Regardless of how much I knew the material I wanted to present, and the supreme amount of support I had in the room, there’s always something about presenting to a large group that can make you a bit nervous. It was my third or fourth time presenting the same topic, but this time it was to colleagues that were just as mature in their careers that I was (more likely more mature, at that). I wanted to gain their respect, help them enjoy the time they had blocked out for me, and give them food for thought going away.
I recently had the pleasure of presenting a topic to DFW Scrum, one of the largest Agile user groups in the country. Regardless of how far down on the list of desired speakers I was, the leaders graciously gave me the floor for that month’s meeting on the topic of definition of done. What an experience it was!
Earlier this year, I wrote about how much I learned about myself after blogging for a year. As true as that is, publicly speaking amplifies every point I made and more. You’re words are to actual faces that can raise their hands and question where you are coming from. It’s one thing to present to your team every day for standup. It’s another thing when 130 relative strangers are staring straight at you. You can see above just how packed the house was.
When preparing for the evening, I started with the idea that I would “wow” them with practical knowledge and share war stories of being an Agile leader. After a few trial runs with co-workers, I realized that wouldn’t be enough. If I was sitting in the audience, I would say to myself, “I can read about this topic anywhere, why on Earth did I give up my Tuesday night for this?”
That same thought overcomes me as I get ready for a difficult sprint planning, demo, or even prepare to review a challenging two weeks of work. Why should these people be listening to me?
As philosophical as that sounds, it wasn’t all that difficult to come to an answer. The definition of done is something that many companies practicing some form of Agile talk about, and even possibly post them on boards for teams to see. Yet, when polled during my talk, very few leaders feel that they are actually adhered to on a sprint by sprint basis.
Having heard similar results before, I kept that in mind and asked myself the same thing we ask our teams all the time.
One word kept coming up when I talked to people. Expectations that are either unmet, not communicated, or mismanaged are usually the source of our problems. Not just at work. It’s at home, on the commute back and forth, hanging out with family and friends, you name it.
The talk basically wrote itself at that point. I was allowed to present some practical ideas on how to define “done” in your organization, but it didn’t stop there. I presented a bigger idea that surrounded the topic and gave everyone something to take back to their offices. A few even showed me notes they had made on the way out, which humbled and stirred me to go back and look deeper for more truths.
Most of the people who read this are leaders of some type. You might not be one in title (don’t worry, I’m not either), but you are a leader whether you know it or not. You have the ability to spur your teammates and co-workers on to bigger and better things. When you have the occasion to speak to them, even if it’s over lunch or on the way to a meeting, ask yourself for the deeper truth that lies beneath the surface. It gives your words a weight they aren’t expecting, but a reason for them to come back for more.
Instead of asking themselves why they are talking to you, they actively seek you out for more. It makes the difference between a leader who enjoys talking (which I have been at several points in my career), and one who desires to bring out the best in those around (which I hopefully do more of today).
Thanks again to everyone from the group who reads along to my posts. I can’t wait to see you guys next time!