PersonalKanban and Presencing: #agile #scrum #coworking #firecatstudio

Current trends gaining traction in leadership coaching about mindfulness, compassionate listening, and conscious consumption prompted me to combine these practices and host the Firecat First Friday coworking session in the following format:

1. Becoming present-  Participants gathered to “becoming present” thus preparing themselves to focus and articulate their vision for the year.

2. Creating personal backlog (a brain dump of sorts) – Using words and sketches participants generated stories that define their expectations of the coming year.

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3. Communicating the personal backlog- Once the stories were visualized, they had to find a partner and share their intentions. When listening, individuals were encouraged to make gentle eye contact, to not provide feedback, avoid forming opinions, be open to stories being told, show empathy and kindness. While speaking individuals were encouraged to narrate with pride, believe their thoughts and avoid self criticism .  Each person had to repeat the cycle at least 5 times to enable self direction, articulation, and gaining confidence about their vision.


4. Regroup for presencing- A second iteration of presencing enhanced their ability to feel and accept their heightened awareness about wants, clarity about intentions, and shift in perceptions.

5. Discover Personal Kanban and create boards- The presencing method, creating and communicating the backlog enabled participants to create / design physical board that resonated their current wants. Since most of our participants were solopreneurs, entrepreneurs  and WFH professionals – relating Kanban and Kaizen to what they already do in their professional lives made complete sense.

Session feedback- Listening is hard. Listening without forming opinions is painful. Listening without providing feedback is evil!

Self direction is necessary to be self organized and be accountable.  Maintaining a Personal Kanban board shows a high level of self-respect and an ability to strategize based on the patterns of flow.

Work that needs to be completed might be messy, but requires attention.

The biggest lesson of all:  We probably just opened a can of worms!! :):)





#agile #coach #leadership: Find Mrs. Lovett for your team yet?

After devouring hardcore management and neuroscience books in the past couple of months, the article ( ) caught my peripheral vision this morning.

Like a breath of fresh air, it helped me laugh my stress away; and then, ponder.

It holds truth. Makes sense. Is humorous. and lovable.  It helps us loosen up and take a different perspective about the 10 qualities that are discussed here. IMG_2374

The  4th quality “ask for help” is one critical aspect that we generally overlook. By addressing the psychological needs of a leader, it brings to light the sensitivity about the role. A leader likes to be “wanted”. A leader cannot do it alone.

Where does one find a Mrs. Lovett that wants a Sweeny Todd? How do corporate Mrs. Lovetts’ look like ?

Here are some traits:

They are intelligent, wise and want to succeed. But they can’t lead from the front. They prefer to operate from the shadow. They love the shade cast by the leader. They are amazing contributors. They bring a lot of value and credibility to the leaders’ work. They love being a LOYAL team player. Are in love with what the leader intends to do. Hold the cause of the leader as their personal cause. Provide support. They enjoy the experience, and feel important. Their needs are met by serving the leaders’ cause. Their adrenalin flow is supported by the leaders vision. They fill those important gaps that the leader cannot see.

(and now if they are in your organization make sure to gain their trust and loyalty, and get them on board! ) and I hold off on saying “get them on board at any cost”.

#coaching Mind vs Heart – Shifting our thinking

“I do know for sure this is just peanut butter on a slice of bread. And what a lousy photograph” said the mind.

IMG_1590  “Not really” says the heart.  “It is an owl. And it is so beautiful.”  “No! I don’t see the owl. It is peanut butter. You stupid. This is just some mushy stuff!”  The mind admonishes.  The heart is hurt. It whimpers. Hides.

Until some years ago, what we thought and felt were considered two different streams. Thinking and Logic became mainstream.  Logic ruled.  We needed to measure. We needed to repeat, without much additional thinking. So came amazing processes. Evaluations. Degrees. Schools. We evolved our lives around this maze. Built communities. Civilizations. That became mainstream.

Now being mainstream is not cool anymore. Well, it was never cool. We always needed Alternates. Rebels. Misfits. We have legacy vs new processes for building software. We have traditional vs non traditional education systems. We now have traditional allopathic vs alternate holistic healing.  Logic vs Heart. Managers vs Facilitators. Hero vs Co-creating.  Isolation vs Co-existing.

“Just the mind” is gone.  It is now “mind, body and spirit”. We say that in Agile. Bring your spirit to the team. Let us co-exist. Let us co-create.

How do we shift our thinking? Where do we start?

The first act is to : PAUSE. STOP. Ask Why? Identify alternates. Understand there is a choice for everything. Every thought. Every act. Are you following the crowd? Are you doing things out of fear? Are you doing them so that you can fit in? Are you doing them because you really don’t care anymore?

These questions help to uncover so many truths, and you can do them by yourself. Maintain a diary. A journal. Sometimes just writing down events that happen are a good start. I got myself a cute pink (first pink for me) bound journal  last year to write down stuff that was happening in my life. Some were not so good events, and they hurt. But I could cry in the comfort of knowing that I was there for me. I could introspect at my pace.  When I read what I had written, I couldn’t believe that I could feel like that. Think that way.  I did not want to feel like that any more.  I did not want to be in situations like that any longer. This helped me take care of those hurtful or painful situations, one at a time. Some slow. Some fast.

Then read. Blogs. Books. Articles. Listen to podcasts. TEDTalks. Something will catch your eye. Will appeal to you deeply.  We  really do not have to shift away from our mainstream interests to understand life. I am realizing that management gurus speak what scientific gurus write about. Scientific gurus refer to spiritual gurus.  It is now a cool trend for management and spiritual gurus to hold retreats and conferences together.

WHY?  It goes back to where we started. Mind and Heart. They need each other. They should not be in conflict. They should be in harmony.  Harmony is not a middle path. Nor it is negotiated at 50-50. Nor it is balance. There is no line that unites or divides. Harmony is union. We do not seek balance in union. We seek to be complete.  So let us allow our heart to talk; and allow our minds to listen; let them be in conflict. They will find harmony.


“Yeah” said the mind.  “I see an owl and two men”. “Really” said the heart. “Just kidding” came the reply!






#change #leadership: Personal Mastery #sanantonio

During our Meetup session yesterday,  I mentioned to my team mates that I was reading a book, and I would not reveal the author, title or the contents but that the book discusses 5 broad principles the author had discovered; these enable transformation for a learning organization.  They had to pen down 5 important topics that they need to possess to gain expertise (transformation) in their life.

My team mates do not work in a”regular” organization.. they volunteer, are small business owners, managing life with what the universe have given that at this point of time. This are the 5 things that are relevant to Linda:


1.  Have compassion and patience:  This is a basic need. Care for others, care for yourself. Being compassionate helps with understanding what is “really happening”. This helps with not making assumptions by what we hear at face value. Helps with understanding the whole picture.

2. Ambition / Drive for success:  Always strive to be   “THAT”!!!! Ambition and passion are not the same. But Ambition and passion must go together for success.

3.  Passion / Love for what you do:  Passion needs to be FED. Else it gets complacent. Don’t put your passion in the closet.  FEED passion through  continuing what you do, Learning, Doing all you can.

4.  Honesty / Integrity:  Build trust. No one will be involved with you if you are not honest.  (She doesn’t use Monsato products because they are not honest)

5. Knowledge / Research: Back up what you say. No hollow words.

I then showed them the 5th discipline and said if only they had more awareness of what is being discussed in corporate board rooms,  amidst educated and like minded people their vocabulary would have more clarity. Now Linda is probably not YET the type of management guru that you would invite into your boardrooms. But that does not make her less wise does it? Or less passionate about what she is doing right now. She accepted and lived her decisions whole heartedly, and is still discovering her life’s goal and determined to discover her “reason for being here”.

At 60, she is striving to find her purpose.  Way to go Linda and let good luck follow you

#leadership #change: Looking at Okra with a new perspective #sanantonio

I had met Eva during the summer of 2012 at a community gardening event in San Antonio. We were looking at Okra plants ripe with youth, ready to burst with the vegetables.  “I love okra” both us said in unison and laughed.  “I love eating them raw, especially when they are tender and they can be cooked in so many different ways”, I continued. She had that surprised look on her face. “Yes indeed”, I said. As we parted company for the day we exchanged email ids

FF to summer 2013. Eva invites me suggesting that we meet so that she and her friends could use new techniques to flavor Okra and enhance their taste buds; they had collected 5lbs of fresh tender ones in anticipation.  We meet. Chop. Discuss. Have conversations. Break Okra tips. Cook. Taste. Bake. Enjoy. Learn.

Here is how I viewed that 3 hours of time we spent. In retrospect it was all about leadership, community, willingness to learn and adaptation.

Lessons learnt –

Leadership and community:  Eva had a need to know more. Learn. She was hooked. The nagging thought of wanting to use Okra in new ways was tempting. She also knew that there would be a delay, she needed to wait for one more year until they harvest fresh ones. She took the initiative to talk to her fellow community gardeners, inspire them and gather them. She held on to the small piece of paper that had my email id and phone number. She had also gotten hooked to eating fresh tender okras.


Change:  All of us involved had new insights that day.  For those 3 hours I may have been the Okra expert, but that did not make an expert on life or about everything else.  As I showed them how to roast and pound spices, they showed me new ways of utensils care. I learnt more about their life styles, with understanding and sensitivity. Every conversation we had, had a history, an anectode, a tale. We gathered around an suburban kitchen table like girl scouts in a campfire, exchanging stories and drinking hot chocolate.

New ways of thinking:  What we wrote down were not recipes that had to be strictly followed. But rather a few guidelines to cook Okra.  We may have cooked a few dishes. But we had learnt enough to go forward and experiment with different spices, different vegetables, and make dishes with what was available that day. We just expanded our thinking quite casually on a saturday morning, without even having a deliberate intention of changing our perspectives.  We only had a need to try something new;  and meet new people. And of course, get out of bed early!

We also had some interesting perspectives about change, feedback and systems. I will blog about these soon.