In the summer of 2018, I created my blog and had the best of intentions when kicking it off. I was going to write posts of interesting things that happened to me and things I’ve learnt on my journey as a Scrum Master. Well it didn’t quite go according to plan.
Why did I stop?
In my very first post, I talked about how I always thought that no one would care about what I had to say so never shared anything I did, but I changed my viewpoint and thought if 1 person finds what I have to say beneficial, then that would be a win in my book. After my second post I had a lot of people give me good feedback, which was appreciated massively, and you would have thought that would have given me encouragement to write more. It didn’t. My old mentality set in and I just wrote off every potential topic I thought I could post about.
Where have I been then?
I’ve been on a bit of a journey since my last post in August 2018 where I talked about helping my last team reorganise themselves into 2 cross functional teams. Product Managers moved on, new ones came in, other Scrum Masters/Agile Coaches joined me, I took on another team, me and my wife had another baby at the start of the 2019, my performance at work started to struggle and I started to question my ability for the role.
Then came the turning point…
Before the summer in 2019, something was said to me that really resonated. I’m ad-libbing but it went a little something like this:
“You don’t seem to be as motivated anymore and seem to have lost your drive. I don’t see the same passion you had when you first started here, and I don’t have the confidence to put you in front of <senior> people”
Brutal huh? The problem was though, I couldn’t argue against it. I had lost my drive. I was shying away when presented with new louder voices in the team that I didn’t know how to deal with, and I guess I was finding it easier to say nothing for fear of looking stupid in lots of situations.
This was probably the first time that anyone had ever said something like this to me before. I knew it was true and, in all honesty, I’d known for some time, but how dare this person actually call me up on it! Why couldn’t they do what everyone else has done in the past and just boost my ego and tell me everything will work out. Frankly, I’m glad they didn’t.
I’ve always known I’ve had confidence issues and that it’s often held me back. I used to not speak up when I could, I used to hold back my opinions because I thought people will think they’re stupid, I used to not challenge the status quo for fear of rocking the boat and upsetting people and I used to doubt myself whenever someone questioned me.
Are you starting to see a problem here? How the hell could I be a good Scrum Master if I have these issues? If I couldn’t speak up and challenge things, how could I be a catalyst for change and drive improvement – not only in the team but in the organisation? If I don’t share my own beliefs and opinions how can anyone in the team ever know any different or that anything is wrong?
The fact of the matter is, I could be an OK Scrum Master, but nothing more than that. As someone pointed out to me later, I was focussing too much on the servant side of ‘servant leader’ and thinking that was ok. I wasn’t leading, but how could I lead when my own self-belief was lacking?
After some soul searching and lengthy discussions with my wife, I decided I had to do something. I had let my confidence issues go on too long.
What did I do next?
As a Scrum Master, I’ve always been aware of coaching and how powerful it can be.
I myself went on the ICAgile Agile Team Coaching course at the end of 2018 and it was absolutely brilliant. I learnt so much. However, I know this is just a small area of coaching and there are many different types, including confidence coaching. (Can you see where this is going?)
I decided to look into confidence coaching to hopefully find someone who could help me tap into my confidence issues and reveal a more confident me – the same me, but just with a bit more drive, a bit more assertive and not so much of a push over.
In July 2019, I began my confidence coaching journey and it was a total breath of fresh air. I discovered a lot about myself and my thought process and although I’m not a brand new, unrecognisable person (that was never the aim) – it definitely changed my outlook on things. Not only did it make a difference in my work life, but it also made a difference in my personal life as well. My whole belief system changed and the things I used to believe, which were all largely negative and used to stop me doing things, were flipped on their head and turned into positives.
Many times, I’d be in a meeting room listening to people have a discussion and would want to contribute something myself. More often than not I would stay quiet for fear of looking stupid with this feeling of annoyance at myself bubbling inside of me, which would then probably be made worse if someone contributed exactly what I wanted to say. This feeling inside was trying to tell me something – it was a call to action – it was telling me that my opinion was valid and to speak up. I used to ignore it – a lot.
Another thing I used to do a lot was let my thoughts run away from me. I would assume people wouldn’t want to talk to me or be bothered by me or were avoiding me – but this came with no validation. It was me making it up in my head, giving me reason to avoid things, to avoid any potential conflict in some situations.
Assumptions were another of my problems – I assumed people knew why I was running a meeting that happened every week, but did they? Did they really know why they were in that meeting room? I thought it was stupid to highlight these things – until one day one of my actions after a session was to do this in a retrospective for the team. All it took was a couple of slides at the start of the retrospective, reminding everyone exactly why we were there and what I expected of them – showing a bit of leadership. It was probably up there as one of the most focussed retrospectives I’ve ever run with solid actions at the end of it.
All these little realisations as I went through my coaching journey started to change my approach and started to yield better results from a lot of things I was doing. As my coach said – I had the handbrake on, but I was trying to push the accelerator.
So what happened next
Well my coaching journey ended in January this year, but even before then I had already started to see a difference in myself and so had other people. You remember the person who had the nerve to call me out on my lack of drive? (I can’t blame you for forgetting – I’ve been rattling on a while!) Well they noticed a change.
When I sat down to chat to them and they were giving me great feedback about all the stuff I had been doing in the preceding weeks – it was brilliant to hear, but this wasn’t the eureka moment that all this was for. You see, another one of my issues was always needing recognition from others. What I had learnt through my coaching was that other people’s recognition was a bonus but should never be the main criteria of my accomplishments. I needed to give myself a pat on the back every now and then – something my imposter syndrome would never allow previously – but something I now appreciate is very important.
Where am I now?
Well I lit the fire in my belly, as some might say. I needed a fresh challenge, so I found myself a new job (that’ll be another blog post about starting the new job remotely!). I normally hate CV writing, but this time I found it quite enlightening. Putting down my experiences on paper, I could see I now had a great story to tell and I had achieved a lot over the past couple of years. Don’t get me wrong – job hunting was still as daunting as ever and I still got nervous as hell for interviews, but whenever anyone did want to speak to me, I could coherently talk through my experiences, because they were exactly that – mine, and that gave me great confidence.