the storytelling of a vision that ultimately matters most.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Be a Little Bolder Today

 Photo by DAT Space

Photo by DAT Space

What would you do if you could not fail?

Your answer may reveal something about your purpose, your strengths, and your wildest hopes. Yet too often we let fear drive our actions. After all, the status quo is hard to change. Most organizational change efforts fail--articles and presentations remind us of this continually. The odds are against us.

And yet we persist.

Dreamers, futurists, believers, builders--people who see an alternative to the current reality--continue to shift the world by connecting to their purpose, using their strengths, and sharing their wildest hopes. What would you like to do today?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Noticing Appreciation Languages at Work

 Photo by brian.abeling

Photo by brian.abeling

“Thank you for indulging my recognition.”

I laughed when I saw that text pop-up on my phone. After all, how often does someone recognize and then acknowledge that they expressed appreciation in a way that doesn’t match how you like to receive it? Let’s look at the complicated chain of events happening there:

  1. You did something (because you’re awesome like that)
  2. Person saw what you did and wanted to show appreciation (because they’re a great leader like that)
  3. Person expressed appreciation in the way that felt most genuine to them (+1 for authenticity!)
  4. You realized what they were doing and knew it was an appreciative act even though it didn’t resonate with you (+1 for appreciation awareness)
  5. Person remembered that you prefer a different form of appreciation and sent a message (+1 for relationship awareness)

Many employees feel underappreciated at work. That means step 1 takes place and the other steps might not happen. Actually, it’s possible that steps 2 and 3 occur but due to the appreciation language mismatch, you didn’t realize you were being appreciated. Oh no!

Gifts, words, physical touch, acts of service, quality time—what types of appreciation do you see in your workplace?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Making Dreams Come True

 Photo by Allison Pollard

Photo by Allison Pollard

Montreal. I knew I’d have only one day to visit this year as I continued my journey to Cornwall for Agile Coach Camp Canada. After researching things to do and see, I moved on to looking for places to eat. And came across a description of a patisserie that sounded amazing. Intrigued, I looked at their website and fell in love when I read their history page:

MAISON CHRISTIAN FAURE FIRMLY BELIEVES IN THIS QUOTE FROM ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY:
MAKE LIFE A DREAM, AND THIS DREAM, A REALITY.

My intention for 2018 is to dream bigger, so I knew immediately that I had to check this place out in person.

I walked the streets of Old Montreal and found the patisserie. It was almost closing time. I was the only customer. Six macarons to go. I walked outside, sat down near the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, admired the view of the St. Lawrence River, and took a bite of the praline macaron. It was incredible. The only thing in that moment was me enjoying a macaron in the lovely June weather. It was so good that I wanted to share the experience with someone, and I came very close to ordering macarons online and having them shipped to a friend in Texas.

I put down my phone and took another bite of macaron. The texture was perfection in the calm breeze. I smiled. I snapped a photo and tried to text it to a friend before heading off towards my hotel. A patisserie and a quote from Saint-Exupery – what a match!

Any coworkers reading this are probably laughing now because they are well-aware that I am a gift giver. Of course I would be tempted to ship desserts to Texas from Canada because I enjoyed a bite of one! Many a sweet treat has arrived in our office (and a few in our other offices), courtesy of me. It’s my way of prompting mini-celebrations to happen. I think of it as one of my superpowers: the ability to have an amazing thing delivered that sparks happiness throughout a team. A superpower that people really love.

There’s a great ice cream place in Plano—Henry’s Ice Cream—and a coworker mentioned that he thought it would be fun to have them cater an event in our office. He’d shared this idea in the past with others but nothing ever happened. When I heard it, I shared the wisdom of my superpower. And a nudge to do it. He made it come true and surprised the office with the ice cream party he’d been imagining for so long. Another person with the superpower to deliver amazing things that spark happiness!

Imagine if you set a goal just for one day to make life a dream for your team or organization. Envision the bliss across everyone’s faces. See their joy in knowing someone thought of them and their delight as all other concerns cease. Feel the smiles radiating outward as they savor the moment.

You can have that effect on people.

An unexpected kindness. A token of appreciation. An experience to be enjoyed.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Game to Try - Change!

 Photo by David Holt

Photo by David Holt

I used a game that I learned from Don McGreal in my lightning talk at Agile Dev West, and I wanted to share it. It’s simple to run and can be done in 5 minutes, which was precisely why I chose it.

This game can be used with groups of any size and is best used when people have been sitting comfortably in their chairs as participants will be asked to change where they are sitting.

Facilitator instructions:

  • Ask group to notice who is sitting to their left and right.  They cannot sit next to those individuals.
  • People must move at least 2 seats/1 row/1 table (choose based on your setup) away from where they are currently

Possible discussion questions:

  • What was it like to change seats?
  • Who did not change seats? Why not?
  • What made it easy to change?
  • What would make it better if we were going to do this activity again later?

Moving to a different seat is a simple change, and yet this activity helps provide insights from the experience into the feelings and emotions of change. The beauty of this game to me is that the debrief can be taken in different directions by the facilitator to highlight the needs of individuals for change, share ideas for group change efforts, and reinforce the change capability of a group.

Try it with your teams and let me know how it goes in the comments.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

The Hidden Truth about DISC

 Image by Jessica Wilson

Image by Jessica Wilson

DISC is a simple model that describes four behavior traits: dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance. The simplicity makes it easy to introduce and use in short workshops, which is why Barry and I incorporated it into our Brewing Great Agile Team Dynamics presentation.

We found ourselves answering questions and talking more about DISC after our Keep Austin Agile 2018 session, and we were going deeper into what the model reveals. Barry reminded me of a core concept: every one of us has all four behavior styles within us. A certain one may be favored or applied more often, but we have the capacity for all of them.

So that coworker whose behavior challenges and downright frustrates you? It's revealing something about you. We like to think other people's behaviors is about them, and yet our reactions are clearly about us! Our coworkers, bosses, friends, and partners help us learn about ourselves. They can be mirrors to help us see inside ourselves more clearly. That quality or characteristic that makes it hard to be around them lives in us too. It might show up differently, but it's the same thing. What's the usefulness to it? Discovering the answer makes it easier to choose how to be in relationship when that quality is present--and it will certainly come up because we've already seen it in others and now in ourselves.

Looking at a model like DISC to understand how we can adapt to others' behavior and communication needs starts creating a path for us to more consciously choose how we show up and engage in those relationships. Thanks, Barry, for reminding me why such a simple concept can be incredibly powerful!

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.