How to give advice

Let me give you some advice about a very complicated topic: ADVICE! It is an area where you can destroy many things or build real and vivid relationships. First of all i want to step on the shoulders of giants: stop your advice monster (a big THANK YOU again to Michael B. Stanier for this great metaphor from The Coaching Habit). Advice monster? Yes, giving advice is an art and you should not give it without permission and only if you are really forced to give it. But the most of us have a little monster on the shoulder, which is pushing us to give advice even if nobody asked for. It is our habit to give advice. Whenever you do it, the others, or better the advice recipients, will give their responsibility to you… and you guess it, you will take their chance to grow by this.

General things

Let’s dive quick into the topic: whenever somebody shows up and asks for advice, take the time for them. If it is not possible right now, make an appointment soon. Give the people the respect you would want to get and care! Step back from just saying “do this and that” towards listening and lifting up your fellows. Be flexible with the following steps – some people or situations need more, some people need less. Experiment with the process and try to find out what works best for you and in your surrounding. Be transparent about this experimentation by telling “let us try this and that”.

In my eyes it is appropriate to be happy, that somebody came to you with her problem. It is showing the big trust in you (or the arising one). As consequence thankfulness should be your attitude. This helps you later on being open and really helping.

Try to be as generous as possible. To the ones who come to you and the ones they might have trouble with. We are all humans and mistakes are human too. Even if you don’t like somebody it seems a good habit to assume always the best intents and freeing your mind towards those people.

The easy steps

Step one: Listen actively

First and most important of all: listen! But not just sitting around and waiting, be as curious as possible. Ask over and over again about more side parts or in depth. How should you be useful, if you don’t understand the full problem? And you will not understand it fully… never ๐Ÿ™‚

Step two: Open new options

Whatever came up in the discussion till now, somehow we don’t want to stay at the problem stage (side note: in the great book Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making the problem opening phase is followed by a grown zone, which should not extended to long). We need solutions! Those are made of possible options to solve the problem. Help your asker to see as much ways as you can to get out of the dark seas. Start maybe with “What do you think we could do about it?” to open space for own ideas. In my experience those are most fitting and sustained ones. If there are more solutions which aren’t found by their own, offer them in a friendly way by asking “Do you think this could work too?”.

Step three: Help deciding which option to choose

From here you will observe a wide range of possible things which could happen: from “Thank you so much, i will go this way!” to being completely overwhelmed and not able to decide. When in doubt, ask for every possible solution “What will change for now and in the future, if we go this way?”. Closely listen and note the things which come up. When you’ve talked about every useful solution, the question to answer is “Which way points to the best possible (or sometimes least bad) future?”. If there is such a solution and the advice seeker has a good feeling about it, you’ve made it. Ask again, if there is something left. Sometimes small side things are open and can be handled separated. Last part here: be thankful again and let everybody know it!

Step four (optional): Ask for feedback

If you two find a solution, that’s great! If it feels right to ask for a little feedback: go for it! Sometimes you will get the feedback anyway. Sometimes it is good to wait some days or weeks to ask how the things worked out.

Conclusion

Make a difference for the people who come to you! Don’t hurry to give advice to fast, let them stand up and go their way. This way they feel better and more responsible. They will have more self-efficacy and a boost of self-confidence.

Thanks for reading! What things came up when you gave advice? What mistakes did you make? What did you learn? Leave a comment and let the world know!

Responsibility Process

While reading and writing about Extreme Ownership i remembered, that i already heard of a similiar thing: the Responsibility Process from Christopher Avery. It also gives you the awareness, that you, and only you, are responsible for the things that happen in your life. Ok, sometimes you can not influence what is happening. But you can decide how to react on it! And there is the big power of the Responsibility Process: it just categorizes your responses to the world. You can take the responsibility or act in a irresponsible way. Those ways are obligation, shame, quitting, justifying and laying blame. And just for the entertainment: i forgot denial on purpose! Every single not responsible reaction is a way to somehow not feel the things which maybe are your part of the situation. By having this clear in your mind, it is getting easier to stand up feel responsible for the situation again. In my wallet i have printed and laminated card with the possible reactions. It reminds me from time to time to reflect in which states i am in different areas of my life. It helps me to get out of them, whenever i remind it.

How do you keep yourself responsible? What do you think about the responsibility process? Leave a comment and let the world know, what you think! And as always thanks for reading and i would be happy, if you share my posts ๐Ÿ™‚

Book review: Extreme Ownership

In this smaller review i want to present a real eye opening book about leadership: the Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. As the subtitle “How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win” already brings up, those two are former Navy Seals. Only by reading the blurb made me a better guy by converting a problem at work from “we’re stuck” into “i go first, let’s have a look where we can get things”. How comes, that a book can influence your live so easily? Its success is based on many smaller and bigger principles, which are described always in the same way: a deeply described situation of the war in Iraq, a principle explanation and in the end a transfer to the business world with real life examples.

The main principle is that: you are responsible for everything what is happening in your sphere of influence. It’s really that easy! This principle is valid for everything: your private life, your business life, your voluntary work for non profit organisations. Whatever it is, you are resonsible! And not just a bit like “yes, i could do something about it”. Really like “if there is something not fitting, i can and will fix it!”. It is pushing yourself into the doing and stepping forward. It was reminding me of the Responsibility Process of Christopher Avery, which also brings up that it is you part to change the game.

Conclusion

For me the book is absolutely important, because it points out the self-efficacy of everyone of us. It is quite interesting to read, even if you’re not into the army and war things. The main principles are in the first chapters. Later the principles are a bit less powerful, but that is only since they are not for so big parts of everybodies life. I recommend this book to everybody!

Have you read this book? Or an even better one? What are your suggestions about self-efficacy and taking responsibility? What worked and what didn’t? Just leave a comment and let the world know about!

Thanks for reading, i hope you enjoyed and took something useful out of it!

Divide and Rule in Scrum – the roles

When thinking about Scrum what is coming in your mind first? The Scrum Master? The Sprints? The Product Backlog? Whatever it is, lets have a look on it from another angle: the good old divide et impera or defeat in detail! There are many historical persons who are attributed with it. We will not cover this part here, it could be a longer story :)!

With this blog post i am trying something new – at least a bit new for me: a series of shorter posts on a bigger topic. Let me know, if you like this more or the old way of sooo looong articles!

The roles

One part which i love about Scrum is the separation of concerns (sorry, deep in my heart i am still a software developer) of the roles. On one side we got the Product Owner. She, and only she, is responsible for the “what” is done and the “why” is it done. Business value and its maximization is her key responsibility.

Then there is the Team. Their business is the “how”. Nobody, not even the Scrum Master, can tell the Team how a specific thing has to be done. The Scrum Master has the right to intervene and ask, if there isn’t a better way to do things. But the Team has the final say!

Last but not least we got the Scrum Master. Her sphere of influence is the Scrum framework, its understanding and the living of it in the whole organization in the best way possible. With best possible here is ment, that the Team rises to high velocity and stays there. While we have many smaller parts in the servant leadership of this beautiful role, but in my eyes they fall completely under the correct understanding and living of Scrum and the high velocity of the Team.

Conclusion

Overall for me the Scrum Team is the best example of divide and rule! I love, that for every important part of the business there is somebody personal accountable. That gives Scrum the power it has! In the next blog posts you will read about the events, the artifacts and maybe the rules in Scrum corresponding to divide and rule.

What are your thoughts on Scrum in this point of view? Do you have something else you want to read about? Another perspective or another part of Scrum? Did you liked this blog post? Let me and the world know it and leave a comment!

Thanks for reading and sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

The power of silence

In this post i am going to focus on a topic which is hard to maintain and helps me often in different situations: silence. I see you asking “How is silence helping you? It’s often awkward and not helping to get into action! Why should we sit around without coming up with a plan?” Be assured, we will cover those feelings too :)! I read about the gap in the conversations often. Lately in the Coaching Habit. Lets dive in and see what can be found in the bigย  black nothing!

Silence for yourself

Let’s take at first a look where every good leadership starts: you. Whenever you let a gap in the words spoken, you can be shure that you got the chance to think about new ideas on a topic. Often the first ideas are good. Second and third ideas sometimes are amazing. So leave the chance of a chance for great ideas! On the other hand you get the opportunity to think about how to involve the others better. How can i help them better? How can i get them better into seeing my point of view? How can i get them to see the whole picture? How can i see their stance more clear?

Next great thing of a small piece of no words is the chance to get over a bad feeling. Whenever you have a feeling, be assured, that someone will see it or feel it too. Ok, most guys tend to push this touchy-feely thing away as fast as a ray of light. But: having a feeling and getting over it, before exploding, helps you to be fair and calm. That’s were we find another small gem: the time to reflect. Whenever you have time to reflect, you can get into a better understanding of the situation, your counterparts and yourself.

The last soft topic on your side is the feelings in you and the room. Sometimes there is a little part not fitting. There is a small thing which creates an odd perception in you. You see the things and a small voice in the background tells you “hey, this isn’t fitting overall”. Take the time to find out what it is. Hold the feeling in the room. Try not to get fast over it. Hold it in your body and find out where it sits, what it is about and what it is telling you! And with this last note on you, we can step over to the next part: the others!

Silence for the others

We’ve seen how challenging it can be to be silent for yourself. Let’s have a wider look at something crucial in leadership: the others. Whenever you let others the time to think or feel what is going on, you open the possibility of further development. You let them find out what the challenge is all about. You give them the chance to figure out things, to come up with own thoughts and solve theย  problem(s) on their own. This little gem is making a crucial difference in leading and in relationships.

Even if it is hard to remain silent, you’re maybe used to always find a good or great solution fast, it is worth on multiple layers. If you just take over control, you give the others the signal to lean back and see with what solution you will come up. Sometimes this is becoming a real vicious circle: nobody is used to think in solutions, cause you will step in and “rescue” everybody. For the lazy ones this is a good feeling, for the eager ones this is a bad feeling. Imagine you want to learn and get further in your carreer. Than there is a boss or leader always making every decision and coming up with solutions, even before the question was ended or talked out loud. The habit of this guy will take your chance away to come up with your own ideas and to make them better over time. You feel not trusted and will be frustrated. I know, this is one of the more negative possible situations. But it’s totally worth thinking about, because every frustrated great guy will sooner or later move on to the next challenges. And the chance to loose a colleague because you couldn’t let space for her development is worth to think about your habits!

Conclusion

My advice for you: play around with the mighty tool of silence. Get out of your habit to jump in and let your advice monster (thanks to Bungay Stanier Michael for this great image) take over the situation! Learn to hold the tension of waiting for the ideas of your colleagues! It’s absolutely worth: it opens space for further and faster development and enriches the possible solutions you have in the most situations.

Book review: The Coaching Habit

Have you ever read a book and thought “that’s simple but genius”? No? Than you should read The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. If your answer is “yes”, it’s also highly recommended. Why am i so convinced by this book? The easy answer: the subtitle is “Say less, Ask more & Change the Way You Lead Forever” and it was really like this for me. The book itself is really entertaining to read. Short and concise chapters make it simple to read in a few hours and find the things later fast. There are several genius concepts in it, which make remembering them unbelievable easy. Best example is the advice monster. Whenever somebody comes to you and asks a question, most of us are used to give an advice. Often there isn’t even a question necessary to wake up this cute fellow which hinders real growth. Whenever the advice monster starts to take over control, your counterpart is not longer trying to find a solution herself. By this they will not develop further and get used to have their problems solved by someone else. You see where this is going: you break their learning experience and even make others stop thinking. And we don’t need to talk about the bad things caused this, right?

The book is divided into short chapters which either are highlighting a question or some extra knowledge about habits, breaking them and introducing new ones. Let’s have a short look on three of the seven concise, world changing questions!

Question #1: What’s on your mind?

Somehow before getting lost in small talk or chitchat you need to kickstart the conversation about the things which drive your counterpart crazy. Therefore this short and easy one is designed to get to the point straight ahead. I feel like every word more on this one would be boring and i am uncomfortable writing so much about it ๐Ÿ™‚ so go for it!

Question #2: And what else?

Often the first thing isn’t the only one. And even better: it’s not the true, most important, most hurting point. The elephant is still unadressed! Therefore a second, third or thousandth time asking what there could be is moving the spotlight until everything is said. That’s the justification for this question: finding the things which matter and give them a chance to be solved!

Question #3: What’s the real challenge here for you?

When everything is out of the mouth and on the table, we need to find the most struggling thing. The one which drives the other crazy! Nobody can tell you better which thing it is, than the one who came up with all his problems. Again a good point to realize, that you shouldn’t solve problem number two, three or anything else than number one. And on top you should not solve the problem by advising! Lift your peer to find her own solution. Than everyone learned somthing, feels better and is empowered!

Overall there are seven of those smart questions, which all have their genius reason. They all help you to step up on your leading and your sparring partner to get out at least a bit smarter.

Did you already read the book? Would you read it after this blog post? How do you coach your colleagues? What worked well for you? Leave a comment and let the world know what you think!

As always thanks for reading and have much success in coaching!

Daily Scrum Antipatterns

Let’s have a look on a very central thing in Scrum in my eyes: the Daily Scrum. You can find a section in the Scrum Guide and many other places in the web. Living in the heart of every Sprint and every day of the Sprint, the Daily Scrum is the meeting for the Development Team to plan the next day. As you may read in the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master and others are allowed, but they are not allowed to disturb the Daily Scrum. The Development Team decides how it wants to do the actual meeting. The Scrum Master only has to assure, that the meeting takes place, that the team is able to hold the 15 minutes timebox and that no outsider is disturbing. One common myth is, that everybody has to answer the holy three questions. That’s simply not true. The three questions are a good start for new teams to find a way to talk every day about the Sprint Goal. And that is the point where i want to start sharing my experiences and little stories.

Actual Antipatterns

The first thing i want to share is the “forced three questions”. Here the team lead forced the team members to answer the three questions. Without a doubt, the team had no right to improve or change the situation and was not empowered to organize its work as it wanted.

Another one i saw multiple times is the “i’ve done this and that”. The team members didn’t focused on the Sprint Goal. If you have a close look at the Scrum Guide, the three questions, there is always a “meet the Sprint Goal” at the end of them. So team members chatted about phone calls and refactoring a class and fixing this bug. But the Sprint Goal was not focused. And that’s a problem! The team should focus on the Sprint Goal and find a plan to reach it in the Daily Scrum. It is a inspect and adapt meeting, if the first plan got impediments in the way, the team has to adapt and change the plan.

Very close to that is the “hiding what you’re doing beside the Sprint Goal”. There one or multiple team members did things, which had nothing to do with the Sprint Goal and did not tell anybody. This is a violation of the Scrum Values focus, openness and maybe also respect. When someone of the team is not working together with the rest to reach the goals, it is unfocused and maybe also harming the morale of the remaining team and company.

Another thing what can be hidden are the mistakes. So the anti-pattern of the “hiding my mistakes” is harmful cause nobody will learn from them and they will be done again and again. This is a waste and should not be permitted. Whatever brings a team member to hide a mistake should be taken really seriously. If there is a broken culture, than the Scrum Master must have a look at it. It should be fixed as soon as possible to not end up in a situation where nobody is showing his errors and nobody can learn from them. Without being courageous we can’t adapt to the reality!

Talking about the culture i have to admit one pattern i saw multiple times is the “report meeting”. Here everybody is giving his or her report to the boss or the felt next higher tangible person. So if the boss is somehow once not there, than the Scrum Master is the recipient of the habitual report. There are two misconceptions. First is, that you have to tell what you’ve done and present your personal plan to someone. Second is, that the Scrum Master is higher than the team member. The latter shows a misunderstood Scrum interpretation. The Scrum Team is completely equal. The power is partitioned to have someone responsible for every important part in the development of complex products: the team is responsible for the how, the Product Owner for the what and the Scrum Master for the process. They are equal and together they build something great.

Quite similiar is the “chatty boss”. The boss is talking nearly all the time and even exceeding the timebox. He is giving everyone a task and looking for presenting himself. As you read through all the other patterns, there is nothing to add why this is a sign of not working Scrum.

The “forced metric” i saw and heard multiple times. For instance the team lead forced to fill the happiness metric. Without a doubt, if the team wants to fill a metric, that is clearly allowed. And on top it is a good sign for having some healthy habits. It shows, that the team may focus on side goals or true norths like better bug rates or better code quality. Being forced to fill a metric is a sign for a not so good understanding of theself-organising thingy.

Another hard thing i remember in one team was “the silence” or “the elephant in the room”. There were nearly no discussions or a hard atmosphere. Everybody was happy when the meeting was over. At least it felt like a big burden was gone after the Daily Scrum finally was done. That could’ve had several reasons. A new boss nobody liked or a cold conflict n the team were nobody wanted to get in struggle or some other hidden things. Here it is important to find the root cause and to fix it. Sometimes the Scrum Master can do this, sometimes he has to delegate it to HR.

Conclusion

Many misunderstandings of Scrum and the concepts in it can lead to Daily Scrums, which are not so valuable as they could be. Sometimes the Daily Scrum is a good indicator, that something deeper is broken. That could be the culture or the relationships. Than it is important to make this things transparent and to adapt to the reality.

What anti-patterns did you saw in your Daily Scrums? And how did you handled them? Which things helped and went something to the complete wrong direction? Just leave a comment and let me and the world know about your experiences!

Thanks for reading and have a good Daily Scrum :)!

Management 3.0: #5 Happiness Door/Wall

As you may have mentioned i tried and wrote about some of the Management 3.0 practices before. In this blog post i am writing about my experience with the concept of having positive things publicly visible. The practice i tried out next was the Happiness Door or the Happiness Wall.

Happiness what?

You may have heard of the method of switching the focus toward positive things. This could’ve been in private live, like the positive thinking, or in professional live, like with the Kudo Cards. The Happiness Door/Wall aim on the same thing: pushing the focus towards more positivity. They try to get the positive things more into the awareness of the people around by showing them public and in written form. Everyone at your company is allowed to write something positive he or she experienced on a piece of paper and pin it at the Happiness Door. That’s it. Not much more magic here. The magic starts when you engaged enough people to write something down and your colleagues see it often enough and value it. They can take a bit of energy out of the made experiences and load their heart again with positivity. Nothing more and nothing less.

My experiences

Let me be honest at first: i didn’t found a good place in my actual company for “the Wall”. We have rooms in multiple houses and the rooms were flats before. So we have more stairs than expected and it feels really like Hogwarts if you show guys all the rooms the first time. So unfortunately i only found a movable whiteboard in one of our meeting rooms as the first point to start. In one of our company retrospectives (do you hang around once in a while with all your colleagues to inspect and adapt all the processes? No, try it, it really matters!) we filled it with positive things. It was a overwhelming moment, when more and more positive things came up in our minds. It felt great, when even the hard feeling guys brought something good. Another thing i tried was hanging out the testimonials of some of our customers in one room of developers. It was a mixed reaction: some liked it and some came up arguing why to do this and that there is no benefit in it.

Conclusion

So for me there is a absolute plus in doing things like the Happiness Door or Wall: the positivity comes into the halls. Sometimes very slowly and somtimes it is hard to push it further. But it is absolutely worth playing around with such things. I learned, that in some situations you shouldn’t force the positive energy, because it can end in resistance. And that’s a thing you want to avoid. Or maybe in the resistance lies the root cause of some other problems? I will see

What positivity techniques did you tried? Did it worked well? Were there resisting forces? What did you do about them? How did you handle those things? Thanks for reading and leave a comment if you want to connect in one or the other way!

Book review: Eat That Frog!

We all heard the fairy tail of the brothers Grimm in which the girl kisses the frog and he automagically converts into a charming prince. Maybe you liked the story or you did not. That’s not the point for todays book review! The book i am writing about today is Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy. I mentioned it earlier in blog posts about virtuous circles and about moving motivators.

A frog – seriously?

Eating a frog! How ugly is this? And there it doesn’t stop! On one of the first pages we are encouraged to eat the biggest frog we can find! And later on we should eat that one as the first one!

The frog is only a metapher for your tasks. How often did you came accross a task you didn’t wanted to do? How often did you procrastinated without getting something productive done? The book helps you figuring out what is important, urgent, valuable and needed. This is done by a very useful set of principles. First and best example is the ugliest frog. Whenever you feel, that you could do something better with your time, go for it. But it also comes up with advices for planning your future and your day. Sometimes there are already well known things like Pareto’s Principle (at least for me it was not new). But they are presented very detailed and from multiple sides. This helps to understand things deeper and reflect more and better. Other things are not so obvious. Being a creative procrastinator was one of these things i never heard before. Its absolutely clear, that you can’t do everything you would like to do in your life. So you need to put things into the background, which are not highest priority. Also you learn how to push yourself into action. Overall there are 21 techniques to recognize and eat the most important frog first and to swallow it as good as you can.

Conclusion

The book Eat That Frog! is written very entertaing. It is easy to read and understand. At the end of each chapter the great tips are summarized again for being accessible later fast. The chapters are atomar, so that you can pick up the book, check out a chapter and try one chapters recommendations. The clear advices are fast and easy implemented. So overall this book is full of easy and brilliant things. Some you may know, some seem too easy, but its good to be reminded again!

Management 3.0: #4 Exploration Days

After we talked about the management 3.0 techniques Kudo Cards, the Moving Motivators and the Delegation Poker it is time to talk about one of my favorites: the Exploration Days!

Exploration what?

You may have never heard of the term Exploration Days, but you may know them by a different name! They’re often called slack time, hacking days, pet projects, ShipIt days and sometimes hackathons (which in my eyes is something completely different, but that’s another story :)). What’s exactly meant by this? Quite easy: giving the employees the chance to self educate or to develop something on their own. And all of this great things in and while their normal working hours. Some of the main goals are a better motivation of the individuals, a better connection between the team members among themselves and the company and more outside the box thinking team members. You can fill the time with whatever ideas come up from the crowd. Important is to make it fun for everybody who wants to join! I’ve heard and experienced a variety of implementations. For instance google lets it completely to your own what you’re doing in your twenty percent of each work week. The other side i know is, that the company (often somewhere in between your boss and the team) decides what you are allowed to do. Both have goods and bads.

My experiences

It is a bit tough for me to find the right balance between respect and full honesty. In one company we were waiting for the implementation of this kind of stuff for a longer time. When we finally were allowed to start, it was quite unclear who had to approve the topic and it was a mess. Somehow there came up big discussions what to do when and if doing some things at all. Overall it was nice to have the time to do something to develop further. On the other side all the waiting and the big discussions gave an off-taste to the whole thing. Not the greatest experience. For me some things are clear: whenever Exploration Days are implemented, it should not be talked to long about it without starting and the rules have to be crystal clear. Even if the rules are too harsh, because the company fears employees are wasting time. Reasons for this can be cultural (some kind of distrust) or business need (the business model can’t handle non earning time).

What contact to Exploration Days (or their brothers) did you have? Which experiences did you made? Did it helped to be more motivated or was there a drop in motivation caused by strange rules or bureaucracy? Let the world know it by leaving a comment!

Thanks for reading and have a good time exploring!