90% of product leadership involves communication.  Leadership skills that motivate people to reach both business and professional goals are critical to organizational and personal success.



11.01 20140

Escaping Gravity

By: michelemuse Categories:Agile

Gravity holds us to the earth.  What if the earth is not a pleasant place for you to be at the moment?  Should you allow yourself to be held down by gravity?  After all, gravity comes from the same root word as grave…serious or deadly.  When we allow ourselves to be defined by the current situation, we are killing the potential we have to rise above it and find a lighter place with a better view. As an agile coach, I failed recently.  I hate when that happens.  I gave advice instead of coaching.  I did not seek to understand “why” before I made a judgment.  I put quantitative analysis before qualitative assessment.  Calculations have to make sense in terms of the present situation; however, we need to understand the context of a situation before we begin to determine what statistics and measures are required.  When we open our minds to the world of possibilities, many answers can be correct. Imagination is genius, not numbers.  Imagination allows us to escape what is not working and to move toward a different place where we can create a new reality.  Sometimes we have to use what is not working to imagine what possibilities there are to create as alternatives. We need to project ourselves forward to the ideal, instead of letting reality rule and hold us down.  Greatness is achieved when we do not accept our limitations.  We win when we redefine our situation in new and creative ways.  Cut the cord pulling you down and drift upward.

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27.11 20130


Have you ever been lost in the woods?  It is a scary feeling.  There is a sense of being overwhelmed and then panic sets in.  Finally, an unexplainable calm takes over as you begin to summon  all of the rationality, knowledge and keen observation of the present situation that you can manage. As kids, my brother, cousins and I loved to hike to a cave with ancient drawings on the walls that was located deep in the woods.  On one occasion, we decided to go it alone without adult guidance. After we made it to the cave and as we started to leave, there was a dispute about the right way to go home. I decided to follow my cousin who was local to the area.  My older brother advised against this and took my cousin's younger brother with him.  As it turns out, my cousin really didn't know the way home ...she was over confident, and it was not long before she began to panic.  I, knowing nothing of the area nor hiking, had to calm her.  I had gotten "in deep"  by choosing the wrong leadership.  I began leading her against the stream's current as I remembered something about the way we walked in. After a while, we came upon a group of hunters but decided that it was not safe to approach strangers alone in the woods.  We finally came to a road and heard voices calling us.  My brother, who was very familiar with the area because he had spent time hunting,  had gone to get our family, and they were searching the woods for us. How do you reverse a negative situation when you have followed the wrong guidance or leadership?   How do you avoid asking for help from a dangerous source? Many other life circumstances are like being lost in the woods.  The instructions we must follow are the same ...stop the panic and remain calm, observe closely, and proceed forward leaving a trail to prevent circling, tiring and getting nowhere. When in business you are lost in the woods...let a sense of calm take over, use your knowledge that you have accumulated over the course of your career and develop a keen sense of observation of the present situation. Take very deliberate steps, slowly proceeding forward with caution.  Don't take an easy out that may lead to more trouble...most importantly, be careful of who you trust to lead you out of the woods. At Thanksgiving, I am thankful for those who come  looking for me when I get lost in the woods.  Let's all be thankful for the people who support us and help us in times when we have trusted the wrong people and made bad decisions.  Let lessons learned guide future action.

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27.10 20130

Definition of a Person

How do you define yourself as a person?  Are you constantly striving for a big accomplishment so that you can feel successful?  In life, we want to win big, but winning big really means winning small on a daily basis.  The big win feels great, but it is a fleeting moment and often it is not what we imagined.  Our lives and sense of satisfaction are built upon how we reach the big win...our path.   It is the journey, not the destination that provides the challenge and the motivation to continue and to realize fulfillment in our lives.

I was visiting a colleague the other day, following up with him because I saw him earlier that day, and he had not looked his normal cheerful self.  I asked him what was the problem, and he told me that a big project that he had been working on had ended.  I asked about the outcome, and he said that it was a good one.  I then asked why he was bothered if the project had a good outcome.  He told me that he had worked on this project for two years closely with a particular group of people and that he was going to miss the team. For two years, there was a buildup to this moment, but the real value had been in the work he had done with the people.  He had not really realized  the value of the teamwork until the project was over.

I know another person that has been at a place in his life where he has found himself embattled, struggling with someone else to win a certain objective.  After spending a great deal of time attempting to ensure that he wins the objective, he has realized that the end gain is not worth the amount of life and relationships that he has spent trying to achieve it.  Although he might win the objective, he has lost the most important things along the way in trying to achieve what he thought he wanted.

True satisfaction must come from being  present to the people and situations in our lives at the moment.  We should not live for the big win...we must always strive to be the kind of people who are winning what matters on a daily basis.  When we arrive at the big win, we can be nonchalant because one big moment does not define our success as a person.

As an agile coach, I work with teams to promote the concepts of building shared experience through teamwork and striving for continuous improvement.  After all, it is the journey and the companionship for the journey that are most fulfilling.  When we do summit, the experience has  more meaning when it is shared, and when we know that we are prepared to quickly reset our sights for a new horizon.

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30.09 20130

In Search of Servant Leaders

By: michelemuse Categories:Agile

My son is involved in scouting.  Boy Scouts of America is a great organization that teaches boys how to become self-reliant, to function as a part of a team, and then, in turn, to become servant leaders for the group and the community.  It just struck me recently that although this organization is now over 100 years old, it is utilizing the relatively “new” model that I am coaching business teams to follow every day.  The Agile model is considered fairly new in product delivery circles, but the techniques have been utilized under different names and for different purposes for over a hundred years. In Scouts, the first step towards success is to complete the trail to first-class rank path.  This path teaches the boys the skills that it takes to become self-reliant and that are essential for making contributions to the group.  As the boys learn these skills, they are members of tight-knit, small patrol groups inside the larger organization.  In the patrol groups, the scouts learn to self organize and to peer-train to accomplish work objectives as a team in the most efficient way possible.  Throughout their time in Scouts after first class, the boys are required to hold leadership positions in the organization, rotating the positions every six months so that everyone shares the servant leadership responsibilities.  As patrols and patrol members mature, they are expected to help the younger, less experienced scouts and patrols and increase the amount of service hours contributed to the community. My son is involved in a very active Boy Scout troop that uses a boy-led model.  This model takes servant leadership even one step farther, instilling the values of independence and responsibility.  While there are adult leaders involved to guide the boys, the troop is led by the boys themselves.  This concept is more difficult for the adults than it is for the boys.  Adults often feel like they know the best way to manage issues and concerns, and they want to tell the children the right way; however, true learning comes through discovery in a safe environment.  The adults are in the group to ensure the safety of the environment, allowing the boys to become self reliant through discovery-based learning.  Utilizing this model, the growth in the boys and the strength of the groups are tremendous. Similar to scouting, in the Agile business world, small cross-functional teams are pulled together to work to achieve organizational objectives.  A training path is offered to teach individuals and teams the new framework and skills necessary to be successful in executing project work through the Agile framework; however, the teams, composed of peers, are self led and also participate in a great deal of peer-to-peer training.  These groups self organize to deliver iteration and organizational objectives and utilize a servant leader to keep on the path of delivery.  As teams and team members mature, they are expected to take on the responsibility of training others in the framework and to speak with other groups about how to be successful using Agile techniques. In the Agile world, managers develop new leadership techniques to utilize with teams.  In a traditional environment, managers are comfortable being directive, but Agile managers must assume the new responsibility of guiding the group, rather than directing it.  Managers must use motivating leadership techniques and help prepare a safe business environment in which the teams can function and explore.  These new responsibilities are challenging when traditionally the role has been managing in a directive style; however, the new style is tremendously rewarding when the enthusiasm of the groups, their growth and the fast delivery of innovative work products are recognized. I was at a Boy Scout meeting recently in which the scoutmaster was discussing this type of self-organizing, peer-led leadership model with the adults.  He stated that many times people encourage you to stand up and do something, but here we encourage you to sit down and watch, and the progress you see will amaze you.  I believe the same is true from a management perspective when you see highly productive Agile teams in action.

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