This day always comes and it always will. But it never gets any easier.
In the post “An Exit Strategy for the Agile Coach,” I discuss the journey from the time a coach arrives until the time has come for them to go. Well, this coach is experiencing the later as my time in the trenches with those I most recently served has ended.
Leaving never comes as a surprise in my line of work and you would think I would start getting used to it. But since I haven’t gotten used to it and I would rather not spend the money on therapy, I’ll do the next best thing…write about it.
So I’ve spent the past few weeks capturing my thoughts about what makes these opportunities so special and one word keeps bubbling up…relationships.
While producing better, faster, or more valuable outcomes is always something to strive for, what will often be remembered is the relationships formed and the bonds created. Creating an environment where a collection of unique and diverse humans connect and thrive will always be complicated. Guiding those relationships to innovate and build something together, even more so.
From the moment we arrive until the moment we leave, intentionally focusing on the behaviors we bring to our new relationships provides the opportunity for our bonds to strengthen. Those bonds form the foundation for designing and shaping our new work culture.
Attempting to create a new work culture without these bonds usually results in temporary improvements or a few quick wins but meaningful, long-lasting change will be elusive as we never talk about the things that really need talking about.
To help build those bonds (and they will come in handy later), here are a few of those behaviors I always need to focus on when I arrive:
Energy. Many relationships launch with energy and purpose. This is often because of the “newness” of our experience together. The trick is to not only keep this energy going but to intensify it when things get rough. When things do get tough and without strong bonds of relationship, whatever energy remains typically turns negative.
When organizations have lost their energy (or energy has turned negative), it requires a few braves souls to lead the way by bringing a new level of vibrancy. Honestly, this doesn’t take much usually…it could be as simple just smiling a little more and to start saying good morning to each other.
Mostly though, it’s just a little sacrificial energy that is required at first by subtly shifting focus from what we need to what others need. This small, but never easy shift, signals we are serious about changing and we are in this for the long haul.
Energy brings momentum to relationships.
Openness. Purposeful energy will always meet resistance. In fact, if you’re not meeting resistance, change isn’t happening. To build a sustaining movement strong enough to overcome this resistance, we need to know the resistance. Knowing our resistance requires people to be vocal about their experiences and brave enough to share what they know and who they are.
Change initiatives fail, I believe, for one reason. Lack of bravery. Any reduction of bravery (openness) by any one person shrinks the ability to build on our initial energy and smash through our resistance by just that much.
Openness brings bravery to relationships.
Listening. Creating an environment of openness is meaningless unless we listen to what others are opening up about. People lose bravery because their voice has been, or is being, silenced.
Each day there is a vacuum of silence waiting to be filled. It often feels as if we are in a race to fill this vacuum with our own words as quickly as we can (he writes while looking in the mirror).
Bravery requires space for the “unbrave” to become brave. Silence creates this space and provides an invitation for people to step-in when they otherwise wouldn’t. If you are already brave, maybe a season of silence would be appropriate for you to allow space for others to become bigger.
Listening provides the space for growth in our relationships.
Growth. The expansion of radical thinking, fresh ideas and personal bravery can only happen if openness (not afraid to share) and listening (not afraid to receive) are fully present.
And when this happens, magic ensues. The strengths of each individual blends together to create something any one person would ever believe was possible.
Would you like to test if the opportunity for growth is present? Continuously ask yourself and others this question, “Do others have more confidence (feel braver)?” If the answer is yes, a little smile just crept on your face when you read the question. You’ve felt and experienced what a growing confidence environment feels like. If the answer is no, check your energy, check your openness, and check your amount of listening. One or all is missing.
Growth creates something magical from our relationships.
Community. There is beauty in a reality when we could be ourselves and express true feelings. We laugh. We cry. We talk. We debate. We celebrate. We grieve. We know about each other’s life outside of work. Some days we may not really like each other but we know we need each other. This is real-life. This is community.
Organizations don’t need another framework and they don’t need to “scale” the one they have. They need the collective ability to sense when that nasty old resistance is reappearing and collectively and instinctually overwhelm and destroy it. This happens through the strength of community…can’t wait to share more in the next post and podcast.
Community multiplies our relationships.
As this current chapter closes and a new one begins, my feelings are bittersweet. While there is pain in knowing we won’t get to experience everyday life together there is much more joy. This joy comes from knowing we had this time together in the first place and we truly experienced life together. All the highs and all the lows. Perfect.
I mentioned in the “8 Ways to Measure Your Impact as an Agile Coach,” there is no way of really knowing if this was a “successful” coaching experience. Only time will tell if the seeds planted will take root.
But I do know this…
We will always have our community . I can’t wait to see what the future holds for each of you. I appreciate you all.