Agile Mentors Podcast

Agile Mentors Podcast

Practical advice for making agile work in the real world

The Agile Mentors podcast is for agilists of all levels. Whether you’re new to agile and Scrum or have years of experience, listen in to find answers to your questions and new ways to succeed with agile.

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#51: The Secrets of Team Safety with Julie Chickering

June 07, 2023     34 minutes

Gain insights into building cohesive and agile teams that bleed into each other and explore how conflicts can be transformed into opportunities for growth and improvement when Brian and his guest Julie Chickering delve into how to create team safety.


In this episode of the "Agile Mentors" podcast, Brian sits down with Julie Chickering to explore the topic of team safety. They dive deep into the concept of psychological safety and its impact on team dynamics and productivity. From navigating conflicts and encouraging participation to embracing multiple perspectives and detaching personal worth from ideas, Brian and Julie provide valuable insights and actionable advice for Scrum Masters and team members alike. Join them as they uncover the secrets to creating a cohesive and psychologically safe environment where teams thrive and excel.

Listen Now to Discover:

[01:12] - Brian welcomes Julie Chickering back to the show. Teams need to feel safe and agile to be successful; that's a foundational aspect of a team. So, we're talking about team safety today.
[02:12] - Julie shares how one Manhattan bartender described her team that works well together; she says it feels like "we bleed into each other."
[04:11] - Sometimes people misuse or abuse the safe space, having each other's back as a license to be rude.
[04:57] - From pointing fingers to fixing problems together.
[05:39] - Julie shares a book called "The Culture Playbook" by Daniel Coyle and a quote on distinguishing between relational conflict and task conflict.
[06:38] - Protecting team dynamics: Learn how to navigate conflicts that escalate into personal territory and regain focus on improvement.
[07:37] - Effective strategies to steer discussions back to areas of agreement and keep the focus on facts.
[08:09] - Embracing multiple perspectives: Explore scenarios where opposing ideas are equally feasible and the importance of making a choice and moving forward.
[08:51] - Sometimes safety is misconstrued and used to stop discussions.
[09:17] - How to encourage participation based on comfort levels and through smaller group sharing.
[10:00] - The true meaning of safety.
[10:54] - Tension-free environments don't always lead to productive cultures: why disagreements are vital for meaningful discussions.
[11:33] - Detaching personal worth from ideas so you can focus on finding the best solution (vital as the Scrum Master).
[12:42] - How to facilitate conversations by focusing on facts and using visual aids to encourage objectively analyzing multiple ideas.
[13:00] - Nurturing sensitive team members: strategies to create a sense of safety for individuals who are more susceptible to critique to ensure them of the value of their contributions.
[14:13] - Why you should avoid labeling opinions as “wrong” and how assuming positive intent fosters a sense of safety.
[14:45] - The challenge of assuming positive intent (especially in written communication).
[15:21] - How to empower team members to define operating agreements that foster a sense of safety and a respectful working environment.
[17:23] - This podcast is sponsored by Mountain Goat Software's Certified Scrum classes, including Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Advanced Certified Scrum Master (ACSM), and Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner (ACSPO). Mike Cohn taught his first Scrum classes in 1997, and since then, more than 24K people have chosen to train with Mountain Goat Software. All certified classes include a twelve-month Agile Mentors Community membership.
[18:08] - How to open communication lines when unintentional offenses occur during interactions.
[18:49] - Scrum, though a simple framework, becomes complex when people's dynamics come into play.
[19:22] - Brian shares that achieving psychological safety requires a cultural shift and agreement among team members to express opinions freely.
[20:54] - Julie shares why psychological safety matters.
[22:09] - When the swirl of uncertainty and lack of safety is removed, teams can accomplish more due to increased productivity and effectiveness.
[22:34] - Brian shares some tips for Scrum Masters to make psychological safety a focal point if it is lacking within their teams.
[23:40] - Julie discusses the importance of understanding and supporting team members beyond Scrum practices and offers advice on ensuring everyone on the team is heard.
[25:15] - The secret to team cohesion: how sharing coffee preferences can build a sense of safety and collaboration within your team.
[25:51] - Julie explores the challenge of fostering a sense of team and safety at the corporate level and why starting at the team level is the key to cultivating a culture of trust and psychological safety, even in the face of external obstacles.
[27:31] - Julie delves into why teams work in a particular way and how aligning work practices with the desired outcomes can positively impact results.
[28:04] - How fostering psychological safety improves human interactions and drives better products, higher quality, and faster delivery.
[28:51] - How to address safety concerns with higher-ups.
[29:53] - The dangers of dismantling high-performing teams prematurely: the importance of nurturing team cohesion and the pitfalls of overlooking this critical aspect.
[30:42] - Brian shares how protecting the team sometimes involves making tough decisions and advocating for a better fit for both the individual and the team.
[32:06] - Julie’s parting advice encourages teams to assess their current state, ask critical questions, and collaboratively work towards creating a more cohesive and psychologically safe environment.
[33:06] - If you have feedback for the show or topics for future episodes, email us by clicking here. And don’t forget to subscribe to the “Agile Mentors” Podcast on Apple Podcasts so you never miss an episode.
[33:46] - Look for a different type of show coming to you during our July "break."

References and resources mentioned in the show:

The Culture Playbook: 60 Highly Effective Actions to Help Your Group Succeed
Certified Scrum Master Training and Scrum Certification
Certified Scrum Product Owner Training
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster®
Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner®
Mountain Goat Software Certified Scrum and Agile Training Schedule
Join the Agile Mentors Community
Subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts

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This episode’s presenters are:

Brian Milner is SVP of coaching and training at Mountain Goat Software. He's passionate about making a difference in people's day-to-day work, influenced by his own experience of transitioning to Scrum and seeing improvements in work/life balance, honesty, respect, and the quality of work.

Julie Chickering is the brains and brawn behind JC Agile Consulting, believes that Lean and Agile practices are packed with potential — to enable positive culture change, business agility, and breakthrough results. Julie is a past president and board member of the Agile Project Management Network (APLN), a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), as well as a traditional Project Management Professional (PMP).