5 September 2014

Leadership Quotes - Servanthood

In a flash of certainty, I saw that of one's motives are wrong, nothing can be right. It makes no difference whether you are a mailman, a hairdresser, an insurance salesman, a housewife -- whatever. As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do it less well --a law as inexorable as gravity.
- Arthur Gordon on Servanthood

A Scrum Master is described as a servant leader, someone who's purpose is to lead a team in applying the SCRUM agile methodology but from a position of helping the team do well rather than helping themselves build an empire. To do the job well, ensure your motivation is right.

29 August 2014

Leadership Quotes - Change

Change - real change - comes from the inside out. It doesn't come from hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior and quick-fix, personality-ethic techniques. it comes from striking at the root - the fabric of our thought; the fundamental, essential paradigms, which gives definition to our character and creates the lens through which we see the world.
- Stephen R. Covey on Change

Creating real unconditional long term change in ourselves is hard work but it will last.

22 August 2014

Leadership Quotes - Success

Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves - to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today.
- Stewart B. Johnson on Success

I think this quote frames beautifully a powerful lesson I've learned over many years in the corporate world. So many people are out to be better than the other guy and as a result they go round treading all over the people around them. While this may have short term gains, it is shallow and it will forever mark you. Instead of trying to measure yourself against the other guy, measure yourself against who you were yesterday. ask yourself every morning:

What did I learn yesterday?
How will I be better today?

15 August 2014

Leadership Quotes - Integrity

Nothing is more confusing than people who give good advice but set bad examples.
- Norman Vincent Peale on Integrity

Integer, Integrate and Integrity all come from the same Latin root meaning "whole" or "entire". The idea is soundness, unity or incorruptibility.

I believe you can't be a whole person until your actions and words line up exactly. When you try to be two things at once you will struggle and it will be obvious to everyone around you. As coaches we need to be mindful of our integrity to avoid polluting the pond.

8 August 2014

Leadership Quotes - Conflict Management

If you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself.
- Lord Chesterfield on Conflict Management

Conflict is not something we naturally aspire for nor is it something we are generally very good at. this quote rang true for me because I have always tried to maintain an open mind in any conflict, whether a difference of opinion about a design implementation, a project approach or in reacting to the way someone has treated me.

I believe that maintaining an open mind in any conflict is crucial, walking into it believing you have all the answers is both naive and prone to failure. Often if both parties maintain open minds the resolution will be something completely different to both parties and much better in many cases.

2 August 2014

Leadership Quotes - Character

Honor and shame from no condition rise; Act well your part, there all the honor lies.
- Alexander Pope on Character

How do the people around you see you?
Do you project the right character?
If those around you described you what would they say?

I have found over the years that it's times of great pressure which really highlight a persons character and I have learned to be very mindful of my own actions and reactions. For me, character grows as we put ourselves in certain positions, outside our comfort zone giving us a change to learn, grow and mature the character each of us carries.

11 July 2014

Leadership Quotes - Leadership

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
- Gen. George S. Patton - on Leadership

It is a tough lesson to learn in leadership but it is OK for people to do a thing their own way, don't expect the team to do things the way you imagine, encourage their ingenuity. As long as the goal is clear you will be able to work with the team to measure the result against the intended goal and you'll help them grow. You never know, you may learn a thing or two yourself along the way.

4 July 2014

Leadership Quotes - Leadership

Be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality in a leader. Don't fall victim to what I call the 'ready-aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome.' You must be willing to fire.
- Gen. George S. Patton - on Leadership

I learned the hard way a few years ago, when I was dropped in the deep end as the leader of an important project in a large organisation, that a leader has to be willing to make a call, stick their neck out and stand by their decision. I also learned that you should be willing to change your mind as soon as compelling evidence to the contrary is put before you. One thing I do know is that making clear decisions and explaining why has been a very powerful tool in helping me gain respect from the teams I have led, and has kept projects on the rails.

Gather the evidence, encourage opinion from the team, churn it all together and pick a direction. Change direction only when the evidence to do so is clear.

27 June 2014

Leadership Quotes - Change

Most of us are about as eager to be changed as we were to be born, and go though our changes in a similar state of shock.
-James Baldwin on Change

I believe that whenever you adopt Agile practices you need to ensure you accept change, that you have change as a mindset. If you do, you will be open enough to identify the practices that are holding you and the team back and you will have the willingness and gumption to make the relevant change. As Agile Coaches we should lead with change as a mindset, not to change for the sake of it but to be comfortable with change when the time is right and you have identified, with the team, the right things to change.

20 June 2014

Leadership Quotes - Leadership

Be tough but fair. This point sums it up. Leadership is an intensely personal and interpersonal skill. How you relate to people means everything. Toughness starts with your own standards, your own performance and the example you set. Fairness is the other side of the coin. Judge others as you would judge yourself, fairly and consistently.
-Hatim A Tyabji, Chairman/President/CEO, Verifane, on Leadership

16 June 2014

Build your own things.

Why can't you follow your dreams?
Why can't you be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
In fact, why do you have to be? Be you and be fantastic.

15 June 2014

The Scrum Framework in 10 minutes or less

This is one of the best ways I've seen so far of how to explain the SCRUM framework to a novice. I've used it myself on a couple of occasions and it's really helped.

13 June 2014

Leadership Quotes - Leadership

Managers are often so busy cutting through the undergrowth they don't even realize they are in the wrong jungle. A leader is a person who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, "Wrong jungle!"
- Stephen R. Covey on Leadership

As a Scrum Master make sure you are the one climbing the tree rather than cutting the undergrowth. Your team needs you to be on the ball and help them stay on the right course.

6 June 2014

Leadership Quotes - Confrontation

The goal of confrontation should be to help, not to humiliate.
John C. Maxwell on Confrontation
Confrontation isn't something that we normally seek out, but as leaders we should expect that at some point in time we will have to deal with it. The worst outcome is that one party or the other comes out feeling humiliated, I've been on the receiving end of this both from past leaders I looked up to, men I considered mentors, and current leaders I work with. Neither experience was helpful and I vowed to never put anyone through that as a result of dealing with confrontation in the future myself. Don't shy away from it, but handle it wisely and build up rather than destroy.

4 June 2014

The Power of the Servant Leader

The role of a Scrum Master is one of servant leadership which is an extremely powerful type of leadership when done right. This podcast episode from the Coaching For Leaders website is a fantastic look into the power of a servant leader and has a great insight into lessons learned by John Dickson on his way to becoming a servant leader.


“The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, and serve first. The conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” -Robert Greenleaf

You can listen to the webcasts provided by Coaching for Leaders either direct on the site, download them or subscribe using your favorite podcast app. I recommend the fantastic PocketCasts app available on iOS and Android.

1 June 2014

The right space can foster innovative behaviour

I've helped set up spaces like this in the UK after seeing what is possible from SAPs Dublin app house. Creative spaces that have the right tools and atmosphere can seriously increase a teams ability to work out new innovative thoughts and come up with workable solutions.

We haven't specifically called it a war room but we have had fantastic results setting up a space for agile development teams to thrash out ideas.

Key things I always recommend :
Supply of good quality post it notes of various sizes and colours.
Supply of flip board pads -  the ones with the sticky edge on the top.
Lots of whiteboard pens
Sharpies in lots of colours
Portable whiteboards of various sizes
Scrap paper.
Large clock you can stand up - one with a timer is best so you can time box brainstorming sessions.

Tour the Google Ventures war room in San Francisco: http://youtu.be/BcjS6-ocLik

31 May 2014

30 May 2014

Leadership Quotes - Growth

We learn something every day, and lots of times it's that what we learned the day before was wrong.
-Bill Vaughn on Growth

I've always maintained that any leader, whether they have been a leader for a couple of years or a couple of decades absolutely must remain teachable. So often I come across people in leadership roles that believe they have reached the top of the ladder and now know it all, and I feel sorry for them because they have forgotten the simple truth that nothing ever remains the same, there will always be a lesson to learn and they will miss the opportunity to absorb that new lesson into their future character, and will be left behind while others move on.

23 May 2014

Leadership Quotes - Encouragement

There is no such thing as a 'self made man'. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.
-George Mathew Adams on Encouragement

You often hear motivational speakers say that you should surround yourself with the right people and I have to agree. I also believe that as leaders we need to take care that we are having the right impact on the people we influence.

19 May 2014

Book Review - Letters from Leaders

As the cover describes it, Letters from Leaders is a collation of 'Personal Advice for Tomorrow's Leaders from the World's Most Influential People'. Pulled together by Henry O. Dormann editor in chief for LEADERS magazine, this book is a must have for any leaders bookshelf.

The book itself is made of very high quality materials and feels like it will last a good while even with much use, and if you have this book you will be coming back to it often. The real value of the book is of course in the content and not the physical materials and here Dormann has not failed to bring us a collection of wisdom from all corners of business, sport, religion, politics. It's a who's who of success including Mohamed Ali, King Abdullah II King of Jordan, Beth Brooke, Walter Cronkite Vladimir Putin, George W Bush.

You can easily read the book cover to cover slowly eating through the letters one by one, or jump in and see what any particular author has to say. Occasionally Dormann has included a copy of the original letter as a foldout page which really does bring a nice element to the book making it feel like something quite special.

The letters themselves are fantastic nuggets of wisdom gained over many years with many lessons learned, you won't fail to find some form of encouragement or guidance that will help make you a better leader, assuming you allow the seeds to take root.

Published by The Lyons Press you can get the book from Amazon US here ($17 hardback) or from Amazon UK here (£15 hardback), there is a paperback and Kindle version of the book available which I've not had my hands on but if you are able to get the hardback version I recommend it as it really is a wonderful book.

If you have any other books or sites in your collection like this, leave a link in the comments I know I'd like to see them.

17 May 2014

Leadership Quotes - Introduction

Leadership quotes is a series I'm starting through which I hope to pass on thoughts and quotes from various sources with the goal of providing a resource for growing leaders current and future. I maintain a small notebook full of inspiring thoughts and quotes that I read through from time to time as a way of centering and evaluating my own leadership skills.

I believe it's important to take time out on a regular basis to evaluate where we stand and the direction we are going a retrospective of self, if you like. What am I doing right and should maintain? What am I doing wrong and should change? Two questions I regularly ask myself so that I can stay relevant to my teams, but also so I may ensure that I am not a leader of words but a Leader of action.

I was inspired to run this series when I found some old print outs from the "Excellence In Leadership Quotes" newsletters that Jay Ramirez ran back in the 90s with the same goal.

This week I leave you with this:
The person who trims themselves to suit everybody will soon whittle themselves away.
-Charles M. Schwab on integrity 

14 May 2014

An alternative approach to the daily stand up

As we know, the daily stand up covers three key points:
  • What did you achieve yesterday?
  • What will you be trying to achieve today?
  • What blocking issues do you have?
Normally each person in the team covers all three questions in turn, until everyone has said their piece. I was wondering today though whether it is better to approach this differently. Would it be more effective to go round the team a point at a time, by which I mean everyone first covers an update on what was done yesterday, clarifying the overall picture of current progress, and then each covers any risks or blocking issues and finally each covers the plan for today agreeing an overall goal for the team.

Effectively the tam as a whole would be able to answer the three points:
  • Yesterday we achieved x
  • We have found the following issues and think this is how we work round them
  • Today we plan to do y
What are your thoughts on the daily stand up?
Could this approach work?

13 May 2014

Plans are useless...

Ever found your teams grumbling about the planning meeting at the beginning of an iteration? I know I have.

I was mindful of this recently when reading about Eisenhower this week and came across this quote:
"In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable".

I believe that what he was saying here is that the act of planning, the communication itself, discussing the angles, raising the various possibilities for failure and options for avoiding them, is by far the most valuable aspect of the planning process. The resulting plan itself is actually of little worth because it is highly likely that you'll need to change the plan in response to an unforeseen challenge.

Our planning meetings have to be highly interactive events where the team is able to engage in good discussion covering how they are going to turn the backlog into real working software, not necessarily covering every story in great detail but definitely pulling together an idea of how they are going to get from A to B and raising as many risks they can think of. The result is a plan but more than that, each member of the team is equipped with valuable knowledge that allows them to stay in tune with the progress and alert to the effect any risks may be having on that plan so they can confidently react to any need for changing it as they go.

Of course the main planning meeting is not the end of it, the team needs the opportunity to regularly refocus, update and re-plan if necessary as they work their way through the iteration and as we know the daily stand up is precisely for that purpose. Fifteen minutes of concentrated planning in the form of an update on whats done and an agreement of whats next along with an acknowledgement of current risk.

It seems obvious to me that Eisenhower was absolutely right, it's not about the plan it's all about the planning.