WAIT. Why Am I Talking?

I discovered a new acronym in the most unlikely place earlier today: in the fax room of my apartment complex where I was waiting for confirmation that my multi-page fax had gone through.

Written in red marker on a small dry erase board was: WAIT. I initially thought it was a reminder to be patient in dealing with recalcitrant machinery, but then noticed the acronym spelled out below:

WAIT: Why Am I Talking?

A quick Google confirmed that this phrase has been around for a while, but it is new to me. And it was a very timely prompt as I’m starting a new project next week since it summarized so much of what I aim for as an Agile Coach.

At least once a day, I have to remind myself about the differences between action and activity and that indulging in activity, especially reactive activity, is counter-productive. Instead I remind myself to listen, watch and wait.

Wait to see if my initial observations hold up over time.

Wait to see if the problem/crisis/issue I anticipate will actually surface and if it does, wait to see if it gets resolved by the team.

And then wait some more for the right set of circumstances to apply any of the actions I had considered. Even then sometimes I end up not taking action at all.

This waiting process has been a hard practice to develop, because I’m by nature a problem solver (former project manager alert!). My job was to anticipate and fix problems, even prevent them from happening when possible. Now my goal is to help others develop their own problem solving muscles, and that requires me to not jump in.

I think sometimes people are a bit surprised that they don’t hear my voice across a bullpen more often, or see a flurry of group emails from me regularly, because their perception of coaching is activity based. And I do initiate and participate in group conversations on occasion and yes, I do send out periodic emails.

But mostly I’ve found it’s more effective to coach via facilitation during retrospectives or other framework ceremonies. And most of my one-to-one coaching happens during impromptu conversations, either at my desk or theirs.

Some days I am delivering training all day and I can see the value of my coaching, but other days when I am listening and waiting, it’s hard to remember that this is equally valuable part of coaching. I have to consistently remind myself that coaching is as much a “being” state as a “doing” activity.

Now, I’ve found a new piece of mental shorthand to stay focused on the longer-term goals. Inspiration – and blog post ideas – comes from the most unexpected places!


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