Inviting Others to the Community

Photo by Timo

Photo by Timo

Working with leaders has given me a deeper appreciation for how hard change can be in an organization. Alignment can be a struggle, and leaders often feel isolated as they face challenges supporting new practices and changing the workplace. Introducing leaders to the larger agile community provides them a sense of comfort. “It’s not just us,” I’ve heard. “Wow, I recognized some of the problems we’ve already solved.” Hearing others’ stories connects them to different thinking than their day-to-day office holds.

Some of my favorite user group moments have come from seeing managers excited about ideas they can take back to their workplace. Maybe they take photos of slides as a presenter speaks, animatedly whisper to a colleague sitting nearby, or send a text to coworkers not present—they’ve gained a morsel of wisdom that has unlocked something new and want to make it real. We’re headed in the right direction, we need to watch out for this obstacle, or we need to try this new thing—they leave thinking and feeling differently about their work.

Witnessing leaders share their stories and give back to the community continues the transformative effects. Authenticity captivates the group. Leaders own their agile journeys, claiming their successes and failures along the way. Learning happens for the leaders who are sharing as well as the listeners, strengthening the group’s bonds. By the end, we recognize one another as being part of the agile tribe.

This was originally published as part of a longer article at Apple Brook Consulting blog.

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.

Brewing Great Agile Team Dynamics

Photo by Shawn Rossi

Photo by Shawn Rossi

One of my coworkers texted me the other day asking if I could bring her a Diet Coke. She was teaching a full-day class, and it was mid-afternoon. I was thrilled to have finished my last meeting of the day so I could oblige. Why?

Because we're teammates. Because she does a lot and asks for little in return. And because this was a small way that I could show my appreciation.

Years ago, this coworker and I worked together at another company and did a DISC workshop to learn about our behavior profiles. We learned our own behavior and communication preferences, and more importantly for our coaching team, we learned about each other's profiles. That's when I recognized that this coworker of mine is high in Steadiness (and that the colleagues I found challenging to work with had the exact opposite profile of mine). People high in steadiness are reliable, humble, and enjoy being part of a team. Knowing that and my own preferences has made it easier for us to work together.

Want to learn more about DISC and how it can be used with your team? Listen to Barry Forrest and I chat with Ryan Ripley on the Agile for Humans podcast, read our Brewing Great Agile Team Dynamics presentation slides from AgileIndy, or sign up for an Agile Team Dynamics workshop.

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.

Every Agile Coach is Different

Photo by Ravi Shah

Photo by Ravi Shah

If you’ve talked to more than one agile coach, you’ve probably realized that agile coaches vary in their experience, knowledge, skills, and styles. And if you’ve worked with multiple coaches, you’re more than likely aware that they think and behave differently. There’s no single path to becoming an agile coach, and organizations face a wide variety of challenges that lead them to hire agile coaches. But how often do we talk about how we engage as agile coaches with those we will be coaching? At Agile & Beyond, Matthew Heusser reminded me that agile coaches are incredibly diverse, and we can learn a lot from each other.

In professional coaching, designing the alliance or contracting focuses on setting expectations and defining agreements for the coach and client to work together. If there’s a separate sponsor, he or she will also be included in a conversation to clarify what information will and will not be shared about the coaching.

Talking about coaching and our own working styles can be awkward. Thankfully it gets easier with practice. I have presented two different presentations that explore coaching relationships and how to set them up for success (and reset them as needed), and I look forward to speaking on the topic more in the future:

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 Impostor is an Overachiever

Photo by Moo Kitty

Photo by Moo Kitty

Impostor syndrome can happen to anyone at anytime, and it can cause us to play small in our lives. Make us feel like we’re frauds. That stinks because there’s so much good that we can do when we’re living our values and using our strengths. Our inner critic—our saboteur—can eat us alive through its endless comparisons, need to please, and perfectionism. And then I read about what can derail leadership, and this statement stopped me in my tracks:

The impostor is an overachiever.

Ouch--overachieving is my norm!

Thankfully I’ve gained more awareness of my commitments (and over-commitments) and learned to evaluate how I spend my time against my values. I even managed to have an entire week where I was home each night not too long ago—that’s never happened. My husband and I started dating in college, and back then, I had evening classes and extracurricular activities that would have prevented me from being home. I was busy earning three Bachelors degrees, leading a professional engineering fraternity on my campus, and swing dancing socially. That was years and years ago, so like I said—overachieving is my norm.

It would be unrealistic to think that I’d cut my commitments in half and do a lot less. When I'm considering a new project or opportunity, the trick is to not choose from a place of fear, like I'm not enough. It helps my "yes" to be more meaningful.

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.

Impostor Syndrome Strikes Again!

Photo by Sander van der Wel

Photo by Sander van der Wel

The last two months have been an amazing whirlwind of conferences for me, and during that time, I’ve faced and moved beyond impostor syndrome. It’s easy to think that being accepted to speak at a conference means that you’ve made it, that you’ve proven yourself as an expert, or that you’re a valued community leader. And it’s precisely when you’re going out on a limb, crossing an edge, and trying something new that your inner critic gets louder.

My schedule included co-facilitating a large open space event, presenting new workshops at three conferences, and co-leading with a new conference speaker. I’ve been talking about coaching skills that are challenging and trying to make them easy. My inner critic got downright obnoxious and made me doubt that I could do it all. I’ve gone from feeling like an invisible girl to rather famous in a short period of time, and I’m still adjusting to the highs and lows I’ve felt.

And thankfully in the midst of all of this, I found myself belonging to a very special tribe: a group of us who were traveling to conferences week after week and sharing our wisdom because we felt compelled to do so. Our paths crossed in multiple cities, and there was comfort in recognizing that we were not alone. Our busy schedules kept us away from home, and we had familiar faces along the way to keep things light.

In fact, after an incredible group discussion on impostor syndrome during Agile Coach Camp in New York, a few of us revisited the topic during Agile & Beyond for a recording of the Agile Uprising podcast. Listen to Chris Murman, Billie Schuttpelz, Pradeepa Narayanaswamy and me talk about impostor syndrome.

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.

Roundtable Roulette - A Podcast Experiment

Photo by SolutionsIQ - Allison Pollard, Chris Shinkle, Leon Sabarsky, and Howard Sublett at Keep Austin Agile 2017

Photo by SolutionsIQ - Allison Pollard, Chris Shinkle, Leon Sabarsky, and Howard Sublett at Keep Austin Agile 2017

This year I was fortunate to be speaking at Keep Austin Agile again, and SolutionsIQ was setup to record for their Agile Amped podcast. The podcast is recorded live at conferences and features interviews with various speakers--it's an exciting way to hear some of the energy of a conference for those unable to attend. And as a speaker, it's lovely to have a more intimate conversation when you're at an event to present to a large group of people.

Anyways, Howard Sublett invited me to join him, Chris Shinkle, and Leon Sabarsky in a podcast experiment that he called Roundtable Roulette. We took turns answering random questions that we had not seen before, and it was a lively discussion! Listen to us talk about what advice we would give to Product Owners, which TV or movie character would be a great Scrum Master and more -- Roundtable Roulette at Keep Austin Agile.

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.

Power Coaching at Keep Austin Agile

This week is the Keep Austin Agile conference, which has been one of my favorites for the last four years. Cherie Silas and I are presenting a new session called Power Coaching. As professional coaches, Cherie and I incorporate coaching skills into our work as agilists, and we want to help others to do the same. Hope to see you there!

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.

Coaches Say the Darndest Things

Photo by timechaser

Photo by timechaser

It goes without saying that I love coaching. I am involved in user groups, I attend conferences and camps regularly, and I deepened my skills through intentional practice by becoming a Certified Professional Co-Active Coaches.

There's an energy that is created when coaches come together and share ideas. A buzz, a liveliness. It's exciting and reinvigorating!

I've been fortunate to work with some incredibly talented coaches, and I had a big realization a few months ago: we coaches talk funny. We have our own language. And it can be alienating to those around us.

Working with a pragmatic technical coach, an integral agile wizard, and a Deming-influenced management consultant at a client organization was an exciting and a rich learning opportunity for me. If you listened in on our conversations, you would hear things like:

"How do we design alliances with the teams we are coaching?"

"What's going on from the IT perspective? WE perspective?"

"How do we encourage teams to enhance testing within the sprint to improve quality?"

"What would a statistical quality control implementation look like here?"

Conversations were lively, future-focused, and included constructive disagreements. And then I realized that one person was often quiet: the internal coach we were mentoring. The language we were using was full of jargon and difficult for him to understand at times. And he didn't always feel comfortable asking us to slow down and explain.

Someone we wanted to support very much was being left out.

Reflecting on this, I realized that the coaches I admired the most used words to connect to others. They understood ideas well enough to translate them into natural language. As we learn new concepts, we often get hung up on the terminology and use it often to integrate the learning for ourselves. Once integrated, it's easier for us to ask, "How would help us work together effectively?" and "What practices are supporting us? How is culture helping or hurting?"

Let's be aware of the language we're using and the impact it's having on those around us. A wise coach once told me, "I'm ok with changing the words to help someone else get onboard with an idea. I'm already sold on the idea myself, so it doesn't change it for me."

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.

Analyzing the System through Value Stream Mapping

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

In any organization, there exist a multitude of processes and activities, and it’s not always clear how the work groups are connected to one another. Each group can optimize its processes, but how does that impact the overall organization?

In helping organizations become more agile, I get to learn about the various ways that people inside and outside of the technology group do their work and how that work fits together. How does value flow through the organization to customers? In order to be more aligned, efficient, and able to pivot, a clear understanding of current processes and activities is needed.

That’s where value stream mapping helps.

I recently facilitated a value stream mapping exercise with representatives from all parts of an organization, IT and non-IT. After explaining the concept and goals of value stream mapping, the group started outlining at the whiteboard how they work today. The first version was high-level and showed how work flowed from one group to another before reaching the customer. A more detailed version highlighted the variety of tools used to manage work at various stages and the complexity of the system. Processes existed for many different workflows, and it was difficult for the group to create a clear visual of how value flowed through the organization. Realizing how difficult it was to see the full system was a powerful discovery on its own. And even without a perfect visual, potential problems and gaps became apparent that could be addressed.

Inevitably in any organization, there are handoffs between groups, redundant activities, and complicated processes. The ability to recognize those potential areas of waste can be difficult. In introducing techniques like value stream mapping, we are enabling transparency across work groups and the ability to make decisions that optimize the whole system rather than component areas. An entire organization can increase its agility when its employees understand how their work fits into the big picture and are able to adapt their work to better achieve the organization’s goals. That’s incredible.

So if you want to help your organization be more agile, consider facilitating a value stream mapping workshop. Invite representatives from the respective work groups, introduce the concepts and goals, walk through an example value stream map, and watch what emerges from the group.

 

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.

Relying on Experts for Their Expertise

Photo by Derek Bruff

Photo by Derek Bruff

How often do we put ourselves in the hands of experts and trust their judgment to help us?

I've been seeing the same hair stylist for over 10 years. She knows my hair, she knows my lifestyle, and she knows that I'm not going to spend much time styling my own hair. Each visit, I sit down in the chair and let her do whatever she wants. She's not going to give me blue hair or a really edgy style because she knows that won't work in my role as a coach/consultant and with who I am. I don't have to learn what to ask for or suffer the same style year after year. My stylist knows better than me what will work and what the trends are.

When I am picking out new glasses each year, I rely on the employee in the shop to tell me what styles look good and which don't. If she doesn't think a pair works on me, I don't bother to look in the mirror. Styles that I might not have tried otherwise make their way into the pool of options. I feel safer to explore new looks because I have someone who will give me honest feedback. Picking out a different style each year is exciting rather than nerve-wracking or mundane. She knows better than me what will work and what the trends are.

Shopping for clothes and accessories became easier when I started working with a stylist. She knows my lifestyle (work and non-work), she knows my body type, and she knows my budget. I show up to a dressing room full of items for me to try on and consider, and inevitably, there are a few pieces to push me outside of my comfort zone. Not every piece is a winner, and that's great--I tried something and decided if it was me or not. Sometimes the style is flattering and the item just isn't me, and sometimes the idea is great and the fit isn't. I end up with a wardrobe that works for me without the frustration of searching. It's hard to know what will work or not work when you see it on a hanger. Once again, my stylist knows better than me what will work and what the trends are.

It takes effort to become a trusted partner for your expertise. There's deep knowledge and passion for your area and continual learning. Building relationships and a willingness to tell the truth when something just doesn't work. And a focus on the other person over yourself. Those are the experts who experience the joy of a trusted partnership, and it's great when it is achieved.

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.