Mentoring is not Cloning

Photo by lorigami

Photo by lorigami

Years ago I attended an Agile Scrum Immersion class. My mentor was the instructor, and I’d been looking forward to learning how he taught the class; I hoped it might reveal new ways of explaining concepts or leading activities that would make me a better teacher.

He was incredible at creating a safe learning environment, engaging students, and telling stories. His energy was infectious as he dramatically explained how the Agile Manifesto came to be, jovially walked through Scrum in his own poetic yet plainspoken way, and imparted to us signals to be wary of in our agile journeys.

I remember a student asking a question, and I started thinking about how I would answer if I was leading the class. And then listened as my mentor spoke to his experience before agile and after. His answer was quite different from mine—I did not have equivalent pre-agile experience. That was the moment I realized I would never be my mentor. We could both certainly teach and coach, but our approaches would be different. Our own experiences would inform us in our work. To act like his clone or mimic his style would actually be detrimental—I’d be a fraud.

After presenting at the Dallas Agile Leadership Network recently, a friend told me she found herself thinking, “I want to be like Allison” for my ability to engage with an audience so naturally. Flattered, I knew immediately she would not be exactly like me. Another notion came to mind too: she would never be me but could channel her “inner Allison.” There have been times when I’ve sought to be more easygoing, extroverted, or authoritative and found help in thinking of role models of those qualities. I reflected on what they do that I admire and figure out where that may already live within me. I can try it on and practice being more of an external connector, for example. Engaging with strangers and warming up an audience for a talk. It reminds me of years ago when I first attended a swing dance; my best friend walked me up to someone and asked him to dance with me since I was new. I have no idea how red my face might have been in that interaction, but I learned quickly how to approach strangers on my own. Building that capacity has served me well in many areas now.

We learn so much about ourselves in relationship with others, and we can inspire each other to develop aspects of ourselves that might remain dormant otherwise. Borrowing from one another and trying new ways of being without full-on mimicry. Whether we are mentoring someone or being mentored, we must remember that cloning is not the goal. Personal learning and development is.

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.

Learn What an Amazing Mentoring Relationship is Like

Photo by Liz West

Photo by Liz West

Mentoring relationships can take many different forms. I have a few people I consider mentors, and I do not work alongside them on a daily basis. In fact, most of them do not live in Dallas. It seems like our lives intersect precisely when I need it most, and I gain much from our conversations. They can be my champions, my inspiration, my teachers, and my source of wisdom. When I imagine my future, I find myself borrowing from their examples. This quote from an article about 5 types of mentors captured it beautifully:

The best mentors can help us define and express our inner calling. —Anthony Tjan

That’s a big task for a mentor and one that I take seriously. Part of being an Agile Coach and consultant means mentoring the internal coaching capabilities of an organization—finding the employees who will continue the good work of teaching and coaching others after I’ve left. I’ve had the pleasure of coaching many new Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches over the years, and one of my joys is connecting them to the greater agile community—I especially love catching up with previous clients at meetups and conferences. So when my friend and fellow Dallas-based Agile Coach Chris Murman said he was looking for someone new to be on the Agile Amped podcast, I immediately said, “I have an idea!”

Noreen, Chris, and Allison at Agile 2018

Noreen, Chris, and Allison at Agile 2018

This podcast episode marks the first for Noreen Emanuel, Agile Coach. She brings empathy to relationships and lights up a room with her positive energy. An avid learner, Noreen embraces new ideas and adapts to change; her servant leadership inspires those around her to do the same. I’ve been fortunate to be her mentor as she begins her agile coaching journey, and we’ve got a formidable partnership. Listen to our conversation with Chris and learn what an amazing mentoring relationship is like from both sides.

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.

Mentoring for All Ages

Photo by Ariel van Spronsen

Photo by Ariel van Spronsen

January is National Mentoring Month.  Realizing that it's National Mentoring Month made me wonder what else I can do to mentor others.  According to the official NMM website:

To be a mentor, you don't need special skills, just an ability to listen and to offer friendship, guidance and encouragement to a young person. And you'll be amazed by how much you'll get out of the experience.

Helping young people is great, and it's why I'm happy to be on the Theta Tau Educational Foundation board supporting college students who belong to the fraternity.  In fact, one of the key skills I look forward to teaching my student brothers is how to be a mentor to others.

But it's not just young people who can benefit from mentors.  Sometimes we all need to talk to someone who can help us be successful.  In order to connect with more people I can help, I'm trying a new tool: Clarity.  It's a service that helps you find, schedule and pay for expert advice over the phone to help you be more productive.  All of my earnings go to charity:water.

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.

Mentoring and Gratitude

Photo by Shannon Kringen

Photo by Shannon Kringen

I just finished a virtual coaching class, and I am now an ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Coaching!  I loved the class, and I learned a lot by practicing coaching skills over the 7 weeks.  During the class, we watched a video about gratitude that got me thinking about the role of mentors in the agile transition:

By the time I "really" became a Scrum Master, I was already part of the agile community and knew people with more experience that I could learn from.  I had someone to tell me to trust my instincts and be proud of my small wins.  I was excited to tell him about the magic I had found in posting 300 index cards with features and defects on walls for our business folks to prioritize, and he laughed and smiled with delight.  He has been instrumental in making me the coach that I am today.

Now as a coach, I find myself showing gratitude for the Scrum Masters and teams that I work with:

 

And showing gratitude for my peers:

And I'm in an environment of gratitude:

And some are showing their gratitude for my 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.