Agile Leader

CAL II Grads—Coaching with Confidence

January 20, 2022

My journey into Agile Leadership started with a significant change in my career path. I was a highly respected and confident technical leader with over 25 years of experience. I thrived on taking on the tough challenges and solving complex problems with simple, elegant, solutions. That position was becoming stale. I felt like I was no longer growing and there were no opportunities. After some serious reflection about what to do for the latter part of my career, I made the move into management in a completely different business area. This provided challenges and I think I quickly grew competent in doing my job. However, I knew there was still more to learn and had doubts as a leader. I wondered if I was really a leader or just doing a job. Then the opportunity came along to take the CAL courses and I jumped all in. This was a chance for me to learn and improve my leadership toolbox.

I have learned a lot from CAL courses. Often these were relatively simple things, like being able to put names to concepts I was aware of but didn’t have a name for. I knew I had blind spots but didn’t know that was a real concept.  Then we learned about Saboteurs. I understood people have innate traits that can hinder effectiveness. Now I know those traits are called Saboteurs. More importantly, I learned which ones were mine and how they can impact my leadership effectiveness.

One of the biggest new things I learned was that mentoring and coaching are not the same thing. I was definitely practicing mentoring. Coaching was a whole new concept. This was a huge revelation, and the course gave the opportunity to practice coaching and put it to use. This has already become a very useful tool to my leadership skillset. I have a Scrum Master that mentoring clearly wasn’t the right approach. I would mentor him but the course correction was short-term and he would still go off the rails. Clearly mentoring wasn’t providing long-lasting results. Now I have regularly scheduled coaching sessions. He is very appreciative of these therapy sessions, as he calls them, and now stays on track and everyone is benefitting.

The 360 Review was something that has really helped me remove some blind spots and self-correct. Receiving the results was initially very demoralizing. I had to initially step away from it and decompress before taking a hard look at what the results were saying. One good thing it pointed out was that I am far too harsh on myself, especially in areas I was already working on. I needed to give myself credit for my efforts. Most importantly I was able to identify a root cause of issues and inconsistencies that impacted many areas. I needed to be more communicative and consistent across my 360 landscape. It was acceptable, and often expected, that I would sit back and absorb information before acting or speaking up in my previous role. This approach isn’t effective in this new role and is accentuated by now working from home. Video is not allowed and therefore there is no body language to provide context. People can’t even see the simple things, like a nod of approval. They have no way of knowing what you are thinking unless you speak up and even then the intent can be easily misinterpreted. Therefore, being vocal has become necessary if you want people to know what you are thinking.

I took the CAL II course with the goal of increasing my leadership toolset and it has definitely fulfilled that goal. However, the biggest benefit for me was something totally unexpected. This course, the field book, and all the self-reflection opened my eyes to my foundation and connected the dots of my lifelong journey. I am much more aware of why I am who I am and why I do the things I do. It has also shown me that my internalized doubts are unfounded. I used to doubt myself because it felt like my leadership natural style did not fit the mold of typical old school style of most of the leaders around me. I have been enlightened and now have the confidence in my leadership that was previously lacking. Coaching, instead of mentoring, has been beneficial and I have been more vocal. However, I believe the increased self‑awareness and confidence will have the biggest impact on my leadership effectiveness.

These new tools and confidence are helping me become a respected recognized leader across the organization. My communication has improved and there has already been improvements within my groups and across the organization. I have also noticed a shift into higher-level leadership responsibilities, such as leading programs and portfolios across the enterprise instead of just being focused on my team’s projects.

The most important goal for me is to be an effective leader and do best by my teams, so we all grow and provide value to the company. It seems like I am now on the right trajectory. Although I am not specifically looking for it, I think I will have used what I learned from this course and demonstrated that I am ready and capable of moving to the next level. If the opportunity presents itself, I will take on the new role confidently and without hesitation. This time the change would come with far less doubt.


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