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What does a coach, Scrum Master, Comedian & fighter have in common?

If you don't fancy reading this & prefer the quick video version, here. .

Watch your favourite comedian perform & you'll notice before every punchline there is a pause. Knowing when & how to deliver the joke is what makes the joke funny. A similar skill can be seen when watching the elite mixed martial artists compete in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Competition) - knowing when to attack, when to counter is what makes the impact. The football world also gifts us with skilled managers (who we will see as the "coach" for this metaphor) who know when to deliver a message to influence an individual and/or the team. Timing. It doesn't matter what you know, unless you know when & how to deliver that knowledge.

My lack of timing...

I found it hard to get through to teams on many occasions. It wasn't because the ideas I proposed weren't reasonable but because my judgement of when to offer, was off. Here is one of example of a decent idea but introduced with poor timing.

What was the thing I offered to the team:

A Team Contract

What is this?

A team contract is a tool used to create alignment with team members to be clear on what they expect from one another.

How did I try to introduce this?

One month into a new role I noticed there was no team contract. I mentioned this informally to a few developers in the team & at the retro. The response was something to the tune of "we find it weird " & or "unnecessary" to "write on a document what we expect from each other". In short was timing and approach was not working & I failed to make an impact on the team with this tool. I was here for 6 months, some other wins, but many failures.

How did I improve my timing/approach to introducing this tool in my next role?

I didn't go in with two feet this time and just tell them what I thought was wrong in the 1st few weeks. I waited, observed & asked more questions. Understood their set up as a team and how they got things done. An opportunity popped up to discuss a Team Contract at the Retrospective almost a couple months in. The team were having a little drama about people turning up late to certain meetings and other bits around documentation not being updated. In short: it was about behaviours. After they had it out I waited to ask "how do we make sure we get what we need from each other after this meeting?". Got some stares back. "Is there somewhere we can throw down the things we need from each other so we can keep each other honest?" I carried on. Standing up I offered an example of what I need as a Scrum Master. And eventually others chipped in. No mention of a team contract to start with, instead a problem came up, it was relevant & I asked how we could address that problem with a subtle offer.

In conclusion:

I find timing is certainly about experience to sense & know when to do what but there is a way you can accelerate the development of this skill. Maybe it looks like this in my head:

-Start with the problems that the team are experiencing

-People tend to more interested in ideas/tools/techniques/methods when it begins to address something that hurts

-Once we identify "What hurts", use empiricism to make that apparent to the team

-For example in my situation above, the empiricism was reflecting back to the team that they don't have a way to be clear on what we need from each other"

-Then begin to demonstrate x to show if that can help address the pain/problem

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