How I found my purpose as an agilist (and how you can find yours)
"From where do you source the energy to get out of bed every day and go to work?"
In the spirit of opening my heart first and showing some vulnerability, let me share with you how I recently raised my own awareness of my personal WHY.
This week I spent some time in the agile coaching community that I host; we were co-designing an open agile coaching course. As I started the workshop I offered to share my thoughts on why I am pursuing a community initiative. I explained why I would bother to host a community, I explained why I would work after hours on a passion project to build an open and free agile coaching course and I shared why I would spend my spare time giving to others in the global community. I had not planned to share this; it just came out. What emerged as I spoke was a revelation of where the energy for my work comes from; this surprised me somewhat. Here's what I said...
My work is fuelled by a passion to raise the consciousness of everyone I connect with. I do this through education, coaching and mentoring of agile practitioners. Through this work I aim to:
raise their self-awareness,
help them execute with kindness
build empathy and compassion into how they work
Once I got comfortable with this as my driver it made it MUCH easier for me to make decisions about what I wanted to spend my discretional developmental effort on. This blog post aims to encourage you to consider finding your why that sits behind your work. To kick off this topic I want to share a coaching story. As a coach I've helped many clients uncover their why; here's one such story.
Helping another find their why
I was coaching a client recently and she was considering transitioning out of a very senior corporate role; this client was talking to me about a possible move into not-for-profit work as an advocate for women in her profession. As with many coaching conversations I spent some time building our relationship over a number of sessions. After us having done eight sessions together I invited her to undertake a deeper discovery of her purpose utilising an extended two-hour advanced coaching technique. We started the session on the usual topics of who we need to talk to, what were the blockers to her transition into a new career direction etc. But then as we went deeper into the reasons behind why she worked it became apparent that she lacked awareness of where her personal drive came from. She did not have visibility of, or intimacy with, where exactly the energy came from that had propelled her into an executive role in the first place. I won’t go into the details of what came from this session but one phrase summed up what was at the core of her career crisis; this statement came out in conversation towards the end of the two-hours
“What’s the point anyway?”
And there it was for us both to see; we had been talking for months and in that one sentence she summed up her challenge; what’s her purpose? or "What is the point of work?" She had to rediscover her purpose but she first had to acknowledge that she did not know her energy and motivation came from.
So what has this got to do with you? Well as practitioners in agile, I think more than the average professional, we should be connected and intimate with our purpose. If agile is first and foremost a values-driven world view then we, as agile practitioners, should be self-aware about our personal WHY. Are our values aligned with the agile world view; are we BEing agile or just DOing it.
Uncovering or discovering purpose is not a single event of activity; it is usually revealed over time with persistent effort with the help of others. So in the remainder of this post I'd like to give you a few tips to provoke you a little; it would take another post to fully explore this topic, so below are just some starters.
Some tips & ideas on finding your WHY
Its my belief that my purpose is aligned with being able to deliver awesome agile coaching services (hence my willingness and passion to write this post). I truly believe a self-aware, kind and compassionate person is a great agile coach. To me there is something universal and immutably true about how empathy and compassion are foundational in the delivery of agile coaching as a service. Well that's my truth anyway; you'll have yours...
So the question I put to you
What is your purpose and motivation as an agile professional?
Of course to answer this requires introspection, consideration and putting aside the time and energy to formulate your answer; which in the current environment is VERY difficult. We’re all busy zooming, calendars booked out, meetings to attend, deliverables to deliver etc. But I think taking the time to do this work is even more important as we navigate remote working conditions and re-discover what work means for us in a COVID world.
Here’s a few tips and ideas to help you start your discovery process:
find a mentor/coach and conduct a coaching session on the topic; you could even start with the question "why do I bother getting out of bed everyday?". Or this question "If you take money out of the conversation what are my motivators professionally?"
sit down and use a practice or technique to dig into your purpose at work. 5 whys or a mind map might be a good place to start.
get some fellow agilists together and run a Meetup on the topic; utilise the collective wisdom of your peer community
ask your closest friends, partner or family around for a meal and ask for ideas and feedback re what they've witnessed watching you progress through your career
conduct a career retro on yourself looking for the highs and lows; then list what happening in the highs and what was missing during the lows. Look for themes around purpose and energy.
I firmly believe that if we can connect to and stay aware of our personal/professional purpose then we reduce the risk of mis-aligned career choices and drifting away from the work that enriches and rewards us and keeps our soul nourished.
I get sad when I hear people say that they treat work as a means to an end and obtain all their purpose from their personal life; this makes me sad because it is such a lost opportunity. I recognise that seeking and finding purpose in the workplace takes some bravery; getting out of your comfort zone and having the grit to persist. But I truly believe the effort is worth the reward; that is, alignment of personal and professional purpose.
I hope this helps you in your journey; if you want to explore agile coaching (even if you're not an agile coach) join in the community I host at http://responsiveagile.coach. You can also reach out to me if you'd like to talk personally or hire me for a job; here's my personal site http://niallmcshane.com. Lastly you can get involved in the open agile coaching initiative I'm co-designing http://openagilecoaching.org