My Agile Life: Be Your Own Best Boss

(This column is posted at, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

(My continuing “Agile Life” column, where I use Scrum for a more balanced and productive life continues).

One of the better bosses I had, when seeing a report I had created, noted “Now I understand where we are and I’m worried.”

Why do I say he was a better boss? Because his reaction to seeing disturbing data was to then figure out what to do. He didn’t kill the messenger (me) or berate the team (everyone else).  So, solve the problem.

This provided what’s known as Psychological Safety (, feeling I and we could take risks.  Ironically I was laid off a few months later – as was he – due to other reason.  I felt so bad for him being laid off I forgot my own feelings of annoyance.

Psychological Safety is crucial for good management and good Agile.  Agile philosophy and methods depend on feedback and authenticity so people can respond, communicate, and improve.  Without that it will fail -and trust me, I’ve seen some doozies.

In personal Agile, you’re everyone – the boss, the product owner, the scrum master, the team, the analyst, etc.  Psychological Safety seems to be a bit irrelevant here.

But I realized it’s not.

Ever berate yourself for mistakes?  Ever beaten yourself up over missing something?  Hard on yourself?  You probably have done all of this – you haven’t provided yourself with psychological safety.  You’re being the Bad Boss to yourself.

This is very common.  This is probably near-universal.  I’ve encountered many people who beat themselves up constantly, and worse of all excuse it.  They’re their own battered spouse, their own abusive parent, their own tormentor.

Honestly, a lot more of us probably need to be in therapy.  But back to Agile before this gets too depressing.

To be productive, you need Psychological Safety, even in your own personal life.  How can you achieve that?  A few things I’ve found:

  • * Honesty.  Be honest with yourself self, admit your mistakes and flaws and issues.
  • * Cooperation.  Work with yourself to improve.  Coach yourself.  “You” are on the same team.
  • * Enablement.  Help yourself get better so you don’t repeat mistakes and can improve.
  • * Review.  Review what you do to improve what you do.  It becomes regular, it becomes habit.
  • * Empathy.  Let yourself “feel” what you feel, its like having empathy for others but you’re taking a look at yourself.
  • * Humor and fun.  Learn to have fun, let yourself have fun, enjoy things.

It’s not easy.  But it’s better than the alternative.

Being your own worst enemy is, well, the worst.  This is because you can never get away from yourself.  How about being a good manager to yourself instead?

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve