Start with self-awareness

Self-aware­ness and self-man­age­ment are crit­i­cal skills for any Scrum Mas­ter or Agile Coach. We need an aware­ness of our own emo­tion­al state before we can self-man­age those emo­tions. Lack of self-aware­ness can lead to us not even know­ing when we are being dom­i­neer­ing, non-col­lab­o­ra­tive or biased about a top­ic. There­fore, as a Scrum Mas­ter or Agile Coach, that has the respon­si­bil­i­ty of facil­i­tat­ing, coach­ing, men­tor­ing and teach­ing, we must be aware of what we bring and do not bring into each of our engage­ments with indi­vid­u­als, teams and out­side of the teams — organisation.

Coach­ing starts with you, but it’s not about you” as Lyssa Adkins states in her book “Coach­ing agile teams”. Being the kind of coach that the team needs most, doesn’t hap­pen overnight. It requires con­stant aware­ness and practice.

It’s only through self-aware­ness that we can dis­cov­er and reveal our true authen­tic­i­ty, and this is the secret ingre­di­ent that will gain the trust and respect of others.

Do you know Yourself?”

This can be an annoy­ing ques­tion and we feel that the answer is obvi­ous. We’ve been with these per­son­al­i­ties for our whole lives and have had the time to learn about our­selves and how we oper­ate. But do we tru­ly know what keeps us going, when we are igno­rant and why?!

As Agile Coach­es, our suc­cess depends on help­ing oth­ers suc­ceed. Shar­ing our Agile exper­tise will help them achieve their goals, but first we will need to lever­age our inter­per­son­al skills in order to under­stand their goals and motivations.

A good start­ing point is by review­ing the four skills of emo­tion­al intel­li­gence. Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence is the abil­i­ty to suc­cess­ful­ly nav­i­gate the mud­dy waters of human emo­tions. That includes self-aware­ness of our own emo­tion­al state, social aware­ness of the emo­tion­al state of oth­ers, self-man­age­ment of our own emo­tion­al state and cre­ation and main­te­nance of good relationships.

Self-aware­ness is a com­bi­na­tion of pay­ing atten­tion to what is going on in our heads and con­sid­er­ing how our emo­tion­al state and behav­ior play a part in the emo­tion­al state and behav­ior of others.

It relates to our abil­i­ty to accu­rate­ly under­stand our­selves either in the imme­di­ate moment or in gen­er­al, for exam­ple our abil­i­ty to inter­pret and describe our feel­ings accurately.

Our abil­i­ty to express our­selves clear­ly, make deci­sions and know our own mind, demand us to be self-aware. With­in coach­ing ses­sions, our abil­i­ty to stay flex­i­ble is also relat­ed to our own aware­ness. For exam­ple, dur­ing the facil­i­ta­tion of a ret­ro­spec­tive, self-aware­ness helps me under­stand my feel­ings: “I’m being con­trol­ling, I’m close to give them the solu­tion. I need to lis­ten more”.

Self-aware­ness will also inform us of our strengths, weak­ness­es and devel­op­ment needs.

Answer the fol­low­ing ques­tions for your­self. Addi­tion­al­ly, have some­one whose judge­ment you val­ue, answer them about you and then com­pare and reflect on the differences:

·      What is it that peo­ple real­ly val­ue me for?

·      How do peo­ple expe­ri­ence me gen­er­al­ly, i.e. how might they describe me dur­ing coach­ing ses­sions or when facil­i­tat­ing dif­fer­ent discussions?

·      How am I dif­fer­ent when I’m under pres­sure, e.g. dur­ing inter­ac­tions or con­ver­sa­tions with others?

·      What three things could I stop doing that would make me more effective?

·      What three things do I need to start doing, or do more often?

Develop self-awareness

I believe this is a nev­er-end­ing quest, since we always need to stay open to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that there is more about our­selves, we may be blind to.

  •  One way to begin is to learn more about our­selves: strengths, weak­ness­es, char­ac­ter traits, moti­va­tions, val­ues. Not sim­ply how we are, but also why we are like we are. An assess­ment tool giv­ing deep insights into your strengths, learned behav­iors and weak­ness­es that I rec­om­mend is Strengths Pro­file.
  • Com­plete a per­son­al­i­ty pro­fil­ing exer­cise your­self, e.g. Myers Brig­gs, Bel­bin, DISC.
  • Seek for feed­back on a reg­u­lar basis. But remem­ber, feed­back is just anoth­er person’s per­cep­tion, it is no more valid than your own per­cep­tion: what you choose to do with the infor­ma­tion is up to you.
  • Attend devel­op­men­tal cours­es that will help you reflect both on how you are now and how you might be. I remem­ber the feel­ings I had when attend­ing such a course some­where in the Tran­syl­van­ian Carpathi­an Moun­tains: intrigued but inter­est­ed at the same time in the pos­i­tive impact of who I am in the world.
  • Keep a learn­ing diary. This is a pow­er­ful learn­ing tool over time. Reflect­ing on a reg­u­lar basis help me focus on my expe­ri­ences, thoughts and feel­ings. A pow­er­ful tool to derive effec­tive inter­ven­tions for Scrum Mas­ters is the Scrum Mas­ter Diary.
  • Read books and mate­ri­als that relate to prac­ti­cal psy­chol­o­gy or human behav­iour. Read­ing helps us view our­selves objec­tive­ly in com­par­i­son to the thoughts and ideas we are being offered, read­ing helps us reflect.

You can start with:

  • Emo­tion­al Self-Aware­ness: A Primer by George Kohlrieser, Vanes­sa Druskat, Richard J David­son, Richard Boy­atzis, Daniel Goleman
  • The Coach­ing Man­u­al: The Defin­i­tive Guide to the Process, Prin­ci­ples and Skills of Per­son­al Coach­ing, Sec­ond edi­tion by Julie Starr
  • Coach­ing Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins

*Imag­ine de Gerd Alt­mann de la Pix­abay

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