Are You an “Agile” Recruiter?

As we approach LinkedIn’s third-quarter earnings call on Thursday, analysts are expecting the company’s Talent Solutions Business to remain a highly competitive offering for recruiters and a healthy revenue stream for the company. So as I considered a morning message for LinkedIn Pulse, I decided to try an experiment — which is … <drum rollllll> …a post on LinkedIn Pulse:

Do ‘LinkedIn Recruiter’ Users Leverage Pulse?

We’ll see how it goes, because every blog post offers an author the chance for broad feedback, learning & growth. It’s one of the things I love most about this powerful platform, as I learn so much from all of you!

Given the 100,000+ users on LinkedIn Recruiter, a couple of questions come to mind: (1) how many of those users are sourcing for Agile talent, and (2) how many actively use LinkedIn Pulse as a source of learning? I realize the post won’t answer those questions, but it might be interesting to see what kind of feedback emerges (if at all).

Agile experts probably won’t learn much from it (although I seek feedback from Agilists around the world); rather, I hope to offer some introductory learning and insights for recruiters who are trying to source for the skills and mindset of “Agile”.

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If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.

Are you a Scrum Master or a Project Manager?

Do you hold the job title of Scrum Master in your organization? In most big companies today, this oddly-named title is still misrepresented as a Project Manager, which is hindering the pursuit of Organizational Agility and hurting the professionals who are genuinely attempting to make this challenging job change. If you are one of these people, then it might be time for you to make a change.

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As we enter one of my darker posts, allow me the opportunity to take you back into my prior career, and my childhood for a moment.

A number of years ago, I made a professional and emotional transition and I quit my job of software development Project Manager and shifted paradigms into the foreign role of ‘Scrum Master’. Or is it ‘ScrumMaster’ without a space? At the beginning of this transition, I confused it with a role I played in my childhood. Do you remember the epic role-playing game called Dungeons & Dragons? As an appointed “Dungeon Master” by my friends in elementary school, I was considered the master of all, mysterious, wise, and the one who largely controlled the fate of Teams.

However, it didn’t take me long to realize that the supposed “master of Scrum” is actually a very different role – it’s one of service-first to others, commitment & sacrifice to a purpose larger than our own, and the wielding of unspeakable power through positive influence, persuasion and genuine appreciation rather than control and coercion. If the role (job?) is fully embraced in the C-suite, then a real Scrum Master emerges as one of inspirational and disciplined leadership that guides an organization to outstanding levels of workplace performance. Sounds magical, doesn’t it?

If you’re someone who has Scrum Master in your job title, consider investing a few minutes into these reflective questions to reveal if this is the right job for you, or even more important, let’s discover if your organization truly understands and embraces this important role:

 

Does your organization reward Scrum Masters for “driving results”?

Does your organization discourage failure and experimentation in the workplace?

Do you refer to Teams as “my” Teams? Does the organization assign you to Teams to make them improve?

Do you start sentences with phrases like: “What I would like to see from you all…” or “Please help me understand why…”?

Do you feel an urge to assign work to Teams or solve a Team’s problems to keep it on track?

Are you responsible for judging the performance of Team Members and removing poor performers?

Is ‘Scrum Master’ considered a pay-grade job title in the organization that is commensurate with a Project Manager?

 

Did you answer YES to most of these questions? Then your job title and workplace reality are probably different. It could be time for a job change.

I’ll offer yet one more question in the spirit of this post’s theme:

Is a Scrum Master role really a JOB?

If the answers to these questions feel uncomfortable to you, then your current job is possibly confusing, or even painful. If so, then you might be on a career path that is not right for you and something needs to change. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to leave your organization, but you might need to exemplify courage and “quit-your-job”, but in the right way that involves positive learning moments for you, your peers, your manager and your organization. Positive communication will fuel connections rather than burn bridges – which (hint hint) is an attribute of the Scrum Master role.

Is this post connecting with you and your professional goals?

If so, then consider these two pieces of advice for (1) leaving your Project Management job behind and fully embracing the Scrum Master role, or (2) returning back to your previous job as a Project Manager and guiding the organization to remove Scrum Master from your job title. You owe it to your own professional sanity to get this right:

 

1. Change your mindset and job behavior from Project Manager to Scrum Master. This can be extremely challenging for those who have been Project Managers for a long time, but it requires you to dig deep into your mind & soul and engage in a personal transformation that changes the way you think about ….. well, most everything. Then, go forth into the organization and positively influence your senior leadership on the value of this critical servant-leadership presence, how it enables higher levels of performance in the workplace, and what is means to you personally and professionally to pursue this path in a fruitful and ethical manner. Garner support for this transition. If you aren’t able to gain this support, then perhaps it’s time to take your service-first leadership potential to another organization where you can fulfill your professional purpose.

2. Work with your organization to shift back into a Project Manager job. Organizations have initiatives that continue to be a great fit for a Project Manager, so it’s worth seeking out those opportunities if the *real* Scrum Master role isn’t the right fit for you. If you have a job title called Scrum Master, but you’re acting as a Project Manager, then once again – use positive communication to educate your manager on the mismatch between the job title and the responsibilities, then respectfully request the switch for reasons that best align with your strengths and career aspirations.

 

In order to change jobs in the right way, you first have to understand what the change means to you and to the organization.

If you recognize a Scrum Master as that of teacher, servant-leader, mentor and coach, then you’ll find that it’s markedly different than that of a traditional Project Manager. As I continue my travels through organizations small and large, I am finding that many job-titled Scrum Masters are unintentionally acting as Project Managers in disguise. This is the cause of great pain in many organizations right now. This pain is real and evokes a strong emotional response when I have the chance to coach within an organization. The emotions are that of PAIN – to people, teams and organizations. The misunderstanding of this role is literally hurting others, and it’s time to get this right in the interest of workplace humanity.

Am I speaking strongly about this? Yes …. I feel strongly about it.

What are some of the pain points I see in organizations? What are some pain points you’re feeling? Use this pain as an opportunity-creation tool when preparing to hold a job-change dialogue with your manager:

 

1. It’s painful for those who are trying to change into the role – Because of the stark difference in mindset, these former-Project-Managers-trying-to-become-Servant-Leaders are running into an enormous mismatch in how they think and act in the workplace. To make matters more challenging, oftentimes their job description is still written with the responsibilities of a Project Manager. They might also “report to” a boss who is creating performance bonus structures to drive the behaviors of project management, but within the misunderstood role of Scrum Master. It’s confusing and painful to the person trying to change, especially if the wrong behaviors are being rewarded.

In what way would your job change alleviate this pain for you?

2. It’s painful for Teams that are trying to learn how to self-organize – Project Managers are responsible for planning the work of a Team and essentially assigning that work to individuals. In an Agile environment, the world is supposed to work differently – Teams are galvanized by a shared vision of the future, a business opportunity, or a business problem. These Teams self-organize to decide how best to accomplish their work and meet these business opportunities. For Project Managers who are trying to serve a Scrum Master role, I often find that they revert to the behaviors of project management which is in direct conflict to the self-organizing behavior that they are responsible for promoting. It creates pain within a Team and introduces nasty conflicts and other toxic behaviors that actually make Team performance ‘worse’ rather than ‘better’.

In what way would your job change alleviate this pain for self-organizing, autonomous Teams?

3. It’s painful for the Organizations that have a sense of urgency to change – For organizations that have a critical and urgent need to change, the ultimate long-term survival of the business depends on supportive senior leadership that rebuilds the organization on a foundation of trust, respect and openness – which leads to transparency and more effective and nimble decision-making in the workplace. Crippled by the command & control behaviors of old, some organizations try to “install Agile” by training Project Managers with the expectation that they will walk out of a class as proclaimed Scrum Masters. But without the right mindset of senior leadership, this training is quickly lost and the mindset behind a servant-leader role and self-organizing Teams gives way to previous behavior. In some ways, it makes this change effort worse and reduces the effectiveness of the Organization; all because of the Organization’s lack of understanding and willingness to trust Teams and enable Scrum Masters as true servant-first leaders for the organization. Old-school politics and ego take over and a promising transformation to Agile is dead on arrival.

In what way would your job change enable the pursuit of higher levels of organizational performance that address a critical business problem or opportunity?

 

Remember – use these painful conditions to create positive opportunity focused conversations with your manager. Your job might depend on it.

 

What is your advice to others?

What do you think of this advice? What advice would you offer others who are trying to become a Scrum Master but are still acting as a Project Manager? Please share your insights in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.

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If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.

The 1 Belief That Will Improve Your Workplace Forever

 

I believe in the value of RESPECT, so when the opportunity is right, I strive to exchange valuable feedback with an uplifting tone that fosters continuous learning and growth in myself and others.

As an organizational coach, how I lead and develop others is deeply grounded in a number of beliefs that guide my actions every day. For example, I carry a strong belief that all workplace professionals deserve to be treated with respect. Experience has shown that a respectful workplace cultivates collaboration and continuous improvement, which leads to the high performance teamwork needed to thrive in a complex and competitive marketplace.

Besides … in a professional workplace, who wants to be treated disrespectfully anyway? Not you. Not me. Not anyone. Right?

Do you Work in a Disrespectful Workplace?

To make a point, I enter this post with a darker slant on respect. My journey has allowed me to witness organizations that are shockingly-disrespectful environments. I’ve encountered them a number of times during my travels. I hope you aren’t working in one of these organizations – but if you are, my goal is to inspire you to influence your organization to change.

To set the tone, here are a couple of real cases of disrespect (beyond being rude and mean to others):

Showing up late for a meeting without explaining “why”:

Hey everyone, I’m here now. What did I miss?

Committing time to a meeting and changing that commitment during the meeting; once again, without explaining “why”:

Hey everyone, I can only give an hour of my time for this 1/2 day session, so I will be stepping out at X.

Why are these situations considered disrespectful? Imagine that you’ve committed your time to a 1/2 day brainstorming session and your skill and knowledge are expected to be an essential part of that meeting. Everyone has prepared extensively in advance to make sure the meeting will achieve its outcomes and the entire Team is in the room, prepared, energized and ready to jump into the meeting’s purpose.

If I announce to the rest of the Team that I can only give an hour of my time (after committing to the entire 1/2-day), it shows a lack of respect for everyone else’s time, energy and dedication. In addition, if I don’t explain “why”, then it implies that the other people in the meeting are not valued and/or are not considered important enough in the organization.

Does this happen in your organization? To deepen the question further, do these cases mean that the person is disrespectful or the organization is disrespectful…or both? How do you see it?

An Example of Respect on Display

Work travel recently carried me into a big company – where, on a dreary Monday morning – I visited one of the break rooms and started navigating around a worker who was cleaning the room and emptying the trash. As we exchanged glances, I could sense that person’s struggles – a tough, thankless, low-paying job indeed. I also saw this hard-working soul briefly gaze at the window as it clouded up from the rainy conditions – a discouraging frown forming on his face.

In that moment, I gently introduced myself and thanked this person for his hard work, relating to him my self-proclaimed job as the “kitchen cleaner” at home. We jointly discovered light humor in the mundane aspects of this work, and how it often goes without any appreciation — at work and home alike. As our conversation continued, I witnessed a remarkable transformation as this person’s discouraging frown dissolved, and a radiant smile emerged.

What happened? Through a brief and empathetic exchange, I helped him discover that his work makes a positive impact in a lot of people’s lives, and simply showed him some genuine appreciation for his service. I was humbled by his smile and the high-five he offered me on the way out.

As you digest that real-world situation, I invite you to reflect on the following questions for your own learning & growth:

What does it mean to believe something?

How do your beliefs direct your actions?

The manner in which you and others interact in your company is a direct reflection of your organization’s core beliefs and behaviors; i.e., your company culture.

An organization’s culture is often described as “the way we do things around here”. It’s how we treat each other, how we share our opinions & feedback, and other manifested behaviors that are based on a set of beliefs. For example, great leaders are wired with a set of core values that have positive intent, and these very leaders strive to politely and respectfully challenge workplace situations that are in direct conflict with those beliefs.

Before reading on, consider revisiting the two questions above and answer them from a different perspective. What are you learning about your own beliefs, and how might that be changing as you absorb this message?

Do your senior leaders believe in respect for people?

I have found that a corporate culture is directly influenced by executive leaders and how they behave in front of others. What is this like in your organization? Over the years, I have witnessed value-grounded and inspiring leaders on display at many levels in a company (executives, managers and workers alike). I find these situations fulfilling and uplifting. Perhaps this aligns with your own leadership style?

People choose to follow leaders not because of job title, but because of their calm presence and respectful nature.

For every one of those uplifting souls, I’ve also felt the wrath from powerful, big-company executives who believe that their job title makes them more important than everyone else, and so they will do whatever it takes to protect their turf. It’s disheartening, and even worse, it influences good-natured employees to behave in destructive ways that hurt others. I’ve been put in that conflicting position more than once in my earlier career — it was painful. Why? Because these toxic, disrespectful company cultures were in direct conflict with my own belief, which is ………………

Everyone in the professional workplace deserves to be treated with respect.

What kind of leader are you? What are the core beliefs that guide your interactions with others in your workplace?

Even the most grounded leaders will sometimes make a mistake that disrespects others … they’re human … we all make mistakes. But, if they truly believe in respect for people, they will work very hard to catch themselves in the moment and show the courage to authentically apologize for their lapse in judgment.

How can you anchor this belief in your Organization?

I encourage you to take a short break at work and absorb your company’s “Our Core Values” poster that’s plastered around the building and your company’s public website. If respect is not listed, then this is your chance to show great leadership by influencing the organization to add this core belief. Even if it isn’t on display, go forth and live it every single day – from the C-suite to the break room. It starts with you….the next great, respectful leader of today.

What is this like in your organization? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.

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If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.