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.

What if agile organizations need more chaos?

 Image by ChrisA1995

Image by ChrisA1995

When was the last time you gave someone a set of detailed instructions and succeeded in having them follow them exactly? And yet in organizations we often expect people to step into new roles, adopt new practices, and follow new processes according to frameworks and playbooks that have been outlined.

Humans have a natural tendency to learn and change, and using nature as our teacher can help us with organizational transformations. Change is an “inherent capacity” of living systems. What would it mean to tap into that capacity?

It might mean starting with more freedom rather than more prescription. Self-organization—spontaneous order—arises in a chaotic system. Tapping into the inherent change capacity of living systems means we might stop expecting positional leaders to have the answers. We might trust that people are willing to contribute and invite them to do so. We might look at how relationships in the organization can be supported and developed.

What do we need to let go of and stop controlling in order to allow transformations to change?

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.

Bringing Backbone and Heart to Work

 Image by deanna.f

Image by deanna.f

I started my career as a project manager, and I often found myself enforcing contracts—defined scope and budget—and having to say no to change requests unless an addendum was signed. My pre-agile days. I brought backbone to work, engaging in those conversations. Sometimes I was secretly miserable.

During that time, I typically went dancing once a week. One evening I would meet friends somewhere in Dallas where a live band would play, and we would dance swing and blues. I got to know the musicians over time. With them, I was friendly and happy. It gave me joy to know that there existed a group of people who only knew the kind and generous me.

That’s how I balanced my life early in my career.

This past weekend I attended the ORSC Path class—the fourth course in CRRGlobal’s Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching series. As I was leaving class on Sunday, I discovered that the Agile for Humans podcast I’d recorded with Ryan Ripley had been published. How amazing that a conversation on professional coaching was published as I’d just passed another milestone in my professional coaching journey!

I shared that amazingness on Facebook, and sure enough, my friends started responding to it. Family members, current and former colleagues, other coaches, and even friends from my dancing days saw it and liked it. Seeing one of the musicians reply, “GO Allison!” made me realize how far I’ve come in bringing backbone AND heart to work. Coaching enabled that for me.

In the podcast, I referenced a number of places to learn about coaching, and here they are:

There are also some great books on coaching available:

Getting work done can be difficult, but it is possible to address challenges head-on and care about people in the process. I've come to realize that relationships underscore everything in work (and in life). Thankfully I've found a way to navigate relationships better--coaching others, coaching myself, and receiving coaching.

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.

Exploring Agility

 Photo by Lisandro M. Enrique

Photo by Lisandro M. Enrique

Have you noticed that “agile” and “agility” seem to be everywhere?

First I saw articles about “agile teams”—teams that could be assembled and disbanded quickly. A different perspective than the long-lived, stable teams commonly promoted in agile software development. I heard Heidi Helfand’s case report on Dynamic Reteaming, and it made sense to me. Now I’m reading Amy Edmondson’s Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy to explore it further.

Beyond that, I’ve been learning about relationships as systems. Noticing roles that are occupied and not occupied within relationship. Recognizing when there is clear alignment and when there is not. Increasing the amount of positivity in order to strengthen a relationship. Relationships can enable, hinder, withstand, and resist change; they can be seen as a building block of agility.

Then there’s emotional agility. Acknowledging your emotions and working with them rather than against them. Our emotions shape our lives.

Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility.

Similarly, I’ve been reading Anese Cavanaugh’s Contagious Culture, which delves into your personal presence and how to reboot yourself. It’s energetic agility to better achieve your intentions.

Also in the realm of personal agility is the application of design thinking to your future. Creating a meaningful and joyful life through brainstorming and prototypes. Check out Designing Your Life to figure out how.

Of course, as an agile coach, I can’t help but continue to learn about agile in software development too. The Agile Fluency project is deepening my understanding of agility. I’m paying more attention to practices and putting a softer focus on frameworks. How much agility is needed by an organization, and what’s the investment to achieve it?

With “agile” appearing everywhere, it would be easy to say that it has lost its meaning. I’m hoping to discover its core instead.

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.

Looking at Agile Coaching and Sports Coaching

 Photo by Greg Goebel

Photo by Greg Goebel

It’s common for agile coaches to be compared to sports coaches. Coaches fill a well-recognized role in sports, and many people have had some real experience on a sports team with a coach. In fact, I often see Scrum Masters or Agile Coaches being represented in diagrams as the person with a hat and a whistle, suggesting the sports coach metaphor. It’s a great comparison to explain how a Scrum Master or Agile Coach is typically outside the “software development game”—just as a sports coach is not scoring the points, this agile role is not hands-on in creating the product.

As I think about my experience on a sports team as a kid, I remember my softball coach showing me how to hold a bat, how to position my feet, and how to swing the bat in order to hit a ball. It was awkward and mechanical at first. And that’s where the metaphor of a sports coach starts to bother me. We could spend a lot of time teaching a team the mechanics of every agile event or artifact--it would be overwhelming for the team to absorb and apply. One aspect of agile coaching is teaching. There’s also mentoring, facilitating, and coaching. Many people say that an agile coach initially teaches the team, and as they mature, the coach moves into more of a facilitating or coaching stance. That is one way a coach can work. It’s possible to facilitate or coach much earlier in a team’s agile adoption without all of the upfront mechanics lessons. Sir John Whitmore illustrates the differences between coaching and instruction in a video about tennis.

Rather than spend more time upfront teaching and explaining how something is to be done step-by-step, a coach can help a team explore their experience of doing something. The coach deepens the team’s awareness of what they’re doing and how to do it differently. In doing so, the team owns the way something is done from the beginning, learns to recognize what is working and what is not, and is engaged in thinking of options to improve. The team is doing and learning from doing. The inspect and adapt cycle that we encourage in teams is introduced from the beginning. Imagine how a team might embrace agile then!

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.

Following the Energy of Change

 Photo by sanpani

Photo by sanpani

Ever been surprised by how quickly and easily a group adopts change? What makes it happen?

I’ve seen a team modify how they plan a sprint on my first day with them, had a team embrace adopting Scrum the third day I worked with them, and watched a group of nearly 75 people self-organize into teams after planting the idea only a few weeks earlier. The “magic” behind those rapid changes comes from two ingredients:

  1. People had time to think about the change. That thinking goes all the back to the moment someone considers bringing an agile coach into the organization. Thoughts of how a coach may help creates hope for change. That hope spreads—others begin thinking and dreaming about what changes may be possible. My arrival is the catalyst for change to become real
  2. People shape and participate in the change. I don’t walk into a new engagement with a change plan clearly mapped out. Change is created through dialogue with the people who will participate in the change. Listening to people’s ideas, treating them as partners, and giving them choice are powerful—people get enrolled in change when they are respected.

If we learn to follow people’s energy and excitement, change can be so much easier. It’s easier to be with them as they try on change, and it’s easier for them to move into something new. While it’s rarely a single leap into the new, saying that organizational change is hard hurts our chances for successful change.

There can be a dance in change—from familiar to emerging. Agile coaching is about being a good “dance partner” to provide safety to those involved in change.

Lyssa Adkins and David Darst explain Edge Theory of Change

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 to Listen to Negativity

 Photo by JD Hancock

Photo by JD Hancock

More and more people around me are upping their listening skills, showing more interest in hearing others' ideas, seeking feedback, and wanting to work together to improve. We're becoming more relationship-aware. It's incredibly exciting, and it's not an easy journey sometimes. Especially when we get to the area of negativity.

Negativity can be tricky. Complaints are given voice, and victim stories may be shared. Strong emotions might be present. It can become toxic. This year I've been learning to listen to negativity better, and it's been cool to connect more deeply with people as a result. I've noticed that when negativity comes up, some people shut down. Other people argue against it. They might try to put a happy face on it. For whatever reason, someone cannot listen to the negative stuff or process it, and they might have a strong reaction against it--whatever was said is confronting them with something they don't like.

Why on earth did I choose to focus on hearing negativity? Partly because I started to notice it floating around practically everywhere. And because I encountered this idea from CRR Global:

A complaint is simply a dream door.

That idea was weird enough to get my attention! Complaints are pointing to unfulfilled expectations--dreams that have not come true. The person might not have even recognized what they wanted until it didn't happen, and now it's coming out of their mouths in a way that can be hard to hear. Tune into that channel, and you'll have all kinds of information to mine for possible improvements--incredible! Listening to negativity becomes much easier in this reframing and asking questions opens up totally different conversations.

There are people who speak negativity rather fluently. They might be rough on the exterior; I sometimes think of them as the Waldorfs and Statlers of real life. And it's quite possible that they are disagreeable givers, the most undervalued people in our organizations who we should listen to more:

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.