Daily reflections for positive change

I just completed a course on positive psychology. More accurately, I just completed a a Coursera specialization made up of 5 courses on positive psychology.

It was a great course, with some great theory and a lot of meaningful practice. It was full of small things you can do to improve your life and also your coaching of others.

An exercise that I performed in the final course

One of the exercises was to create a “testable positive intervention” for myself.

In order to do that, I had to identify a bad thing that I want to improve about myself. To do this I used a list of “shadow strengths” or a list of overuse, underuse and absence of strengths.

Once I identified an area to improve, I needed to

  • Measure my current performance/happiness;
  • Do some intervening with myself; and
  • Measure my new level of performance/happiness to see if it had an impact.

The result was surprisingly good.

What did I want to improve?

My goal was to improve 2 things that related to a shadow strength of ingratiating, which is an example of overusing appreciation. I reflected on some surprising confusion about expectations and what I thought were agreed goals or actions and how these might have been related to appreciating the good without digging into things I do not appreciate, or things that need to be done.

The two goals I landed on were:

  • Set better, clearer expectations and increase accountability:
    • Set clear expectations of Myself and hold myself accountable to them;
    • Communicate these expectations better to others; and
    • Be more explicit in my expectations of others and where I might disagree with things they say, do, or plan to do.
  • Pause more when in a conversation in order to listen instead of talk.
    • Specifically to count 3 seconds sometimes after talking no more than 40 seconds.
    • I found this relevant to the first goal, because the lack of silence meant a potential lack of shared understanding of expectations.

What did the intervention look like?

A standard to aspire to

One of the practices that the course recommended was to leverage a strength to build improvements.

One of my “signature strengths” is “Genuineness, Authenticity and Honesty.” I decided to use this because, if I claim to be honest and authentic, then it should follow that I am also communicating my views clearly.

Also – I think my authentic self is a good team player, which would suggest that I can listen to others and that I can communicate authentically. If this is the case then I am not trying to become a different person with the above goals, but rather being the same person in the moment that I want to be all the time.

So now I have a positive standard to work towards – someone who has authentic conversations and sets clear expectations – me already on a good day and maybe not me when I fall short of who I want to be.

Daily measures and observations

I used a well known “3 good things today” exercise which, not surprisingly, involved reflecting on three good things that happened each day. This is a great exercise, but not surprisingly, it does not always highlight the gaps or progress I made with my gaps that I am working on. However it kept me focused on good outcomes and positive observations.

I complemented that practice with a report card for the day on my successes. This is designed to remind my of successes but also get me to focus on the situation where success was possible. On most days I had some successes (yay) and a couple of misses. This tool got me to highlight when I did not feel I was successful or I was not happy with “my involvement and my challenges.” It worked well because the expectation that I will be successful combined with concrete example from my day to see if I hit my goal.

Planning to observe and practice in the moment

Now I had a daily reflection to review my success, lack of success in adopting my improvements.

What I also needed was a way to actually observe myself in the moment so I could collect the information to reflect on. I also needed a chance to pick when to actually try to change my habits in the moment.

To do this I coopted a set of questions from the book Presence Based Coaching, which I have previously used in creating habit stories for myself and others.

I started the day with a todo list (I use a bullet journal approach) and then selected 1-2 meetings for the day when I would focus on applying my self improvement. At the beginning of each meeting I would check the following questions and try to be aware of them for the meeting:

  • In this moment what is driving my choices? (“in this moment” could mean the conversation i am having or meeting I am starting);
  • Who am I right now (or what do I see as my role here)? How would I act if that was who I am?
  • What am I actually doing?

Then at the end of the meeting I noted the answers to the same question, but restated in the past tense. Then I took a quick not of how I felt about it.

This data (set of rough notes) then gave me something to reflect on at the end of the day, when I did my accomplishments report card. I think the act of reminding myself of these questions also made me more likely to push myself to improve.

A rapid reflection cycle

So the whole cycle looked like this:

  1. Bullet list at the start of the day, with a cup of coffee and a note about a couple of meetings to focus on when practicing my better practices.
  2. Reminder before a couple of meetings to act better, with a note on how I went.
  3. Reflection at the end of the day with the accomplishment report card,
  4. A quick follow on with a list of 3 good things from the day.

Measuring the result after 2 weeks

I kept all the daily reflections in a google document so I also reflected briefly at the end of each week. This gave me a qualitative view of my progress.

There were a couple of self-reflection surveys that the course included. I scored myself on these at the beginning and end of the exercise. There was also a shift here, whether it was permanent or temporary.

Overall I noticed quite a shift, but I still have to turn things into a habit, so I guess that is my next step.

I think I will stick with these two simple goals for another couple of weeks before I improve anything else. When I do move to the next improvement I will go back to basics and design a new routine/intervention.

The approach worked really well for me. I think the use of a strength as a standard and thing to leverage worked and so did the ongoing focus of my attention.

How do I know that is true?

I help teams be “more agile.”

My favourite approach is to help them build a culture of self improvement. I figure that if we get that right, then the team will invent all the agile things that they need.

An extremely basic approach to getting better

This should work in theory, but it means the team will be limited to learning based on their own experience. So how will they know if they are learning the right skills?

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Extending the coaching agreement – what do agile coaches actually do?

In my last article, I discussed what I think is NOT actually agile coaching.

This time I will tackle the tougher challenge – what does a good agile coach actually do?

A quick word of warning though – this simple question seems to have resulted in a long article. I apologise for not making this as short and to the point as it should be, but at least I have warned you.

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Extending the coaching agreement – when is an agile coach not an agile coach?

I was talking to some experienced agile people and we started to discuss “agile coaching.”

We agreed that it was a great idea and that everyone should have an agile coach. But then we realised that we did not mean the same thing when we said “coach.”

We did agree on some things, like being able to identify an evil agile coach.  But we were a little misaligned on what a good coach is meant to actually do.

So let’s assume you are a good agile coach, or want to hire one.  Do you actually know what you mean by “Agile coach.”

In this article I will go through some of the things that people might see as an “agile coach” that I see as “not actually an agile coach.”

The next article will cover what I think an agile coach actually does and how to ensure that is aligned to the coaching agreement that you would hopefully have in place.

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Its a catastrophe – the kindergarten approach

I have been discussing some approaches to help teams deal with both “catastrophes” and “impediments.”

This time I am looking at an approach that really is about catastrophes, by which I mean things that are really overwhelming a person or team.

In this situation people feel out of control and potentially panicked. So we want to find an effective way to deal with overwhelming, major challenges.

You might be surprised though where I found this approach.  It was in kindergarten.

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Its a catastrophe – the doctor’s office

I have been publishing a couple of suggestions for dealing with “catastrophes” and also “minor impediments” with agile teams.  In each case I either shared some questions or put some boxes on a wall.

In the last two articles, I stole someone else’s simple approach and re-framed it as a problem solving or “catastrophe” re-framing approach.  But this time I thought I would share an approach I came up with myself – I call it “The doctor is in.”

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Jason’s coaching journey. The mysterious cheat sheet

The mysterious cheat sheet

In this long read, we continue to learn about Jason and his experience as an agile coach.

In this episode Jason and Sonja stumble on some useful tips for coaches when they stumble on a coaching cheat sheet left behind by one of the ancient coaches and they learn some great tips to use when coaching.

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Jason’s coaching journey – the struggling coaches

Some context before we start

This is the second in a series of long articles about Jason, who is an agile coach.

In the last episode, Jason was coaching away happily when suddenly it all came crashing down.

In this episode we look at how he reacts and how his friend Sonja tries to help him through some agile coaching.  Then we look at some tips on how Sonja could have more effectively coached Jason.

coach focus when slapped

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Coaching when they will do the wrong thing

My last couple of articles have been about presenting ideas so that people listen to what you are saying.

But what happens if you explain something to people and then they decide to do the wrong thing anyway?

Of course it is possible that you were wrong and that they are right.

But what if you are sure that they are about to do the wrong thing and that it will hurt them when they do?

The care factor

When people are about to make a mistake, I often stop to ask myself how much I care.

If I don’t care much what they do then I can just keep my mouth shut

Sometimes I have found myself arguing with people when I really should just let them make their own call and move on. So one of the things that I am still working on is to avoid expressing an opinion where there is no need to.  Instead, a good coach is one who let’s people form their own opinions.

But what if I do care that the person I am coaching is going to make a mistake and I think I should tell them?

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