It has been 3 years since I wrote “An Agile Adoption & Transformation Survival Guide: Working with Culture” to help the Agile community increase success in spreading Agile. In this video, I share the highlights of what I have learned. Some of it is around thinking tools such as the Laloux Culture Model and some of it is around my inner journey to reach a place where I can really help people and organizations. My goal is for you to take away some practical tools as well as inspiration for your own journey.
- Intro – People over Process.
- Agile = Culture. Whole Agile.
- Focus on People: Vulnerability, Authentic Connection, Safety & Trust (VAST)
- People-centric organizations (Laloux Culture Model)
- People-centric Change
You can also see earlier version of slides and video summary.
Delighted to share the slides from my and Soo Kim’s presentation at Spark The Change.
An insider’s account of a manager’s journey of cultural transformation. How our beliefs and assumptions radically shifted. How we found the courage to fully see what is there and accept it. Being vulnerable enough to speak our truth to allow new options to emerge. Developing the boldness to choose them.
It’s all about how we show up. If we show up in a way that invites people to connect, to trust, to feel safer than usual, they probably will. And astonishing results will follow. Olaf and I have a vast experience of limiting our results because we didn’t dare to show up, speak up, stand up. We’ve been not daring, not trying, not challenging, most of our lives—like most people! We’ve learned the hard way how to show up in a way that enables connection, and impact.
We use the VAST cycle to increase connection to grow engagement in the workplace. We know safety and trust are important, but that is not the whole story. We need whole humans, intensely connected, to unleash the co-creation of astonishing results.
Joint post with Olaf Lewitz.
How to use VAST for Yourself
We use VAST as a way to navigate relationships. It works in personal and professional contexts.
Use VAST for introspection: In relation to another, we may ask ourselves:
- How trusting am I?
- How safe do I feel?
- How connected do I feel?
- How vulnerable am I choosing to be?
- Am I acting authentically?
With this new awareness, the model suggests a variety of moves:
- I can choose to be vulnerable and share how I feel. How I am feeling unsafe. How I am not trusting.
- I can choose to trust the other person and see how my behaviour shifts.
- I can state what I want. “I want to restart this conversation. I want to focus on how we can support each other. I want to focus on the goal.”
- I can ask for help.
In our experience, the most powerful move is vulnerability. Owning our experience and how we feel and then sharing it really kicks off the cycle. That’s what we mean by showing up.
VAST for Organizations
We use VAST to build awareness and choice for organizations. It is especially useful when contrasting with organizational debt (fear, mistrust) as a way of being.
A team, group, or organization may choose VAST as a future way of being. The cycle helps guide behaviour and create ideas for experiments.
We can use it in retrospectives, to collect narratives that demonstrate the behaviour we want. Acknowledge when someone was daring, inspiring us to move forward.
Run a Temenos lab to experience the cycle for yourself or with your team.
Origins of VAST
The VAST cycle is the result of a sense-making journey between Olaf and I over the past years. We have been learning and studying its elements to help ourselves and our clients grow. We didn’t go out to invent something, it just emerged – it’s a discovery. We then noticed how well it explains many beautiful personal and professional growth experiences with ourselves and our clients.
The term “VAST” was created by Anton Gillis-Adelman – who is an expert in turning a jumble of letters into words.
- Brene Brown has taught us greatly on “The Power of Vulnerability” and the need for Authentic Connection.
- Our earlier work includes Deep Insights around Fear, Risk, Safety and Vulnerability and Vulnerability: Where Courage Meets Fear
- Temenos is an experiential workshop where we’ve learned how this works
Success comes from Valuing People
Sadly, many organizations are mired in organizational debt: mistrust, politics and fear. Changing the process won’t fix this. We need to go to the root of it – to find a way to talk about and shift to a healthier culture: one that values people.
The VAST (Vulnerability, Authentic Connection, Safety and Trust) shows us how we can make our workplaces more human.
We outline a fundamentally different approach for organizational change: one where valuing people is integral to building lasting success.
Slides from my Keynote at Lean Into Agile Conference
Video Summary (7 minute PechaKucha)
Brene Brown had an amazing discovery: The people who have love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging. These people, dubbed the “wholehearted” were able to overcome the shame issues that limit people’s lives. This post is based on Brown’s video The Power of Vulnerability and in her book The Gifts of Imperfection.
The wholehearted have a set of common traits shown in the infographic below.
The definition of the word vulnerable is “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm”. How can this be a good thing?
At her TED Talk Listening to Shame, Brown surveys the audience to show that people see vulnerability as pure courage – as long as it’s someone else!
Browns research shows that practicing vulnerability is essential for building the social connections required for living a life of joy and belonging. We have to risk being hurt in order to build strong connections with people. Yes, you do have to talk about that difficult issue if you want a strong relationship. Yes, you do have to ask that person out and risk rejection to make progress.
Many organizations are concerned about how to bring creativity and innovation to the workplace. Brown argues that vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change. How people inter-relate and function as a social network is at the core of this.
The following three elements are all necessary aspects of vulnerability: Courage, Compassion, Authenticity.
Courage is not about heroics and it’s not about a character trait. It is about regular practice in daily life. Each day we have many opportunities to practice our courage: to do the right thing, to be vulnerable, to be authentic. It can be as simple as telling someone that you don’t want a meeting that you don’t think is valuable – even though you know it may lead to conflict. It may be in some areas of your life you are very courageous while others could use work.
We are imperfect. We all want to be seen as good, fair, reasonable. And yet the reality is that we are human, not perfect, and we make mistakes. We forget. We ignore our inside voices telling us what is right. The wholehearted not only recognize their imperfections, but see them as part of who they are and embrace them lovingly.
Compassion is a deep form of empathy where we co-suffer with the other person. Pema Chödrön writes “When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of our pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently towards what scares us.” Wholehearted living requires that we be compassionate to ourselves as well as others.
I have noticed over the last few days as I have written about empathy and shame, I have room for improvement in practicing compassion towards myself. After a troubling event, I immediately went into the trap of “looking on the bright side”. When I noticed this, I slowed down and gave myself the grace to experience a flood of emotions around the issue. To allow myself to be heard and acknowledged. It was difficult in the moment but allowed me to discharge the feelings so they did not impact the rest of my day.
A critical piece of this is kindness to ourselves. Brown states: “We can only be kind to others to the extent that we can be kind to ourselves.” I have kids and this struck me through my soul like a sharp burning knife. At the time I was aware I had low levels of self-kindness, so the implication that I could not be fully kind to my children really hurt. This truth, has led to a year+ long quest for self-kindness. (But that’s another post).
Authenticity is about being true to who we really are 24 hours a day. It means that we know who we are (imperfections and all) and let ourselves be seen that way. It means that we say and do what our true identity requires. And yes, this means taking on risk. But that is what we need to do to fully reclaim our lives.
I would like to add Brown’s Caution: “If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment and inexplicable grief.”
The good news is that there is a path forward for fully living our lives. The bad news is that there is a world of difference between knowing what you need to do and knowing how to do it. There are some guideposts (starting places) for learning how to make changes in your life in The Gifts of Imperfection. If you are interested in making changes in your life, it is best to start with Brown’s first book I Thought it was Just me since this is much more helpful in understanding what challenges you are up against.
I would like to close with the following quote from Brene Brown: “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging”. (p.1)
I thank Brene Brown for her excellent job modeling the power of vulnerability and for helping me in my life. I would also like thank everyone who participated in the “Gifts of Imperfection” meetup group for a safe space to practice vulnerability.
In this post I am going share a book that has changed my life in deep and profound ways: Brene Brown’s I thought it was just me (but it isn’t).
A good friend expresses the power clearly: “With this book, I am finally able to get to the root-causes of the problems in my life.”
If you want to play a leadership role in building great workplaces or you want to live a richer life, then read on. One word of warning: the core of the book is about the topic of shame. We tend to avoid and ignore this topic since it is uncomfortable. But that’s why it is key to understanding what’s going on in our lives.
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”
When we are in shame, we are in deep emotional pain and experience strong physical symptoms. In shame we feel like we have little or no value as human beings. Brown argues that shame has no positive purpose in our lives – it does not accomplish anything for us.
Guilt is a different story. With guilt we believe we are a good, valuable person, but have made a mistake. Guilt helps us correct our mistakes. It is very useful and has a positive effect in our lives. The confusion arises since much that we label as “guilt” is actually shame.
SHAME is at the centre of the infographic below. We will first consider the causes and then the outcomes of shame.
Unwanted Identities and Shame Triggers
- Who we should be
- What we should be
- How we should be
See diagram (p.19) on right from the book (used without permission). Hint: click on it to get larger image.
Twelve categories for shame drivers emerged when researching women: appearance/body image, motherhood, family, parenting, money/work, mental/physical health, sex, aging, religion, being stereotyped/labeled, speaking out and surviving trauma. (p. 73)
For men, many of the categories in the list apply, but there are some key extras around the need to look strong and succeed. Weakness, failure, and fear often lead to shame.
Each of us has a unique set of ways to feel shame. To survive and thrive, the first step is to identify our shame triggers. These are the the unwanted identities that impact us. Shame is about how we wish to be perceived in the world. Here are the two questions to ask to help understand your triggers (p. 83):
- I wish to be perceived as __________, ____________, ___________ and __________.
- I do NOT want to be perceived as __________, ____________, ___________ or __________.
When you do this exercise, please take special measure to be kind to yourself. We are all human.
Consequences of Shame
The top part of the infographic above shows some consequences of shame. In addition to feeling unworthy and inadequate, we loose any sense of safety, suffer from fear and with it our ability to take effective action. We feel disconnection from those around us and believe that no one will understand or appreciate us for who we are. Shame is an extremely debilitating state where we are very unresourceful. What can we do to recover?
A trap we fall in is to use blame as a “way to discharge hurt and pain”. When we blame others we shore up our emotions and it feels better. Sadly, this does not resolve the shame and only serves to mask our painful emotions.
How to Manage Shame
We can never be truly immune from shame, but we can develop what Brown calls “shame resilience”. Her prescription is:
- Understand our Shame Triggers – as discussed above, introspect on yourself when we are calm and capable.
- Practice Critical Awareness – in the moment, recognize that you are feeling shame and say it out loud or in your head.
- Reach Out – Call someone who is able to be supportive and listen with empathy around your issue. Do it immediately.
- Speak Shame – Tell the supportive person how you are experiencing shame and believe them when they tell you that your are a good person.
I have practiced this for over a year and it has worked wonders for me. Like all of us, I experience shame issues on a regular basis. The difference is that I now call people so I can recover and get back to living my life. This one thing has made a huge difference in my life.
Brown says that “Empathy is the opposite of shame”. Speaking shame is critical since empathy dissolves and diminishes the effects of shame. Sadly, when we are in shame, we have a diminished capacity to practice empathy so we cannot help others. Fortunately, empathy can be learned.
I read the book a little over a year ago and it triggered very positive sweeping changes in my life. The power of the book is in providing clarity in understanding a key problem and a simple model to make changes. The rest is hard work.
I would like to thank Brene Brown from the depths of my heart. This book has profoundly altered my life for the better. And everyone I touch.
Thanks to Suzanne Daigle for organizing a global conversation on Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection and inspiring me to create a meetup group.
I would like to thank everyone who participated in the “Gifts of Imperfection” meetup group. I appreciate everyone sharing stories of shame and for listening with care and understanding.
Photo of woman in shame comes from Building Your Resilience to Shame by Margarita Tartakovsky. Check it out – it’s a great article.