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Leadership insights

Lessons from Leaders


We asked our leaders one area which they recommend for improvement, to deliver greater value to your client or team.

ADAPTOVATE’s success is predicated on the consistent demonstration of our values, one of which is embodying a growth mindset.

So, we recommend these 11 lessons from leaders

  1. Understand how to turn weaknesses into strengths
  2. Think broader and deeper
  3. Be authentic
  4. Learn from your global cohort
  5. Empower your team, invest in your team
  6. Avoid context switching
  7. Take ownership of your own attitude
  8. Enable others to succeed
  9. Get out of the way
  10. Work on your emotional intelligence
  11. Focus only on the person you are meeting with
Understand how to turn weaknesses into strengths
Nathan Nelson – Partner, Managing Director, USA.  
When I first started my career, the wisdom that I received was to play to my "strengths" and mitigate my "weaknesses". While I still think that's relevant, especially when building a team that complements each other's capabilities, I struggled early on in actually knowing my strengths and weaknesses. Had I not taken a growth mindset early in my career, I believe some of my current strengths would have remained weaknesses for me.
Think broader and deeper
Alan Trivedi – Principal, USA
Help clients create a more impactful view of what good looks like for them in the future. Often objectives are not aspirational enough or measures of success are not well defined or the objectives and measures do not tell a clear story of the future vision.

Helping clients grow often means we must challenge them to think broader and deeper so they can better understand what is needed to transform. Without this framing, clients might waste resources on transformation approaches that don't achieve the desired outcome.
Be Authentic
Steven Walton – Principal, Australia
As a leader, I am focusing on integrity. Not because I lack it now, I focus on it to consistently show those around me, that it is important to me. I define integrity as stretching beyond the initial acts of doing the right thing, to being sincere about it. 
Being authentic! When you are authentically engaging with clients, you get a deeper understanding of their situation, which puts you in a better position to provide great service.
Learn from your global cohort
Ghaleb El Masri – Managing Director, Canada
I recommend leaders gain a broader understanding of their company's practices and types of projects. For example, at ADAPTOVATE there is a big difference in the projects we have in some regions, which are more consulting-oriented and with smaller teams, than the larger agile-at-scale type projects that other areas work in. The pendulum may swing and as a consultant, and as a leader, you want to learn more from the different practice leads, MDs and others in different offices.
Empower your team, invest in your team
Laura Scott – Project Lead, Australia
At ADAPTOVATE one of our five values is Respect the Individual.
We are a fast growing global firm, and because of that we are welcoming many new brilliant team members onboard, some whom we work with on a client even before we really even know each other.

I'm working on empowering my team to bring 'themselves' to a workshop or meeting. Always asking their opinion and actively listening, taking their input onboard and formulating plans together.

If you are a leader in a fast growth start up, Laura suggests you work on refining your skills through feedback from new team members after workshops or meetings and being open to feedback from all levels of the business. Invest in your new team members' training and coaching to help them feel equipped to go and present in workshops, empowering them and not taking control. If something goes wrong, that's ok, you’re there to help.

We all learn better by doing it! I believe working with clients as a true team - sharing the presenting, sharing the meetings, sharing the joy - is where as a leader you will help your team to grow within themselves, therefore continuing to deliver greater value to our clients.
Avoid context switching
David Stewart – Project Lead, Canada  
Look to make sure that you put the same concepts that you advocate teams adopt, into your own work. We tell teams that they need to visualise their work and limit their work in progress; yet, it is extremely rare for me and other leaders to actually employ these valuable and effective practices.

I recommend making sure that you’re working on the most valuable thing for your clients and avoid context switching. That can take the form of booking time in your calendar for performing this work without interruption, turning off anything that would distract you and saying no to things that would take you out of your state of flow.
Take ownership of your own attitude
Brigitte Odgers-Jewell – Principal, Singapore 
Like many, I get my energy from being around people and working in a very collaborative dynamic environment. I'm generally up beat, motivated and positive. However during these challenging times of solitude and Zoom calls, I have noticed another persona emerge. A less positive, less motivated, slightly annoyed persona.

If that sounds familiar as a leader, one area I recommend working on is taking ownership of your own attitude. Give yourself permission to acknowledge and embrace how you feel without judgment or internal criticism and reflect on triggers and areas of improvement.

Building in a habit of reflection can be a challenge but one that can be worth pursuing as it allows you to practise paying attention to your day to day actions and will encourage small incremental improvements. If you become more aware of your own behaviour, you may able to detect others in a similar state and adjust how you might approach a situation or conversation.
Enable others to succeed
Andy Koh – Project Lead, Singapore
Explore how to better enable others to succeed. One person who is good at something can only provide limited value. Becoming better in this area will help to:

(1) Empower the people, resulting in improved motivation and greater collaboration As an example, for a social initiative workshop during the early COVID period, our team, in collaboration with a healthcare institution, could not hold a face-to-face event. Both sides jointly agreed that it was important to still go ahead and redesigned the workshop with all interactive elements to be online. The workshop was successfully conducted and received good feedback because of how empowered everyone felt to take ownership and deliver.

(2) Grow others’ capability, resulting in a potential multiplication of value provided to the client or team.  At a banking client, our team assisted HR to recruit and mentor internal staff into Agile Coach roles. These internal Agile Coaches went on to assist others on their journey from Scrum Masters into Agile Coaches and set the organisation up for sustainable capability growth success.

(3) Free up personal capacity, resulting in the ability to add value in other areas. Following on from the banking client example, once the internal Agile Coaches felt ready to take over coaching responsibilities, they could coach between 10 to 15 teams compared to the 3 to 5 teams I could coach on my own. I could also then work with these coaches to establish a community of practice to spread fluency and awareness across the organisation.
Get out of the way
Kayla Cartwright – Project Lead, USA
As a leader, one area I recommend working on improving is better articulating the facts around opportunities and problems, and then getting out of the way to let others flex their muscle in addressing them.

Some of us historically have a tendency to both be endlessly optimistic and to want to solve all the problems ourselves so as not to burden others. Because of this, recognise the importance of stating the objective information ("just the facts, ma'am") and letting others (teammates, client partners) drive the decision and action where appropriate.

In order to continuously improve at this, ask for feedback from a variety of teammates, and also collaborate with your case team to identify phrasing where you may need to be more objective in order to mitigate risks and add more value to the client and team.
Work on your emotional intelligence
Sławomir Kozioł – Project Lead, Poland
I believe, as leaders, we can improve in all areas through effort and persistence. I don’t believe, however, that we can achieve high performance solely on our own. We need help from other people to bring out the best in us.

A strong recommendation is to improve your emotional intelligence – the ability to recognise and address emotions. I believe there is a direct link between how people feel and how they perform and leaders need to be skilled at identifying, understanding and influencing emotions within themselves and others to inspire high performance.

I strongly believe that any transformation journey is an emotional journey and the success of it hangs on empathy – the cornerstone of emotional intelligence - as much as on anything else.
Focus only on the person you are meeting with
Ray Freeman – Project Lead, USA
As a leader it’s important to get better at managing emotions under stress.
This is more of a journey than a destination, and one that you should expect to continuously improve throughout your career. Along this path, you will refine your skills in time and event management.

This means not letting the 'busy-ness' of the day dictate how you react or how you feel. Being a leader is the most important of the many hats that you will wear each day. It's important that you give your full attention to whomever you meet.

You don't want to be reading emails or prepping for the next meeting in the background. You want to be right there. Face to face. In person, or on-screen.

From my experiences both personally and in business, great things happen when giving your total focus to the person you're interacting with. Everyone gains a deeper understanding of each other's needs and is better able to pick up and respond to nonverbal cues.

You want both your clients and your teams to know that you are listening when they are talking. They are important to you.

Our 11 Lessons from Leaders

  1. Understand how to turn weaknesses in to strengths
  2. Think broader and deeper
  3. Be Authentic
  4. Learn from your global cohort
  5. Empower your team, invest in your team
  6. Avoid context switching
  7. Take ownership of your own attitude
  8. Enable others to succeed
  9. Get out of the way
  10. Work on your emotional intelligence
  11. Focus only on the person you are meeting with

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