Exploring a Personal Value: Powerful

Photo by JD Hancock

Photo by JD Hancock

In my last CTI class, we discussed values and how they can be expressed.  It can start with one word and be elaborated through phrases or images or sounds—a stream of ideas that represent the value to you. 

For years now, I’ve found the word powerful to be appealing.  It’s big, bold, and strong.  And it started rather simply:

“List in order of preference the top two academic areas that interest you from the majors list.”  I liked programming and literature, so I wrote down computer science and English on my college application.  Later I attended the School of Engineering orientation where my adviser told all of us incoming students that a math degree was only four additional classes with the computer science degree; later that week I walked into my adviser’s Star Trek-decorated office to talk one-on-one about my schedule thinking I should aim for the computer and math dual major.  But he said those magic words: “If you could find a way to earn all three degrees, it would be powerful.”

I went back to my dorm room convinced I could make it work, and I did—I graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BS in computer science, a BA in math, and a BA in English.  While in college, I also joined Theta Tau Fraternity, served two years as my chapter’s regent, and was named the national fraternity’s Robert E. Pope Outstanding Student Member.  To say I was busy is an understatement.

By my senior year, I felt powerful.  And post-graduation, my career has taken me on a journey to further explore that value.  I came across Dr. Brene Brown’s works and realized that powerful [for me] also contains a wholeness—wholeheartedness.  Deep presence that contributes to the BIGness of powerful. 

Exploring the idea further, I remember a group dance lesson taught by Dawn Hampton.  It wasn’t about practicing certain moves or where to put your feet or anything like that—it was about listening to music and connecting to your body.  Every person in the room danced their own groove to bhangra.  That word—bhangra—is a powerful one.  It is compelling and strong.  The video I found of Dawn and bhangra didn’t feel right to me, so I’m posting a different song and dance.  This is closer to what I think it feels like to be wholehearted, connected, and powerful:

What’s one of your values, and what does it hold for 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.

Focusing Your Energy through Lists

Photo by Kyle Steed

Photo by Kyle Steed

My husband and I first met in college, and when I was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I had to do, he would tell me, "sleep is for the weak."  It didn't give me much comfort, but I survived college thanks to the occasional all-nighter and power nap.  When my husband was in graduate school and tired, I reminded him of his "sleep is for the weak" motto, but he didn't buy into it.  Clearly it wasn't something he truly believed.  Lots of people have similar mottos, like "you can rest when you're done," but such thoughts only encourage us to do more than can be reasonably expected and push us beyond a sustainable pace.  They're harmful.

Now that it's 2013, many people have created resolutions for the new year.  I identified some things that I wanted to focus on in January, and admittedly, I've done a terrible job of following through on them.  Why?  Because I didn't specify what I would stop doing.  My To Do list increased, but my To Not Do list did not.  

Lots of managers have busy schedules and full plates, often reacting to their boss's and employees' needs instead of being proactive and shaping the organization.  More than perhaps any other group, managers need To Not Do lists.  Teams achieve focus through the use of backlogs and timeboxed iterations, but managers typically lack such tools.  I suggest implementing them to create just enough structure to inspect and adapt more effectively.  Using a backlog (a.k.a. a To Do list) is a great way to achieve focus on the highest value items, and the visibility of requests for time can help identify items for the To Not Do list.  The use of a backlog and timeboxed iterations requires discipline, but the results often speak for themselves, and it'll build more empathy with development teams.

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.

Teams Going Boldly

Photo by Amanda G

Photo by Amanda G

Saturday was my birthday, and by coincidence, my company's holiday party was that evening.  My goals were to have a relatively stress-free day and to look AMAZING for the party.  Without sounding too brazen, I think I accomplished both goals... by relying on a few experts.  I had help picking out my dress.  And advice for my hair and accessories.  And I even had someone else do my makeup.  I felt a little like Cinderella with fairy godmothers to help transform my look for one special night, but I noticed that each seemed to advocate courage [without using that exact term].

The 5 values of Scrum are courage, commitment, openness, focus, and respect.  They sound so simple, but I feel like courage is often underplayed when it comes to teams.  A high-performing team believes it can solve any problem, owns its decisions and commitments, and displays constructive disagreement.  The team needs to be not only self-organizing but empowered.  And as Esther Derby recently told the DFW Scrum user group, "One way to keep a team self-organizing is to treat them like adults."

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.

Simple Rules and Emergencies

Photo by Kristy Johnson

Photo by Kristy Johnson

Most of us know the importance of being proactive rather than reactive, but in many organizations, emergencies and "fires" can be the norm.  An organization can tell employees that one of its values is being proactive, but what does that mean?  As Seth Godin points out, "An organization that's run on emergencies and reaction to incoming doesn't know what to do when there are no problems."  A simple rule can help translate a value into a behavior.

During AYE, I started discussing what a simple rule for being proactive might be.  We came up with:

Listen to your gut and share information freely.

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.