Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

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Dysfunctional Delusions

November 28, 2016

If you want high performing teams, they have to be built first and foremost on a foundation of trust.  Patrick Lencioni cites the lack of trust as the first (of five) dysfunctions of a team.  The team members must feel that their other teammates will “have their back” when things get rough.  And as a manager or leader, that includes you too.  In fact, if you want to shift your organizational culture to a more empowered, trust-based culture, management must lead the way by demonstrating (not just talking about) the values and behavioral norms you want for the organization.

One key factor that trust is built on is consistency.  Are you consistent in your behavior?  Are you complimentary one moment and then arrogant or dismissive the next?  Are you puerile?  Vindictive?  People trust their leadership when the feel they know how you will react in various situations.  With trust they will feel they can bring issues to you for help when necessary without risking their positions.  If your behavior varies significantly, your teams realize they cannot understand what your reaction to any given problem will be.  They won’t feel safe to be honest with you.   In other words, they won’t trust you.

And if you think you can behave one way in front of your teams and another in private, you are deluding yourself.  When it comes to sensing duplicities, people seem to have x-ray vision.  They are very good at detecting such contrary behavior.  And when they do, trust may never develop.

To be a true leader you must build trust.  Otherwise your teams won’t progress and you’ll remain simply a taskmaster.

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Video Blog : Distractions Kill Teams

January 2, 2015

To see video click – www.screencast.com/t/b9lFNBIt

Also visit:

Websites:   www.ProjectPragmatics.com  and

http://www.JohncMaxwellGroup.com/bobmaksimchuk

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Are You Human?

October 8, 2014

Isaac Asimov’s science fiction short story “The Bicentennial Man” tells the tale of a robot named Andrew. With the help of some human benefactors, over a long time, Andrew replaces his robotic systems with biological parts, piece by piece by piece. So the question becomes: When does Andrew stop being a robot and becomes a human (or something else)?

Does Andrew’s behavior remind you of your team? Or yourself perhaps? Maybe you are well on your agile journey. Maybe you are just starting to adopt agile. Even with the best intentions you may find yourself facing the same question as Andrew if you’re not careful.
What I have found in many teams and organizations is that there is almost an innate drive to change things as soon as they learn (but have not mastered) them – ‘Now that we’ve learned this agile stuff, let’s:

a) Not have the daily scrum every day
b) Not have the whole team participate in planning
c) Just have the “leads” do the estimation and tasking
d) Not work with the Product Owner regularly – just at the end of the iteration is fine
e) Ignore our velocity when planning the iteration – the Project Manager will tell us what to commit to
f) Some of the above
g) All of the above
h) More than all of the above.’

Sound familiar?

Now I’m not an agile purist. I believe in adopting agile pragmatically. Once you have mastered the basics and are successfully delivering value regularly and you want to adopt your approach to improve how it can work better in your organization, try it. It may work.

But don’t do this haphazardly. Make sure you understand why the various agile techniques are what they are and do what they do. Consider carefully why you want to change things – to make it “easier” or “save time” or to just be more personally comfortable? Make any justifiable changes like you deliver software – incrementally. Then inspect and adapt the change as appropriate. Just be patient. Get good at this stuff first. There is no rush.

If you keep changing things too quickly and prematurely you may find yourself in a dilemma similar to Andrew. But you won’t be asking “Am I still a robot?” You will find yourself asking “Am I still behaving agilely?

For more like this, videos, and other things please visit www.ProjectPragmatics.com .

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The Baker’s Dozen of Coaching Leadership

May 11, 2014

1. Be Dedicated – to your client, your team, yourself. Commitment builds trust.
2. Be Curious – about your profession, your client, other fields. Learn continuously. If you think you know it all, you have limited your potential.
3. Be Humble – no matter how successful, smart, or well-known. Arrogance destroys relationships.
4. Be Energetic – Do you bring energy into the room or do you drain the life out of it?
5. Be Engaged – Your client doesn’t value an aloof advisor who provides little value.
6. Be Perceptive – See their gifts. Does your team have cheerleaders (encouragers), pragmatists (guides), jokers (morale builders), dreamers (visionaries)? Leverage these soft abilities as much as hard skills.
7. Be Empathic – See their needs. Be sure to serve their actual needs, not yours.
8. Be Resourceful – When your team has no answer and neither do you, take the initiative to go find a new option or approach for them that may be useful.
9. Be Uplifting – Don’t criticize the doubtful, the non-believers. Encourage and uplift them.
10. Be Persistent – when you hear “we’ve always done it this way”. You are a change agent. You can’t sail the seas when you are tied to the dock.
11. Be Resolute – Reject rejection. Take the high road. Repay your critics with kindness, service, and understanding.
12. Be Fun – Celebrate with your teams whenever they succeed, big or small.
13. Be Caring – Remember, they are not assets or resources. They are real people. With real lives. Just like you.

Come visit http://www.projectpragmatics.com .

 

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Tis the Season

December 19, 2013

As we fly through this Christmas season, give your teams the gift that will mean the most to them – empowerment.  The cost to you – nothing.  What do you get in return?  Speed, productivity, increased commitment and an overall happier team.

But you say your team is not able to self-organize?  Teach them.  Guide them.  If they are willing, lead them by showing why their particular strengths and skills are needed.  Show them why their contribution is important.  Show you are confident that they can self-organize and be successful.

You say it’s easier just to tell them what to do?  Do you really want them to bring every little problem to you for resolution?  (If so, I suggest you and your ego spend some quiet time in self-examination as to why you like that.)

Why would you want to take away from your team the opportunity of becoming the professionals that they truly are?  (Note to HR:  They are professional people, not “resources”.)  Give your team the opportunity.  Give them the freedom to grow.  Give them an assist, not the whip.

And in this way, give yourself the gift of developing into a true servant leader.  After all, this is the season of giving.Image

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Coin-Operated Agile Coaches

August 14, 2012

You must have seen one.  At a carnival, county fair, or maybe an amusement park. Sitting inside a glass enclosed box.  Bright clothing.  One hand held above a fan of sun-faded playing cards.  A customer approaches the box and drops in a coin.  In the box, the glass encased guru’s arm moves left and right.  Then out drops a slip of paper with a definitive answer to the customer’s most critical question.

You may have also seen this behavior in an agile teamroom.  Teams…are you underutilizing your coaches this way.  Coaches…do you recognize yourself?  This isn’t a question of coaching style.  This is a question of who is driving the change that the customer ostensibly wants to happen. Why else was an agile coach engaged in the first place?

Of course, coaches typically have some limits places on them by the “front office”.  Even great sports coaches like Wooden, Noll, Madden or Cowher had to work within directives from their team’s management.  But you would never see the likes of them sitting on the sidelines waiting for the players to ask them questions.

The best coaches are proactively engaged.  They are leaders.  They guide, they make changes, and they help the players get more from themselves than they realized they had.

Agile team members, don’t put your coach in a box if you want to be effective.  You were provided a coach to help you improve.  Let it happen.  And coaches, you can’t “cower” (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) under resistance from the team members nor pressure from management.  Ultimately, it’s really up to you coaches.  If you don’t actively engage and lead your teams, you won’t need a coin-operated fortune teller to know your future.

Visit www.projectpragmatics.com .

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ScrumMaster as Shepherd

April 22, 2012

The concept of servant leadership seems to be difficult for some new ScrumMasters (and others) to fully comprehend.  It is so contrary to many corporate cultures.  So let’s take a look at another role that combines both serving and leadership behaviors: the Shepherd.

 

Some herd animals, such as sheep, have a better chance to thrive if they have a shepherd.  In order to help them thrive, a shepherd must understand the flock, just as a ScrumMaster must understand the team he/she is working with.  For example, there are many types of sheep just as there are different people with different skills and different behaviors on an agile team.  They are NOT interchangeable “resources”.

 

Flocks of sheep have certain dynamic behaviors.  Sheep tend to congregate and behave as a group once their group reaches a certain number.  A successful team needs to reach “critical mass” regarding the competencies needed to be a successful agile team.  A ScrumMaster must understand this and promote the proper composition of a team, by working to have the right sheep in the flock (e.g. motivated, highly skilled).  The ScrumMaster must also be understanding as the team goes through the well-known form/storm/perform cycle.

 

Sheep are prey animals.  In toxic corporate cultures, development teams may become prey for overzealous Project Managers or other corporate creatures.  Just as team members are not really “sheep” or “pigs” (even though we use those terms affectionately), a ScrumMaster is not a “sheep dog”.  Sheep dog is a weak analogy.  A ScrumMaster can’t just “bark” back at people in the typical corporate hierarchy – at least not for long, without being sent “out to pasture”.  The ScrumMaster needs to be a shepherd and intelligently navigate the political minefields while not letting the flock fall prey to predators of time or energy.

 

Sheep congregate often (a daily standup?) and do it well.  Sheep are gregarious when congregated.  However, the Shepherd must still work to draw out the quiet people during stand-ups or planning poker sessions.  When you lose a sheep or a team member disengages from the team or otherwise gets lost on the agile journey, the ScrumMaster must seek them out and bring them back to the flock.

 

Even these simple and cursory understandings can help the new ScrumMaster serve and lead their teams.  Serve them well shepherds and you will be on your way to servant leadership, leading your flock to those greener agile pastures.  

(See more at www.ProjectPragmatics.com .)