Jessica Soroky continues her series Leadership is a Choice.
As a child the world seems likes a magical wonderland. Being a princess, professional hockey player, or world famous journalist all seem like realistic possibilities. But, year by year the dreams start to slip further and further away, impeded by our own fears, received societal beliefs, and a mountain of hard work. Money becomes king and passion takes a back seat.
During high school I found ways to balance the two, working as many hours as the local movie theatre would give me to make the king happy while starting to dabble in a local non-profit to keep my brain stimulated and excited.
College was a full blown obligation experience. I couldn’t find value in the classes I was told I had to take while simultaneously watching my bank account drain. For the first year and a half I justified it all with visions of working in New York City as a reporter for the New York Times. That worked until a journalism professor gave everyone a “reality check” on the extreme difficulties of breaking into the field. It felt like someone had burst my final bubble. I was completely deflated and couldn’t find enough reason to keep paying all that money for something that seemed so far out of reach.
After changing my major to Human Resources and switching to community college I often shamed myself about giving up on journalism. I would wonder why I was too lazy to put in the effort. Looking back now it is clear why I chose to alter my path. It wasn’t what I was meant for. The first time I wrote that sentence I must admit I struggled not hearing it as justification but what I mean is, though I had/have passion for writing, I wasn’t committed to it.
I have written a lot about the moment where I found my thing, the thing I was made for. When I fell into Agile there was no question in my mind that this was it. Commitment came easy and passion grew more and more every day. Only mere months later I found my other thing, personal responsibility. With this new found passion once again commitment came easy. When things got hard, even when I thought I was at my breaking point, the idea of giving up never even crossed my mind.
I was “raised” in agile from the very beginning with a very tight connection to personal responsibility and The Leadership Gift. It was because of this that I never even wondered why they go so well together. It wasn’t until recently that I had a breakthrough about why they fit so well together.
WARNING: This may cause you to say “duh”.
Agile is a mindset shift.
We reprogram our thought process from a traditional, silo, linear approach to a collaborative, iterative and incremental approach.
Personal responsibility is a mindset shift.
I’m not sure how to describe the immense power and momentum this clarity gave me. It was as if I had these two things in their own respective files in my head. Managing the separate files took energy away from each one. The instant I saw them married, truly together, so much made sense.
Agile transformations I understand. They come with challenges, as does anything dealing with change. If there are tools and techniques that can be used to help lessen the pain of an agile transformation, those same concepts could be used to help transform with personal responsibility.
For example (I have a feeling more examples will be coming in later blogs) a common technique I use to help my teams is, at retrospective we identify one continuous improvement idea and I ask them, “Can we all agree to committing to working on this for the next two weeks. If we don’t like the results we will retro again and adapt.”
The idea here is that committing to a change for two weeks gives them an end in sight. It is less scary to agree to than saying we are going to make this change for the remainder of the project. The best part is that if the team doesn’t like the results they get from the change we only lost two weeks doing it and gives us the ability to inspect and adapt until we find the change that works best for the team.
What would happen if I applied this same concept to my personal practice of responsibility?
If you have read my blogs before then you are probably as aware as I am that I consistently struggle with shame. So what if I posed the same challenge to myself instead of two weeks starting with a day. “Can I commit for today that I will not go to shame, but catch it first.” My internal dialog instantly says of course I can do that! It is just a day after all.
At the end of the first day I introspected on how I felt. Wow, a full day with not a second of beating myself up. As I got into bed that night instead of searching for something to worry about until sleep took over I took a few deep breathes and just enjoyed the feeling of setting myself free.
I began to bet myself that I could commit to a week catching shame first.
At the end of each of the milestones I set for myself I take the time to really stop and be present with how I feel after committing. If it is something that I find valuable I continue to set time boxes and commit again until it becomes second nature. If it is something that doesn’t offer value I inspect and adapt to find something that does.
What agile techniques can you use to help continue your practice of personal responsibility?
Jessica Soroky, CSM
Jessica is a Certified Scrum Master with over three years of practice in agile delivery and seven years of team leadership. She is also the youngest participant in The Leadership Gift™ Program and its growing worldwide community of leaders and coaches. After five years of non-profit development through Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids, Jessica continues her leadership journey in state government, not-for-profit, and private sector leadership studies.
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