About this podcast episode

In today’s bonus podcast, we are excited to have Marsha Acker, CEO of Team Catapult, back again!

We are excited to be part of Marsha’s journey by helping to launch her latest book: Build your Model for leading change. Here at the Agile in Action podcast, we want to offer you the best resources to help you with your career, so this is not a paid advertisement.

Marsha and Bill Raymond discuss essential topics you will learn, including:

✅ What is a model for change?

✅ The four types of models

✅ Examples of models

✅ Ways to build your model

✅ How Marsha and Bill work on their models


(transcripts are auto-generated, so please excuse the brevity)


Bill Raymond: Hi and welcome to the podcast. Today, I’m joined by Marsha Acker, CEO at Team Catapult and author of The Art and Science of Facilitation. And she’s on the podcast today to talk about her new book which is Build Your Model for Leading Change.

Bill Raymond: Hi, Marsha. How are you today?

Marcha Acker: I’m great, Bill. Thanks for having me.

Bill Raymond: Yeah. I’m excited to have you back on the podcast, you were actually on once before talking about facilitation, and now we’re going to purposely be talking about your new book because it launches today.

Marcha Acker: Yes. I’m so excited.

Bill Raymond: I am too, and it’s great to have you on the podcast. Anytime one of our guests publishes a new book, we love to have them on and talk about it.

Bill Raymond: I want to say upfront, this is not a paid advertisement, this is something that we’re doing because we thought it would be great to have you on and talk about it.

Bill Raymond: I really appreciate it. I said this to you once before, you’re extremely generous. Oh, it’s not a problem. I’m excited to help the community and I know that that’s what you’re trying to do as well. So we have the same goal in mind.

Marcha Acker: Yes.

Maybe you could just introduce yourself to folks that may not have heard your first podcast.

Introducing Marsha Acker

Marcha Acker: Well, I am Marsha Acker and I describe myself as a facilitator of meaningful conversations and dialogue. I think that’s probably one of the things that sits at the core of everything that I do, that we do at Team Catapult. I feel like there’s so many opportunities in our lives to connect with people, create relationships that work and have really meaningful conversations.

Marcha Acker: So I do that through facilitation, I work with executives and coaching and with leadership teams. Those are my primary ways of engaging and then of course we run workshops for coaches.

Why did you wrote the book?

Bill Raymond: That’s wonderful. And we’re going to talk about what a model means in just a moment, but I think it would be good if maybe you just shared with us why you wrote the book in the first place.

Marcha Acker: You know, I’ve had a long career in this whole world of change and I feel like I could draw you a timeline of all my relationships of how I’ve looked at change from my early days of being trained in software engineering and wanting to bring about change by bringing technology to the world.

Marcha Acker: And all the way to now where I think about change as really focusing on our relationships and how we engage with others and how we communicate. So I wrote the book because I want to provide an opportunity and a way for people to get clear about why they do what they do.

Marcha Acker: And I think that’s at the core of what sits behind the book in and of itself is I found for myself and I’ve found through coaching others that there’s a tremendous amount of clarity that comes from us being able to, you know, a lot of us can tell, tell everybody sort of what we do step by step.

I just listed off a bunch of things that I do. We will each have a way of describing what we do. I think it’s a practice that takes a bit of space to actually sit down and think about why you do what you do and what’s the meaning behind that. And so I think there’s a lot of clarity that comes, and confidence that comes from being able to define that for yourself.

Bill Raymond: And is that what you’d refer to as a model?

Marcha Acker: Yeah. Well, we all, I think we all have models. I just think that we’re not super clear about what they are or maybe have ever slowed down enough to take the time to articulate what our model is. So yes, a model, we all have them and it’s just the way that you go about working in the world. I talk about it in the book, you know, a couple of years ago my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and that required me to build a new model for how to go from being the child to the caregiver of the parent. And that requires a whole new way of interfacing with the world. So yes, we all have models, we have models for leading, we have models for how we behave, we have models for how we engage as a parent or as a spouse or a partner, be it at work or at home. So we have all kinds of models. And the thing is, how do you engage with that, you know, what are you trying to do and why do you do what you do?

Bill Raymond: So this takes a lot of thinking about yourself and who you are. That’s maybe not something we do every day.

Marcha Acker: Yeah, I do think that there’s a great gift in deepened self-awareness. If I had to list out all the reasons that I wrote the book, probably the key is, you know, they say you write the book that you need to read, and that was absolutely the case for me in writing this book.

Marcha Acker: It started as a opportunity to just sit down and reflect. Model building is something that I’ve been working on myself for a while. And we also guide other, we guide agile coaches through defining their own model for agile coaching. But there is something that happens when you go through an intentional process of really getting to know yourself.

There are all kinds of phrases like "be the change that you want to see in the world" or "start with self" or self-awareness and self-management, are all part of you know, the way that we can bring presence in our leadership or in the work that we do.

Marcha Acker: But I struggled I think at times with okay, so be self-aware. Well, what does that mean and where do I start? And gosh, there are some days, like it feels like there are millions of models about self-awareness, you know, every corner that you turn. And the book is intended to be kind of this, it’s not a book that you’d read from front to back, it’s a guided workbook, it’s a guided journal.

Marcha Acker: So I think about it as an offering of, if that’s something that you’re interested in, then here’s a way to get started. You won’t finish it in a weekend. It’s a life’s journey should you choose to accept the mission of going on that journey. But it’s definitely a personal choice.

Marcha Acker: You know, not everybody wants to do that kind of self-reflective work, it’s for everyone but it’s, you know, you have to find the right timing, I guess.

Bill Raymond: Sure that makes sense. And you really do need to invest the time in order to do this. And you talked about just four of the different types of behavioral models that you list in your book, which are behavioral, leadership, living, and leading change. So what is it? What is it you are trying to change?

Marcha Acker: So for me, when I think about change now, the way that I define change is, I’m very focused on behaviors and relationships. I think so much of how we move about in the world starts with the conversation that we can have with someone else. And I think conversations become sort of the railroad tracks that everything else sits on, and that takes relationships.

Marcha Acker: So when I’m talking about change and my model for change, my focus is on behavior and conversation. And everything that I do is about how to bring about change in the conversation and the relationship.

Marcha Acker: But for others, bringing about change might be a focus on process inside an organization.

And so the thing that might sit in someone else’s model might be process, or it might be bringing about change in org structures. So I think where we place our focus might be really different for many of us.

Bill Raymond: Yeah. I mean, I was struggling over the last number of months working on the podcast because we went from, you know, a few listeners and we had the podcast publishing every other week or maybe every few weeks, you know, and then we got onto the strict once a week model where we said, we’re going to be doing this, and it takes a lot more effort.

Bill Raymond: We have to find guests, we have to edit, we have to do all of this production. And I was, along with just a small handful of people doing a lot of this, right? And I was also being the roadblock for getting some of the podcasts out. And I didn’t realize that until I finally one day wrote down what I want to do, what I want my role to be.

Bill Raymond: And then I had to map out all the things that I did for delivering the podcast. And I’ll tell you, it’s too much. There was too much that I was doing, and so having someone else do that so I could do what I love, and those people that are doing those other things love that they’re doing that.

It actually makes that it a whole lot easier. And I don’t know if that’s what you’re talking about when you’re talking about personal change or process change and work.

Marcha Acker: Yeah. And Bill, so the other thing that comes up for me is what’s your reason behind the podcast? What are you trying to impact?

Bill Raymond: Absolutely. And that’s definitely something that we have been working on as a team and I have been working on, you know, personally trying to understand that. And that’s definitely, you know, I think what I had to do was clear my plate so that I could think about that. I was spending too much time doing the day-to-day and spending my time on doing things that I didn’t really love doing and that prevented me from being able to do that.

Marcha Acker: Yes. And it’s a really great example because there will be, you know, in that exploration of "why a podcast" will be a bit more of your thinking about the belief that, you know, a podcast may be the platform to reach lots of people and so you might have a "why" around wanting to impact people’s thinking around agile or, you know, so there will be some connection to the "why" and that in your model, one of the mechanisms for doing that will be to bring about a podcast.

Marcha Acker: And then the other thing that I hear potentially in your, maybe in your model for living is that to work crazy hours or try to juggle all the plates yourself can feel taxing. And so, you also might have a component where you set some boundaries around what you’re willing to work or where you know the tasks that bring you joy.

In my model for living, joy is a real primary key decision maker for me in terms of what I would do, be it at home or at work. But I don’t believe that I’m some machine that’s designed to crank stuff out, even though I can get really caught in the, my calendar sort of, owning my life.

Marcha Acker: But joy is a really important part for me, and so that appears in my model for living.

Marcha Acker: So I hear you talking a little bit about your model for leading change, but also your model for a living.

Just listening to you think about that or share that with me, it allows me to think about those things as well. And I know that you’re trying to do that with this book

How can the book help you buid a personal model for change?

Bill Raymond: So how can the book help you build a personal model for change?

Marcha Acker: There’s a couple of different chapters as you named, there’s some foundational thinking, I think that’s really helpful for any of us as we’re, you know, change happens all the time. But one part of the book starts out in thinking about your behavior, you know, how do you show up in the world?

Marcha Acker: Why do you do what you do? And that’s sort of the first layer of beginning to deeply know yourself. And so that’s one piece of awareness. And then, you know, there are exercises in the book about looking at other models that you might interact with or making notes about things that you run across.

Marcha Acker: We run across them every day and every conversation that you’re having with someone else, it’s an opportunity to sort out what’s in your model and maybe what’s not in your model. So anytime you run across someone or something and you go, I don’t really like this, or I’m not sure why this, why would we do this? Or, what’s the purpose of this? Or, I don’t like what they’re doing, or I disagree really with that person and why they’re, you know, what they’re doing.

Marcha Acker: Anytime you have that indicator of difference, I think it’s data for you that there’s something about that that’s not in your model and then something that is in your model.

The workbook is lots of exercises to guide you through that exploration.

Bill Raymond: What can a model look like? Are you thinking about journaling? Just taking the time to think about it, writing these things down? What are some ways that you can build your model?

Marcha Acker: You know, that’s maybe the simultaneous freeing aspect of it, and maybe the irritating aspect of it as well is that there’s no one right way to build it and no one way to do it. So some people create a PowerPoint slide and you know, they summarize their model in two or three slides. Some people have a whole journal where they may take pages to summarize it.

For some people it might be some real pithy sentences that help them hone in on what’s important to them about living and about work. So I think it can look like anything. It could look like a beautiful mural or a drawing. It really will be very dependent on the individual and the person. I have a model that I’m working on right now, and I love journaling, so it’s a really big journal and I’ve decided to use some colored pens and things with it. So I’m playing with it in a different way, but it can look like anything.

The workbook is designed though to just help prompt you to think about different aspects, different questions that might give you insight to some of those things.

Elements of a model

Bill Raymond: So if I’m a leader and I’m building a model, what might some of the elements of that look like?

Marcha Acker: You know, I think the easiest place to start is where you see difference. So where you run across conflict or as a leader, what’s something that you’re struggling with at the moment? And what’s underneath the struggle? So leaders trying to bring about change in a team or lead a large new initiative.

Marcha Acker: Every time you run up against someone that you disagree with or something that you just are finding that you’re having a hard time moving forward, I think there’s data in that for you about your model. So it’s never something that’s going to be done in any particular timeframe, but I think the goal is where can you get clear about things for yourself? Finding those places of difference, and I think that’s the place to start. Can youask yourself some questions or do some journaling, which I think is a really helpful way of uncovering some things that we think about what might be happening.

After reading the book…

Bill Raymond: Yeah, that’s really good insight. And I’m curious, after someone reads the book, what might they get out of it?

I think one of the greatest gifts that can come from the process of deeply knowing yourself and building your model is clarity. And I call it high stakes, when you get into a situation where you feel like you’re out over your skis or something’s really difficult and it can feel like conflict, or it can feel like your pulse rising and your palms sweating.

Marcha Acker: I think that model building has the ability to just lower the stakes, to be able to say Ah, I know what’s happening here. I can make sense of this. And I know that in my model I do this really differently. Like I take, as you know, leaders, we will all have different models for leadership, values that are important to you. You and I might have some similar values, but we also might have some values that don’t overlap or feel like they create dissonance for us. And so when you and I can be in a conversation and be able to say, actually, well this is what’s in my model and this is why I want to make this move or lead in this way, and you’re able to say the same thing.

Marcha Acker: Now we can talk about it, and it doesn’t become personal. It becomes a conversation about what’s important and why we’re making that move.

Marcha Acker: So I think the takeaways are clarity and confidence, being able to lower the stakes for yourself and navigate changes that are happening to us all around.

If I’m interested in your book, and I read through this, you said that some people might put together a painting, they might journal, they might put something into a PowerPoint deck.

Is it possible that we could find ourselves doing this and coming up with that, you know, I’m sort of treating this like it’s a marketing presentation. How do I keep myself from saying: Here are the things that I think I want people to hear versus what I need to get down and start thinking about more deeply?

That’s a really great question. And I think part of that is the process and the journey of just deepened self-awareness. Finding where we might be conditioned to respond because we think that’s what someone wants to hear or what we’re supposed to say versus what’s really true for us.

Marcha Acker: I think that part of model building is getting really clear about why would we do something in a particular way and then, you know, being able to make a conscious and intentional decision. I might be working in an organization that does things really differently. My model for leading might be really different than that organization would profess or some of the values and the culture that’s set in that organization. And I think that’s sometimes where you see leaders struggling, they couldn’t articulate it necessarily in the way that I’m talking about it right now, but often it’s a model clash that’s happening. You know, a leader has found themselves inside an organization and something feels really off or not right, kind of at the core.

Marcha Acker: And so, that leader will be trying to navigate: Is this place for me? And I think being able to sit down and answer those questions and catch sight of, okay, so I’m thinking that I’m supposed to say this or do this, and really in my model this is what I believe and this is what I do. And so being able to separate those two things is great.

Marcha Acker: And then comes the next more intentional decision, Okay, there’s a different model here, there’s a different model that this organization is deploying for change. And you can either say, and I’m okay with that, I see the difference, I can understand it, I know why they’re doing that, and I can be with that.

Marcha Acker: Or, you know what, I think this just isn’t for me. It doesn’t make them wrong. It just makes us different and I think I need to go find a different place. And so I think that’s part of, I think that’s an example of some of the clarity that can come.

Bill Raymond: It can really help you think about yourself and what it is that you want for yourself, not just for everyone else as well. One of the things that you said about this is that it’s all about communication, right? It’s about how you interact with others, but also these are your core values at some point, I suppose.

Marcha Acker: Your core values will definitely play a role.

Bill Raymond: Well, thank you very much for this time, Marsha Acker. I really appreciate it. So you have this new book, it launched today, it’s Build Your Model for Leading Change and I am really curious how can people get that book?

Well, an easy place to go is buildyourmodel.com so you can download a free sample. You can see what the inside of the book looks like, that’s the easiest place, you can also purchase a copy there.

Bill Raymond: Wonderful. And how can people reach you if they’d like to talk to you further about this?

Marcha Acker: Yeah, the best way is LinkedIn. I try to be fairly responsive to people reaching out to me on LinkedIn, so just connect with me and send me a message there and I’ll do my very best to respond within about 24 to 48 hours.

Bill Raymond: That’s great. Thank you. And of course, all these links will be on the agileinaction.com website. And if you’re listening in a podcast app right now, just go ahead and go to the show notes, the details, and you will see those links there.

Bill Raymond: Marsha Acker, once again, your book is Build Your Model for Leading Change and I really appreciate your spending the time with me today.

Marcha Acker: Oh, I appreciate it, Bill. Thank you so much.

Bill Raymond: Thank you. Good luck with your book launch.

Marcha Acker: Thanks.

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