In today’s episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast, host Dan Neumann is joined by Logan Butler, a senior software developer and Scrum Master at AgileThought who is currently working in a scaled Scrum environment.
Dan and Logan will be discussing conflict with civility. Conflict within teams is inevitable—but how you choose to manage the conflict within your team is entirely within your control. In Logan’s experience as a developer and Scrum Master, he has learned that approaching conflict with civility not only helps you maintain highly positive relationships but also puts you on the right path toward building a transparent and brave team. And, as a former high school teacher, Logan has plenty of experience with conflict management. In this podcast, he brings a unique perspective from his days as a teacher to his current role as a senior developer.
Tune in to learn all about how to handle conflict with civility.
- What does it mean to handle conflict with civility? And what can be done to support it?
- Dealing with complex situations while maintaining highly positive relationships with people that we work with
- Remembering conflict is not synonymous with angry or yelling; it is simply a problem that needs to be navigated
- Empower your team through communication
- Create a culture where everyone feels comfortable to speak up
- Keep good working relationships with everyone on your team so they stay engaged
- How to navigate conflict with civility:
- If someone doesn’t want to participate, don’t force them
- Lead by example and model what you want to see in your team
- Explore the conflict by going through SBI feedback model (Situation-Behavior-Impact)
- Utilize the Enneagram Personality Assessment tool to better understand a team member’s personality and perspective
- Why is it important for teams to be able to handle conflict well?
- Because conflict within teams is inevitable
- It is healthy to deal civilly with conflict by not becoming affected emotionally or leave with hurt feelings
- Logan’s three strategies for handling conflict with civility:
- Protect your team:
- Make sure everybody is treating everybody with respect, everyone is supported, and everyone is built up
- Don’t support misbehavior (i.e. ignoring jokes at someone’s expense)
- Have conversations to make sure everyone is included
- Set up your working agreement and ground rules as a team
- Look out with empathy:
- Consider others’ circumstances
- Use group activities to help build empathy (such as retrospectives and the True Colors Exercise)
- Think from someone else’s perspective, then listen, and have a conversation
- Walk humbly:
- Choose to go in a situation and acknowledge you won’t have all the right answers
- Choose to be a constant learner and look at every opportunity as room to learn
- Always be willing to better yourself and go into conflicts looking for what you missed rather than telling the other person what should have been
- If you can do these three things, you have set yourself up to walk into a conflict with a demeanor that will ultimately lead to a better resolution and less baggage
- Protect your team:
- The mindset of a continuous learner:
- Be proactive in the way that you act humbly by choosing not to go down a path where you become a hero of the team
- If you see yourself going down the path of becoming a hero, you can choose to become a team player
- Don’t measure yourself on quantitative things; your value and contribution to the team is more than you can quantifiably deliver to the team
Mentioned in this Episode
- Logan Butler’s LinkedIn
- Eckerd College
- Situation-Behavior-Impact Feedback Model (SBI)
- Enneagram Personality Assessment
- True Colors Assessment
- Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 26: “How an Effective Leader Coaches with Joseph Carella”
- Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 20: “Dr. Jeff Thompson on Values-Based Leadership”
- Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 32: “Christy Erbeck on Courageous Leadership”
- Brené Brown: The Call to Courage (Netflix Special)
Logan Butler’s Book Pick:
Intro: [00:03] Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought, the podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work, and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.
Dan Neumann: [00:16] Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner. I am Dan Neumann and I’m excited today to have Logan Butler joining me. He’s a senior developer and Scrum Master here at AgileThought and he’s working in a scaled agile environment. So thanks for joining today, Logan.
Logan Butler: [00:30] Yeah, great to be here.
Dan Neumann: [00:32] All right. And as a reminder, these are going to be our opinion and not that of AgileThought or other folks or other companies. So they get Logan’s and Dan’s opinion. Today we’re going to be talking about conflict with civility and as we were prepping for this podcast, I learned about your background as a high school teacher and how conflict management kind of factored in there. So maybe you could share a bit about that.
Logan Butler: [00:58] That’s right. So I right out of college, went into teaching in high school. I was a math teacher primarily and had a great time doing it. And then after a couple of years, made my way over into software development. And while teaching, one of the things that I found out was my primary goal or what I should say, my primary work that I was doing wasn’t necessarily relaying content, which is what I anticipated it being. What I found while I was doing it was doing a lot of life coaching and mentoring and really guiding people and inspiring them to want to learn things like calculus. Uh, and in that there’s conflict that comes up and conflict necessarily isn’t a bad thing, but it’s just something that’s present. And an example that I like to give is, uh, when we’re in the classroom, we’re going to have students every now and again that aren’t necessarily as motivated as others or maybe they’re struggling, they’ve got different things. And ultimately we need to have a conversation because as an educator, our goal is to make sure that our classroom is better set up and has the knowledge that they need to move on to the next level. And I took it as a responsibility of my own to say, if there’s somebody that needs something, if they’re lacking anything, then I need to make sure that I called the adults in their lives. I needed to sit down and have conversations with them and we just need to talk about what’s going on so that they can be prepared for the future because they’re not gonna be my class forever. And I don’t want to be somebody that just gets up there and lectures and doesn’t really care about the students that are in a classroom.
Dan Neumann: [02:31] And if you ignore that behavior, then you’re doing a disservice to everybody else in the classroom. Assuming that behavior is disruptive to the learning environment you’re trying to create.
Logan Butler: [02:43] Yeah. You’re just kicking the can. And especially with something as iterative as mathematics. I mean, if I’m an Algebra one, they’re going to geometry next year and they need to be prepared for that course and ultimately a for success there. And so when we have conversations, it’s awkward thing to just pick up the phone and start a conversation and say, hey, you know, your child is struggling and I want to have a conversation about that. And in communicating this, listen, it’s not a reflection of you as a parent, it’s not a permanent stamp on this child’s life, right? Our goal is to make sure that they have the tools that they need to be successful. And I think parents are receptive to that. And then you know that’s good. And ultimately as a, as a unit, as a school, as a class, everybody benefited by having hard conversations. And so the practice and the things that went through in the education world, I found myself in the technology sphere using these things. But instead of parents and kids and things, it’s, it’s product owners and developers in QA and deployments and all different kinds of things going on. Um, but it’s always interactions with people.
Dan Neumann: [03:50] And you said something interesting with regards to the students and your job being to inspire them to learn. As an agile coach, a lot of times people ask us questions about, well, how do you make somebody do things? How, what about the, the person on the team who’s maybe not bringing their whole self to work or they’re kind of mailing it in or people feel like they’re not performing well and I, it’s much more to me about inspiring people with the work than trying to make them work. Um, I don’t know what your thoughts on that are.
Logan Butler: [04:23] I one hundred percent can agree, right? So, um, while I was a math teacher, I, and math is maybe not the most exciting thing to a lot of people. And so I subscribe to the belief that I get to choose the attitude of the, the way I want the class to go. So I walk in, I’m pumped, I’m excited about learning math and I think math is interesting, but I definitely built it up so that some child would be inspired to want to learn, why am I so excited? And in the technology sphere, sometimes people are the same way. For instance, about maybe a retro, maybe where they’re coming from or maybe retrospectives in history have been boring and just like, let’s talk about our feelings. And they maybe they weren’t done effectively or, or great. Uh, and so as a Scrum Master in leading a lot of retrospectives, it’s like, all right, well today’s a new retrospective. Like let’s, let’s have a great conversation. Let’s, let’s do something and I want to speak positively, uh, positively about these things. I want to lead a, um, a powerful discussion but ultimately inspire people to want to be a part of the conversation. Cause you can’t force somebody to do it, right? You’ve got to lead them right. And then hopefully they get to choose to get involved.
Dan Neumann: [05:40] Yeah. So that’s a type of conflict as we kind of get into how to handle conflict with civility. People who don’t see value in a retrospective don’t want to participate. Maybe people aren’t coming to the daily Scrum if people are doing Scrum, they should be having a daily Scrum. You know, other frameworks. Maybe it’s not part of what they’re doing, but you end up with a group of individuals or a team, lots of different feelings, perspectives, histories. And that’s going to lead to different types of conflict. Of course when we leave high school, that’s not when conflict ends. It’s kind of a thing as growing adults.
Logan Butler: [06:16] Um, hopefully we just get better at it.
Dan Neumann: [06:18] Oh, hopefully. And I think people can get better at it with some intentionality of trying to get better at it. And so let’s peel that onion a little bit.
Logan Butler: [06:28] Yeah. And with the going on, with the inspiring people, this concept of conflict with civility, sometimes when I talk about this or I lead a discussion on it, sometimes people will walk away and they say, Oh, I’m so excited to share this with my team so that they can do it. And that’s when I say, all right, timeout. Because this is not for you to go tell somebody to do. This is something that you get to choose to do and lead a team by modeling it. And I believe that as you model it, people see something in that and see the way that you’re able to carry your life and your day to day work. And they recognize, okay, the way that they hold themselves. I want to be like that. And so you’re leading by example. Uh, and it’s definitely like, we’re going to talk about humility here. You can’t make somebody be humble, but you can choose to be humble and then because of your choices to be humble, I believe that other people will want to respond the way that you respond.
Dan Neumann: [07:21] Yeah. I mean I’m guilty of learning something new, a technique and be like, oh, I totally see how somebody else could apply this. And realizing I have my own work to do with how, how I navigate that conflict. A previous episode we talked about situation, behavior and impact. Something that AgileThought’s leadership are learning from the Eckerd College folks here, which is, hey, when it’s a way of getting feedback, when there’s a situation, um, so you, you recall the situation that was occurring, you referenced the behavior the other person exhibited, and then you express the impact on yourself. And that’s an opening to explore this conflict. Hopefully not a, not a highly charged emotional thing, but it’s just a way of saying, hey, remember when we were, this was what we were doing. You know, you did this, you said this. And maybe it made me feel great. It was really positive, or maybe, uh, maybe it made me doubt myself or hurt my feelings or whatever the case might be. But it’s really about what my reaction to that behavior was. Um, and so not to take that and go, oh, you should do this SBI thing, but it’s like, Hey, here, I’m going to use this technique and we’ll explore it and then get feedback.
Logan Butler: [08:36] Yeah. And I think there’s been a movement towards people recognizing that people are coming from different places and spaces, like a enneagrams seem to be pretty big right now. So, um, now it’s, it’s one of those, uh, personality categorizing things and it’s, um, uh, if I could summarize it real quick, it’s, you get a number, and it’s not saying that any number is good or bad, it’s just saying that different numbers come from different perspectives. And they have natural tendencies where they put on armor and defense mechanisms, and then they have instances where they excel. And so it’s learning about how maybe the way that I hear something is going to be different than the way somebody else hears something or maybe the way that I respond to something is going to be different than the way you respond to something and that’s neither good nor bad. It just is what it is. And so understanding from people’s perspectives and saying, okay, now, now knowing what we know about each other, what can we do?
Dan Neumann: [09:41] Cool. So I’ll, we’ll put something in show notes then the link to a resource on enneagrams for other people like me who just heard that maybe for the first time. It sounds like a pretty handy tool.
Logan Butler: [09:51] I’m a three for anybody who looks it up.
Dan Neumann: [09:56] I will look that up as soon as we’re done. That’s awesome. So why is it important then for Scrum teams or for agile teams or leadership teams, whatever team this we’re talking about, why, why is it important then from your perspective for them to handle conflict well?
Logan Butler: [10:12] So conflict is going to be an inevitable thing. I don’t think that it’s going to be healthy to strive to have a zero conflict situation. What I do think is healthy is to say when presented with conflict, we want to deal civilly with that. And by civilly, I mean we’re not going to be emotionally wrapped up or be, uh, affected by these things. Like I, and I don’t want to have emotional baggage because of a meeting that I have to walk into. And the things that we deal with are going to be large scale problems and maybe we are passionate about things and we are going to advocate very strongly for something. But that doesn’t mean feelings need to be hurt. It doesn’t mean I need to leave. Um, feeling like I was dealt with passive aggressively. Uh, we want to make sure that those things are off the table and we’re just being able to focus on the problems that are in front of us at hand. I mean, uh, isn’t agile dealing with complex problems? And so, uh, they’re, they’re going to be there. And so we get to choose how we respond to these. And so conflict with civility is dealing with these complex situations, but being able to maintain highly positive relationships with the people that we work with.
Dan Neumann: [11:26] You’ve made the point as we are doing some prep for this, conflict isn’t synonymous with angry and yelling and you alluded to that. So we have a problem to solve. We have a complex situation we’re trying to deal with, navigate through. That’s a type of conflict. You might have different opinions than I do about how we might solve that. And so how do we work together, um, you know, in a civil way and solve this problem, which is a very low level of conflict but can escalate if I leave thinking you’re a jerk because you, um, you didn’t listen to me or you impose your will on what we were doing or I didn’t understand how we were deciding and therefore I didn’t. I thought I was, uh, building consensus and really it was informed. And, and you, if you have positional authority, maybe you’re just going to decide after consulting everybody. And that’s not a, a, a, it’s not a, a democracy where we’re all going to vote on it. It’s like if you’re the boss, you might consult and then decide. But if I don’t realize that I might leave with some hurt feelings.
Logan Butler: [12:26] Right. And a lot of it does boil down to communication, like you’re saying. Right. And with that, being able to be empowered to choose to communicate when I feel like it’s necessary. So, uh, being an advocate for myself, if I feel like I have been treated unfairly or something has been done wrong, hopefully we’re developing a culture where it’s okay for me to raise my hand and say, Hey, can we, I know an understanding, an understanding was made or a decision was made, but I thought it was going to go this way. Can we just talk more and explain what’s going on? I think that those are good things to foster.
Dan Neumann: [13:01] Yeah. There’s some statistics you mentioned keeping the good working relationship, the level of active disengagement in companies in the U.S. right now it’s profound and startling. So it’s not even the people are disengaged. Maybe they’re not giving their whole self, but they’re actively doing something else and cite some of that research. It’s, it’s just profound. And so keeping those good working relationships so that people aren’t checking out mentally and going off and doing other things when they hopefully should be engaged in the vision of the organization or the clients in our case in delivering value. So how do we, how do we kind of navigate some of these conflicts? So yes, we agree we want to have healthy conflict. It’s not, they want to yelling and being angry and hurting feelings. So what’s, what are some ways then for navigating this conflict and preserving relationship that you are seeing work?
Logan Butler: [13:56] So I have set up three ways that have worked for me and they have proven to help me and I’ve shared them with a couple of people and they’ve said, hey, this has been great for me too. And so that’s kind of how we’ve ended up here. It’s just been conversations one after the other and eventually someone said, hey, you need to talk to Dan because I think Dan would be interested.
Dan Neumann: [14:16] Yeah, Dan got really excited when he heard you were passionate about this topic.
Logan Butler: [14:20] So what I do is I’ve got three things that I do. I choose to protect my team. I choose to look out with empathy and I choose to walk humbly and in all situations, if I can do those three things, I have found that I have set myself up to walk into a situation that is filled with conflict and I’m able to hold myself in a demeanor that is leading towards a better resolution and I’m able to away with less baggage in and I will say that this isn’t flawless. Right? I have had conversations where I walk away and I still think about it when I’m brushing my teeth in the morning. Right? But I think overall my life has been better as a result of walking into these situations, better preparing myself for these hard conversations.
Dan Neumann: [15:11] You said something about the stance just occurred to me that hadn’t before, which is the protecting the team. Your team. Yeah. You as a team member, a lot of times as an agile coach we’re maybe outsiders are, I’m an outsider, my colleagues are outsiders here and we’re coming into a team that has some conflict. And I like the stance that you took. It’s not the team external to you. It’s like you’re, you are a team member. We have potential conflicts and how do we navigate that? The, the pronouns are really important. And I just wanted to point that out. You’re not the outsider and they have conflict.
Logan Butler: [15:47] Right. Yeah. It’s not, it’s not my team. Right, right. It’s not possessive either. Yeah. It’s our team and we want to make sure that we protect and then, and in protecting it, there’s, there’s really two ways that you can protect it. There are gonna be outside influences. Uh, there are going to be things that come from outside of what your core development team is going to be. And it’s good to have people that protect those. Um, but there’s also things that happen internally as a team. You just want to make sure that, uh, everybody’s treating everybody with respect. And sometimes that just takes us, uh, a subtle, uh, um, um, I don’t want to say subtle, but sometimes that takes a stance to say like, Hey, like we don’t want to use that kind of a joking or we don’t want to, um, even imply that we might do something right? We want to make sure that everybody is healthy and supportive and, um, we’re, we’re not gonna be workaholics, right? We don’t want to pretend like nobody’s, or that somebody gonna be a hero and they’re the only person that can do this. All right? It’s about building it up. And so in protecting the team, I mean, there can be something as simple of we see somebody becoming the only person that can do this one task and that’s not helping the team because that person needs to be able to be free to take PTO and go on vacation and enjoy life. Uh, and, uh, I remember as I was coming up and I was just starting in QA actually, and my TA told me, he said, well, I want you to vocalize anything that you see. And I’m like, well, I’ve kind of seen this, but I figured that somebody else, you know, higher up would have reported this. And he goes, nope. He’s like, it is everybody’s job. And he’s like, I don’t care that you’ve been starting QA and you’re a junior QA. It is your job to report things. It is somebody else’s job to prioritize things. And that really made a big impact on me. I’m thinking that, okay, that even this, the, the technical architect, which was the guy that was leading our team is saying, no, I care about you and your voice and let somebody else about what the priority is.
Dan Neumann: [17:51] That’s interesting. So your job in that scenario is to be explicit about, I saw a thing, not assume that somebody else saw it and doesn’t care and then somebody else can, you can’t boil the ocean. You’ve got to choose which battle to fight. Which ones do you let go? How you handle certain situations, how much investment you put in. Um, and as leaders, I did a podcast episode a while back with Dr. Jeff Thompson. He was a CEO at Gundersen health systems and he used the phrase what you tolerate you support. And so what you are talking about the jokes, the that you know sometimes jokes are just a stab in the back, you know, laced with a bit of a smile. And so you know, if you tolerate that type of misbehavior, you you’re supporting in essence. And so being able to say no, that’s not, that’s not what we do as a team I think is really important.
Logan Butler: [18:45] Yeah. You had mentioned earlier standups. So if you’re doing Scrum and you’ve got a daily standup, one of the ways that you can protect the team is, is choosing to have a conversation with somebody who maybe is not prepared for standup or maybe is just absent and having that conversation and say, hey listen, the whole team has gotten together so that we can update everybody by you not being there, the whole team is missing something. And it would, it would help everybody if you could be there. And an easy thing to do is just say, well, we kind of already know what they’re doing, so we’re just going to assume they’re going to keep on doing it, but that’s, that’s ultimately going to lead to problems. Uh, and so those problems that come up are going to be harder to fix than just having a conversation to say, Hey, what can we do to make it so that you’re here? And sometimes what comes out is you find out that standup time isn’t really a great time for them and you can bring that up with the team and say, how about we push it 15 minutes because this person is rushing because they have to go drop somebody off at this location and then make it back. And sometimes traffic, and there can be a number of reasons, but having that conversation is definitely worth it.
Dan Neumann: [19:52] Agreed. One of the episodes with Christy Erbeck was about team working agreements and that can go a long ways towards setting some ground rules. Again, not imposing those on the team, but the team forming their working agreements. We have agreed as a team that everybody should be at the daily Scrum on time, present, ready to participate and handle that. So you want to protect the team. And then you had mentioned empathy and you kind of led into some empathy with the daily Scrum example. Somebody maybe has family obligations or other types of commitments that maybe that’s the bad time. Maybe you could talk about how empathy helps.
Logan Butler: [20:31] So with regards to empathy, I ask myself this question. I say, given what an individual has done, what situation could I be in where I would have done the same thing? Uh, and there’s a good example that goes along with this. Um, so I’m a developer and we check code in and we use get to manage source to control, which means that we have, um, peer reviews on everything that we do. And it has to go through the draft phase and people write comments all over it. And the team addresses those comments that goes into the code base because one of the things that we value is a good quality code base. And we also value the opinions of the other developers on the team. So story goes, we got a new developer, I put some comments on the PR and I went home for the day. I come home and I see that the PR had merged, but my comments were not addressed. Now I’m seeing this and it does make me emotional. I have an emotional response to this because I’m thinking about all these things that we value. And I say I’m a member of the team and I feel like my opinion is not valued. So I asked myself, I say, okay, given somebody has put comments on a PR, what have I done or what, what situation would I be in where I might merge something. And I just tell myself, I say, okay, well maybe the technical architect came around and said, well, Logan did make some good comments, but because of some other domain decisions, we’re just gonna, uh, resolve those comments and merge it. Because I liked the way you did it. And I’d say, and for me, I’d say, well, I would trust the TA’s opinion more than me too. I’d say that’s good. Another situation could be, Logan’s comments are great. However, the, uh, uh, there’s a time sensitive thing that I’m not aware of and maybe there’s going to be a followup PR to address my comments, but we need to get it in to address some more pressing issue. And I say, okay, I’ve been there, I get it. And so what that does for me is I now can see myself in their shoes and I can say, okay, I understand what could have led them to do this. I’m no longer as emotional, I’m not charged, I’m not ready to come in and lay down the law. Now I’m ready to say, what, what’s the situation? Um, can you, can we, can we talk about this? And so I come in in the morning and I just bring up the conversation. I say, Hey, you know, I saw that the PR went through, can we talk about this? I know I had let some, some comments so you know what, what are we going to do from here? Kind of fill me in. And so then we’re able to have a conversation and then we’re able to have a conversation and talk about those things. And in this situation it was one of those, well, I saw your comments but I didn’t agree with them, so I just completed it. It’s like, well, okay, now we need to talk about team norms. Um, and that’s okay because hey, we’re, we’re all learning here. It’s good, it’s recoverable. It’s not the end of the world. But I want to talk about this so that I don’t get upset every time you make a PR because I don’t want to be that. And I don’t want anybody else on the team to be that. And so we just want to talk about what our expectations are of everybody and it by looking through with empathy, we get ready for the conversation. What we don’t want to do is assume those stories are true because then we’re not addressing the issues. We just want to get ready to have the conversation.
Dan Neumann: [24:02] Cool. Something that you did there reminds me of one of the cognitive bias research things I was doing on, on anchoring where it’s called multiple explanation scenario and it can help you de-bias. So you weren’t just like, oh here’s, here’s why they did that and here’s one, two, three other possibilities and that really softens the emotional part. It, it engages kind of the front part of your brain where all the logic part goes on, why, what else might be going on. So a little lizard part that got instantly irritated at your, your comment was ignored when the code went in. It kind of mutes the effect of that and those, that’s pretty cool. For teams, and so that’s the one way kind of person to person. Um, with this conflict of civility, you also shared some group activities that people might do with their teams in order to build some empathy, kind of more corporately, if you will within the team.
Logan Butler: [24:58] Sure. So retrospectives are a great time. And whether you’re in doing them at, well, hopefully you’re, if you’re in Scrum, you’re doing it every sprint. But if you’re not, if you’re doing some other form of agile, hopefully you’re having some form of retrospective so you can all chat
Dan Neumann: [25:12] If you’re doing Scrum and not doing them every sprint, you’re not doing Scrum stone in there. But yes. So let’s just assume they’re good Scrum team.
Logan Butler: [25:24] Everybody’s doing a retro, everybody’s doing great job. Uh, so one of the things and activities that I’ve done, I have enjoyed the true colors exercise and this is another personality, uh, little questionnaire that you can do and it puts you into four categories of people and everybody has a different colors, but basically the colors tell you what instinctive type of person you are. And so what I had led with our group is we each took the assessment and then we, we went around the room and we said, okay, given a color like orange, orange are very, I keep on saying orange but I mean golds. Gold’s are very, uh, uh, quote unquote type a very organized. They need things and structure. They like things to be communicated in advance, right? If you call an audible or you’re doing something on the flight that that kind of mixes up their world. And so what we did is we said, what would make a gold’s sprint not fun? Well, what would be challenging if, uh, how, how could we make, if we were a mole and we were trying to sabotage their sprint, what could we do? And we threw ideas out, right? Going around the room. And then we talked about those and we said, now who is the gold? And then people would say, well, I ended up gold. And we said, how would you feel if these things happen? And they were like, well, I would not be happy, right? I would be very frustrated. I wanted to understand why. And we said, okay, great. So now given what we know about these gold members of our team, what can we do to help these gold members? Uh, a lot of programmers are green, green is logic. It is, I like algorithm thinking I like things to go in a flow that makes sense to me.
Dan Neumann: [27:13] And that’s a fantastic skill for a developer.
Logan Butler: [27:16] Yes, it works, right? It doesn’t have to be your primary to be a great developer, but a lot of them find themselves to be that way. And so we were talking with, and a great conversation had happened with our, our product owner and our business analysts. And they said, okay, now that I know that you guys are gold, I understand some of the comments you have about acceptance criteria and it makes sense because we, we had previously sometimes, and it happens, it comes up. Thing that gets developed is a different interpretation of the way that the acceptance criteria and it’s a conversation. So we said, now we understand where we’re, we’re talking at a little bit level or a little bit better communicated level. Uh, and so that was a great exercise.
Dan Neumann: [27:59] That is cool. So you’re, you’re doing a little bit of, put yourself in that other person’s shoes so you know how would a green, how would a gold, what would drive them crazy, testing that hypothesis and then finding ways as a team to drive each other a little less crazy, it sounds like trying to make it work for everybody on the team.
Logan Butler: [28:19] Yeah, we’ve done something similar to that too, where we put everybody’s name in a hat and we pass the hat around and draw out a name and then we answered two questions like what was the most challenging part of this sprint? What was the most rewarding part of this sprint? And then we had each person stand up and answer those questions as if they were the person that they drew out of the hat. And then we as a team guessed at who they were. And so it got everybody thinking, okay, now that I heard what they said, now that I, and I spent the time with everybody in the sprint, who do I think they were? And then we flipped it back to the real life person who actually lived that sprint as that person. We said, how true are these things? This is a really good one too because what I have found is the people that are not as inclined to speak up, they get a voice and that voice is spoken through somebody else. It’s somebody else advocating for them and then they get to confirm and say, yeah, they actually did say everything that I felt, but I’m not brave enough to say sometimes.
Dan Neumann: [29:22] Yeah, that’s a really cool dynamic of that and that hadn’t occurred to me as you were first saying. Not everybody is going to feel comfortable and some just flat out won’t do it. Even if they’re uncomfortable advocate for themselves. Here’s maybe what I liked about the sprint. Here’s what I didn’t like. Here’s, here’s a situation where I got really frustrated with other team members. You know, changes coming in, your PR’s getting ignored, whatever the case might be. That’s pretty cool. Yeah. They get a voice through somebody else.
Logan Butler: [29:52] And when I think what it does too is it illustrates that when you bring up something that is potentially confrontational, like for a QA person, if somebody was speaking for them and you’re like, hey, I was really frustrated when somebody checked in code that blocked my testing, and then the QA gets to come around and say, well yeah, it kind of was frustrating, but I don’t know if I would have just come out and said that. It’s like, well, you’re allowed to say that because look, I’m the one that checked in the code and I broke your testing and I’m not mad that you would say that. Right. And so you’re just building a relationship with people by being able to be voices for others in the room. Right. You don’t want to be their only voice, but you want to show them that it’s okay to have a voice.
Dan Neumann: [30:28] Right. Yeah. Something gets dysfunctional, if you are speaking on their behalf inappropriately, right. Yeah. The third thing that you were enumerating. So it was protecting the team, building empathy, and then you talked about walking humbly.
Logan Butler: [30:42] walking humbly. Yup. So walking humbly is choosing to go into situations and basically saying, I’m not going to have all the right answers. And as I go into conversations, I’m not going to pretend like I was right. So that’s, that’s the walking humbly and just saying as I go in, I’m going to choose to be a constant learner and I’m going to look at every opportunity to learn something new. And that can be as simple as, uh, you did something that I wasn’t anticipating you doing, but maybe that’s because I didn’t communicate that well. So how can I communicate more effectively with you and the way that you work so that we can work better as a team? Uh, it is when I’ve done something wrong, maybe I can look back and say, okay, well what has happened that, uh, I can prevent this from happening again? Rather than turning around in the team and saying, well, this is just who I am. You need to accept it, right? And making people conform to the way that you are. And then there are some things where definitely advocate for yourself. This isn’t by walking humbly, by no means does it mean you’re a pushover and you’re going to do everything that the team wants you to do. But it’s choosing to come in with the demeanor and say, all right, I have the potential to better myself in this situation. I’m not gonna pretend like who I was yesterday was the best me ever, and I want to be better. And so can I go into conversations, uh, when conflict arises and be looking for what I missed rather than telling them how it should have been.
Dan Neumann: [32:08] I like that mindset of continuous learner. It’s very handy. And at the end we’ll talk about what you’ve been reading lately in the spirit of continuous learning. How, what other behaviors kind of come out of continuous learning then?
Logan Butler: [32:22] Sure. So that’s what we’ve been talking about with being humble is a lot of how you choose to hold your demeanor. Uh, and that’s almost like a reactionary thing. Like things have happened and I’m going to choose to respond in a humble manner. So one way that you can be proactive in the way that you are to walk humbly is not going down a path where you become a hero of the team. Uh, we talked a little about this when we were protecting the team and calling out when heroes are being developed. When we’re talking about a hero or we’re talking about somebody where they feel either the responsibility, whether it is true or not, uh, but they feel like they are the sole critical person that is able to accomplish any task. Um, this can be in multiple roles. It can happen in developer or QA or BA. It can find itself in a way, I’ll speak specifically to developer, but maybe you’ve got somebody who is your database guy and every time you need something done with the database, it always goes to that person and they feel like they’re the only person that can do that. And so while you’re sitting in planning or you’re looking at your task on your Kanban board, maybe they’re getting very protective of those things. Um, now granted they may be the best, uh, at that skill, but that by no means should make them the only person to perform that skill. By choosing to be a person that identifies that. If you see yourself going down that path and like either you want to be the hero because you want to feel needed, right? That’s another conversation. Um, maybe there’s some insecurities there and you know, you’re trying to wiggle yourself into a position where the team needs you. That’s not going to be something that’s good. Um, but ultimately, uh, it’s leading to a, a position where you can choose to be somebody who is a team player rather than somebody who is the reason the team is there.
Dan Neumann: [34:13] Yeah. I think of the need to have t-shaped skills where you have a deep expertise in at least one area and then you have some shallower expertise across other ones. So I’ve never been a database administrator. I’ve never written particularly robust stored procedures. I can write your run of the mill select standards. I can make that work. You know, and there are so as the teams organizing around the work of the sprint, there are things you need that person with deep expertise to do and hopefully there’s a lot of stuff that other people on the team can do. And so yeah, it keeps your um, your hero needs pretty low. The dysfunction you were mentioning with that hero status is then it can lead to hiding issues or going down paths that are bad.
Logan Butler: [35:01] Yeah. It can lead to surprises at the end of the sprint when you’re in standup and they just keep on saying, I got it, I got it, I got it. And then, and a sprint comes in, oh, we missed it. Right. Uh, in QA it can look like a certain area of the program and maybe it’s a complicated area and one person is well versed in that. But if you’ve got a team of QA, we need to make sure that everybody is able to dabble in that because what if something happened to that person? What if they needed in some other place? What if they’re getting pulled into meetings, talking about planning and we need this area tested. It’s about, uh, the responsibilities on the development team. Uh, it’s not even necessarily on a particular role inside of that team. And so we want to make sure we spread that out. Some of the things that I try to do for myself so that I find myself not going down the path of being a hero is not measuring myself necessarily on quantitative things. Uh, that my value and my contribution to the team is more than what I can quantitative deliver to the team. So, uh, as an example, like it is a good strategy to have frequent check-ins into your code base as a developer. However, if I check in code every day, that doesn’t make me a good developer and it definitely doesn’t make me a bad developer if I didn’t check in code or I didn’t burn down the number of hours that I thought I was going to burn down, um, in that day because as a team member, I value my contribution to the team. And as I was developing in my programming skills and at AgileThought, uh, there was this turning point where I said, you know, AgileThought has vetted me, they’ve hired me, they’ve trusted me to do this job. And so I don’t need to be worried about proving myself as a developer. I need to worry about how am I helping my team and if that is as a developer, that’s as a developer, but if that’s as a QA because we need QA, it’s as a QA, it’s doing what I need to do because AgileThought has already said, Logan, you’re great. Just do what we already know you are. You don’t have to prove to us that you’re this, you know, sequel expert. You don’t have to prove to us that you’re the, you know, Azure development guy.
Dan Neumann: [37:18] Yeah. As a young project manager, this is a, it’s been a while, but I was leading a project and we were losing money, you know, and the consultancy, I was out at the time and I remember the partner in charge of that effort. His name was Jeff. He was like Neumann. He’s like, how much money are we losing? And don’t make me come back and get a new number. It was like, you’re not gonna make it up on the back end. So just tell me what we’re losing now so we can take our logs together at one time. And it was, it was that, you know, as a young person, I didn’t think it was safe to say we’re losing money on the deal and here’s what’s the factors and help Jeff, you know, it’s didn’t feel safe for me. I felt like I had to make it up as opposed to kind of taking it to the team and going, we, we have a problem. Uh, and so, you know, some of those safety things, we’re learning opportunities for me as a young pup project manager for sure.
Logan Butler: [38:11] Yeah. And so as an envision, as a individual who is choosing to walk humbly, you get to these points where you’re comfortable and you’re confident in your ability to check in with your other members of your team. Because if you’re a hero, then you’re going to be the person that does it. And you’re on your one train track going all the way and when you’re at the end of sprint and it comes out and it doesn’t match what everybody else was expecting, well it’s the end of the sprint. But if you’re walking humbly and you’re starting down a path, it’s very easy to check in with somebody and say, Hey, I just want to just give me a sanity check. Are we on the path that we want to be on? And that can be a quick conversation from a Dev to Dev. What I find is very helpful in what we’ve set up on our team is we have built in conversations that we’ve agreed to as a team where we check in with QA and we say, as a developer, I’m planning on building this. And then the QA says, well, this is how I’m planning on testing it. And now we’re on the same page. We’re making sure that if something comes up, we’re able to have a quick conversation with our product owner, business analysts, and have those things. And what our product owners are able to do is they’ve got this vision they’re looking for and what the application is supposed to do. And while their role is a single individual, they still don’t need to be a hero. And so they can sit in and it’s, it’s healthy. And I love it when I see it when they say, okay, this is what I was thinking. Does this make sense technically with what we’re doing? And I really appreciate, appreciate Jason Bernier and how much he pushes, you need to teach the product owners what your domain can do. Because if they understand what your domain is set up to do, then they’re going to be brainstorming about how they can leverage that and they’re going to be able to use those tools more effectively. You know, do you have a motorcycle or do you have a car? Right? And what, what can those things do? Rather than just having the product owner know, oh, I have something that gets me from point A to point B. Right? But if they understand, oh no, you’ve got off road tires, we can take a shortcut. And you don’t need to go that traditional route. Right. That’s really good information. And it’s conversations with the product owner and they’re like, listen, I’m not a hero. I’m not going to tell you what’s the right way. Let’s talk.
Dan Neumann: [40:18] That’s super cool to get the whole, the whole team involved in the effort there with that, that humility and it opens the door. So thank you for taking time to share about conflict with civility and you know, protecting the team, empathy and walking humbly, and then the, um, the last bit is what are you reading? And you alluded to it a little bit earlier, I think, so what are you reading these days?
Logan Butler: [40:42] Yeah. So I’m doing a reread of, uh, Dr. Brené Brown’s, uh, “Dare to Lead” book. So it’s specifically working and talking about organizations and how you as an individual kind of build up a healthy corporate environment, working with teams. Uh, I think it’s great for Scrum Masters to read so that they can hear some of these things. And right now I’m in the middle of it, uh, doing, uh, reading it through with a, with a friend and we just got through this awesome part when it talks about shame and loneliness and how those are things that aren’t brought up all the time. And she does this great study and how it was actually built into military documentation. And you think of military, you don’t really think about loneliness and shame, but it’s this big thing and it’s this, I think it’s eyeopening just to think about, you know, maybe, maybe there’s somebody on my team dealing with loneliness, but they’re just talking about it in a way that I don’t think.
Dan Neumann: [41:41] We spend so much time in business thinking about just the technical side and in, hopefully people are bringing their whole selves to work. And Christy Erbeck and I did a podcast a couple episodes ago. Uh, Christy is a Certified Dare to Lead Facilitator™ very recently and um, so I am, it’s a learning opportunity for me. I’ve got a lot of Dr. Brené Brown stuff to consume. I only saw the Netflix special, which is out. I’m about an hour in, but just dipping my toes in that water.
Logan Butler: [42:13] Yeah. The Guy I’m reading with it is, it’s his first time through and last time we got together, he talked, he’s like, listen, I love it, but I hate it too because he’s like, it’s, it’s telling me a lot about myself and I’m kind of the, the things that I do in response to things that maybe isn’t good and maybe, maybe I can be better.
Dan Neumann: [42:31] Thanks for taking the time again. Appreciate it.
Logan Butler: [42:39] All right. Thank you.
Outro: [42:42] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought, get the show notes and other helpful tips from this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.