How do you have more impact on the individuals and teams you work with?
When I transitioned my career path from Project Manager to Scrum Master, I was both excited and terrified. This is a feeling many people experience when they are embarking on something new. I have gone through this cycle of excitement and fear many times as I continued to drive towards a more fulfilling career.
I can look back now and see that I followed a similar process each time. In order to amplify my impact, I had to expand my range.
What does it mean to expand your range?
Your range encompasses both who you are and what you do.
Scrum Masters, Coaches, and anyone who considers themselves an agile leader should seek to expand their range as part of their own continuous improvement. Working on yourself is an important aspect of servant leadership.
4 Steps to Expand Your Range
1. Educate yourself.
Look at how much time you can realistically carve out for learning. This may require some difficult trade-offs, but you have to prioritize your learning. Personally, I prefer larger blocks of time for uninterrupted focus. Some people prefer spending a shorter amount of time more frequently. Choose what works best for you, and make adjustments as you go.
Seek foundational knowledge, skills, techniques, and stories. Be sure to seek balance in your learning.
- Foundational knowledge will help you understand the why and the theory.
- Skills and techniques will help you take action.
- Stories help drive an emotional connection and help you find ways to apply your learning.
Books can meet some of these needs depending on the style and experiences of the author. Blogs are another option, but you have to ensure the credibility of your source.
Experiential, high quality training can also meet this full range of learning. I find in-person classroom training to create a rich learning environment because you get to learn from each other, and you get to learn by doing.
When I first started as a Scrum Master, I had foundational agile and Scrum training from a mentor. I later went through Scrum.org’s Professional Scrum courses. I then reached a point where I felt I needed to expand my range with facilitation, so I took a course. Then I reached a point where I wanted to expand my range as a coach, so I embarked on a five month journey through the Co-Active Coach Training Program. There has been additional training sprinkled in along the way.
But it’s not enough to simply learn.
You also have to apply what you learn.
This leads us to step 2.
2. Practice intentionally.
The real learning comes through practice. Practicing with intention means you choose something specific to practice, and you clearly define what you want to learn from the practice. The key is to get a little outside your comfort zone each time. Remember you are trying to “expand,” so it should feel a little uncomfortable.
Here are a few examples of practicing with intention:
- Using a new technique to facilitate powerful Sprint Retrospectives when things feel dull or boring.
- Facilitating a story mapping session to help teams focus on users and see the big picture.
- Using powerful questions in a design session to empower teams and promote self-organization and creativity.
- Teaching a Product Owner techniques for gathering input from stakeholders.
- Using your intuition (and not worrying about being wrong) during coaching conversations.
- Going into a difficult conversation assuming positive intent and focusing on shared outcomes.
- Challenging a team to higher greatness instead of settling for good enough.
- Being fully present and practicing active listening in every conversation and working session. No phone, no laptop, no “dialing in” to multi-task.
Here are some additional creative ways Scrum Masters, Coaches, and agile leaders can practice with intention outside of the workplace:
- Write about it. You can write on your own blog or guest post on someone else’s blog.
- Give a talk about it. This could be at a local meetup, a conference, or to a team or group within your organization.
- Volunteer your services to friends and family. Many skills can be practiced and applied outside of your business or industry. I have coached people who don’t work in software delivery. I practice coaching skills when I’m having coffee with a friend or taking a Lyft ride.
3. Ask for feedback and be open to it.
While it is possible to self-assess, the most meaningful feedback will come from people with whom you are practicing. Yes, I know it can be difficult to ask. And it can be even more difficult to hear the feedback.
Here are a few tips to get meaningful feedback:
- Be genuine in your request and tell the person why their honest feedback is important to you. Make it clear that you’re NOT just looking for validation or a pat on the back. You want to learn, and they can help you.
- Accept the feedback without reacting to it. Don’t agree. Don’t disagree. Don’t make excuses or justify your reactions. This is SO HARD. I know. But feedback is information, another perspective. You can choose what to do with it later. Simply thank the person for being open and willing to share. Showing your gratitude is especially important when you know it took courage.
- Don’t wait too long. The more recent the experience, the more detailed and accurate feedback you will get. You also have to consider when it is appropriate to ask for feedback. In some situations, you may not want to switch the focus to yourself immediately.
You can ask for feedback in other ways. Survey your peers to assess you. I did something similar last year. I appreciated learning that people see me as focused and organized. I also appreciated finding out that people also see me as blunt and impatient.
4. Get a coach
This could be a formal or informal coaching relationship.
A coach can help you expand your range by providing support and accountability. A coach can help you get past limiting beliefs and see different perspectives.
A coach can call you on your bullshit. A coach can challenge you. A coach can hold a supportive space for you to explore and grow.
I have been coached by many people. Being coached is what has allowed me to expand my range the most.
3 Actions to Make It Real
I challenge you to make this real in your life. Here are a few actions you can take towards expanding your range.
- Take 15 minutes to reflect on the impact you are having on the people around you. In what ways do you want to have more impact and be of service to others? What skills or traits do you want to work on? What scares you a little? Head over to Facebook and make your declaration.
- Sign up for a course. If Professional Scrum and Coaching Skills are areas you want to learn and grow, I have several public courses scheduled in many geographies. Email me if you don’t see your city listed.
- If you aren’t quite sure of the next steps to expand your range and have a greater impact, sign up for a complimentary coaching session with me. There is no obligation. This is how I practice with intention.