3 Pillars of Agility

Back in 2001, a group shared something called the Agile Manifesto. It was a set of ideas that changed how people build software. At Humble Associates, this manifesto has been like a trusted map, guiding how we work and help others work too. But a lot has changed in over 20 years. Even though the manifesto is still useful, the world looks quite different now, especially after events like the global shifts in 2020.

We at Humble Associates don’t think we’re the boss of Agile, but we do have some thoughts on how it fits into our world today. And we’d love to share them, just as friends sharing thoughts over a cuppa.

Imagine Agile is a stool with three legs. These three legs, or pillars as we like to call them, are what we think hold up Agile in today’s fast-moving, ever-changing world of work. Not just in software, but in all kinds of jobs where we use our knowledge and skills in special ways.

In our upcoming chapters, we’ll chat about these three pillars, exploring how the old wisdom of Agile can still help us in the new, sometimes tricky world we find ourselves in. Stick around for a friendly journey into agility that meets the here and now!

North Star of Value

In the dynamic waters of today’s work environment, how does a team or organisation navigate effectively towards its desired outcomes? We always believe it’s crucial to have a clear sense of direction – something akin to a ‘North Star’.

Consider this: if we liken our projects and initiatives to a ship sailing through varied and often stormy seas, the North Star of Value becomes our unwavering guide amidst the chaos. It isn’t about forging a strict path and stubbornly sticking to it, but about maintaining a steadfast focus on our desired outcome, whatever that may be, while adroitly navigating the ever-shifting challenges and opportunities that arise along the way.

This goes beyond mere flexibility; it’s an embodiment of true agility. It’s acknowledging, “Yes, the seas are rough, and the wind doesn’t always blow in our favour. But we know where we need to go.”

The vital query we continuously explore is, “How do we adjust our sails and strategies in real-time to ensure we’re always moving towards that North Star, even amidst unforeseen challenges and opportunities?”

Whether it’s modifying a campaign strategy in response to new market data or adapting a product development approach due to sudden budget changes, the North Star of Value keeps our journey intentional and our strategies relevant.

So, let’s delve into this further in subsequent discussions and explore how we can all sail effectively towards our respective North Stars, embracing each wave and wind shift as a vital part of our voyage. What will your North Star be, and how will you maintain your course amidst the inevitable ebb and flow of challenges and opportunities? Join us on this explorative journey, and let’s discover together.

Cycle of Delivery

Embarking further into our voyage, let’s anchor ourselves in our second pillar: The Cycle of Delivery. It’s not just a concept; it’s the practical heartbeat of every agile endeavour we witness or guide. This isn’t merely about punctuating a project with arbitrary releases; it’s about ensuring that each release, however small, delivers discernible, valuable change.

In the traditional project landscapes that many of us grew up with, the delivery of value was often a grand reveal at the end. A ‘ta-da’ moment after months, maybe years of work. This worked…until it didn’t. The market moves, demands shift, and suddenly that final reveal can be spectacularly misaligned with what’s actually needed. Sound familiar?

So, the Cycle of Delivery challenges this by championing frequent, iterative releases of value. Let’s be clear: we’re talking about bona fide, tangible value – not just a piece of a puzzle, but something that stands alone as useful, beneficial, and worth the effort. Something that sparks feedback, that learns from its user interaction and that hones the subsequent steps of development.

Importantly, it aligns with our North Star. Every small chunk delivered isn’t merely a piece of the product; it’s a step towards our ultimate goal. It’s something that’s meant to bring us closer, provide learnings, and indeed, occasionally provoke a course correction.

Interestingly, this approach doesn’t just feed the project; it nurtures the team too. Delivering value iteratively allows for celebration, reflection, and most crucially, learning. It validates the direction, reassures the approach and, where necessary, provides the data to pivot gracefully and with purpose.

However, we recognise it’s a hard shift from those traditional project norms. It takes courage to release early and often, to expose your work to the world and invite feedback in real-time. Yet, it’s a hurdle worth jumping.

Why? Because this middle pillar, while potentially heavy with change-management and mindset shift, also bears the weight of ensuring that we’re continuously delivering, learning and improving. It’s robust, it’s resilient, and it’ll support you, us, and the wider agile community in ensuring our ships don’t just sail, but that they sail in a direction that matters.

So, how can we, in our various vessels, build a cycle of delivery that not only propels us forward but ensures that every release is a meaningful step towards our North Star? Together, let’s explore further in our next section, ensuring our sails are not just full, but purposefully directed.

Lake of Reflection

Calm and still, our third pillar, the Lake of Reflection, offers a serene yet pivotal point in our journey through agile workings. Reflection, the act of purposefully pausing to consider, assess, and ponder our actions, is inherently gentle yet its impact ripples through everything we do.

When we embark on projects, caught in the wave of delivery cycles and steadfastly eyeing our North Star, it’s the calm waters of reflection that offer us the grounding we need to ensure continuous, meaningful progress. And this isn’t just an occasional glance inward; it’s a sustained, routine practice of stopping, looking, and listening to our processes, our people, and our projects.

Without these moments to pause and ponder, to mull over our actions, decisions, and directions, our journey could subtly, but significantly, veer off course. Reflection isn’t a break from action, it’s an integral part of it, ensuring that every step taken is not just forward, but forward in a way that’s sustainable, considered, and true to our overall aim.

Reflection isn’t solely about scrutinising our missteps; it’s also about acknowledging and celebrating our successes, understanding how and why they came to be, and considering how they can be replicated or refined. It’s about looking at our North Star and ensuring that it still shines with the same allure and relevance as it did at the outset of our venture.

Anchoring in the calm waters of our Lake of Reflection provides the assurance that while the route to our destination may shift and meander, our commitment to consistent, thoughtful, and informed navigation remains steadfast.

We actively encourage ourselves, and our wider community, to take these moments of calm reflection, to linger in them and respect them, understanding that it’s here, in the gentle, quiet consideration of our actions and outcomes, that the truly meaningful progression towards our goals is nurtured and sustained.

In your ventures, how might you carve out your own tranquil lake amid the hustle of project pressures and delivery demands, ensuring your journey remains purposeful, sustainable, and true?

Let’s delve deeper into this essential practice in our next section, exploring the strategies, structures, and safeguards we can put in place to honour and utilise reflection effectively within our agile approaches.

A Heartfelt Invitation to Explore Together

Here we stand, having journeyed through the realms of Value’s North Star, the steady Cycle of Delivery, and the tranquil Lake of Reflection. These pillars, though seemingly straightforward, represent deep reservoirs of wisdom and strategy that have steadily guided us and can guide you through the multifaceted world of agile working.

In these metaphors, we find more than just theoretical concepts; we find a structured yet flexible approach to navigating the intricate and ever-shifting landscapes of our professional environments. The seemingly simple has the power to become profoundly impactful when applied with understanding, consideration, and genuine intention.

It’s imperative to note that simplicity in concept does not equate to effortlessness in application. The ease of understanding the pillars doesn’t negate the challenges that may arise when embedding them into our daily practices. A heartening reality, isn’t it? That the path to enhanced value, improved delivery, and sustainable improvement asks of us our diligence, our commitment, and our continual reflection.

At Humble Associates, we extend a warm invitation to you to engage deeper, explore further, and journey with us through the intricate pathways these pillars illuminate. Our doors and our hearts are open to sharing, exploring, and discovering alongside you through our upcoming sessions and webinars.

Join us, not because it’s easy, but because the challenging journey towards true agility, towards a more nuanced, responsive, and value-driven way of working, is a journey worth taking. And isn’t it always more enriching, more enlightening, when we explore and uncover, when we stumble and find our footing, together?

Let’s embark on this continuing journey with shared curiosity, mutual support, and a collective desire to delve into the challenges, the discoveries, and the numerous possibilities that agile working brings into our shared spaces.

We’re here, ready to walk alongside you, as we all navigate towards our respective North Stars, cycling through deliverables, and pausing by our own lakes to reflect, recalibrate, and rejoice in the journeys we’re each undertaking.

And so, we ask: Where might your pillars guide you and how can we, as a collective, navigate the complexities and wonders of our professional landscapes together? Let’s discover, hand in hand, where these pillars lead us and how, through unity and shared exploration, we can illuminate pathways previously untraveled.

Until our paths cross again, we bid you forward motion, steady progression, and serene reflection on your journey through agility. May your North Star shine brightly, your cycles be fruitful, and your lake bestow tranquillity and insight in equal measure.

The Solution Canvas: helping you kick-start and align at the same time

Imagine you’re about to start a brand new initiative, you’ve never really done anything like it before but it requires support from others to make it happen. You’re not quite sure where to start and perhaps you don’t know how to get everyone collaborating together – so what do you do?

Well, recently we were asked to support our client KraftHeinz with quite a similar scenario and so we thought we’d share a bit about how we helped them and what we learnt doing it! 

To start with, a bit of context. We were asked to help facilitate a collaborative experience with the aim of achieving the following goals:

  1. To align on the why behind starting this new initiative 
  2. To set a North Star and begin forming an aligned vision for the future

With goals agreed we got to work designing a workshop to help them achieve their goals. We’ll use the remainder of this blogpost to focus on one particular tool we used.

Why a canvas?

When you’re attempting to align a diverse group of people over something that is entirely new, you’ll need an approach or a technique that will be effective. 

Tools like canvases are great at being able to do this. When facilitated correctly, you will be forced to rapidly go from silent brainstorming to synthesising and agreeing on key themes.

Yes there are many Canvases that exist, such as the Business Model Canvas or Jeff Patton’s Opportunity Canvas. Both are great and have their uses, but if you’re looking for something easy to use, primarily to brainstorm and align small groups of people then it can get complex.

The Solution Canvas is designed to be good enough for brainstorming and alignment purposes rather than for creating a new product or for designing a new service.

Getting the most out of a canvas

One of the reasons we chose to use this Canvas for our client’s challenge was due to the nature of the initiative they were keen to align on. An initiative that nobody had ever completed before with zero experience. This meant the diverse group of individuals taking part in the workshop were bringing with them plenty of assumptions, questions and perhaps opinions

So here are 3 tips you can follow to get the most of this canvas…

1. Assumptions are ok

Given that the goal of using a canvas is to align diverse perspectives, it is natural for many of these perspectives to be assumptions and opinions. That’s exactly what you want to capture using a canvas. By surfacing what you think you know, the group can then make decisions on how to prove whether it is true or not. 

In summary, encourage the recording of all assumptions and opinions – it is an important starting point for creating alignment.

2. Work in small groups

For 1. to be possible, it’s imperative that a grouping of people will be needed in order to capture individual perspectives. Once these are captured these groups can then review, discuss and then make decisions on how to synthesise and make sense of what they now know.

Collaborative exploration is a key tool to creating alignment when there are a high degree of unknowns. It works even better if you can gather a diverse group of individuals to help with the brainstorming process. 

3. Don’t spend too long

In our experience a canvas like this shouldn’t take longer than 1 hour to complete. Why is that? Well it links back to point 1 above.

Remember that what you capture on the canvas may not all be true or clearly known, therefore spending more time than necessary documenting ideas and thoughts will not prove to be beneficial. The key is to capture the most important thoughts so that you  can decide what you want to do next.

By the way, sticky notes are a great way to keep thoughts concise and to the point 😉

A walkthrough

You’ll notice there are six sections on the canvas. Imagine that the canvas is split into two halves. Sections 1-3 on the left hand side with sections 4-6 on the right hand side.

Sections 1-3 are focused on the current situation and challenges being faced. Section 1 starts with the people or beneficiaries who will benefit from any solution you’re considering and group them accordingly.

Section 2 then asks you also need to think about the problems, pain points and challenges those particular beneficiaries face day to day. Think about why they may need a solution to their problems.

Section 3 then asks you to think about the current landscape. What solutions already exist and how do your competitors (if any) solve these pain points today.

Section 4 is focused on the support you require to bring a solution to life. While Section 5 is all about quantifying success, i.e. how will you measure it? What qualitative and quantitative measures would inform you that your proposed solution is providing a benefit.

Finally Section 6 allows you to align on what a potential solution could look like. Consider the individual elements that would make up the solution. And importantly, focus on the pain points in Section 2 so that you are directly addressing these in your solution ideas.

Download the canvas

The Leadership Circle: A Compass for your Agile Journey 🔄

Embracing Agility: Why Traditional Management Falls Short

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, there’s no skirting around it: old school management techniques simply aren’t compatible with agile practices. We hear many claim that adopting agile methods is like stepping into a world of endless ease and effortless achievements. But let’s set the record straight – the notable benefits of agility don’t sprout from some mythical “performance tree.” They stem from the relentless dedication and effort of every team member.

Certainly, agility smoothens certain processes, removing unnecessary obstacles. But this doesn’t mean the work lessens; in fact, it’s quite the contrary. This is especially true for leaders. In an agile environment, exemplary leadership isn’t just desired—it’s essential. Facing novel challenges is a given, and these very challenges will test, and indeed stretch, your leadership capabilities.

Traits like reflection, transparency, trust, and vulnerability might not have been the hallmarks of yesterday’s leadership. Yet, today, they are the core principles that underpin agility. It’s not enough for leaders to merely adopt a “we’ll figure it out” attitude. There’s a real risk: lag behind, and you might find your organisation surging ahead without you, or worse, find yourself impeding its progress.

However, all isn’t lost. Thankfully, pathways exist to hasten leadership growth, ensuring leaders can rise to the challenges presented by agility. We champion this evolution, recognising its significance in today’s dynamic world.

Unveiling Leadership Potential: Introducing The Leadership Circle Profile™

In our fast-paced business world, where Agile practices are no longer a novelty but a necessity, effective leadership becomes even more crucial. And while the Agile approach emphasises adaptability and collaboration, its success heavily relies on the quality of leadership steering it. This is where The Leadership Circle Profile™ (LCP) proves invaluable.

The LCP, a standout in leadership evaluation tools, doesn’t just identify the strengths and areas for improvement of a leader. By linking competencies to intrinsic thought habits, it dives deeper, shedding light on the very motivations and assumptions behind actions. In an Agile environment, this depth of insight can make all the difference.

Where does Agile fit in? Agile methodologies hinge on constant adaptation, quick responses, and a collaborative ethos. Leaders in this space must be adept in:

  • Creative Competencies: Encompassing result-driven attributes, these are essential for Agile leaders. They ensure a focus on continuous personal and organisational development, fostering excellence within teams, and steering with a clear vision. With Agile’s emphasis on collaboration and growth, these competencies can be the difference between a stagnant team and a thriving one.
  • Reactive Tendencies: In the Agile world, these can be roadblocks. While they might offer short-term gains, in the long run, leadership styles that lean towards self-preservation and aggressive control can hinder the very essence of Agile – collaboration and adaptability.

The LCP’s brilliance lies in its unveiling of a leader’s ‘Operating System’, that interplay of internal beliefs directing outward behaviours. For Agile leaders, this insight is pivotal. Understanding how internal thought processes can either bolster or hinder Agile practices can guide leaders towards more effective strategies, ensuring not just personal growth but the success of the entire Agile framework.

By aligning the insights from the LCP with Agile methodologies, leaders can truly harness the best of both, creating an environment where adaptability thrives and teams are empowered.

Nurturing Agile Leadership: Coaching Over Training

Navigating the intricacies of agile leadership is no straightforward task. It demands more than just an understanding of methodologies or strategies; it calls for an internal transformation. This is where Humble Associates steps in, acting not just as a guide but as a partner in this significant leadership transition. We’re firm believers that success in agile leadership doesn’t come merely from training sessions; it is fostered through ongoing coaching.

The Humble Associates Approach:

Our coaching philosophy is anchored in a deep understanding of the International Coaching Federation (ICF) competencies. Being ICF-accredited coaches, we are empowered with a versatile toolkit to guide leaders, ensuring they tap into their fullest potential.

Embracing Agile Leadership and Enabling Cultural Evolution:

The shift towards agile leadership offers immense rewards in productivity, innovation, and overall organisational health. But it’s crucial to understand that this isn’t just about changing work habits. It’s about evolving the very culture of an organisation. As the saying goes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This cultural metamorphosis cannot be taught; it must be coached. Coaching, especially tailored for organisational leaders, is the key to genuinely embedding this cultural transformation.

Utilising The Leadership Circle:

Leadership can often feel like a solitary endeavour. Our goal is to change that narrative by fostering a community of agile leaders, all united in their commitment to effecting cultural change. This is where the Leadership Circle Model proves pivotal. Acting as our guide, this model enlightens us on the intricacies of leadership development. By seamlessly merging patterns of action with underlying thought processes, it provides leaders with invaluable insights into their leadership styles, biases, and ways to adapt to an agile work culture.

Empathy Lies at Our Core:

The Leadership Circle Model doesn’t just offer direction; it serves as an enabler, assisting leaders to traverse the challenges of change. And as leaders inch closer to achieving organisational agility, our approach remains rooted in empathy and understanding. We recognise that embracing agility is a choice, one that needs to be made with confidence and conviction. With our guidance, leaders can make this choice, appreciating the journey as much as the eventual outcome.

Witnessing the Transformative Power of Agile Leadership:

Upon fully integrating agile leadership, the results are palpable. The organisational landscape flourishes, echoing increased productivity, creativity, and overall well-being. Yet, our partnership doesn’t conclude here. With the tools and knowledge garnered, leaders are now equipped to face future challenges and elevate their teams to unparalleled success.

For those keen on diving deeper into our Agile Leadership Journey programme and gaining a comprehensive understanding, we invite you to explore more on our website.

Reflecting on the Agile Leadership Tapestry

Navigating through our insights and conversations, it’s clear that certain threads weave a vivid picture of modern leadership:

  • Agile at the Heart: The dynamic nature of today’s world demands a fresh approach. Agile isn’t just a method; it’s a mindset, pulsating with adaptability and innovation.
  • Unravelling the Leadership Circle Profile™: Think of LCP as your trusty compass. It’s not about pointing north; it’s about revealing the deeper motivations that steer our leadership journey.
  • Coaching, Not Just Training: We can’t stress this enough. It’s coaching that truly evolves a leader, setting the stage for genuine transformation within their teams and organisations.

As we wrap up, imagine a horizon glowing with potential, a future ripe with promise. That’s the world of agile leadership. And hey, we’re here with you every step of the way, ready to guide, support, and journey together.

Fancy diving deeper into this? For those keen to explore more, our Agile Leadership Journey programme on the website is a great place to start. Let’s journey together.

Transformative Power of The Leadership Coaching Journey

Scaling the summit of agile leadership isn’t a walk in the park. It’s a challenging trek, requiring preparation, resilience, and a trusted guide who understands the terrain. At Humble Associates, we are your trail guides on this transformative journey, using our expertise to help you navigate the path of leadership development and organisational agility. 🏔️

Base Camp: The Humble Approach 🏕️

At Humble Associates, our approach to coaching is like preparing for a major expedition. We provide a base camp — a safe and supportive environment where leaders can gather their resources, understand the journey ahead, and align on the mission. The first steps on this journey involve understanding the International Coaching Federation (ICF) competencies, which form the bedrock of our coaching philosophy. As ICF-accredited coaches, we are equipped with a robust set of tools and techniques to guide leaders on their trek towards the peak of their potential.

The Trail Ahead: Agile Leadership and Cultural Change 🧗

The journey towards agile leadership is a steep climb, but one that promises vast vistas of productivity, creativity, and organisational well-being at the summit. However, reaching these heights requires more than a shift in working practices — it demands a cultural transformation.

Leadership, in essence, shapes the culture of an organisation. Hence, the adage: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You can’t teach culture change; you have to coach it. We believe that coaching is the most effective way to effect this change, particularly for those at the helm of organisations — the leaders. Whether at the middle, senior, or top levels, leaders can greatly benefit from coaching, amplifying their impact and effectiveness.

The Leadership Circle: A Compass for the Journey 🔄

Like any significant trek, the journey to agile leadership is best undertaken as a team. Leadership can be an isolating activity, and our aim is to create a community of leaders, a team that is invested, excited, and committed to the cultural shift towards agility.

This is where the Leadership Circle Model comes into play. This model is our compass, guiding us as we navigate the complex terrain of leadership development. It connects patterns of action with the underlying habits of thought, revealing the relationship between behaviour and the internal assumptions that drive it. It’s a tool that aids leaders in reflecting on their leadership style, understanding personal biases, and recognising how they can mould their approach to fit within the agile culture of work. It’s a tool that helps reveal the treasure trove of information that often remains buried, bringing the key issues to the surface instantly.

Scaling the Peak: Our Empathetic, Invitational Approach 🌄

The Leadership Circle Model is not only a compass; it’s also a climbing aid, assisting leaders in scaling the steep slopes of change. It provides the framework for understanding and shifting leadership patterns, thereby enabling leaders to more effectively meet their complex and critical challenges.

Finally, the last leg of our trek involves reaching the summit — achieving organisational agility. Our approach here is based on empathy and invitation. We understand that agility is a choice each leader and organisation must make. With the Leadership Circle Model as our guide, we can help leaders make this choice confidently, understanding that the journey is as important as the destination.

The View from the Summit: The Impact of Agile Leadership 🌅

At the summit, leaders experience the transformative power of agile leadership. The view from the top is breathtaking, showcasing the vast vistas of productivity, creativity, and organisational well-being. But the journey doesn’t end here. The climb equips leaders with the tools and experiences to navigate future challenges and to lead their teams to new heights.

8 conditions for effortless collaboration

Innovation rarely happens alone. It’s when minds come together that real change, growth and ideas flourish.

Finding willing collaborators is just the start. But without the right conditions, going head first into a collaboration is not guaranteed to succeed. In fact it could even end up in a negative position.

Through our client work at Humble Associates, we’ve learnt that 3 basic conditions are a must have for any effective collaboration (and subsequent innovation) to take place.


Collaborations only truly work if each person involved is both providing and receiving value​. It doesn’t have to be monetary or transactional value, just make sure there’s a balanced exchange of some description.


Collaborations require vulnerability. With this, trust is built and a safe, open space is invited to appear.

Don’t kid yourself that it will always be rosy. If you fall into the fallacy of self-censoring the relationships risk becoming based on a distorted image of reality​.

As for giving and receiving feedback – without trust, forget it!

Authentic human connection

Authentic connection is like charisma, quite hard to define but you know it when it’s there.​ Without it, a collaboration can quite quickly becomes stale even if there’s value and trust.​ It’s not that people have to be besties to collaborate, sometimes healthy competition can be great grounds for collaboration.

Here’s a quick story about collaboration…

About 6 months ago TK and I met Carolyn and Fiona, co-founders of the Hustle House. At first we were quite excited to vent and share stories with other small business owners with similar challenges to us. Our chats were fun and had lots of value. But then we started thinking about collaborating, possibly even co-hosting an event.

Now, both of our companies actually operate in the same market so there was a risk we could end up stepping on each other’s toes when it comes to existing and potential new customers. Trust and vulnerability were necessary to have a frank conversation about how to avoid muscling in on each other’s clients. We had to figure out if there was mutual value. We knew we already had the authentic connection, but that in itself wasn’t enough. Luckily we decided to offer trust and find a way forward.

Last week we ran an event together – Innovation through collaboration, demonstrating first hand exactly what the event was about. Ours wasn’t the only great collaboration that came from the event. We helped the attendees create the top 3 conditions before facilitating them towards a shared outcome of collaborating and innovating around even more conditions for collaboration. Here’s what they came up with:


I love this one and completely support the idea that being willing to actively give would absolutely contribute to a great collaboration.

Common purpose / Shared values

Do you all want the same thing? Are you aligned on the ‘why? Are your intentions joined up?

Mutual respect

This suggests a level of extra depth to the relationship and something that would enable even more trust and generosity.


The ability to put yourself in one another’s shoes and to accept different points of view is a key that can unlock innovation.

Ready to take action

This final condition is a great way to end this list. Agreeing that action is wanted and considering the speed at which the collaborators want to move and progress is absolutely vital.

In knowledge work the ability to work well with others towards a common goal is paramount. If you run your own business, clients need to know they’re working with you in a collaborative partnership.

The next time you seek a collaborator, or you’re invited to collaborate, consider these 8 conditions and when they exist, enjoy this becoming effortless!

Which is the most important to you? What would you add to the list?

8 ingenious ways to start your dream collaboration…

Do you have people in your network who inspire you, have engaging opinions, and talk about things you’re interested in? Maybe you’d love to team up on a project, but are struggling to find reasons to invite them to collaborate?

At Humble Associates we love taking the pain out of problems and making change less challenging. So, this post includes 8 ingenious ways to start a collaboration conversation (you’re welcome 👍🏼)

Knowing if someone is willing to collaborate can be tricky to figure out. This could mean your ideas get buried or projects don’t start. Relationships that could blossom, don’t get seeded. Not on our watch! Pick your favourite from the list below to strike up conversation, and send it to them . Then let us know what happens next 😉

  1. Do you agree that people are stronger together? If we were to collaborate on <topic> I believe we could create something really powerful.
  2. I see that you’re interested in finding out more about <topic>. I’d love to help you connect the dots and maybe even create something together in this space.
  3. I’m intrigued by what you’re doing with <topic>. I’d love to be part of it – are you open to a conversation to see if there’s a way I can add value?
  4. I love how you speak about <topic>. It’s something I’m also passionate about and have recently done <add something related>. Are you up for a chat to share ideas?
  5. I’d love to discuss your views on <topic>? I have a slightly different opinion that might add an interesting dimension to the conversation…
  6. I have an idea about <topic> that I would really value your input on.
  7. During <event /conversation> your enthusiasm and passion for <topic> was impressive! For that reason ….
  8. I wonder if our combined skills would compliment each other to <idea>. How about an exploratory chat?

Keep in mind that these conversation openers are just that… its then up to you to decide what conditions you’ll need to make the relationship flourish (more on that in a future post 😉😉).

These are specifically focussed on starting to connect with potential collaborators on a human level. So have some fun with them, you never know what could happen!

Good luck -and don’t forget to let us know how it goes!

The number 1 threat to your business growth in 2021 (and it’s not what you expect!)

The single most consistent theme we were asked to help clients with last year? – Being able to communicate and work effectively together.

In other words, navigating the different working styles of colleagues and the clashes that occur when these are misaligned. Underestimate the significance and impact of this at your peril!

Start-ups, scale-ups, decades old established businesses, global retail brands you name it – they suffer from it.

Your ability to communicate with others will account for fully 85% of your success in your business and in your life. – Brian Tracy – Best selling author

Often when starting a business or forming a new team we seek out people we know to join us. Our underlying assumption is that because these are people we know, have maybe worked with before, or they do similar stuff to us that when we come together to collaborate on something new and exciting the drive, motivation, speed, quality will match ours.

Alternatively, when joining a new organisation or team of unfamiliar faces we make assumptions that we will quickly fit in with our like minded new colleagues. However, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out how our new peers work. Most likely this will be different to our own.

Whilst there’s a tonne of evidence that diversity of thought is a positive thing, when colleagues act and communicate in a way at odds with what you hope for it’s difficult, awkward and slow to navigate through. Not being able to find common ground has a negative effect, reducing motivation and employee engagement.

Common symptoms we’ve observed include:

  • Slow decision making – difference of opinion or a lack of understanding (and not articulating it, or accept other ideas without judgement) causes unnecessary delays
  • Conflicting priorities / difference in urgency – some are keen to get this thing done immediately, others think it should wait
  • Quality vs speed – taking time to improve the quality of work vs. a focus on getting something out the door to test and get early feedback

When considering the different working styles that exist in your team or organisation, there are loads of different models designed to help us understand ourselves and each other by putting us in boxes and giving us labels. But in reality humans act based on a combination of our established patterns of behaviours, the situation at hand and our relationship with the other person.

All models are wrong, but some are useful. George Box – British statistician 1919 – 2013

Given it’s such a common and widespread challenge, here’s our 3 top tips:

Tip 1 – Gain self awareness of your own working style and share what you learn. Doing some honest personal reflection, accepting what you find and then being vulnerable and sharing this – that’s leadership. The personal user manual is our go-to tool to help you understand and articulate this.

How does it help? – Increasing empathy and compassion for one another at a neurological level. Encouraging more open conversations. Showing a willingness to be pro-active and move things towards something better.

How to do it? – Find (or create) a template you like. Fill it in. Share it with your team (in a forum where you can talk through it). Ask “Who’s gonna share theirs next?”. We originally discovered this here.

Tip 2 – Seek alignment on the bigger picture. Taking a step back from the day to day grind to create a shared understanding of why you’ve come together, how you want to work and what you’ll do to enable that has a huge impact, and becomes a catalyst for positive change. A simple team charter is something we’ve used with 5 people scrum teams all the way to 18 people senior leadership teams.

How does it help? When there’s a clash of communication styles, personality types or general misalignment this allows you to hit the pause button. To stop focussing on individual differences. To reflect on why you’re all there in the first place. This tool’s super power is the alignment it creates as a result of an open conversation about what’s collectively wanted and needed. It changes the conversation from “I don’t like what you said or how you said it” to “Does this help us achieve our purpose” or “Is this conversation in line with our values?”

How to do it? Find (or create) a template you like. Organise a team workshop to co-populate this. Publish it somewhere where everyone can see it. Review it every so often (especially when someone new joins the team).

Tip 3 – Discover how you can support each other to grow and improve, collectively and individually. Shifting the attention towards continuous improvement and growth quickly changes the dynamic of relationships. To learn about others existing skills and what new ones they seek is easily done through the Market place of skills format.

How does it help? It moves people away from what they disagree on, towards what they can learn from each other and how they can support their collective development.

How to do it? There’s a very clear explanation in this video by our buddy Carsten Lutzen.

These 3 tips are not only powerful, but easy to implement with very little pre-work. If you find yourself facing a challenge in communicating and working effectively with others, or struggling to navigating the different working styles of colleagues and the clashes that occur through misalignment, then start with tip 1- ASAP!

If you’ve already tried these type of activities and problems still persist, of if you want to fast track this for your company then please get in touch with us – info@humble.associates.

Some of our favourite things are helping leaders and teams to find alignment through:

Individual coaching – Open to anyone looking to explore their growth and development. No matter where you are in your career, and whether or not you’re in a leadership role, we’re here to help.

Team coaching – Whether it’s a shiny new team, or one that has lost its way a little, you can look to us to get their mojo back.

Group Leadership coaching – Our leadership coaching is especially designed for groups of leaders looking to increase alignment.

The Retro with Humility

Having the courage to acknowledge flaws, admit mistakes and resolve differences are key to a strong working relationship.

This is especially true when you are starting a new business, working as a team, or going through tough times.

So after eating plenty of humble pie over the last year we at Humble Associates decided to make a retrospective on it…

🥧🥧🥧Feel free to download it, and let us know how you get on with it! 🥧🥧🥧

#Facilitation #Teams#Humility #Leadership

Saying NO! A humble guide.

One of the most prevalent challenges that’s come up this year from my 1-1 coaching clients relates to time management, and the stress and overwhelm associated with a lack of attention to it.

Through asking lots of questions to help them navigate through this, some common themes bubbled up. I combined these with some research on the good old interweb and found that it typically relates to not saying no enough.

To stop taking on more that you have capacity for, and enable you to manage your time better, you need to put your big girl pants on. I’ve come up with a simple model to help. Feel free to use it if you find yourself in a pickle about this.

Step 1 – Remember

What’s everything you have in your current backlog and workload?

  • How much stuff has already been started (work in progress)?
  • What projects are coming to an end?
  • Do any colleagues have planned leave coming up – you may need to take on more for a short period?
  • Do you have any planned leave?
  • What personal commitments do you currently have?
  • Where are you in the release cycle at work (for IT folk)?

It’s up to you to decide what happens next.

You have the power 🦸🏿‍♀️. We sometimes forget who’s really in charge of our destiny – us.

Step 2 – Qualify

Before jumping to ‘Yes’, or even to ‘No’, slow down and get more info. Taking a brief pause to understand what is actually being asked and why can only help inform your decision.

  • What are they asking for?
  • When does it actually need to be done?
  • What’s the impact / outcome / the ‘Why?’

Step 3 – Decide

OK – so you’ve considered what you already have going on / coming up soon, and taken time to fully understand the ask it’s crunch time. But there are nuances to how you could respond.

  • Not all but some – Maybe you have some capacity that allows you take on a small element of the request?
  • Not now but later – Will you have more capacity in a couple of weeks from now? In a month?
  • No, but – you know someone else who is better placed to help, or who you know has capacity to help
  • Not unless – the workload you already have can be re-organised. A good question here is “Is there anything you’d like me to stop doing in order to start this?

Bonus option

  • Pre-emptive no – Where you are open and let everyone know well in advance that you’re fully loaded and have no capacity or option to take on anything more (great before meetings where you often end up with actions)

If this topic is of particular interest to you or your organisation then give me a shout for a chat, or to find out more about my 1 hour workshop on this topic 😃.

In the mean time here’s a handy infographic to download it and keep. Enjoy!

Establishing a trusting relationship

In times of unprecedented uncertainty and disruption, leading with humility and authenticity is needed more than ever.

But how can we do this when we may not have the right support for ourselves?

Leaders that create trusting and safe environments know that investing the time to build strong relationships makes them more effective overall. It can be tough at the top, but having deeper relationships with individuals in your team can go a long way when challenges arise.

A simple and effective way to cultivate trust in your relationships is to take time to form a Listening Partnership. Based on Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment®, the Listening Partnership is a brief but sublime routine to feel heard, give the gift of your attention, and deepen your understanding of each other to bring resilience to your relationship.

Agreeing the Listening Partnership

With a partner, agree to spend 10 minutes together each day (5 minutes each) to listen to each other. (The start of the day is best as it is a great way to help you clear out unwanted thoughts or blockers).

Find somewhere quiet where you both won’t be disturbed or overheard. It is preferable to be able to look at each other (so sit opposite or turn your cameras on). Then, when you are ready, use the following instructions as a guide to listen to each other.

Having a Listening Partnership

As the listener, explain the following:

“I will give you my full and undivided attention.”

“I will not interrupt you until you say you are ‘Done‘.”

“I am here just to listen, not to comment or pass judgement”

“Take your time to share what comes up, just enjoy this time to be heard”

“I will only ask 2 simple questions during this time; I will not be commenting on what you say. This time is just for you”

“I will start the clock when I ask the first question and we will stop when we get to 5 minutes”

Repeat: “To confirm, I will not say anything until you say ‘Done’.”

Now you are ready to ask the first question…

“What are your thoughts and what would you like to think about?”

When they say “I’m Done“, then you can ask the next question as many times as you need to during the 5 minutes.

“What more do you think, or feel, or want to say?”

Bringing it to your leadership team

Introducing this as an experiment to your team is a simple way to get started.

Agree on partners (or Triads if you have an odd number), and rotate your partnerships each month. This will allow you to gradually get to know all your team members, strengthen your listening muscles, and really get to appreciate those around you.

Just 10 minutes, 2-3 times a week to get started can have a significant impact on the group.

Having used this technique over a period of months with different people, I have formed some amazing relationships. You really get to learn so much about them, as you build up mutual gratitude and trust.

We would love to hear from you if you would like to know more about ‘Time to Think’ or ‘Listening Partnerships’ please get in touch.