How Daring to Dialogue Improves Performance and Creates a Culture of Agility
A keynote presented at AGILE AND SCRUM 2021 Online Conference #agilecon2021
A keynote presented at AGILE AND SCRUM 2021 Online Conference #agilecon2021
..with purpose, clarity and confidence so that Agile will work for you and your team.
In part 1 of this series, I gave you scenarios on what successful facilitation looks like, and what common mistakes people make when first facilitating.
Agile ceremonies seem simple enough, but leading them w/o any training in facilitation can get you into deep water with a team.
The team will start to distrust you or more likely, the agile processes. Which ultimately leads to resistance of ‘agile’.
Therefore, I’d like to take you through a 3 step process to lead engaging and productive meetings.
Maintaining neutrality is 1 of 5 cornerstones of our agile facilitation stance that we cover in our programs.
Collaborative meetings start before you ever get in the room – in person or remote! Learn the invaluable first two steps of our five step Facilitation process, so you can be more intentional and deliberate about your meeting design.
It’s just what it sounds like. In the room, be transparent about the decision process.
Let’s start with one of the most common mistakes I see facilitators make. Participating rather than facilitating!
Facilitation is both an art and a science. Yes, you need a process to help guide you in planning and design. And tools in your back pocket to help you navigate different stages of collaboration.
But most importantly you need first to work on your own mindset and beliefs about leadership and leading others.
In our complete Facilitation course, we start with the mindset and beliefs about leading and facilitating, because if you can identify where your mindset might be getting in your way of your work with groups, then that’s the first thing to work on.
We call this the Facilitation Stance – the mindset and beliefs of agile team facilitators.
The cornerstones of the Agile Team Facilitation Stance include:
Click the links of each cornerstone to learn more and visit the book’s website!
The most common mistake I see is that people read these cornerstones and intellectually think – “I get this”! The challenge is that the nuances of implementing this are much more difficult. Some of these cornerstones are so nuanced in the moment, that they don’t feel like that big of a deal, when in reality these small choices you are making in the moment can be derailing your whole collaboration experience.
As the facilitator you own the process – the agenda, the room setup or virtual space configuration, how you’re going to get the group from point A to point B. That’s plenty to be focused on! Stay out of the content. Let the team own the work and what’s getting generated. No one wants to be invited to a meeting and asked for their opinion only to be told they got it all wrong or it’s not what you wanted.
Not everyone knows what it means to facilitate. AND how the job of the facilitator is to help the group achieve the desired outcomes. Not contribute to creating the outcomes.
As a general guideline you need to stay out of content! I always say, if this is something that you know about and you believe you have a perspective that might help the group right now, and continuing to remain silent feels inauthentic, then you may step aside from your facilitation role for a moment and contribute content or offer your perspective.
Find a way to do so that is clear to both you and your team. You might say “I’m going to step out of facilitation for a minute” say what you need to say, then get back into the role. Do not ‘hang out there’ for the rest of the meeting.
Here’s why clarity on the role is so important. Trust is needed within the team and between the facilitator and the team. They need to trust that when you say you’re going to help THEM get those objectives accomplished that you mean it. Not that you’ll help them until you believe you have a better way at which point you will shut them down, offer your own opinion, and then ask them if they agree with you.
Your stance is one component of skillful facilitation. But what do you do when you find yourself facing resistance to even coming to a meeting or participating?
There can be lots of reasons why people resist meetings, but here is one of the first places I look when people tell me that they are getting resistance to attending an agile meeting – Stand-up, Retrospective or any of the planning meetings.
These mistakes result in meetings that people don’t know why they are there, or how they are supposed to contribute. The conversation goes in circles, one or two people dominate the conversation. The meeting ends without a clear decision or action item and overall participants feel like it was a waste of time.
We are all stingy with our time. Many of us spend more than half our time in meetings each week.
Look at this data:
We surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries:
~ HBR August 2017 ‘Stop the Meeting Madness’
That’s incredible! Meetings are expensive and worth it – if done well. But look at the impact if they are not done well.
They want meetings to be…
How do you solve this problem then? You start working on all those characteristics before you get in the room.
If you wait until you’re in the room to start, you’re too late!
If your team finds Retrospectives a waste of time and does not want to participate, then find out why. There is likely a really good reason. Engage them in the planning and design for the meeting and Listen to what they have to say.
At TeamCatapult, we use a five phase model for Facilitation called The Facilitation Process.
Two of the most important, yet often skipped or minimized steps in this process is Planning and Design. Planning and Designing happen before the meeting starts, Conduct is what happens in the room. Then Document and Evaluate and Adapt take place after the meeting.
Within Planning there are several very important scope and boundary activities going on but the one I want to highlight today is Identify the Participants and Involve the Participants!
Just like you would not build a custom home for someone without talking to them first. Don’t design a custom meeting without knowing first what people hope to get out of the meeting.
Do you remember the movie with Bill Murray called Ground Hog Day, where he kept waking up each day and having the same day all over again?
If you make decisions in your meetings only to revisit them the next you get together, that’s a clear sign that your decision making process is missing it’s “stickiness” and your decisions are not durable, meaning they don’t last much beyond the meeting
Another sign is lack of energy or follow-through on implementing the decision.
This will be that action item or decision that was made and somehow the progress on it just drags out and you might be perplexed about why it’s taking so long.
A third sign of lack of durability is watching how engaged or not participants are in the decision making process itself. When people use language like ‘It’s fine’ or “yes, let’s just move on’ or ‘just tell me what you want me to do’. These are signs that something might be missing.
Meeting with your meeting sponsor during planning and talk with this person about these three questions:
The greater the complexity the greater the need for consensus. In the room with the team – be transparent about the decision process.
Will you keep ‘winging it’ or make a deeper commitment to yourself? What do you want to be known for? How will you make a lasting difference in your team? One that outlasts your time with them? One that lives on with them regardless if you are there or not? Which way will you choose?
You can spend a bunch of time attending free meetups, webinars and watching others as part of self -study. You might find a mentor who can give you some feedback.
All of which can be good strategies. But done alone don’t always provide you the solid foundation for really mastering the craft of facilitation.
We need leaders, scrum masters, agile coaches who know how to skillfully connect others and lead collaboration!
If you’re charged with leading change in your organization – at any level – I want to leave you with this thought. Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Advantage said “There is no greater way to have a fundamental impact on an organization than by changing the way it does meetings.”
I believe that we can change cultures by starting to change the way people meet. You don’t have to change your team, or your boss, or your HR department. You just need to shift your mindset and change the way you lead your meetings.
Be the one who leads meetings that people will cancel other meetings in order to attend yours.
That’s how we start to change cultures.
Are you ready to lay the foundation for leading engaging and productive meetings with purpose, clarity and confidence so that you can support agility within your teams?
The skills of facilitation and coaching are needed in our world. Over the past year and a half, we have adapted and found ways to be separate but connected.
As facilitators we convene and host. Our primary focus is to identify the desired outcomes and then create a space that fosters connection, authenticity, trust, and sharing. We can do this remotely, just like we do in the room.I’ll be sharing principles for how to do just that!
Whether you are a scrum master, agile coach, project manager or team lead, if you are charged with launching a new agile team or helping an existing team move toward higher performance, chances are you would like to improve the way you meet in some way.
One of the challenges to facilitation is that when it’s done well you hardly know it’s happening and if the facilitator is really good you might not even notice them much at all. As a participant you will likely be caught in the topic of conversation with the other participants.
This type of scenario can create one of the greatest mistakes in facilitation…
1 Believing that you can just do facilitation after having seen others make it look so easy.
Facilitation is a professional discipline and it’s both art and science. Good facilitators make it look easy, like all you need to do is grab a marker and head to a flip chart. Or open up a Zoom line and invite people to start collaborating. In reality there is ALOT going on for a facilitator. It takes formal training and practice! Just like playing the piano or flying a plane.
2 Are you participating rather than facilitating?
These are two different roles and depending on what’s at stake for you or your team, it’s SUPER easy to blur these lines. We’re going to talk today about ways to become more aware of this.
3 Not having a clearly designed purpose and agenda before the meeting starts.
You need to define these before you get to the meeting. Cutting short the planning and design phase or not doing any planning at all. Typically, a skilled facilitator will spend 2.5 times the meeting time just planning and designing a session. (And if you’re facilitating virtually or hybrid it’s more!)
Do you treat every decision in a collaborative meeting the same way? Or seek ‘agreement’ from the group on the decision? This is another common mistake!
4 Lack of clarity, for yourself and your team, about the role of a facilitator.
Believing that your role in the meeting is helping the group reach a decision that has already been made.
You’ve learned the agile practices, but a few months into implementation the excitement is wearing off and you are not seeing the results you had hoped for. Understanding the agile practices is not enough, agile is first and foremost about communication, collaboration, trust, and learning to see and navigate the human systems.
Can I be frank? I made mistakes when I first started facilitating. Here are a few of my mistakes.
I overly controlled the meetings. I would ask a question of the group and then ask them to write their answers on a sticky note. I was very careful to let people speak, but only when I called on them. I never would ask an open ended question to the group. I was AFRAID that I would either get crickets or that the group would go completely off topic and I would look like I could not control the meeting. I’m sure some of those participants in my early meetings might tell you that they felt ‘overly managed’ during the meetings.
I drove my own agenda. I was ensuring that people just went through the motions of what they were asked to do. But we left all sorts of other topics on the table that were never really addressed.
I only got input from the leader or meeting sponsor – not the team on what the meeting should be about. That led to multiple sessions where I got blindsided by issues that were surfaced during a meeting and I really had no idea how to handle them or what to do when they were surfaced. I was a consultant and feared looking stupid or not being seen as valuable if I had to get a group to come up with a solution. I needed to prove my value in some way.
It wasn’t until many years later that I learned how to
These were profound shifts in my mindset which allowed me to move from just instructing people to write on sticky notes but never really get at the heart of the real issue, to leading meetings that really got at the heart of what was blocking the team, not just to support the team in continuing their same patterns.
You can learn this advanced facilitation process as well.
In the meantime, read Part 2 of this series:
‘How to Lead Engaging and Productive Meetings’
Leadership and management. What, if anything, do they have in common and how can differences be explained?
Sometimes the terms “leadership” and “management” are used interchangeably. While they have several similar characteristics, leadership and management as a function produce vastly different results.
Leadership, according to Merriam-Webster, can be defined with the following three meanings.
The definition of leadership includes:
In theory, the role of leadership surfaces when a person is placed into a leadership position and then has, not only the capacity to lead, but often acts accordingly.
In practice, a leader is someone who has the vision to see how things can be improved. A leader compels others to embrace that vision and then inspires others to focus their efforts in making this vision a reality. In addition to motivating others, leaders excell when they are empathetic and connect with people.
In simplistic terms, leaders focus on vision and inspiring those they lead.
Management is defined as
Theoretically, management is the coordination and administration of tasks to achieve a goal and objectives through the application of available resources.
In practice, a manager is someone who gives direction and guidance. Managers are accountable for the employees and the facilities they work for on a day to day basis. Managers plan and promote the schedule and tasks of employees and coordinate with and report to senior management in the company.
In simplistic terms, managers focus on managing people and managing work.
Both leaders and managers are accountable and responsible for people, teams or brands.
There are several notable differences between leadership and management.
Management skills, by default, come first before leadership skills, and can be learned in business school.
Most often a leader’s development happens as they are put into leadership positions and at the same time are willing to learn, adapt, listen, communicate, work hard, plan, organize and work on developing their leadership skills.
In other words, great leaders never stop learning and are always evolving.
Organizations need to be led by visionaries if they are to blossom and grow. A well-managed organization includes quality leaders with a vision that others will work towards.
Your organization needs leadership not only to survive, but to thrive in an ever-changing world.
The good news is that leadership is something that current managers in your organization can learn! Few are born to lead; leaders come from any background, choosing to pursue a leadership role. Whatever path a person takes, the key to a successful leader is having a purpose as well as a desire to serve.
“While only a handful of people are born with natural leadership ability, leadership is something that can be learned.” ~ Villanova University
Organizational success is directly correlated to great leadership.
Managers are in charge of, and handle, the status quo. They have objectives to set,
quotas to fill and goals to reach. Leaders on the other hand, take charge of the future by having a vision and getting a buy-in to that vision from everyone in the company.
This shift in thinking and organizational structure, going from management to leadership will transform any business – and the exciting thing is that it starts with people!
At TeamCatapult we have seen this exciting shift in mindset through our workshop attendees and the clients we work with. We’ve witnessed emerging leaders step up to lead and transform their teams, with positive outcomes.
Leadership is a craft that requires investment and growth. Then where and how can leaders gain the skills needed to lead and succeed?
We at TeamCatapult believe that leadership development should not be reserved for only the cream of the crop within your organization.
Our approach is different. We are passionate about helping leaders be more effective, collaborative, and adaptive as they grow their teams, lead change and achieve their desired results.
We want to help co-create the future. We’ll help leaders build a shared vision, develop the language and use the communication that may challenge current beliefs and assumptions, but will help to break through the limits that are impeding progress.
“When you stop discussing the tasks at hand — and talk about vision, purpose, and aspirations instead, that’s when you will know you have become a leader.” ~ HBR
Are you ready to get to work? Does your organization need a leader?