Category Archives: Learning Compassion

What leaders need to know about Agile

To understand why so many people around the world have adopted Agile as their first and foremost guide to improvement, we must first look at why leadership has been failing us in the first place.

Leadership, in the modern world, has been equated to a highly visible role, a spokesperson whose suave charisma is infectious, and following their mantra is made easy. No one can deny that they are not impressed when a sharply dressed leader bounds onto the stage at a conference and proceeds to use impressive statistics to back up his or her claims that ‘if we just did this, then the world would be a better place’.

Unfortunately, reality is rarely as static as those brief moments of exuberance. The truth is, companies have been built and shaped over many years, sometimes decades. The charismatic hand-gesturing of the modern world leader (especially in technology) does not go far in the grand scheme of things to change an approach that has been ingrained in us. Undoing bad habits and helping people build new habits is hard work.

What purpose then does Agile serve to help us with this task of getting better and why should you, as a leader, care?

Leadership implies leaving a legacy that was stronger than when you first started. The leadership you provide has to be ingrained within the culture of the organization you leave behind. In short, being Agile, thinking in an Agile way allows us to be transparent and honest, learning from our mistakes without fear of retribution and scorn. That in itself is a huge shift in the way we think.

One of the Agile Manifesto principles states: “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” While the concept is simple, it implies that you, as a leader, need to act in a supporting role. Encourage acts of leadership in others. Don’t focus on the mistakes. Create an environment where work, and even innovation, can happen!

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

There probably won’t be a defining moment in a successful project which someone can point to and say: that was the moment where you as a leader made all the difference in a project. But slowly, over several months of sustained support and Agile thinking, you will positively affect the culture of the organization. As the late management guru Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, implying that no amount of managing of people would be more positive than the intrinsic motivation people have to succeed in their work.

Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder and first president of The Toyota Motor Corporation, created and espoused the Toyota Production System (TPS). In this management philosophy (built from the Lean production perspective), he believed that because people operate the system, the strategy to success has to be a people-oriented system. TPS respects the fact that only the people on the production-line can make the changes necessary for improvement. This is where leadership should focus.

Moreover, the culture of excellence has to become ingrained in the line worker to the extent that ‘good enough’ is no longer a workable philosophy. So what can you do as a leader to make the change happen? The well-known thought leader in business-leadership, John Kotter, writes about the ways that change management can be ‘made-to-stick’. For this article, suffice to say that establishing a need and creating visibility are at the forefront of what he espouses.

Creating transparency allows us to understand the current situation. Only then can we begin to tackle the problems with a frank and consolidated effort. Mistakes will ensue; however in an environment of learning, where mistakes are opportunities for improvement, success will undoubtedly follow.

At BERTEIG, our coaching and consulting approach is to support leadership in this endeavour. Almost every great leader has had the support of a non-judgemental partner to help them achieve more, and we take your success as our success. We believe that the legacy of your company will therefore be in the Agile way that people work, not the antiquated legacy systems in place that hold you back.


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Finding Compassion – Lessons Learned From My Street

It may be a cliche to be talking about “Compassion” in the workplace, as it is a “concept” that has been addressed multiple times over many years.

Frankly, it is difficult to actually put into practice. And for me, it was something I explored, adopted, and then ignored, over the past number of decades as real-world priorities shifted.

But I want to share a very personal story that unfolded just today. Bear with me on this, as I will relate this personal situation to the workplace interactions we’ve all likely experienced.

My neighbour is a struggling single mother to whom I genuinely want to succeed, as she is a dedicated mother and a hard worker. However, she recently took a very base-level approach to an emotional situation that affects many people within my neighbourhood.

In short, her dog has behavioural issues which have lead to attacks and mock-attacks upon myself, my family, local contractors, and fellow neighbours. Latitude has been given to her in each instance as she has made earnest efforts to curb this behaviour, but for the most part, she has had marginal success. Most recently the dog actually attacked a local boy, who spent 3 days in hospital as a result.

Clearly, the issue with the “dog in the room” needed to be escalated and dealt with. The injured boy’s father rightly requested that a muzzle order be put in place: an order that has subsequently been appealed by the owner.

Think about this for a moment.

The position of the dog owner just changed, from “I am making earnest efforts” to “my dog is not the problem. You are the problem”.

Why?

Well, there’s been a trigger event and it’s because of a strong emotional connection to her dog. To justify this, she has created a “story” about all the people that are involved in this situation: the young boy in the hospital “provoked” the dog. The “dog doesn’t have the problem, everyone else does, and it’s all lies”. My personal situation in which I had to physically defend my family from the aggressiveness of this loose dog “never happened”. And of course the contractor who locked himself in a room until she came home……. well, you get the point.

It is very easy for me, as a professional who is accustomed to teams, and boardrooms, proper process, HR, and mature interactions that move business forward, to look at her position as an immature and flailing attempt to justify a deeper need. An  emotional need to protect the love she has for this dog and what the dog represents as part of her family.

Relating this to business, I’ve met people who have acted much like her in the workplace. The same story of innocence the dog owner positions, is often found in the boardroom! The questions are why, and secondly, do such people tend to remain in their position or do they get moved along?

They survive. While they may be unskilled and unready to address the actual deep personal issue driving their behaviour, they often position themselves in a very innocent light, and they tend to point out those “liars” around them.

The light went off for me when I found myself emotionally wrapped up in being called a liar by a person who was clearly to blame. How do you defend yourself with your “team skills” and “boardroom skills” against a person with “street skills”?

That is where I found Compassion.

As in situations with my co-workers, colleagues, clients and friends, I realized that this single mother is just trying to provide her son with a home, an education, a pet to call his own, and in between, cut the noise in her life, and find her own sense of happiness while shouldering 100% of the burden.

Moving this concept to the workplace, could it be that a percentage of your colleagues who sometimes leave you scratching your head, have some well-developed “street skills”?

After today I do believe it begins with you – not them – just as this personal revelation with the neighbour began with me.

In the end, the injured son’s father expertly resolved this emotional powder-keg: and I learned it’s not about defending against the accusations, it’s doing exactly what this father did.

He listened to all parties with genuine interest and curiosity. He asked neutral-based questions, keeping his emotions in check. He did not take the accusations personally. He sought answers and he sought consensus. He asked for timelines and process. He often asked for help, and sometimes he had to escalate (i.e. getting a muzzle order) where he needed. But he exercised Compassion at every step.

I learned that defending myself against accusations is not the name of the game: it’s about taking the father’s approach. His Compassion renewed Compassion in me.

https://businessconnectworld.com/2017/11/28/simple-ways-help-people-next-door-around-world/


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

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