Catch a Slipping Leader

As some of you may remember, one of the things I always point out as part of the “human debt” is how leaders at the top have no Psychological Safety in their teams as they effectively don’t have a team at all and how they want “the WoW (Way of Working) without the WoT (Way of Thinking)” as many haven’t had a true change in mentality to embrace Agile. 

I think it’s possible that this part of the “human debt” is widening. I’ve noticed some signs that have worried me greatly in the past couple of weeks. Organisation where the investment in engineering stopped. Teams asked to offer a Gantt-chart level of reassurance. Demands for “exact” product roadmaps for this year. They all look to me like various leaders are losing their Agile religion and retreating to what they -ever so wrongly- perceive to be familiar and risk-free, the mirage of the waterfall-protection. 

If we add to it their obsessive checks of “last online”, commits and emails, their lack of patience when mistakes surface and the reluctance to admit to them of the overworked average worker in their team, and the sudden sense of interdependence and need for sign-offs where there was previously and blessed autonomy, we have issues. 

Furthermore, no one feels safe. Or particularly high performant. Not the execs willing to let go of progress, not the line managers who wouldn’t stop them by pointing it out, not the CEOs, not the developers. Nor you or I. No one. So there’s no way to stop them or correct them as soon as we should. We’re not resilient enough to be safe at this time.  

Perhaps these frightening behaviours are fleeting, perhaps they mean nothing and if we return to some kind of normal these sign-makers that let their agility slip would come to their senses and stop going down the slippery slope but what if they won’t? And more importantly, with a second wave on its way, a vaccine nowhere to be seen, and a recession sandwiched in-between, what if it never will “go back to some kind of normal”. Or no time soon. What then?

We can’t risk not saying anything. And not catching our own selves when we’d rather “first finish this and then do that” because let’s face it, we’ve all been tempted by the mirage of the potential comfort of the “one done thing” to the point that we’ve longed for being sequential here and there. Let the ones who haven’t sacrificed any flexibility throw the first ideological stone. 

Just like courage is not the absence of fear, resilience is not the permanency of flexibility but the ability to recover and recuperate so quick that the trajectory is not lost. 

For anyone using a Muse for meditation (the headband measuring brainwaves to tell the user how successful they have been in quietening the mind and being “in the zone”) the concept is clear - when they manage the mental nirvana of complete calm, the app registers a “bird”, when they manage to bring their mind back and re-gain calm after it wanders though, they see mention of a “recovery”. In time. it becomes clear that flocks and flocks of lovely birds would be nice but in the absence of an instant “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” type procedure, they aren’t guaranteed or even desirable. What matters, what gives them a clear daily advantage in focus, ability to remain emotionally level and present, etc, is the number of recoveries. 

Resilience is not about “birds” but “recoveries” and getting anyone who sins against the soul of Agile, or slides towards old and destructive waterfall ways, to learn how to catch themselves, “focus on the breath” of the team and on “the vision” as that’s what will make the difference between them “manifesting” company level “abundance” or having a serious “eclipse/tower moment” soon so let’s help them learn how to recover when they slip.  


Don't send your teams home with a laptop, a Jira and Slack account and a prayer!

LAST CHANCE BEFORE THE END OF AUGUST! Get in touch for our 2-months-license-free and Stay-Connected pack COVID-19 aid team solution for measuring and increasing Psychological Safety offer at or reach out at and let's help your team before it ends.

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