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.

Thank you for showing up

Photo by Terrie Schweitzer

Photo by Terrie Schweitzer

This week I found myself telling someone, “thank you for showing up," and while it made perfect sense in my head, it didn’t come out quite right. The person and those nearby didn’t know that I’ve been practicing being present.  Staying in level 2 and 3 listening with individuals and teams.  Ignoring electronics during meetings.  Thinking about what I need to do and be before I attend meetings.  Working on self-management and care.  Trying to discover “Allison” and let the masks down more.

Showing up is a BIG DEAL!

In the workplace, it’s become harder to get people’s time, let alone their attention.  Commitments are becoming weaker or missing entirely because there’s so much to do.  Emotions run higher than normal because of the stress.  Meetings are less effective because key people are not present.  Folks are reactive rather than proactive.  Dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

Ok, maybe not the last part.  Organizations are complex, and the pace of business is super-fast.  It is all too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of work, and we need more steadfast individuals to remind us to slow down.  The only way to go fast is to go well.

So I sincerely meant thank you for showing up, for being present, for making good on a committed action and letting people see you as a leader and a person.  That’s no easy feat.

What would it say about your character and values if you put aside all distractions to be present with someone for an hour today?  

Show up. 

We need you.

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.

Big Chunks of Time for Thinking

Photo by Johan Rd

Photo by Johan Rd

I came across an article on the New York Times called "More Reflection, Less Action" that talks about how people need time to reflect [which I've been practicing by adding slack time to my days].  There were a couple of quotes that I wanted to share:

...we too often view the opposite of “doing” as “not doing,” and then demonize inaction. In fact, good judgment grows out of reflection, and reflection requires the sort of quiet time that gets crowded out by the next demand.

When you're used to being busy all the time, it is difficult to adjust to being still--to "not doing."  It feels like the your brain just got off of a moving sidewalk.  As you adjust, you find that your brain starts thinking of new ideas and connecting pieces you hadn't connected before.  You think bigger and freer.  You reflect.

The article also mentions how Google has made iterating part of its culture: "Rethinking, reconsidering, and even reimagining are built into the process."  I work with teams that push back on rework because to them it signifies double work.  But what if we viewed that "extra" work as opening the door to possibility?  Now that we've seen the product, let's reimagine it and try it another way.  What would that mean for customers?  For our organization?  Yes, it may mean more designing, more programming, and more testing, but if we stop and reflect on what we're being asked to do, what would we think? 

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.

Scaling Agile and Scaling Excellence

Photo by Deana

Photo by Deana

There are a number of challenges when it comes to scaling agile, and after watching a TED talk by Huggy Rao on Scaling Up Excellence, I found some of the ideas to be similar to what I’ve seen as a coach.

(1) Successful scaling isn’t about running-up the numbers as fast and far as you can.  When working in an organization, agile coaches often struggle to define success metrics for their work.  We might talk about number of agile teams or even go as far as evaluating teams’ maturity to provide more information to stakeholders about how the coaching engagement is going.  I’ve created such reports, and they might be a starting point for conversations with leaders to talk about the state of their organization, but I haven’t found the report to show success in scaling the agile mindset.  According to Huggy’s presentation, scaling excellence is about spreading and sustaining a mindset, not just a footprint.  Excellence comes from the feeling that “you own the place and it owns you.”  That sense of responsibility leads to long-term success.  And that’s largely why I think the most powerful thing I can coach people in an organization to do is to adopt a more agile mindset.

(2) Navigating the Buddhism – Catholicism continuum: do you want to outline principles that lead to a mindset, or do you want the rituals and recipe for replication?  Agile adoptions often end up in the latter, and it’s easy to understand why.  Teaching a team to adopt scrum is easier than teaching a team to be agile.  By putting certain practices in place, we are often able to increase predictability of delivery and visibility so it is easier for people to make better decisions.  And if that’s all that the organization wants, that’s fine.  For organizations that want to go beyond so every team member and leader produces excellence, then a more Buddhist approach should be considered.  I’ve found it helpful to do agile walkabouts or have people shadow me to explore what agile looks like and feels like in an organization.  When an organization wants the mindset, as coaches, we must pay significant attention to the individual emotional and organizational culture aspects in addition to individual and team practices.

(3) Successful scaling depends as much on eliminating the negative as it does on accentuating the positive.  I am familiar with the positive/negative ratio and its effects on individuals and teams, but I hadn’t given as much thought to the effects of cognitive load and negativity.  If a person is overwhelmed with trying to remember a lot of stuff, working on multiple projects or tasks, or stressed out, his/her feeling of accountability is decreased.  A person in those situations is more like to do something bad rather than something excellent--YIKES!  I’ve noticed that since I added more slack time to my schedule, I smile more in the office; I also feel like other people are smiling more in the office, although it’s possible I didn’t notice it when I was overloaded.  And it’s easier to know where I am and where I want to go in the coaching stance when I’m not overloaded.  I think that’s incredibly powerful because it means I’m more likely to see and celebrate what’s going right in addition to noticing what needs to be improved.

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.

Stop Being Busy

Photo by id iom

Photo by id iom

Some people are just too busy for their own good.  I feel tired thinking of the people I know who are overwhelmed with work and drowning from other commitments.  Why is it so hard to work--and live--at a sustainable pace?  What is so important that we exhaust ourselves to accomplish?

I remember as a Project Manager putting in long days and nights at the office with my development team to get projects done and deployed.  In December.  The week of my birthday.  We were BUSY.  The pendulum of work rarely swung the other way though.  It took work to create downtime, and that became part of my job to do for the team.  Figuring out how to manage the work so the team could take a longer lunch or even catch an afternoon movie took effort and became a valuable skill in preserving everyone's sanity.  

Not all work is of equal importance; therefore, not all work requires the same sense of urgency.  There is wisdom in knowing when to push on to do more work and when to call it a day.  I worry that many people struggle to recognize the difference and push themselves past their limits.  They work themselves too hard.

Let's help one another stop being so busy.  Take the word out of your vocabulary when people ask how you've been.  If you see someone who is overworked, help them to slow down.  Be productive, be happy, be connected--be anything but busy.

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.