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Something Shared

21 Jun 2017 |

Something Shared

By Natalie Janse van Rensburg – Agile Consultant, IQ Business


Six months ago, I started at a new client where part of my role is that of a Scrum Master/Agile Coach. It has been and still is an awesome, challenging, testing, and exciting time, filled with many great opportunities, learning, and growth.

I’d like to share some of the things that I found most important during this time and plan on continually reminding myself of. Most of us already know and have heard about these many times. Yet, as simple as they are, when faced with a new or challenging scenario, they can easily be forgotten or neglected.

It is not about you

It is not about you, it is about the team, the organisation, and the individuals.
Sometimes, you can easily get caught up in achieving what you envision for the team, as well as the need to ensure that it happens quickly.
When you find yourself becoming frustrated, take a step back, and check yourself – am I pushing my personal vision? Or am I helping the team achieve the collective vision in the way that works best for the group?
When I first joined IQ Business, my boss gave me a valuable piece of advice, “meet people where they are”. This is not about condoning the organisational culture or breaking the Agile principles or values. It is about meeting the team where they are right now on their journey of growth, and encouraging and helping them to grow further.

Lastly, there are many changes that you will be part of for which you will not get recognition. Resist the urge to say “I told you so!” or “finally, that’s what I’ve been saying for the past month!”. Instead, find satisfaction and excitement in the fact that you helped sow the seeds, and facilitate an environment that enabled the shift. See the achievement from their perspective and celebrate with them.

Maintain perspective

I have a knack for finding ‘issues’ or areas for improvement. I then get super-excited about addressing all of them, only to realise they are not actually within my control. This is where excitement turns into helplessness and frustration.
Keep the big picture in mind but don’t let the enormity of the challenge overwhelm you.
You cannot address everything at the same time.
Instead, think ‘Kaizen’ – focus on one achievable change at a time.

Step back every once in a while and take in just how far the team has come.
I was given a great analogy for this – imagine you are leaving Durban harbour on a ship set for Madagascar. When you look forward over the vast ocean, it is difficult to judge the ship’s progress. But when you look back, you can see Durban getting smaller and smaller, and you become aware of how the ship is progressing. It is easy to become disheartened if all we see is the vastness of the challenges ahead!
Look back every now and then, celebrate the small achievements, and maintain perspective.

Be patient

Change takes time, and it cannot be forced. Being non-linear, there will be periods of seeming lack of progress, and then a significant shift. The period of ‘nothingness’ doesn’t imply that no progress is being made. It could be like growing roots in a plant; the growth takes place out of sight, laying the foundation for future advancement.

Take the time to build relationships

Take the time to get to know individuals, and genuinely build relationships.
We feel appreciated when people put in the effort required to truly get to know us, which in turn builds rapport and trust.

Listen; really listen

We have heard this so many times, yet a lot of us still struggle.
We are talking about really listening; putting aside what you think the person is saying or going to say, and actively listening. Then, before providing your own perspective, clarify that you have heard them correctly, and let them know you have heard them through questions and acknowledgement of what they’ve said. Never underestimate the impact of truly being heard.

Talk with people, not ‘at’ them

Have you ever entered into a ‘conversation’ with someone where the language tells you this should be a conversation, yet you can tell that giving input or expressing your view is a complete waste of time because the person is not actually interested? What they really want to do is express their opinion or point of view. The person is speaking ‘at’ you, as opposed to ‘with’ you. Frustrating, right? It feels like you are being told what to think. People generally don’t enjoy being spoken at or told, this usually leads to disengagement.

Look after yourself

We all have different resiliency levels; wherever your level is, you need to make sure that you look after yourself by getting enough rest and downtime. We deal with various conflicts on a daily basis, and if we want to keep our patience and maintain a clear head, we need to be on top form. It is a lot more difficult to manage your emotions and make sound decisions when you are fatigued.

Talk ‘whys’ more than anything else

Why are we doing this? Values and principles are important. If you want buy-in, you need to talk ‘why’, otherwise it is just another process to which they are being asked to conform. How can a team reflect and adapt if they don’t know why they are doing something?

Be open-minded

In short, there are many ways to solve the same problem. Many of which you won’t see, and may be even better than your approach. So don’t get attached to your ideas. Provide the team with the reasoning around why, and any relevant information. Let them decide on how things get done. This would increase the ownership of the ‘how’, increasing the likelihood of success.

You cannot make people want to do something

If the consequence or someone’s influence is great enough, people can be ‘made’ to do something. It is unlikely though that you will make them want to do it. The latter being the most powerful; intrinsic motivation. We know that intrinsic motivation leads to innovative, self-organising, high-performing teams.
You cannot force intrinsic motivation, but you can help foster an environment that enables and supports it.

Be willing to innovate and experiment

The organisational culture that we aim for is not one where we all fit into a prescribed box. We want teams that are willing to try new things, so we must ‘walk the walk’: embody the culture that you want to see.
Try different facilitation techniques or ways of doing something, and encourage the team to do the same.

While remembering all of the above, and working to improve at the ones we struggle with, comes the one I find most challenging – accept that you will make mistakes.
Two of our IQ Agility team members are very big sketchers and visual thinkers. They shared a great Visual Thinking tip with us – when you mess up, (you do Visual Thinking in pen/marker, not in pencil) draw a heart around it and move on. So when you stumble, (because you will) learn from the experience; ‘draw a heart around it’ and move on.