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Advice from the world’s top Agile leadership coach, Part 2

August 23, 2018

Advice from the world’s top Agile leadership coach, Part 2

“Geoff helped me rethink the approach to the problem I was facing and gave me actionable steps I could take to address it.” — Nima Al-Shakarchi, Product Manager at Octopus Labs

Geoff Watts has been working with Octopus Labs as a one-on-one professional coach for nearly two years. His Agile approach has helped the Labs team to dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential. This article is a continuation of our interview from Part 1.

Have you ever had a mentor?

My first boss taught me about establishing rapport and goodwill. This has come in very handy in terms of building relationships. He also put me on the path of aiming for “great” over “good” by introducing me to Stephen Covey’s work, which has become a huge theme in my own work ever since.

Does Agile engage the emotions as well as the intellect?

For me, definitely. To decide to change habits and reflect on one’s progress (both successes and failures) requires courage. The natural introspection and self-reflection involved in Agile delivery can be quite emotive. I recommend Dan Pink’s TED talk for a little more of the science behind the motivational aspects of agile delivery.

Is there a novel or film you think best represents Agile thinking?

The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt is a business book in the form of a novel. It covers the fundamentals of paradigm-breaking lean concepts in manufacturing. This was then used as inspiration for the novel The Phoenix Project which applied it to the software world.

As for movies, the first one that comes to mind is Memento. That film takes a non-linear approach in its storyline. The main character is forced to take an iterative, incremental approach to tackle what may seem an unsolvable problem — all things that I associate with Agile thinking.

Besides your three books (Product Mastery, Scrum Mastery and The Coach’s Casebook), what are some other tools, tips and resources you recommend?

I love Brian Eno’s [Oblique Strategies] cards. They have been an inspiration to me and many other coaches I know in helping our clients challenge and break their paradigms.

One of my favourite techniques is the Psychopath Mindset. If you are struggling to find a way forward; a way of making things better, instead try thinking of how you could make the situation worse. Engage your inner psychopath and try and destroy things — we tend to find this innately easier — and then try flipping what you come up with.

I also have a recommended reading list on my website. And I plan to release a Top Ten book recommendations video on my YouTube channel shortly. So keep your eyes peeled.

How did you become involved with Octopus?

I was contacted by Morgan [Morgan Sowden, CTO of Labs] after he decided to create a more product-focused development approach within Octopus Labs. Esin Over had attended one of my training classes and thought I would be a good fit to train and coach the Labs team. I have to say Octopus is one of my favourite clients (I genuinely don’t say this to everyone I work with!), mainly because it’s great to see the genuine pride of working for their employer.