...rants by Asheesh Mehdiratta on Coaching, Transformation and Change

Category: coaching (Page 1 of 2)

Coaching Leadership Teams Journal: Everything You Need To Know – #1

Leadership Teams are everywhere, but most teams need support with Team coaching, to be able to leverage the true potential of their team members and the team itself and realize the benefits and generate value for the team’s stakeholders.

In this multi-post series, I will share my personal experiences along with notes from the book “Leadership Team Coaching”, by Prof Peter Hawkins and would love to hear your insights and experiences.

KEY Leadership Team Challenges

In this first post, let us understand the KEY Challenges currently being faced by Leadership Teams :

Leadership Team challenges
  1. Managing expectations of all Different Stakeholders

Leadership teams today must be able to respond and ‘win the hearts and minds’ of multiple stakeholders – which include key customers, internal staff, partner organizations and the broader spectrum of regulators, board members and shareholders, with communities and the wider shared ecology. Future generations and millennials have even greater expectations and less respect for titles and roles, and leaders will need to earn their respect with creative inspirational and credible actions.

  1. Leadership teams have to RUN and TRANSFORM the Business in parallel

All leadership teams today have to focus on not just running the business, but also look at transforming the business and the wider system and this is never easy! With parallel work across the three horizons, the leadership teams typically have the below focus areas and tend to struggle on maintaining the right balance.

  1. Immediate – Business as Usual
  2. Innovating for tomorrow
  3. Future foresight requiring radical change

  1. Teams need to increase their Capacity for working through Systemic Conflict

Multiple leadership teams are under pressure from the stakeholder group that they represent (CFO – Investors interests, HR – Employees, Sales – Customers etc..), and this leads to systemic conflicts between the various leaders. But for transformational leadership to succeed, we need these leadership teams to collectively engage the commitment and participation of all major stakeholder groups to change in the context of shared purpose, values, and vision. This conflict resolution requires the teams to expand their collective capacity to manage this systemic conflict.

  1. Human beings learning to live with Multiple memberships and belonging

The leaders in leadership teams are increasingly becoming more interconnected with the broader ecology, and increasingly matrix organizations. Every leader is a member of multiple teams, representing the interests in various capacities (E.g. – Executive team, Board member, Industry committee representative, Working groups etc.). This multi-team belonging is difficult for human beings who traditionally as species have learned to be loyal to a tribe/family group, and therefore it is difficult for us to adapt to this new multiple membership’s world.

  1. The World is becoming more Complex and Interconnected

Team leaders today are living in an interconnected world with an ‘Always ON’ mode with demands across the organization, and ‘work anywhere anytime’ post pandemic scenario. This makes it harder to stand back and reflect and see the bigger picture and the team leaders are now turning to team coaching to provide the protected space and outsider perspective.

  1. The Growth of Virtual working

Post the pandemic we are all now forced to work with remote working, and teams working either virtually or hybrid, and all this change requires for us to learn and enhance our communication skills, but also learn new ways of building and establishing trust. We need to be able to build the informal social circles and/or build those ‘moments of trust’, which can replace the earlier physical interactions, and this is still a work in progress for most leadership teams.

  1. The major leadership challenges lie not in the parts but in the Interconnections

As the world has become interconnected, the main challenge lies not in the people, or in the parts but in the interfaces between people, teams, functions, and different stakeholder needs.  This leads us to effectively coaching relationships, which leads to enabling the dialogue, resolving conflicts, or helping teams relate better inter-personally. This means that it is not just sufficient to be ‘customer-focused’ but we need to focus on our customer’s customer – enabling their customers in turn to make a difference for their customers. The leadership teams now need to shift to a virtuous cycle of active collaboration, which is grounded in a shared purpose instead of the vicious cycle of blame.

  1. Restoring Trust

Employees increasingly now expect the companies they work for to be purpose led, delivering social and community change, and not just profits. This requires that we ‘restore trust’ which has been lost or is falling across customers and our stakeholders. Leadership teams struggle with this trust deficit and are learning new ways of restoring this trust.

  1. Increasing the Quality of Engagement

Leadership teams are finding it extremely important to engage effectively with employees and stakeholders, considering that trust is critical in this VUCA world. The key elements requires that leadership teams provide a strategic big picture, have engaging managers, employees who can easily voice their ideas and concerns, and organizations whose values align and finally ‘real teamwork’ to enable teams working on shared purpose.

We will explore more on Leadership Team coaching in my next post , but would be interested to hear more about what are your leadership team challenges ? Do these challenges resonate with your teams ? Do these resonate with you as a Team Leader?

Feel free to reach out to me for your team or individual coaching needs and subscribe to my blog to learn more, as I share my coaching journeys.

Speaking at Agile India 2021 on OKRs and data challenges

OKRs (Objective Key Results) are getting lot of attention recently, but it is never easy to implement and teams attempting face multiple challenges especially with respect to the data. It is a tough journey and takes patience and education and I will be sharing my experiences in Agile India 2021 as a speaker on 20th Nov at 3.55 p.m. IST

The conference schedule is posted here now and my talk details are here. Post conference the slides and video recordings will be posted on the same link.

Let me know if you have similar or different experiences with OKRs or plan to implement OKRs soon. Happy to hear and reach out to me for your coaching needs or  subscribe to my blog , and feel free to share your feedback in the comments below..

Do you manage your constraints with self awareness ?

Manage Constraints with self awareness

Life is full of trade offs and constraints. The best in class are experts in managing these constraints while maximizing their outcomes. But we realize only in hindsight that it may be our ‘self awareness’, which may be stopping us from becoming aware or missing these constraints and exploring innovative solutions.

In one of my recent coaching conversations, the individual running a business unit was reviewing his latest unit performance with key KPI’s and scorecard. With most key indicators green, he was worried about the red ones and how to move the needle on them.

PROBLEM and SOLUTION

As part of the coaching conversations, we started exploring and zoomed out to his awareness about all the parts of the broader system, and how much he was aware of the various constraints in the system. The question we discussed was really simple.

“What are the Key Constraints for this system ?”

As he reflected on this, it became apparent that he was clearly missing out few constraints which were hiding in plain sight, but were overlooked. He had missed them in the deeper execution challenges and delivery focused agenda. As a coach, you are always aware of how various subsystems are all interconnected and systems thinking is a key skill to build up this base. If you wish to know more, you can read how you build Communities of Practice ( and think of all the actors in the system)

The next question was simple but thought provoking for the individual .

“Can we change the constraints of the system ?”

This simple “reflection’ and “self awareness” was key for him to observe the system dynamics and take a fresh look at his KPI’s, and readjust them to reflect the new insights.

SUMMARY:

Sometimes we have to zoom out and become an observer of the SYSTEM, without any attachment and this self-awareness is the KEY to the insights.

So if you are struggling with managing your constraints, then try to become more “SELF AWARE”, and with that expanded awareness you will be able to manage your constraints much better.

To know more or understand about how you can build your self awareness, reach out to me for your coaching needs or  subscribe to my blog , and feel free to share your feedback in the comments below..

What are the ‘common’ barriers to Coaching ?

common barriers to coaching
Flickr photo – heat13hr

As a Coach, you will always face challenges working with teams or individuals (read as Coachee’s) and Sponsors. You are always trying best to Break down the Walls, brick by brick. So this post is a starter list for some of the most common barriers to coaching with the Sponsors and the Coachee.

For a SPONSOR, some of the common barriers to Coaching are –

  • Coaching in any form starts with the basic premise that you have – Permission to Coach the coachee, but if coaching is ‘imposed’ on the Coachee by eager Sponsors, then there is no permission really between the coachee and the coach. The relationship then simply becomes an ORDER = “Thy shall be coach’d or else !!
  • On the opposite end, there is simply a lack of Sponsorship for coaching, where the Sponsors see Coaching as only a add-on and not really a strategic investment ! In these scenarios, we find that the the coaching is ineffective or if the money simply runs out and thus fizzles out over a period of time.
  • Sometimes Coaching is seen as a fancy ‘buzzword’ reserved only for few select high potential (hipots 😐 ) as an ‘accelerated career’ move / higher promotion to take up leadership responsibility or on the flip side for the ‘bottom percentile’, who are often ‘told’ to get coaching as a ‘development’ or ”remedial’ activity, thus falling prey to – are you Rewarded or Punished ? and the majority in the middle are thus not offered any coaching.

For a Coachee, some of the common barriers to Coaching are –

  • Coachee’s suffer the common syndrome of ‘I don’t have time’ for coaching or the coaching followup actions. The coachee’s other priorities (personal / professional) overpower the coaching conversations / and actions for followup.
  • Lack of peers, and senior executives (Role Models) – who come out openly and speak about their ‘personal’ coaching and the benefits gained. As coaching is often seen as ‘remedial’, since the Coachee’s are reluctant to appear as vulnerable and acknowledge that they are possibly not fulfilling their full potential. The coachee’s do not wish to appear weak in public, especially in the corporate jungle.
  • Coachee’s are not aware of the possible benefits of coaching for personal growth of individuals, or the benefits of coaching teams and how coaching can directly impact the enterprise results and business outcomes. This lack of awareness is a primary reason for under investment by Coachee’s or enterprises on their coach-ing *team.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of common barriers, and the list is surely much longer, and would be happy to hear your thoughts. Do you have any stories to share about your coaching barriers ?

If you like what you read, subscribe to my blog, and feel free to share your feedback here.

Do you ‘Attach to Detach’ in your coaching?

attachment detachment

Change agents (read Agile / DevOps / Lean coach’s etc.) are always interviewing, observing and empathizing with the teams and individuals. Attachment and Detachment – are part of every change agents personal journey.

Attach-Detach cycle

As part of the transformation journeys, we perform Coaching Kata’s and tend to enter the space of ‘attachment’ and then start to expect our teams to behave in the way we think they should. We get really attached to our teams and sometimes individuals, who look upon us as we start to show them the new ways of thinking.

5 Coaching Kata Questions

Sometimes we are able to help them see the new ways and other times we may not succeed, but finally at some point we have to ‘detach’ ourselves from the engagement for various reasons (sustainable model built, benefit-costs ratio achieved etc.)

But this engage-disengage cycle takes a heavy toll on the change agents, who have to be able to maintain a high level of stability, calm composure to the external world, though internally they might be facing anger, frustration or sometimes loss of the relationships built. Therefore, this detachment is never easy and the below quote summarizes it beautifully.

” The root of suffering is attachment “

the buddha

Dilemma – Solution ?

It is always a constant dilemma on how much ‘attachment’ you bring to your coaching engagement (empathizing with the team/individuals), and maintaining your inner peace and scorecard, which honors the inherent change inertia (read – you cannot really change any one!), and then be bold enough to detach with a smile on your face.

” The cessation of suffering is attainable through detachment”

The buddha

The solution is always within us, and each one of us have to learn to detach ourselves. We should let the team/individual chart their journeys at their pace, while we can only enable them and if possible show them the new ways.

So here’s wishing you ‘detachment’ from your ‘attachments’, as part of your coaching and transformation journeys, in the new year.

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Gratitude – Do you think it matters?

gratitudeChange agents are always running into Blockers, during their transformation journey, and need to overcome the impediments Brick by brick.

This journey can sap your energy and sometimes creates a downward spiral in the energy levels. This negative cycle must be balanced by a positive energy cycle in my viewSo how do you break this negative loop and enter the positive loop?

For me, it is the GRATITUDE –  which you show every day ~ when you THANK your stars and enter the positive state of mind.

Gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, which means gratefulness, and associates us to a higher power.

As we show Gratitude,  we get this feeling of gratefulness and thankfulness, which allows our minds to be at peace and focus on all the positive things happening around us, even if they are very small!

It could be as simple as a Spark in the eye of the Business user at the new product, or the positive commentary for a feature demo by the Product owner, or simply an Executive smiling at the collaboration within the teams, or a developer who gets the test-first concept. The are all opportunities for us to show our Gratitude.  You could start by building up your Gratitude ‘journal’, and slowly you will realize the Happiness factors going up for you, your teams and your stakeholders.

Here are 3 Simple Ideas To Try
  • Start by putting up a GRATITUDE BOARD, for your personal accomplishments
  • Encourage the Teams to start their Team Gratitude Board/Journal for their Tiny improvements.
  • Introduce Gratitude Exercises in your teams daily routine, just as Teri McKeveer introduced for her athletes

Let me know what you try and give it a thought if you think GRATITUDE matters for you/your team?

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Pranks and the Power of Questioning

questioningAs a change agent, you have a tough task of raising the awareness, educating, training and transforming the minds of the teams and leadership, while still maintaining your sanity. Sometimes they GET IT! And sometimes they act as innocent kids, enjoying their pranks while displaying passive or active resistance to your change efforts.

To me, this situation seems very similar to the dilemmas of the teaching community, who have similar problems everyday with the school kids. But if you watch the teaching community, one of the techniques they use is the Power of Questioning.

Power of Questioning

Power of Questioning includes asking the right questions, which challenges your teams, and promotes a higher order thinking, incubates creativity and helps them to finally develop learning!

So as a Change Agent, you should start to ask the right Questions, so that you can gather useful information about the team, about their interactions, their personalities, and help you in bonding better. You can start to listen more, with open questions, and practice active listening.

Different Types of Questions

It helps to develop a broad base of questions and mix up different styles. Below are some examples –

  • You can ask Rhetorical questions to emphasize a key point, and create a dramatic effect !
    • Check out some  examples from an education project, which you can customize for your team interactions.
  • But really the most important way is to go with Socratic questioning, which makes the individuals think for themselves, rather than elicit information from you.
    • Check out additional examples from an education project, which you can customize for your team interactions.
  • Other times you can use Reflective questions and it can help with having with Question Cards , examples below –
    • What was easy?
    • What was hard?
    • What did I learn?
    • How will you use this learning in the future?

Check out examples from an education project, which you can customize for your team interactions.

Your Next Steps

Looking at the above examples, you might be wondering that the Sprint Retrospective questions sounds familiar. But in my view, it is simply one of the many forms of questioning that you use at a team level, but the variety and situations are immense for you to experiment and start using this technique in almost every situation. So ask yourself –  if you can use the Power of Questioning everyday? Can you learn and pick some of these questions and apply in your Change journeys?

In my experience, as we learn the process of inquiry and questioning, we become better at it. You will start to use the insight from the process of inquiry to develop cues to asking better questions and you will find your sanity.

Conclusion
Power of Questioning should be an important arsenal in your tool box, and should be a daily affair, and not just at a certain ceremonial point. It engages your teams and leaders to reflect on their current state and make it easy for you to overcome the passive/active resistance in your change journeys.

So next time you see your kids or your teams displaying resistance to your change efforts, and playing some funny pranks, try the Power of Questioning, and see if you can see through their beliefs, and reflect the mirror!

What are your favorite Questions ?  Which questions inspire your team ? Which  questions do you use most often?

You can subscribe via RSS to this blog , and would encourage you to share your stories and your feedback in the Comments below.

Are you learning from your failures?

failureIf you are a Star Wars fan, and have watched the latest movie The Last Jedi, you would have been struck by the sudden appearance of Yoda, the ‘Grandmaster’ of the Jedi order, and talking to Luke Skywalker about failures.

Yoda explains to Luke, the Last Jedi, that failure is a good teacher, and we must learn from our mistakes!

“The greatest teacher, failure is.”  – Yoda

In the real world,  some teams will fail at various stages in their transformation journey, and others may falter multiples times, before they finally succeed. It is never an easy straight line from point A to point B.

But as a Leader of teams, how do you treat these failures?

Do you reflect on the failures with the team and have an open discussion without any blame?

or Do you punish them for the failure?

Do you ask the question – What have we learnt from this failure?”

If you are aiming to build self managed teams, who can truly recognize their weaknesses and strengths, then it is important to let them fail and learn from their mistakes. It is important that they can do safe experiments, and design a better outcome, and solutions that delights the users.

To help, it would be good to look at Etsy’s culture of running ‘Blameless postmortems’, which talk about “what” happened? and how we can systematically remove the constraints so that human error can be reduced, instead of ‘blaming’ the person.  This is a powerful shift in the mindset and triggers a behavioral change in your teams.

But if as a Leader, you continue down the path of measuring failures, and then punishing the team, the organization culture becomes risk-averse. Teams will then not be ready to take risks, think outside the box, or have crazy ideas, and it would dampen the innovative mindset and creativity that we all humans possess.  You will never learn from your failures.

Conclusion:

To learn from failures is a key trait for successful teams. Even the famed Luke Skywalker had to be reminded by the Yoda, that failure is the greatest teacher!

So, if you can change your behaviors and are ready to take risks, with known constraints, then you will start looking at failures as learning opportunities and of course Yoda would be really proud of you!

So go ahead and ask your teams to share – what has been their biggest learning opportunity in the projects/products that you develop and support? go ahead and conduct the ‘Blameless postmortems’ and you would be surprised pleasantly.

You can subscribe to this blog , and would encourage you to share your stories and your feedback here.

 

How much time do you allow for Improvements?

This is a common question from many Scrum teams, as they embark on their continuous improvement journey. Multiple teams struggle and then look to the higher powers or just ram through their way. As a Change Agent, to answer this, here is what you can ask them –

Do you allow ‘any’ time currently for Improvements?
  • You would typically hear the team saying as 0% ! and then a good response is to then START Small, with the emphasis on START.
  • You could alternatively talk about doing  10% more than what they are currently doing
  • or simply follow the 1% daily improvement paradigm (aggregation of marginal gains)
  • or you could ask the team about their Pain Index as discussed earlier, and then review from 10-90% of the sprint
So what has been your advice to your teams?

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Build technical agility as your Basic ingredient !

Enterprises today struggle with large scale agile adoption and transformation, without looking at the prevalent technical agility, which is a basic ingredient for building the organizational and business agility blocks.

Wishful Dreams

The dreams of Successful Agile Transformation at SCALE, are sold and bought easily today, with  customer success stories , customer quotes and a conference presentation to back it all up. What else do you need? to dream up wishful thinking.

Reality Beckons

But if you dig deeper you realize that even Basic team level agility is a daily struggle for most enterprises. Most enterprises in the agile fluency model are at the 2 or 3 star teams. Rarely the teams go higher and almost all of them struggle!

So go ahead and ask  if your engineering team is leaning toward heaven or hell? As the statistics show that we are losing the engineering practices and the decline of extreme programming is evident now and ‘scrum’ and ‘scaling’ has overtaken as the Main menu item driven by the transformation office.

THE FIX 

Build up your team's technical agility FIRST.

Technical agility is the ability of your team to undertake technical endeavors, using the core tenets of extreme programming and agile modeling, without impacting the business delivery or compromising on the quality of the solution.

This means that you need to take care of your engineers and their engineering practices. You need to ask if the team is writing the best code, are aware and making use of the modern day engineering practices, which a true software professional would, and are they indeed proud when they sleep at night?

Summary

If the Technical agility is missing in your team, your agile transformation would miss the bus and fall flat on it’s back. You would end up as just another data point which supports this graph, and that would not be what you really need.

So cheer up and let the technical practices bloom first in your transformation, and then the honey bees will surely follow.

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