7 Special Things You Can Gift Your Agile Project Teams This Holiday Season

Get your team’s spirit soaring and turbo charge productivity. And enrich yourself as well.

7 Special Things You Can Gift Your Agile Project Teams This Holiday Season This holiday season, gift something invaluable to your Agile project teams. Whether you are an Agile Coach, Scrum Master, Project Manager or Product Managers, your team will cherish these gems for a long, long time. They will  get the team’s spirit soaring and turbo-charge productivity. Research proves these benefits.

1. Gift of smile

American Psychological Association reported that 32% of Americans experience extreme stress, about half think stress has increased recently and 20% experience high stress for 15 or more days a month.  Studies show that stress is a global epidemic, that workplace stress is as bad for health as smoking or high cholesterol. 

Why should you care? Stress affects productivity.  It colors your bug database, technical debt and velocity. 

Want to reduce your team’s stress levels instantly and boost their morale? Smile. Research proves that smiling reduces stress,  laughter soothes tension and promotes satisfaction.  And satisfaction is just what the Doctor ordered for project teams! 

2. Gift of robust dialog

In  Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” authors write  “you cannot have an execution culture without robust dialogue.” You can promote robust dialog in your Agile team by :

a.  Keeping an open mind.

b.  Being free from preconceptions or private agendas and

c.  Listening to all sides.

3. Gift of silence

Write College of Business is not the only one which ratifies the research proving that by effective listening you will get more information, increase trust, reduce conflict and increase motivation and commitment of your teams.  Research on  LISTENING AND LEADERSHIP comes even from an unlikely source: The National Fire Academy in UTAH. 

Obviously, you cannot listen while you are talking. Silence is needed. But, be wary of the pitfalls of so called “active listening.”  A cartoon I read summarizes these. The husband says to his wife “how can you complain that I am not listening? Don’t you see me looking directly into your eyes, nodding my head, leaning towards you and rephrasing your statements back?” Pretense does not work. People feel it.     Listening needs sincerity, other-orientation and caring. But first, it needs you to be silent.

4. Gift of feedback

Sincere, objective, timely feedback helps people grow.  Regular feedback leads to regular improvements.  Make your feedback specific, not general; focused on behavior, not on person; state observations, not your interpretations.   

5. Gift of shared vision

A collective vision, a common sense of purpose garners team’s energies, galvanizes the team into action. Vision statements sometimes end up as banal words, indistinguishable from one another. Shared vision is more than any ‘statement’ to be hung on the wall, as an ornament.  It is a way of life. It becomes part of the team’s values, its ethos, its daily work.  Unlike the other gifts in this list, this one needs team itself to act.  You can inspire to create it, facilitate it, nurture it,

6. Gift of presence

James Joyce introduces the character James Duffy in Dubliners as someone who  “lived at a little distance from his body.”  This ‘James Duffy disease’ is more widespread than we acknowledge.    These days, with mobile connectivity and video conferencing, you can be anywhere at any time.  Ironically, that is where some of us constantly are : somewhere else.   You will not need research to prove this.  You are your own laboratory.  Watch yourself for the next few hours as you carry on your normal activities. Where are your thoughts? Are they right at that moment?  Past? Future?

Lack of presence makes interactions shallow and superficial.  Presence on the other hand acknowledges other people’s importance in a special, subtle way. Being in the here and now also is important for people’s growth: yours and teams.  James M. Kouzes,  Dean’s Executive Professor of Leadership and Barry Z. Posner  Dean of the Leavey School of Business put it brilliantly : “as counterintuitive as it might seem, then, the best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present.” Presence helps you do that.

7. Gift of getting out of the way

Scrum Master’s primary goal is to remove obstacles.  This can also be one of the goals for Project Managers, Product Managers and others as well.  They need to consider a difficult question as well:  “am I the obstacle”. Once you empower your team and they have a shared vision that aligns with the larger vision and direction of the organization, trust them to execute.  Get yourself out of the way. Be there to support, encourage, remove obstacles.  Don’t try to ‘solve’ all the problems.  Listen.  Reflect. Ask. Clarify. But get out of the way.  Team will thank you for it.  And you can see it in the results.

The above are not in any particular order.  You can choose to gift them all or only one.  At first, choose the one that resonates with you. You can then maintain it.  Consistency is important.  While these gifts are apparently for the team, they also enrich you as well. Once you start, you will not want to stop.

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