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Agile Leadership Lessons – Live at #AgileTD (TESTHEAD)

On November 12, 2015, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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Selena Delesie and I have known each other for about five years. I met Selena as one of my co-participants in the BBST classes, and we have had an ongoing correspondence and bumping into each other at events over the past few years. Selena has focused on being a coach and a consultant. She has a broad range of experiences and a unique presentation style, and I’m excited to see her delivering a keynote today :).

Ask yourself, if you could have dinner with any person alive, who would it be? Why? What do like about them? For me personally, I’d like to hang out with Gerald Weinberg and earn a bit about how he got where he is today. I’d also like to hang out with Larry Winget for awhile because I think he’s a hoot and his personality is bigger than life.

Selena emphasized that her “must meet” is Richard Branson, and while she didn’t get to meet him directly, she did get to interact with him at an event she was attending. She said that some of what she admires about Richard is his ability to listen deeply. We tend to want to make our views known, and by doing so, stake our claim on our knowledge and experience. More important is being able to listen deeply and learn to understand the challenges people are facing. My expertise doesn’t matter if the expertise I have won’t help the people I’m conversing with or hoping to lead or help.

How can we improve on collecting information and ideas? In general, the best thing is to just stop and listen to the people we are working with. Ultimately, it’s all about the people on your teams that you work with. It’s important to realize that, if you are going to be a technical leader for a team, your goal is not to make yourself shine, but to make the entire team shine. As a leader, your goal is to help other people be successful. If that’s not your thing, you need to consider a different line of work. Additionally, do all you can to make people smile. When people smile, they open up and amazing things happen.

Who can you improve your relationship with? For me, I think it is important to have a good overview of the business as a whole, so foster relationships with people outside of your immediate team. Build relationships with people who can help you understand what is happening in the entire organization. As you learn what other people in your organization deal with, and what their pain points are, we can help alleviate that pain, or look at our work differently.

Be addicted to learning. Discover what domain knowledge exists in your organization, and be prepared to go where the needs are, rather than just what you want to do. For me, the most pressing need in our organization at a time was to understand the entire build process for our software, and that led to me becoming the release manager for our company. Do i know everything about the process? Hardly, but I have a chance to learn and experiment regularly, and provide basic improvements to the process here and there, and that’s made a world of difference in my work reality this past year.

We don’t learn by following rules. We learn by experimenting, by doing, and yes, by falling over and getting back up again. It’s a challenge to learn new things, especially in areas that are not comfortable to us. It’s also important to carve out the time to get good at what we do. Part of that requires us being willing to say “how may I be of service to you?” It’s not enough to just show up and do things for our benefit alone, we need to be wiling to be of service to each other and our organizations.

Another question to consider is “what problem are we helping to solve?” One member of the audience said “harnessing all of the brainpower of the organization”. Another said “to get a better shared understanding of the software we are developing”. Another said “hiring more team members”. For me, it’s “making sense of the infrastructure and feature needs to help identify the real critical issues that our customers need”.

Agile means being adaptable and flexible, and yet we still find that old habits die hard. We may think our teams are agile, but in many ways, there is a lot of tradition and process to overcome, and many of the methods we use are often counter-productive. Remember that change is a given, but how you respond is a choice. Don’t be afraid of adapting and trying something different.

 

 

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