Why The Golden Rule Is Out: Becoming An Agile Team Means Giving up Your Favorite W.E.I.R.D. Behaviors

Has your organization suddenly become an army of supposedly ‘agile’ teams?

Are you now meeting with people who don’t speak your discipline’s language and don’t respond to your style of leadership?

Agile teams are all the rage these days, but leading one can be frustrating. Let’s be plain about it: agile teams might sound good on paper, but it often feels like you have to become a Zen master to manage the communication problems. You can often think you’re managing an adult daycare.

Mission Impossible? Not at all. No need to twist yourself into being Zen. You just need a few communication strategy adjustments in your toolkit.

So everyone expects Agile is going to instantly solve the world’s problems. But what does this label really mean in practice?

A “team” in the Agile sense, is a small group of people, assigned to the same project or effort, many on a full-time basis. Often team members are part-time contributors, and/or juggling competing responsibilities.

All team members share accountability, good or bad. Any results ideally are expected to be attributed to the entire team not to individuals.

The team by design should have all of the competencies, whether technical or business, necessary to deliver the needed results.

Sounds good. Yet, this fresh new strategy is easier said than done.

Like the iPhone, “Agile” arrived in what seems a New York minute so we aren’t yet consciously competent in this new world yet.

WHAT you have to do on an Agile team is plainly obvious. But HOW you interact and lead is a new mission for all involved: You can’t lead an Agile team like you would a single discipline team.

And this is the confounding dynamic that is leaving otherwise competent experts hanging in the wind.

Everyone needs a new playbook to communicate in a way that gets all the experts rowing in the same direction.

Leadership in The World of Agile

If you work in technology, no matter what your technical expertise, you’re expected to be able to lead teams.

You may have been good at leading technical or product development or marketing or customer service teams. But now you’re balancing the demands of a multidisciplinary team, all of you speaking a different technical language, maybe even spoken languages. We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto!”

How do you become an effective agile team leader?
So what’s so different in this playbook? It’s the solution that eliminates the daily ugly power struggle and the balancing act as you try to accommodate competing agendas.

It’s how you lift the weight off from management’s expectations that your team produce results fast when you’re all barely treading water.

Rule #1:
Break the habit of the using “The Golden Rule”: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

What? Very counter-intuitive. But has the Golden Rule been working for you so far?

The basic assumption of the Golden Rule is that other people would like to be treated in the way that you would like to be treated.

Read that again. This is the blinding assumption that kills your good intentions.

Rule #2:
Enact “The Platinum Rule”: treat others the way THEY want to be treated. The key is to first, find out what’s important to them.

Here’s what the difference sounds like in action.

The Golden Rule, because of your personal bias and assumptions, often results in what sounds like controlling language to your colleagues, that actually erodes collaboration:

“I’m disappointed that you haven’t completed your report. When I was starting out in my career I didn’t care what it took I just got done what I was told to do. If you want to be successful you have to sacrifice like I did to get ahead.”

You can feel the weight of judgment and criticism just reading this. Your colleague won’t soon forget this. Resentment starts to build from here which is why you want to dump that Golden Rule.

With the Platinum Rule, you use more non-controlling, more activating language with the intent of increasing a person’s motivation so they will be more collaborative with you:
“Ethan, I noticed that you haven’t completed your report which I heard you say you really wanted to get done by today.”

Then wait for Ethan’s response.

Whatever Ethan’s response, you remind him, respectfully, of the goal, “The goal is to have it completed by…”

“I would appreciate it if you could let me know when you might have it done by Ethan. If you need any help from me, please let me know.”

Can you feel the difference in tone? No resentment heading your way.

Do you have experts on your teams? Then the Platinum Rule has a higher probability of success.

What’s in the rest of the Agile Team Playbook?

Showing R-E-S-P-E-C-T by using non-controlling questions and activating language is a powerful motivator for experts to voluntarily initiate positive behavioral changes. And you won’t have to work so hard arm-wrestling them over their competing agendas.

Rule #3: Basically, leading an agile team means giving up W.E.I.R.D. attitudes. That is, Western, Entitled, I-Centered, Reactionary, Dominating… all the elements that make up our assumptions in the Golden Rule.

Rule #4: Leading agile teams requires that you take an MRI – Mutually Respectful Interpretation of the situation. Followed by an MRR – Mutually Respectful Response to the other.

Should you, of course, choose to take on the assignment you may want to go deeper and invite your team to ditch the Golden Rule with you to make your mission achievable.

If you’d like to discuss the rest of the Playbook and how to make the Platinum Rule a game-changer for results in your company, then let’s talk, 778-734-0444 or hello@vivoteam.com.

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