The Agile Monk

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The Agile Monk

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First, this is inspired by an attendee of one of my Coaching Circles.

His name was Amaranatho Maurice Robey and he has an introductory video here –

He inspired me to look at Buddism a bit and I found this wonderful article about Buddhist Monk Habits:

I’d like to relate them to an agile mindset, both individually, but importantly, at a Leadership Level. I might even include them in my CAL class in some way…

  1. Outer de-cluttering

  2. Inner de-cluttering

  3. Meditating a LOT

  4. Following the Wise

  5. Listen mindfully and without judgment

  6. Change is the only law of the universe

  7. Living the moment

  8. Focus on one thing

  9. Give it everything you’ve got

  10. Let go of what you can’t control

Here are my agile learnings and reactions from this list: 

Clutter inevitably gets in our way. That would be clutter “on the outside” like a desk where you can’t find anything. Or a to-do list that is a dumping ground for requests. I wonder if complexity is part of the clutter. Or better stated, our fondness for complexity and to look for it rather than simplicity?

The other side of clutter is the inside stuff. For example, what baggage are we bringing to the table? Or what experience is cluttering our current engagement with a new client? And do we have focused goals or a wide-ranging set of aspirations that conflict with one another?

I think clutter even undermines our ability to be fully present in our everyday leadership situations.

I believe few of us spend sufficient time with (and within) ourselves. Getting to know ourselves. Discovering our strengths, fears, doubts, skills, and basic goals & aspirations. Then as a result of this, reaching out for mentoring and coaching from others.

I remember Mary Thorn asking me in 2012 to be her mentor. It was a simple request that changed my life and hers. I got the opportunity to pass along many of my learnings and she accelerated into a top-tier agile coach, consultant, and speaker. Not because of me, but because she simply asked.

A big part of this is self-awareness (so reflect) and coachability (being humble, being coachable, listening, reflecting).

Still one of my biggest challenges is staying quiet and listening.

This has several aspects:

  • Staying in the moment and listening (embracing, observing, sensing) the situation that I’m in.

  • Asking solid open-ended questions that are situationally relevant and then listening. With all aspects of my being.

  • Listening to myself. Becoming more self-aware about how I am reacting to (triggers, bring baggage, bias) to each situation.

This is one of the reasons I like pair-coaching so much. For me, it allows me to more easily observe and listen.

It’s funny really. But not surprising.

One of my greatest discoveries in collaborating with my fellow agile coaches is that few of us actually practice what we (preach, teach, espouse).

For example, I know many CST’s who teach far too many classes – taking on way too much WIP to effectively keep learning themselves. And many CEC’s who are highly multi-tasking between engagements and with other business commitments. Rarely do you see them focusing on one (or simply a few things) and getting them done.

We should all reexamine our WIP limits when it comes to everything we’re doing. And balance the work against personal care and personal development.

As coaches we often explore emergence with our clients. And their need to handle (tolerate, accept) ambiguity.

This is important for all of us. Change is constant. Particularly in technical environments. Yet, we try and plan it and control it. Instead, we should learn to be more comfortable with strapping ourselves into the change seat and enjoying the ride.

Experience it. Learn from it. And learn to adapt to our own and our client’s advantage. And yes, it’s uncomfortable. But what other choice do we have?

I wrote a blog post a while back that explored an agile coach who gave up in a coaching situation. They got tired and frustrated and abdicated their responsibility as a coach.

I believe we must have a stance or intent where we (Bring it) each and every day. We need to bring energy, focus, passion, our presence, empathy, and our whole self to our coaching.

We don’t have to be the most skilled or the most experienced of coaches. But we can’t let it be said that we didn’t show up or give our best effort.

Otherwise, we need to find a new profession 😉

As I sat down and contemplated these principles, I saw so many wonderful correlations to an agile mindset, personal performance, and leadership.

I think one that I didn’t list above is humility or following the wise. A perfect example of this is the famous Bruce Lee scene where he overflows a cup. Making the point that in order to learn, we need to empty ourselves of what we think are the rights answers or approaches, so that we can fill ourselves with new experiences and learning.

So, I’d add that Following the Wise is connected to Emptying your Cup. Otherwise, you won’t have room for learning new things.

Which all relates back to our humility and ego-less ness.

Wax-on, Wax-off.

Stay agile my friends,


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