Zazana (Zuzi) Šochová, Agile Leadership Coach, Certified Scrum Trainer with the Scrum Alliance, Global Agile Influencer, and Author
- 🌎 Zuzi on LinkedIn
- 🌎 Zuzi's website
- 📖 The Agile Leader: Leveraging the Power of Influence
- 📖 Great ScrumMaster, The: #ScrumMasterWay
- 🏟️ Agile Prague Conference
- 📚 Recommended reading: Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change
- 🌎 Leadership Circle
About this podcast episode
Change, complexity, and unpredictability require a new approach to leadership.
In today’s podcast, Zazana (Zuzi) Šochová will share how leaders can embrace complexity and create a safe space for their teams to deliver innovative solutions.
Zuzi and Bill share stories and leadership advice that will help leaders learn how to:
✅ Operate for complexity and unpredictability
✅ Give space for teams to find their way
✅ Enable creativity and innovation
✅ Create a space for trust, transparency, and openness
✅ Consider your personal growth
(transcripts are auto-generated, so please excuse the brevity)
Bill Raymond: I’m a leader or a future leader, and I’m wondering about what are some things that I can maybe start doing today?
Zuzi Šochová: First, what helps me a lot was go to professional coaching. Then **practice to let go. My ultimate question always was like, what if I don’t say it? Or what if I don’t do anything? What’s the worst case scenario? but there is a chance something great will happen as well. So let’s try. **
Then the last one, start with you. So if you start behaving differently, you actually have a big influence no matter what your role is. It’s not about hierarchy, it’s more about behavior. So start with you, be open and ask for feedback.
Leadership Development Journey
Hi, and welcome to the podcast. Today I’m joined by Zuzi Śocová, Agile Leadership Coach, certified SCRUM trainer with the SCRUM Alliance, global agile influencer and author.
Bill Raymond: Hi Zuzi. How are you today?
Zuzi Šochová: Hello, and thank you for having me on this podcast. It’s my pleasure.
Bill Raymond: Wonderful. I’m looking forward to our conversation today. Before we get started, could you share a little bit about yourself and your journey?
About Zuzi Śochová
Zuzi Šochová: Yeah, so I started as a developer many years back, writing some software for pacemakers, defibrillators, low level C++, tough stuff. And then couple years after, I end up being a SCRUM master out of nowhere. My manager said, you have to be a SCRUM master. I was like, I don’t want to be SCRUM master.
Zuzi Šochová: He was like, yeah, but you have to, you are the only one who’s ever seen SCRUM from our company. 2005. Right? Like a long time ago. I was like, yeah, but I don’t like SCRUM. Hey, now tell me something, right?
Zuzi Šochová: And he was, yeah, I don’t like it either. But you just started. So that was my beginning, day one. I end up being a SCRUM master out of nowhere.
Zuzi Šochová: So I came in front of my team and saying like, Hey, we are going to use SCRUM now. New project. Isn’t it great? And they said, forget it. We are not going to do that stuff. I was like, but, but, but we have to, the customers said, they were asking for it, and they say, okay, okay, we all like you, right?
Zuzi Šochová: But can we fake it? I was like, whatever I don’t care. Just make sure the customers don’t see a difference. So that was my day one of becoming a SCRUM master, becoming an agilist, I’d say.
Zuzi Šochová: And over the time I actually realized what the SCRUM is about. Very different from what I thought. And I eventually became one of the biggest enthusiasts about agile and SCRUM. Eventually became a Director of Engineering and Director of HR, and changed the entire organization into something I would nowadays call agile organization, very flat structure with self-managing teams, SCRUM masters, product owners, but almost no management.
Zuzi Šochová: We changed the way how we recruit people, we changed the way how we do performance reviews, salaries, bonuses, positions. They actually got rid of positions almost completely, et cetera, et cetera.
Zuzi Šochová: Really fun stuff. And I became the biggest enthusiast I could be, promoter of agile and SCRUM. I started a nonprofit organization here in the Czech Republic, Prague, where I live, and we organized conferences, Agile Praque Conference, if you’re interested. Still passionate about it. This year going to be the 11th year of Agile Praque Conference, every September.
Zuzi Šochová: I wrote a couple books. The first one was actually quite fun because I tried, I thought I have to write it so the other people can read it. And then I was so surprised that people like it. I was like, oh, they’re really reading it. They’re buying it. So that was a Czech publication. And then the second one, I thought, I need to get a broader reach.
Zuzi Šochová: I start teaching and coaching many SCRUM masters. And I thought like, again that urge, like you have to help SCRUM masters to become the real SCRUM masters, not the project managers acting like maybe some sort of SCRUM masters, but the real ones.
Zuzi Šochová: And so I wrote a book called, The Great SCRUM Master. And I was lucky enough, so it got published in the US, Addison Wesley, and then I translated back, it’s in several different languages. It become, it’s still hard to say for me, but quite popular with SCRUM masters. So if you’re a beginning SCRUM master, that’s actually for you.
Zuzi Šochová: And then my third book, again, published by Addison Wesley in the US is called Agile Leader. And that’s my favorite now because it’s the latest, of course.
Zuzi Šochová: And that’s my passion right now because it’s about business agility, it’s about leadership, it’s about that development journey I went through when I actually started being the director. And I realized like, I want to shift the entire organization with all the processes, with all the culture, with all the mindset of leaders primarily.
Zuzi Šochová: So yeah, that’s basic introduction about me and my passions. Right?
Bill Raymond: Oh, thank you very much. We’ve actually had a few SCRUM masters here on the podcast, and your book has come up many times, so I know you’re well liked in the industry.
Zuzi Šochová: Oh wow. Unbelievable.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, and of course, we found you through your book, The Agile Leader: Leveraging the Power of Influence.
Bill Raymond: So thank you for that. Thank you for committing to the community and supporting what we’re doing here in the agile community.
Zuzi Šochová: Yeah. So that’s what I like to do, right? I feel like a lot of people from this community help me, so I need to pay back and help some other folks in this space.
Bill Raymond: Yeah. That’s wonderful. And I think that’s what we’re all about in this community, right? Helping each other and helping improve how we do work.
What does agility means to you?
Bill Raymond: So with that topic in mind, maybe you could share a little bit about what agility means to you.
Zuzi Šochová: Agility is something where you’re actually flexible enough, adaptive enough, so you are ready for whatever future brings, no matter what is coming. You just say, yeah, there is a change, might go for it. No stress. I’m like, there is a change. What shall I do? I want to keep it same. No, you just say well, yes, am I there yet? No. I need to be really honest here. Yes. Sometimes yes, but many times I’m not there yet. I’m still stressed by, it’s changing, what shall I do? Right? Like it’s natural, but it’s applicable actually for individuals, how they react to changes, how they react to different environments, but also for organizations, for businesses.
Zuzi Šochová: And if you embrace it through agility, then you are really ready for whatever future brings. For complexity, for unpredictability, et cetera.
Bill Raymond: Oh, thank you for that.
What are some of the issues that leadership is dealing with today?
Bill Raymond: So we’re talking about agility and we’re talking about the leadership development journey. What are some of the issues that leadership is dealing with today?
Zuzi Šochová: So, I think the history is trying to catch us, right? So in 1950s, the world was pretty predictable. You can plan things, deliver them. It was mostly right. Not many changes were coming out, but that was actually quite nice.
Zuzi Šochová: But nowadays, if you look around, how many of you can say that your business is predictable? Not many, right? And it’s complex, hard to say what needs to be done. You still know what needs to be achieved, but you actually don’t know how. So there’s the nature of this VUCA world, right? Unpredictable, complex, et cetera.
Zuzi Šochová: And I think this is behind this initial point were the leaders need to change and adapt, to sort of be ready for that. So we used to optimize for stability. We used to optimize for doing the same things all over again. And for that thing, it was enough to have people who are like experts who know their job and they can repeat it, they can teach and mentor others to do the same job all over again, et cetera.
Zuzi Šochová: Then the bigger organizations, little later on, create a need for more flexibility, more dynamics, and they create a space for those achiever leaders who set up goals and give a space to the teams and individuals to come up with their own ways, how to achieve those goals.
Giving people space and freedom
Zuzi Šochová: And eventually, with this higher complexity, high unpredictability, there is a real need for catalyst leaders or servant leaders or leaders who set a space for people to do whatever is needed, whatever it takes to be successful. And it’s more about creating culture, creating space, coaching people, giving them opportunities, autonomy, freedom, some companies would say. But still within some constraints, we still have a goal we want to achieve, we have a purpose. Why are we here as this organization? But then can you give people enough space so they can find their own way?
Zuzi Šochová: And I think that’s the biggest issue we currently have because we still have majority of through the research, right?
Zuzi Šochová: You can see that majority of the leaders are somewhere between expert and achiever. But if you start talking about how the catalysts should behave, it’s very abstract. They don’t know what to do when you start talking about cultures. Yeah, yeah. But there is a process. It’s about delivery. Maybe not. Maybe it’s about creating a space, environments, climates, cultures, similar terms, different contexts.
Zuzi Šochová: Right? But something around those terms and give people opportunity to design their own organizations and be really creative and come up with their own ideas. And that’s the biggest struggle because many managers currently in organizations like the majority again, right, they would be goal oriented and saying like, no, no, no, we have to deliver.
Zuzi Šochová: It’s about delivery. It’s about efficiency. But maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s about environment and that’s the biggest shift and biggest difficulty I see in the organizations. We have not enough catalysts in the space.
Operating for Complexity
Bill Raymond: Right. You mentioned a few times a few words that I’d love to unpack with you. You’ve mentioned operating for complexity, creativity and innovation, so maybe you could cover complexity first. What do you mean by that?
Maybe I should start from a beginning. There is a simple thing, simple tasks. When you have a simple task, you have a checklist, you have a recipe, you follow it, and you’re successful. Like baking a cupcake, right? The kids can do it, follow the recipe, and the cupcake is usually actually quite good.
Zuzi Šochová: Tasteful, no issues. Now you have a complicated domain. Where it’s not that simple, it’s not just about the best practices, it’s not just about recipe, it’s not just about checklists. It’s more about experts, analysts, deep knowledge. You analyze it, you plan it, you do it.
Zuzi Šochová: Like if you are building a bridge. You have a bunch of experts who can design materials and forces and everything, and then there are workers who build the bridge, and then you have a complex task.
Zuzi Šochová: Which is actually unpredictable, so you don’t know how to build it. You actually know what needs to be achieved by whole that, but don’t know how, yet. It’s like walking in a forest in fog where you can’t really see the whole journey, you only see one or two meters ahead. So you do the first step and then see what happens.
Zuzi Šochová: What is around? Is it working? Is it not? What’s the feedback? Sort of inspect and adapt through that. So short circles, getting instant feedback and iterating on the solution towards the goal. So that’s the complexity world, like walking in the fog.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, and I can definitely see where you’re coming from with that. Very often we maybe do too much planning and we’re not quite sure where things are going to go. And if we do too much planning, we might get stuck going in the wrong path.
Zuzi Šochová: Yeah. So a part of it is that nowadays you don’t really know what needs to be done. So we better go slower to the right direction than faster to the wrong direction. So we better take the difficulty of unknown and do step by step checking everything and figuring out. Tiny by tiny, little steps, feedback, than really like go fast and then realize, oh, that was actually a wrong decision from the beginning, right?
Enabling Creativity and Innovation
We talked a bit about operating for complexity, but you also were talking about enabling creativity and innovation, and what do you mean in the context of this conversation by that?
Zuzi Šochová: So when you have a team and you give them a task, it takes them a bit longer to solve it, but very often because different people have different perspectives, they come up with a very different solution. Then individuals would come up. Individuals come with something which is usual, which is based on their own experience. It’s like, most of the people would look at it this way.
Zuzi Šochová: But if you give it to the group of a people, they usually come up with different perspectives. And through those different perspectives, they might come up with solution, which is very different. Like for example, there is the candle problem, I don’t know if you guys hear about it, but you got very simple task, which actually by setup doesn’t look that simple.
Zuzi Šochová: So you have a bunch of pens in a box and you have a candle, and you should pin the candle to the wall so the wax don’t go down. And actually, it turns out that individuals have much bigger problems to solve this than the teams. Teams are good at looking at it from a very different perspective and someone come up with a very creative solution.
Zuzi Šochová: Take the pens out and use it as a stand for the candle. But other individuals can’t do it. They try to pin it and try to put it different ways and it doesn’t work. For complex problems, teams are much faster and much more effective in solving those problems.
Zuzi Šochová: But for simple tasks, teams are very slow usually. Because they try to come up with some creative things. Like, how about if you move that box this way? Just take it and move it, right? Take it, move it, take it, move it. It’s a box, right? Move it from left to right. Hmm. But maybe that’s not what they come up with.
Zuzi Šochová: They try to come up with say, how about if you do it this way, it might be better. Try it. See? Right? That’s the creativity.
Zuzi Šochová: And not every problem needs it. But overall, as an organization, it’s always about do we need that or not? And now if we look into the history, right, two organizations, very successful, Kodak, for example, Nokia, the other example, they also thought they don’t need any creativity, any innovations, because they are the best organizations. Where are they now? Kind of dead, right?
Zuzi Šochová: While some others, they actually, being more innovative, like Fuji Film, they actually turn out from film production organization into cosmetic organization. Because they said we are good at chemical processes, we can create a cosmetic. Nice. Innovative. Somebody need to look at their business from a very different perspective.
Zuzi Šochová: So the teams are usually better in that, and therefore I think the higher agility in the organization is, the more team oriented it is, and the more creative, more innovative it is. It’s sort of hand in hand.
How can a leader enable innovation?
How do you make sure that teams can make some of these decisions and enable them to take risks and maybe even rethink their business model as you just mentioned. How can a leader enable that?
Zuzi Šochová: I think the first thing is trust. Do we trust each other? And not only the leader and the rest of the organization, but also the people among each other. Do we have a trust so we can relate? Talking without any filters? There are different organizations where I worked, I was lucky. I actually started to work in an organization with radical transparency and high trusting.
Zuzi Šochová: We were very open about ideas and no one was really judging. It was like, I disagree with you. I don’t think that’s a good idea. But it was not like blaming, right? It was very constructive and respectful.
Zuzi Šochová: And then I turn out into some other organizations and when I say something, they’re like, oh, that’s a bad idea. She might not be smart enough. And I was like, oh, that’s such an interesting environment, how they can do anything?
Zuzi Šochová: So trust,transparency, openness, but also that respect, right? So build that environment which is safe to try, safe to fail. That’s one part of it.
Zuzi Šochová: The other part would be, let it go. And I think that’s the most difficult. Because many leaders in the organization, they feel, I am responsible. I need to make sure. What if they’re going to come up with a wrong idea? I will be, what shall I do? Help! Right?
Zuzi Šochová: So let go, what if, what’s the worst case? I always try to practice myself. Okay, what’s the worst case scenario which can possibly happen if they come up with the wrong idea? Hmm. We talk about it tomorrow and we can still shift it or we try it and next week we figure out there is a better way and maybe there is a chance they come up with a better idea.
Zuzi Šochová: And I think that the most difficulty was when I was sure myself, I thought I knew what is the right way. And I was sort of expecting them to come up with exactly that way which I have in mind and they didn’t. And then in those situations, if you can step back and say, okay, well let’s give them a chance, like it’s not bad solution, it’s just they might come up with a different one.
Zuzi Šochová: So whenever I was patient enough and didn’t jump in and didn’t tell them like, I think we should do it this way, they actually very often came up with a better idea than I thought. And I thought there is only one option to solve it, right? This is the one, and they came with a better one. Wow.
Zuzi Šochová: And when it happened to you like three times and you see, well, there is something on it, I can’t see it. I don’t know how they do it. And that’s where I start liking the team environment because I realize that when you work with individuals, you are sort of equal. Sometimes you are smarter, sometimes they’re smarter, sometimes your idea, sometimes their idea. But when you work with teams, 99% they come up with a better idea than your own one, because you missed certain angles, you missed certain risks, you don’t realize certain things. So I think that’s the biggest difficulty, let it go and give them the space. Even take that risk. Okay, so it might not be perfect, but they will learn from it.
Are there different types of levels of leadership?
Bill Raymond: I suppose that there are different types of personalities as well, right? I know when I first started my career as a leader and I was on my first roles, I have mentioned this plenty of times in the podcast, I was very much a "thou shalt do" type of person. I kind of already had it in my head what needed to happen and I told people what they needed to do.
Bill Raymond: Now, of course, some people will come back and say, well, you could try it this other way, and I had no issue with that. But very often people just won’t bring those ideas because they look at you as a leader that you tell them what to do and then you do it.
Bill Raymond: And very early in my career, I was lucky enough to have some people explain to me that that is not the way they appreciate working. And I was very pleased with that. And I made a real concerted effort to make sure that I provide some level of objectives or goals or something along those lines, and then have the team sort that out and I can provide direction and suport along the way. But you know, that actually wasn’t an easy transition for me because I always thought in terms of, I can see what the ends thing is going to look like, and I never really allowed for that to happen until of course, I had a few breakthroughs of my own. And maybe that has to do with maturity, maybe that has to do with just starting out as a leader and not knowing where to start, so you start at a place of comfort.
Bill Raymond: But I’m curious from your perspective, are there different types of levels of leadership and how one might start to shift from the, if you will, and I’m not saying this is a bad thing all the time, but this sort of directorial approach to being more of a supportive leader?
Zuzi Šochová: I think it’s a development journey. It really takes time. It needs some sort of a self-confidence as well, because letting things go needs you to be dead with yourself, right?
Zuzi Šochová: Very often I realize I’m speaking and I’m sharing things because I want to prove that I’m good and I know the solution. And when I actually sort it out in my head that I don’t need to prove it to them and I don’t need to prove it to myself primarily, I can just actually stay quiet. To sustain the quietness was very, very difficult, but it was a good practice. I think there was a eye-opening shift when I went to OSRC - Organizational System Relationship Coaching. It’s a program for pretty much system coaching, they coach relationships between like two people or between teams and groups of people, et cetera.
Zuzi Šochová: And there was a program which actually showed me that there is something different than the knowledge I can share, than the ideas I can bring, that I can actually, what does it mean to create a real environment? And I learned that the relationships really matter. And from that time on, I actually start primarily focusing on helping people to build those relationships and make them stronger, and get rid of some sort of conflicts or issues in between of them.
Zuzi Šochová: And what I realized through practice is, once you build a strong relationship, strong bonds to people and build strong enough systems around them, then very often they sort out those problems like this, that’s not a big deal. They do it themself.
Zuzi Šochová: But unless they have a good relationship, they start with the blaming circle, right? With defensiveness and everything. Or they just keep quiet and don’t speak up because, why would I speak up in front of those folks? And once you fix the relationships and create a systems around, not only two individuals, right, but the teams and group of teams and some ecosystems. If you can fix that, then that’s the real need in agile. The more agile spaces, the more unstructured those entities are, and the more need is for this sort of fixing relationships and coaching them and helping them to create their self-awareness, and things around those lines.
Tools to improve the team functions
Zuzi Šochová: You mentioned coaching. Are there any other tools that someone in leadership could use in order to find out how they’re currently interacting with their teams and find ways to improve? So be a good listener is one, and not only listen for what they talk about, but also I mostly listen for the energy in the field, for the interaction, for the happiness or positivity or not. For those type of things. And facilitation would be another one. If you can facilitate a collaboration.
Zuzi Šochová: It’s happening all the time, right? So can you help them to make it smooth?
Zuzi Šochová: And then there is interesting thing. I’m a fan of metaphors. I’m using metaphors for many things like for conflict solutions and for retrospectives, but also for designing a dream or a vision. And I think many times what the leaders are missing is this dreaming level, right?
Zuzi Šochová: There are too much into consensus reality, they’re too much into numbers and measurements and practices. But can you come up with a dream? Can you close your eyes and come up with a dream how this organization, for example, will look like? And can you, I’m using the metaphors for that very often, so for example, can you make it a cartoon character or if it’s a car, how would it look like? Or if it’s a feather, what kind of feather it would be?
Zuzi Šochová: And then through that metaphor, you actually shift into that dreaming level and help them to uncover things which are unconscious, and help them to come up with the real intensive, catchy purpose.
Zuzi Šochová: And that’s what very often we are missing. They’re doing some changes in the processes, but no one really knows, including themselves. No one really knows why do we do it and what it bring us.
Zuzi Šochová: And then when we go into those, metaphor is a bit uncomfortable at the beginning, but then you realize, like, for example, one of my clients were saying, well, we actually want to go from this spider with broken legs into being an octopus, which is actually flying in a sea and sort of moving.
Zuzi Šochová: And they have this story behind it. And it came back into several conversations, right? Like the old metaphor, the new metaphor. And it brings the energy, it brings more fun, and it keeps the memories that are still there, sort of fix you into that idea. So I’m really fond of using those type of, not traditional tools, for helping them to identify the product vision or the organizational vision, et cetera.
The Leadership Journey
Bill Raymond: Do you have an example of what a leadership journey might look like? I don’t know, if you have any kind of a case study or story you might be able share?
Zuzi Šochová: So, for that I very often use thisBill Joiner’s Journey from Expert Achiever to Catalyst. And really like, when I started, right, looking at myself, right? It’s always the best. I was the expert, right? I was promoted to being a team leader because I knew better certain things and I can help other people to grow. But I was mostly using my knowledge.
Zuzi Šochová: And then the achiever part was more about like, we need to deliver the sprint, for example. And we switched to SCRUM, right? And I thought like, there is a team, we have this goal, we need to be more efficient. How can I help them to do those goals? But it was still very small steps.
Zuzi Šochová: And only after that OSRC, The Organizational System Relationship Coaching, I realized, okay, maybe it’s all great. Of course, I sometimes need to mentor, sometimes I need to help them to come up with goals or set the goals even.
Zuzi Šochová: But can I actually focus primarily on creating environment, on building those relationships and then give them a trust that they can actually sort it out themselves? And that was the biggest step. And of course, I’m not doing it all the time and not that ideal. Nothing like that. But I get much closer to that space than I used to be, right?
Zuzi Šochová: So I think that’s the sort of adult leadership development journey, which resonates with me, because you can also do some360 from folks around you and get the feedback if you’re really acting like, for example, catalyst in those type of situations or not. How the other people see you?
Zuzi Šochová: And then you got that reflection back and then you say, oh, I see myself like this, but I’m actually acting like…. And then you going to touch base with the relatives.
Zuzi Šochová: So it’s a long process. I have actually a class which is a certified leadership, which is a two day sort of intro into those concepts, culture, organizational design, leadership development.
Zuzi Šochová: And we have a follow up seven months leadership development program where we were using either Bill Joiner’s, The Expert Achiever Catalyst _or a Leadership Circle_, depending on a group and how people really reflect, like, who am I as a leader and how do I really behave? Because most of us have this blind spot and we see ourselves from different lenses than our colleagues do.
Zuzi Šochová: So it’s a good attach bias to get this feedback and see and uncover different reactions and different things.
Zuzi Šochová: We usually focus on several steps like leadership, culture, organization and change. And we try to make it practical for people, but I usually help them to guide around those modules and help them to apply those concepts at their organization.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, that’s really a good idea. You know, I feel like the 360 feedback was the reason for why I shifted in how I lead teams.
Bill Raymond: And one of the things that I also did, this might be a useful tip perhaps, who knows? But one of the things that I did was when I was doing my quarterly reviews with my team members is I sat down and said, here are some of the things that I’d like to see you improve, but also here are my improvements that I’m looking to do. And I ask them to check in with me and to offer me feedback if they don’t see those habits that I’m sharing with them.
Bill Raymond: And if you give that space, that open space for people to give you the feedback and you tell them that that’s acceptable to do, you get it. And that’s been a super helpful process for me, I think.
Zuzi Šochová: I think I did something very similar when I was changing the entire organizational structure and all the processes and everything. It was tough for some people and it was definitely tough for me as well. I mean, I came up with that idea, but I didn’t have it hardcoded in my habits yet.
Zuzi Šochová: So I remember there were situations where I was like, one of the primary things was like, you need to be self-organized, self-managed, come up with your own ideas, make your own decision, take over the responsibility, ownership, et cetera.
Zuzi Šochová: And then there was a situation with a stress, like customer called or something. And out of nowhere, I go back to my habits and make a decision, instead of them.
Zuzi Šochová: Now, I was lucky enough because I was working in very open organization, so usually, right after or next day somebody came to me and said, Hey, I know yesterday you were actually telling us we should come up with our own ideas, we were almost there, and then you make a decision instead of us. That was, and he didn’t have to really continue because I got it. I was like, yeah, I actually did, but I was trying not to. So I said, what shall I do? Right? Like, I screwed up completely.
Zuzi Šochová: So I went back to those teams that day and I was like, I got this feedback, thank you for that feedback. And I’m actually sorry, I just realized it. I’m on that journey with you. I’m also making mistakes. And that was a mistake, and thank you for calling me out on that and I’ll try not to do it next time, but if you see me doing things which are not consistent, call me out and I’ll, you know, I’ll try not to.
Zuzi Šochová: But we are all on this journey. We all make mistakes and I think that what actually saved me, because they all accepted it. And they keep trying and they keep coming back to me with different situations, different things. Like, Hey, here is something we want to tell you. And that actually opened very high trust and a very high openness, transparency about things and helped us to actually go through that together.
Zuzi Šochová: Because it’s not simple. You are dealing with habits which are like, I don’t know, all your life you used to be doing this way, and now out of nowhere you should shift. You know, it’s right shift, but still, it’s a shift. It’s hardcoded somewhere and takes time.
Feedback from the team
It’s so easy to fall back into the original habit if you don’t have that regular productive feedback that you’re getting with your teams.
Zuzi Šochová: Yeah. The feedback is the key. Not only with customers, but actually internal feedback is, I don’t want to say more important, but equally important. And it’s missing in many organizations because people are afraid and they don’t feel comfortable and yeah. So have that openness and have that feedback flowing that will help you to become better.
That’s really useful and I agree with you, especially with your teams because these are the people you work with long term. I’m a consultant, so usually, I work with an organization, help them with their challenges and then move on to the next one. Those people are paying me money, and so usually my feedback is direct, honest and immediate. But you know, when you’re working with the same team members where you’re going from one client to another, you want to continue building better, stronger relationships. I think the example you used was also touching on a word that you used earlier that maybe you could just expand on this a little bit.
What your team said was that you made a decision on their behalf while they were over there trying to come up with another solution. And you used the word autonomy.
Bill Raymond: And I feel like that kind of touches on that topic as well. So can you maybe share just a little bit about what you mean by autonomous teams?
Zuzi Šochová: Pretty much teams that can make their own decision within a given space. Now at the beginning when we started, this space was mostly how we going to organize ourselves, how we going to deliver the code, how we going to test it? And not completely, because many things were given by the customer. Like for example, all the tests must be automated and needed to do performance tests and et cetera, et cetera.
But still, how we do it in those details was up to the team. Now, a bit later on we actually came up with saying like, maybe we should make them also responsible for the business value they deliver. We should also make them more responsible about when they go to work and when they stay at home, the times of their working hours. We should make them responsible about when they take a vacation. We should make them more responsible about various different decisions. And there was a feedback. So if somebody starts slipping out, I got immediate feedback again, back from the team. So they have very high autonomy to make their own decision about many things.
Zuzi Šochová: There are a lot of rules, like for example, you know, there is a governmental rule, so you need to follow that. There is a customer rule, you need to follow that. But still, within those boundaries you can apply it. .
Explain SCRUM as a game
Zuzi Šochová: When I explain SCRUM, very often I say it’s a game, right? It used to be in a SCRUM guide, it’s a game of SCRUM. And I really like it because that’s what this is really about. It’s a game. We have certain boundaries, certain playground, certain rules, but otherwise it’s up to you how you play it. So that’s what autonomy is for me. Is not a complete, like, do whatever comes to your mind without consequences, that it’s play the game within the rules of the game.
Thank you for that. I am curious, I’m a leader or a future leader, and I’m wondering about what are some things that I can maybe start doing today? What are some takeaways that someone might be able to use?
Zuzi Šochová: I have a few. First, what helps me a lot was go to professional coaching. Preferably my favorite school is OSCR, Organisation and Systems Relationships Coaching because it helps you to understand the system dynamic, the relationship system dynamics. And that was very eye-opening for me because I start listening for those relationships, for the energy, for things like that. So that’s one. Professional coaching, but mostly system coaching.
Zuzi Šochová: Then **practice to let go. My ultimate question always was like, what if I don’t say it? Or what if I don’t do anything? What’s the worst case scenario? And just let it go through your mind. And very often I realize, well, it’s not that bad. I mean, in a worst case this will happen. OK, we can still survive, but there is a chance something great will happen as well. So let’s try. **
Zuzi Šochová: But it’s difficult to keep quiet. Don’t say things. Don’t manage, don’tcover things. Don’t decide. Step back and see what happen. Stay quiet.
Zuzi Šochová: And I think those two in combination are good. Then the last one, maybe it starts with you. You are the leader because you decide to be one.
Zuzi Šochová: It’s a state of mind. Part of it is the biggest change you can create in a organization, start with you. So if you start behaving differently, if you start reacting differently, you actually have a big influence no matter what your role is. It’s not about hierarchy, it’s more about behavior. So start with you, be open and ask for feedback.
Zuzi Šochová: Because how other people see you behaving might be different than you would like to see yourself behaving. So number three.
Zuzi, this has been a great conversation. I really appreciate your time.
Zuzi Šochová: Thank you for having me here, that was a really good conversation.
Bill Raymond: Yeah, I completely agree. And if someone wants to continue picking up this conversation with you, is that something they can do? How might they reach you?
Zuzi Šochová: Sure. They can reach me over to LinkedIn if you mention you, you’ve listened to the podcast and I at least know where you’re coming from or there is a website so we can do that as well.
Bill Raymond: So I will make sure that I provide your LinkedIn link, your website link, and all the links to your books, your great books, so that people can read them if they want to.
Zuzi Šochová: That will be great. Thank you.
Bill Raymond: Yes, of course. Those will all be available on the agileinaction.com website. And of course, if you’re just listening to this podcast right now on the app, scroll down to the show notes, the description, and you’ll find those links there.
Bill Raymond: Zuzi. Thank you again for this great conversation today.
Zuzi Šochová: Thank you very much.