Demonstrating Leadership

As Hurricane Sandy approaches the East Coast, we're already feeling its impact.  You can't find batteries, milk, toilet paper, or bread anywhere. The only thing I went out looking for yesterday was coffee.  Strangely enough, I didn't have to fight anyone for it. It was interesting to watch people and see how they handled the stress of the situation. What I find even more interesting is how leaders are handling all of this.  By title alone, they should lead, right?  I see this as an opportunity for us to distinguish the wheat from the chaff.  Some leaders are doing just what they should. They are leading.  They are establishing states of emergency, they are closing schools, and shutting down public transportation.  Others are just waiting to see what others are going to do.  Though I am a strong proponent of waiting to make a decision until the last responsible moment, it feels like that moment has passed.  Has your leader stepped up?

I'm curious how this weather event is going to impact local elections.  I'm not referring to people not having electricity.  Hopefully, we'll all be on the mends by next week. No, I think Hurricane Sandy is bringing attention to where there is leadership and where there is a lack of it.

Image Source: Weather.com

What is Fist of Five?

Fist of Five
Fist of Five


It doesn't matter if I'm teaching a class or coaching a team.  When the moment comes, I need a quick way for a team to come to a decision.  Why should the team decide and not me?  From the seven standard leadership styles, I see consensus as the most appropriate for an empowered team.  If the team is not empowered, they are not an Agile team.


When a decision has to be made, ask the team to do a fist of five. All the team members raise one hand to vote with their five fingers (unless they've suffered an accident in shop class).  I depicted in the Fist of Five Pictofigo drawing, member votes range from a fist to five fingers.  The term fist to five and fist of five are interchangeable.

Explaining the Details

  • I see a fist as a blocker.  This individual is in complete disagreement and further discussion is required.
  • One finger (preferably not the middle one) has minimal support to the request at hand. Again, discussion is required.
  • Two fingers. Not happy with the current proposal.  Should discuss as a group to try and resolve disagreements.
  • Three fingers.  Luke warm response.  May go along if the rest of the group is voting three, four, or five.
  • Four fingers. Pretty much agree with the request. There is some apprehension but you can't expect everyone to be all in all the time.
  • Five fingers. Full support.  They drank the Kool-Aid

Certainly, the success of this strategy is going to depend on the team employing it.  There will be some who just like to hear themselves talk and will throw up a fist, one, or two every time.  Hear them out!  You'll also have those who don't like to commit to anything.  They will generally put up three fingers.  Whatever the outcomes, try to keep a strict timebox for discussions.  Remember, this was to be a quick way for a team to come to a decision.

I would be curious to hear when you use fist of five, your successes, and your failures.

Image Source: Pictofigo

Social Norms at Work

I recently gave a talk in Michigan on the topic of servant-leadership.  Unfortunately, servant-leadership is something that is painfully absent in so many organizations.  Just a few years ago, it (servant-leadership) was not something I had even heard of.  Going back and reviewing the PMBOK made me realize two glaring omissions.  There is a lack of content on stakeholder or team engagement and there is a lack of content on leadership.  Fortunately, in the last few years, I have enjoyed books by authors like Clay Shirky, Seth Godin, Dan Pink, and Dan Ariely.  I've also met and interacted with some amazing people in the Agile community.  I now interact differently with my peers, as a result of these experiences.  I now apply my social norms at work.  What are social norms?  They are patterns of behavior in a particular group, community, or culture, accepted as normal and to which an individual is accepted to conform. We all go to work and we all get paid to do it.  Too many times, we take things for granted.  We don't question the things we do or the things that happen to us.  I'm pretty sure this is based on conditioning over a long period of time.  Perhaps we need to start treating those we work with more like those we socialize with.  Next time you interact with a fellow employee, ask yourself if your behavior is socially acceptable.

Social Norms

Within an organization, where we are working with other people, things can get twisted.  Some exhibit bad behavior and believe it's somehow forgivable because we're all getting paid.  Well, I don't think that's acceptable.  It's very interesting to see the same people behave differently, when not in the office environment.  Why is it some people forget basic manners or common courtesy, when in an office environment?

Case in point, I hold the door open for people, regardless if I know them or not.  I see this as socially expected behavior.  Socially, I expect a thank you.  To say I expect it is a slight embellishment.  Outside of the office, I still expect a thank you.  Unfortunately, at the office, I've started to accept not getting any reciprocation.  There are a few people in my building that I don't personally know but I still hold the door for them.  They won't make eye contact with me and they won't say thank you.  When the situation is reversed, these same people do not hold the door for anyone.  But, I refuse to accept their behavior.

We all need to strive to understand and empathize with others. People need to be accepted and recognized for their special and unique qualities.  Assume the good intentions of your coworkers and don't reject them as people, even while refusing to accept their behavior or performance.

Drawing:  Pictofigo

HT: Business Dictionary

Busy Week Ahead

If you don't hear from me for a few days, here's why.  Tonight I'm headed to the Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) Washington DC Area Chapter event. The topic? Using Scrum to avoid bad CMMI Implementations (Presented by Jeff Sutherland). Yes, that's right! Jeff "creator of Scrum and signer of the Agile Manifesto" Sutherland. I don't sound too excited, do I? I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of people from the Agile community there. Tomorrow, I fly out to Salt Lake City to make an appearance at the Work Management Summit.  Follow it on Twitter with hashtag (#workout11) I don't know exactly what is in store for me.  I'm a special speaking guest of AtTask and I will be interviewed by @tykiisel and @RaeLogan in a live video webcast.  My instructions for my appearance: Please wear something that exemplifies your personal brand.

I will be the guy with spiky hair, horn-rimmed glasses, Doc Martens, and jeans (yes, I am wearing a collared shirt).  It's a bit of a departure from my normal office attire.  This includes, monogrammed cuff-linked shirts, wingtips, and a tie.  Though I'm much more of the Doc Marten guy, I understand C-Levels and SES don't always get it.

I'll be flying back to Washington DC on Thursday, due to time constraints.  Though I only get to spend 1 full day in Utah, this will be a great experience and I'm looking forward to meeting Ty and Raechel.  I will take plenty of pictures of the Grand America Hotel and try to blog while I'm there.

If you want to meet up for a drink, send me an email or direct message me via Twitter.

Like the image? Find it at pictofigo

APLN DC Event Wrap-up

APLN DCLast night I attended my first APLN (Agile Project Leadership Network) event.  The speaker was none other than David Bland of the Scrumology website.  Some of you may also recognize David from his posts on Agile Zone or from him speaking at Agile 2010.  David did a great job talking about Distributed ScrumMasters.  He was very engaging and there were some really great conversations as a result.  The exchanges were so awesome that the time kind of got away from us all.  Before we knew it, it was time to wrap things up.  It was really great to have a chance to interact with this group of Agile proponents and thought leaders.  I met a few friends I've only known from online and I got to chat with a few people I haven't seen since AgileDC2010. I was told Jeff Sutherland will be speaking next month!  Check the APLN DC website for details.

If you are interested in joining the APLN DC Chapter, there's no cost.  However, if last night's event was an indicator of value, it would be worth paying for.