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Self-leadership is your KEY to enjoyable Scrum (people in drama have better choices…)

Ponder this question for a minute…are you leading your life?


Usually when I ask this question to someone the immediate answer is an emphatic YES! And yet, when we dig deeper into how they feel about the leadership they are giving to themselves, many people are stumped. Or, worse, they actually start listing out all of the reasons (and sometimes the people) that are getting in the way of them leading the life they want.


It is infinitely fascinating how many of us forget that we are responsible for how we choose to see, think, and feel — and that the results we do and do not get in life have a lot to do with — ourselves! The work of David Emerald and Donna Zajonic, creators of The Power of TED* and 3 Vital Questions: Transforming Workplace Drama, has inspired me for over a decade in terms of how I lead my life.


Understanding that the drama we all experience in work and life — what’s wrong, broken, who is against us, why something won’t work — is one way to meet our life experience. Waking up to the other choice, of empowerment, creating our experience each day, and focusing on outcomes was for me, as David says “…a blinding flash of the obvious.” Understanding that how we choose to react or respond to life and work circumstances has a lot to do with the results we get. (Learn more about this powerful work here: https//www.3vitalquestions.com)


So what does this have to do with successful Scrum?


Think back to when you first started working on a Scrum Team. I suspect you, like many around you, were likely enthusiastic, maybe slightly skeptical, hopeful, or some mixture of emotions about this change to how you were going to work with others. Maybe you had a training experience that was inspiring and even fun. Perhaps your Product Owner set a vision for the work ahead and you felt engaged and empowered to get to create something meaningful with others.


Yet, Scrum also represents change — and to more than simply how people are organized to create products or deliver services. Ignoring how people think and feel about the change to working in and around Scrum and embracing the Agile mindset and principles is at the heart of the majority of the drama that I have experienced working with teams and companies. Scrum is REALLY good at making transparent a lot of cultural and behavioral “funk” that plague teams and companies.


See if you can relate to any of these examples where you perhaps have felt the sting of less than helpful Scrum teaming or organizational support:


  • Creating your definition of Done

  • Making transparent the work of the team

  • Not being allowed to interact with customers

  • Heroics from team members as a mode of operating

  • Perfect burn-down at any cost to make Scrum look perfect

  • Interpersonal differences and not getting know team members

  • Fake Scrum or Scrum in name only (i.e. missing the heart, values, etc.)

  • Scrum envy from others who feel excluded from the work (usually unintentionally)

  • Active Scrum sabotage by others not comfortable with empowerment


Naming these things is the first step to busting through the barriers to successful Scrum.

Claiming responsibility for the role you might be playing is next.


It is easy (and pretty instinctive) to point the finger of blame at others — the team, the Product Owner, the leadership team…when Scrum isn’t working out like you thought it would. I would offer that before you point the finger, take a look in the mirror and see if your self-leadership is helpful to the team first. When you accept responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and actions, it does a few things:


  • You take ownership of how you are contributing to or taking away from the success of the team

  • You demonstrate maturity and self-leadership in your ability to deal in reality

  • You choose to see yourself and your team members as co-creators

  • You demonstrate courage and respect (and for that matter openness, commitment, and focus) by working with your team to address unhelpful behaviors, actions, and seek solutions to better teaming, instead of blaming Scrum, your team, or others


Scrum is an incredibly enjoyable way of working, creating, learning, and contributing. Every Sprint will not be the same, they will not all go as planned, and there will be things that do not work out as expected — and this is reality…which we love! It is how we choose to meet that reality (the good, bad, and the unexpected) that is the thing. Remember — you are always at choice and how you lead yourself is a huge deal in how enjoyable your Scrum life can be.


P.S. I am a certified 3VQ facilitator and have brought this powerful work to many Scrum teams to support the strengthening of success of their Scrum practice — send me an email if you’d like to explore — this work means a lot to me personally and I want to share it with the world — bdavis@llewp.com)

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