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:

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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.

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.

Book Review: Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Photo by Paul Pival

Photo by Paul Pival

The Scrum Masters in the organization that I coach went to a class on EQ, and one of them let me borrow the book they received in it, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry.  Like StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, this book includes a passcode to take an online assessment.

The book is organized by the 4 categories of emotional intelligence--self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management--and provides strategies for each category.  I thought it was an interesting read, although I wish I had taken the online assessment first so that I would have thought more about what I might do differently in my everyday life.  If it works with my schedule, I will likely take the EQ class.  There was a quote about change that resonated with me:

Change can be a little...

Embarrassing, because as you practice new things, the very people who feel you ought to change may poke fun at you, forget to encourage you along the way, or not even notice. Don't give up. The rewards will outweigh these challenges because you will be better positioned personally and professionally than you ever were before. 

I remember struggling with physics when I was in college, and my boyfriend at the time offered to tutor me.  It was painful for me to listen to him explain the subject, and I didn't want to ask questions and show that I didn't understand.  He wanted to help, but I wasn't fully open to it.  There are times when I sense the people I coach are experiencing similar challenges to being open; I know the internal struggle to be vulnerable and risk making mistakes that others may see all too well.  The book offered strategies to overcome those feelings, and I wish I had practiced them in the past.

In a typical "me" fashion, I rated myself rather harshly when I took the online assessment, and my scores are nothing to brag about.  I had already been reflecting on my skills since I'd read the book, and that may have affected how I scored myself.  Being aware of emotional intelligence is beneficial though, and I'm curious to see if I would score better in the future as I continue practice taking better care of myself by giving myself slack time to avoid burnout and add some of the book's strategies to my life.

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.

Book Review: Toyota Kata

Photo by sean dreilinger

Photo by sean dreilinger

I found out about Mike Rother's Toyota Kata from my boss--he had recommended it to another one of my coworkers, so I heard quite a bit about the book from the two of them and decided I had to read it myself.  

The book is about how Toyota has created a culture of continuous improvement through what the author has decided to call "katas."  The katas are so ingrained in the Toyota culture that they do not talk about them, which is why it's an unfamiliar topic for Americans.  Rother discusses two katas: the improvement kata and the coaching kata.  The improvement kata is a group of patterns used to make striving and scientific working a daily habit.  Practicing the improvement kata helps people get better at navigating unknown territory and meeting challenges in business and in any other endeavor.  To be effective, the improvement kata should be practiced and coached every day.  The coaching kata is how managers and supervisors teach and reinforce the improvement kata with their employees.

I'm familiar with the PCDA approach to improvement, but it was interesting to read how Toyota sets target conditions to strive for because the focus is on how a process should operate, not just setting a quantifiable result.  The idea is that by understanding the current condition and target condition, we can identify the problems well enough that the next step will become clear.  The key is to work on only one problem at a time so the cause-effect relationship is maintained.

The coaching kata was fascinating to me; in order to be able to coach, one must have been coached through the improvement kata previously.  The coach needs to be familiar enough with the kata to know what the next step is.  As the author described it, it initially seems like the coach or manager knows the answers to the questions he is asking his employee, but in fact, he is asking the questions because he knows the next step of the kata (and not necessarily the solution).

More information about the Toyota Kata can be found here.

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.

Book Review: Collaboration Explained

Photo by Garry Knight

Photo by Garry Knight

I've noticed that some project managers who become Scrum Masters struggle because they lack the facilitation skills needed, so I picked up Jean Tabaka's Collaboration Explained, hoping it would be a resource I could recommend or would provide me with ideas on how to teach them to be more effective.  Needless to say, I was underwhelmed by the book.

Jean Tabaka is an Agile Coach with Rally Software Development, and she included some good anecdotes throughout the book, but overall I felt like the book was a long read that didn't share anything new.  There is information on how to run various Agile meetings, including agendas in the back of the book.  There are some tips and tools throughout that can be used by any project leader on how to manage team collaboration and conflict, including basic information like how to decide who to include in meetings and setting a meeting agenda.

It may be a great resource for those who are starting to transition into a role where more facilitation skills are needed, but it is probably not a book to help you improve your skills and step up your game.  At least, I hope that experienced folks would be familiar with all of the information found in this book!

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.

Book Review: Good to Great

Photo by Filipe Barreto

Photo by Filipe Barreto

I love to read, and I go through phases where I knock out books left and right--I am in such a phase right now.  After hearing numerous references to Good to Great by Jim Collins, I finally picked it up and read it, and I'm so glad that I did.  When considering how to lead change in an organization, I often think ofthe ideas from The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner; my fraternity uses this model for its Leadership Academy, and it has been quite effective.  But Good to Great is based on real companies and real data and notes what made them stand out.  The ideas are rather simple, but they have changed the way I think about organizations.  (Here's a short article by Jim Collins if you're not familiar with Good to Great)

The first tidbit was getting the right people on the bus.  You don't need to have a vision or clear direction of where you're going--the first step is getting the right people in the organization.  It seems contrary to how I previously thought about leading change, and yet I think that's because this step is taken for granted.  Change can be hard--painful even--so it is important that we have talented people we can rely upon to support us and challenge us when we need it.

The flywheel and hedgehog concepts are brilliant, and these are metaphors that I think can be used within organizations to keep momentum going.

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.