Working with Team Toxins

Resolving Conflict by Working with Team Toxins

We know from Team Toxins and Team Conflict, that toxins are normal. So we can’t just “get rid of them.” In fact, pretending there are never toxins in a team could be viewed as a form of stonewalling. There are a number of ways to resolve conflict by working with team toxins. These not “iron-clad plans” or best practices, they are approaches to resolving conflict that ideally start before major conflict has emerged.

The four team toxins are blaming, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Below I list a number of ways to work with team toxins. These are ideas that make or break our teams and relationships. I believe they make the difference between being engaged and checking-out. Many of these ideas are concepts that should be explored (more…)

What is valuable about the team toxins?

Team Toxins and Team Conflict

Team toxins have the ability to wreak havoc on our teams and organizations if left unchecked. Team toxins can lead to team conflict if people are not aware of and able to deal with toxins. Understanding team toxins is one preemptive way to deal with team conflict.

The four team toxins are:

Team toxins can wreck havoc on unprepared teams!

Team toxins can wreck havoc on unprepared teams!

  • Blaming (or criticism)
  • Defensiveness
  • Stonewalling
  • Contempt


ACI Agile Coach Competency Framework

Learning from ACI’s Agile Coach Competency Framework

Agile Coaching. A seemingly simple term that causes so much confusion. Much of the confusion seems to stem from the reasonable question of  “what does an agile coach do?” The Agile Coaching Institute (ACI) defined an Agile Coach Competency Framework a few years back. I’ve used the framework both internally at organizations and in more public venues (conferences, etc.). I’ll be facilitating a learning session on a variation of it at Humanizing Work in a few weeks. I find it valuable to help people to understand the different perspectives they can approach agile coaching from. In addition to using the framework in Advanced Scrum Master Training or Agile Coach Training, I find it offers leaders insights into how they can shift from a leader-follower to a leader-leader approach to leadership. The ACI Whitepaper by Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd outlines the framework. This article includes my summary of it based on multiple sources — as well as my personal experience with it and ways to learn from it.


There are many views on Agile Coaching!

Thoughts on Agile Coaching

There are many ideas and definitions of agile coaching.  I was talking to with some people this week about agile coaching and figured I’d summarize a bit of the discussion here.

Given that each agile coach is helping unique people, who make up unique teams, who make up unique departments, and organizations — we should expect there to be a large degree of variation as to what an agile coach does. People, teams and organizations are at different points in their agile journey. This necessitates that as an agile coach, you meet people where they are. There are so many variations of clients and situations that attempting to propose a prescription is unwise.

Agile coaches work in service to and with clients, helping them achieve the amazing results they are capable of. (more…)

Large group of people with questions

Don’t Let a Few Thought Leaders Make Us Stupid

What is a thought leader? If you Google ‘thought leader definition’, you get something like: one whose views on a subject are taken to be authoritative and influential. That seems like a good place to start. While this article applies to thought leaders in general, a few of the references I make are about thought leaders in the agile, leadership, and agility domains.

I will consider types of thought leaders, why they make us stupid, and how we can help ourselves as well as thought leaders improve! (more…)

Baseline Agile Retrospective

The Real Baseline Agile Retrospective Format

I always considered this six question format to be the Baseline Agile Retrospective Format.  I say baseline instead of standard because a baseline is something to build on, not an ‘always the way’ standard (I know I’m splitting hairs here).

I believe the six question baseline agile retrospective format is a solid way to teach people how to do an agile retrospective. They can see, relatively clearly, the different parts that should be included. It can be a useful starting point to address additional questions and challenges. (more…)


Bad Standard: Plus-Minus-Delta Agile Retrospectives

Many people dislike the 3 question, plus-minus-delta retrospective. I am one of them. The plus-minus-delta agile retrospective leads to many problems. I say it was never the “standard” in the title, so why are so many people confused? Or…am I the one confused?

While co-coaching recently, the other coach and I had a brief exchange about how the “standard” agile retrospective was not good. I was a little confused, since while I certainly do not always use ‘the standard’ or baseline agile retrospective, there is value to it — at least I thought so? The baseline retrospective I employ is a solid method to teach people how to do an agile retrospective. I asked a few more questions and realized that while we were both using the term “standard retrospective,” we had different definitions of the term. (more…)