Why should I pay for mentoring? Well, you should.

Why should I pay for mentoring? Well, you should.

Dear Readers,

I hope this blog post finds you well. Today, I’d like to address a topic that has been a recurring discussion in my interactions with potential mentees – the concept of charging for mentorship sessions.

I think, and I believe that it’s important to shed light on this approach to mentorship, its underlying principles, and why I have chosen to charge for my mentoring services.

Read on.

Investment and Commitment:

One of the key reasons behind my decision to charge for mentoring sessions is the belief that individuals seeking mentorship should have “skin in the game.” 

We seldom value anything that we get for free. Look around, and you’ll notice that when you buy anything, you take care of that more than the thing which you got for free.

In other words, mentees should demonstrate their commitment to their personal and professional growth.

Paying for mentorship is a tangible way to express this commitment. It ensures that those who seek my guidance are genuinely dedicated to their own development. This commitment often leads to more productive and meaningful mentoring relationships.

Now, it truly depends on what and how you want to pay. Mentoring is not my business, but, I want to make sure that you respect my time and take real interest in your own interest.

Value Exchange:

Mentorship is a reciprocal relationship. While I am wholeheartedly committed to sharing my knowledge and expertise, I also recognize the value of my time and experience.

Charging for my mentoring services is a way to acknowledge this mutual exchange of value. It allows me to continue offering mentorship to those who truly appreciate and benefit from it. In other words, I don’t want time wasters or those who are willing to meet just for the sake of it.

I understand that some may have reservations about paying for mentorship. My goal is to help you achieve your goals, overcome challenges, and develop the skills necessary for success. And for that, you are the one who will have to prove that you are serious. What is there  simplest measure of that? Money!

My past experience:

There was this gentleman, who I met at a conference I was speaking at. He was really keen to meet over coffee and wanted to pick my brain (actually, I don’t like this term) about a challenge he was facing at work.

Seeing his persistence, I agreed to meet him. He suggested a cafe which was a bit far for me, but that seemed like a place in the middle. At the cafe, he casually asked me to go ahead and buy my own coffee. Not that he could not afford it. Of course, he got the suggestions that could solve his problem. So, I invested my time, my money, and my effort in exchange of feeling like being duped.

Now, I clarify in advance that my mentoring fee covers the cost of my time, expertise, and guidance.

If you are interested in pursuing mentorship with me and resonate with this approach, I would be delighted to work with you.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns, and we can discuss the details of how we can proceed.

Look, my intention is not solely to turn mentorship into a revenue stream because I don’t need to, but to foster productive and committed mentoring relationships. By charging for my services, I aim to ensure that both mentor and mentee are fully invested in the journey toward success.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and I look forward to the possibility of working together on your path to personal and professional growth.

Best regards,
Rajesh

How a neighbour taught me a quick lesson in divergent mindset, and gifted me 12 books too

How a neighbour taught me a quick lesson in divergent mindset, and gifted me 12 books too

I learned a great lesson from my neighbour (and got these books as gift).

You will enjoy this story. Read on!

Last night on my evening walk I stopped by to say hello to a retired, wealthy neighbor.

As we chatted, he asked me if I read books. He seemed quite pleased when I said that I read a lot. He then invited me to come inside and see his library, which he seemed very proud of.

It was a big library. He showed me some of his favorite books and as we talked more, I noticed that he was happy to talk to someone who had the same thought process. He ended up giving me a gift of 12 books, some of which were on Donald Trump.  And that is what I found interesting!

Curious, I asked him if he was a Trump supporter, to which he said that he was not. Obviously, I asked him then why he read books on Trump.

Then came a good advice…

He said that to understand someone’s mindset and to form an opinion about them, you must learn about them first. He then went on to explain that while he did not agree with everything that Trump did or said, he felt that it was important to read about him and his ideas before he placed a judgement on him.

As I left my neighbor’s house with my stack of books, I felt grateful for his generosity and the lesson he had imparted. This conversation made me realize that it is easy to form opinions and judgments about people without really understanding them or where they are coming from.

Reading books on a variety of topics and perspectives can broaden our minds and help us to see the world in a more nuanced way.

I might take long time to read these books, or might not read some of them at all, but I am grateful for the reminder that it is important to keep an open mind and to approach things with curiosity and a willingness to learn. Although, I am excited to dive into the books especially the ones on Trump, to learn more about the former president, what his thought process was and how he formed his policies.

You never know what you might discover when you take the time to truly understand someone else’s perspective.

I wrote a post about perspective and perception recently. Have a look if you wish to learn more about what these terms mean.

If you liked this post, then don’t forget follow me and share it.

Are You Making Career Transition Easier or Harder?

Are You Making Career Transition Easier or Harder?

In my 25+ years of career, I have made many transitions to different roles, jobs and industries. Career transition can be nerve wracking, but if done well, it can be very rewarding.

Here are a few tips on how to successfully transition your career.

1. Validate purpose

Check why you want to transition to a different <role, job or industry>

If you have good enough reasons, then move to the next step.

Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

Also, the grass is always greener on the other side.

2. Plan

A well though-out plan can reduce risks of unknown in a new career.

Add a timeline to your plan. A timeline can make your plan measurable and can give a direction to your goal.

Remember that plans are nothing, planning is everything.

3. Get a mentor

A good mentor can make your career journey smooth by sharing their experience and by exposing your blind spots.

They can drive, guide and inspire you.

A mentor can also help you stay afloat when stress and anxiety try to pull you down.

4. Get skilled

Read, study, learn!

Take classes, attend webinars, watch videos, listen to podcasts, read books,…

Do everything that enhances your skill level in your aspired career.

While you won’t become the best in short term, you’ll become really good.

5. Note your current skills

When changing careers, people worry that they don’t have skills.

We all have transferable skills. You may be great at networking or speaking, or writing or collaborating etc.

Employers need these skills in their staff. Add these to your resume.

6. Get experience (while in transition)

Here are some ideas:

– Do side projects/ freelancing

– Do pro-bono work for a friend

– Find an internship

– Offer free work to a start-up

– Join a crowdsourcing group

Add these to your resume.

All of these show that you’re passionate.

7. Network like hell

They say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”

Ideas for networking:

– Go to local industry events (meetups, conferences, exhibitions..)

– Attend online events

– Join online forums (must add value to those)

– Connect with experienced folks online

8. Be open and ask for help

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

What’s the worst that can happen? Someone would say no to you. That’s it!

Harry Potter book was rejected numerous times too.

Ask for entry level roles, internships or paid projects (depending on your situation).

9. Last, but not the least, be patient.

Changing career direction can take time. It’s a slow process.

Effort, perseverance and patience with good planning are the right ingredient for success.

Leading Change: A Story of Organisational Culture, Reward and Reprimand

Leading Change: A Story of Organisational Culture, Reward and Reprimand

This is a story from an organisation which I hated working for, but stayed for a couple of years because my then manager was a kind person and we both disliked the place equally. We were also comfortable with each other in talking about the incompetent people, who made the majority of that place and the organisational culture.

 

This place was a model organisation for all the wrong reasons. There were trust issues, toxicity, bad culture, nepotism, questionable management competence, lack of integrity, lack of empathy for employees as well as for customers among many other dysfunctions.

 

In simple words, it was a clusterfcuk. (A friend suggested that I replace it with “omnishambles”, which sounds more posh and sophisticated. Nah! doing so would dilute the effectiveness of this post. And more importantly, if I do use that fancy word, I will not be happy.)

 

Leading to win (that’s what I thought):  

At one point of time at that place, I was leading a digital transformation team. Even though the whole thing was completely screwed up, and the consultants were screwing it up even more, I am thankful for all the lessons I learned there. Plus, the bonus was that I got all the stories to share like this one.

 

The people in my team were part of the same system. Some of them were new, and  some had fused the organisation’s DNA with theirs. The environment was so bad, that all new people got influenced within weeks and became political quickly. If you don’t know how cults work, you can get an idea here.

 

Anyway, long story short. I was in the role for just a couple of months before I went for my planned leaves for about three weeks. The team was delivering the outcomes and I was doing my best to enable the achievements of those goals. I was coaching them, mentoring them and at times, holding hands to get work done.

 

Look, the problem with being too focused on your objectives is that sometimes you fail to read the room. People can be two faced and if you don’t realise that soon enough, they will do good enough damage. 

 

Airlines teach pilots situational awareness. Which is about being aware of one’s surroundings, and not just rely on the instrument. Not being situationally aware can cause trouble and that was the mistake I made too. I should have been more diligent in keeping an eye on environmental factors. It is like product companies keeping an eye out on subtle feedback coming out on Twitter and fixing problems before they become issues.  

 

Anyway, back to the story of the screwed up project and place.

 

Hoping for a reward:

 

When I returned from the leave and joined the work back, the CTO called me in his cabin.

 

The CTO was a nice person, but he wasn’t a charismatic leader and he lacked conviction (I was going to say ‘he lacked balls’, but that wouldn’t be nice, right?). His demeanor was of a person who is trying hard to stay in his job and not ruffle any feathers. But you know what, an appease-all policy makes your position weaker. In my opinion, stronger and assertive people command more respect and have better chances of staying or growing in their jobs than others.

 

So yeah, he called me for a quick meeting in his office.  

 

“Recognition time!”, I thought. 

 

Yes, you guessed it right. I was not going to get recognition. I was there for a reprimand. 

 

With a serious face, and a deep tone, he said that the team told him that Rajesh was gone, and no one noticed. It seemed that I wasn’t making an impact. And that I did not have control on the team. In his opinion, the team should have been dependent on my leadership.

 

Honestly, I felt betrayed by the team. I treated them as friends, and they behaved like grade 3 kids who tell on you to the teacher. I also felt bad that the team couldn’t see the bigger picture. They had much more freedom than other teams. 

 

So, when I replied to the CTO, he was instantly remorseful. 

 

I said, “I am actually quite happy to hear what the team said to you.”

 

He looked confused, and said, “What do you mean?”

 

I continued, “It seems that I was able to achieve my goal much earlier than expected. If the team believes that they were able to function without having someone guiding and driving them, then they have become a self-contained, self-organised team. They have learned much more about delivering innovative products than anyone else in the entire group. I know that there are many other organisations and teams that try their best to achieve self-organisation and never reach there. We should celebrate that we are doing the right thing.”

 

There was a long pause.

 

Then the CTO said, “I should have thought that, and I should have said that to the team. You are right. Sorry that I didn’t manage it well.”

 

WHOA! I never expected that I would ever hear those words. While there was no formal recognition, at least he understood what I was trying to do.


Culture change is hard: 

You might be wondering what happened next. When I tell this story to people, some assume that there was a happy ending with rewards, awards, recognitions, and a case study of organisational improvement.

 

No, nothing of that sort happened. Culture problems often have deep roots and resolving them takes time, courage, integrity, congruence, openness and willingness by the leaders first. I think it all starts with accepting that there are problems.

 

In this case too, culture problems were deep rooted.

 

To me, it was clear that trust was an issue. It was broken.

 

I did have an open discussion with the team and we discussed having honesty meetings. Someday I will write about that too. 

 

Most of the team members understood what they had achieved and that I was there to help. Yet, some of them were not onboard. They were laggards. After leaving that organisation many years ago, I came to know that the laggards were still there where they were.

 

Not long after that incident, I left that organisation. I knew that I was a square peg in a round hole. 

 

One can only try to change a system. Most of the time you can only influence a small part of a system and there is a high likelihood that this small part will go back to its old ways due to other parts of the system. 

When you try to change a system, not all parts of the system will react the same way. But that doesn’t mean that we stop trying.

 

I tried, I succeeded a little, and then I failed.

 

Change takes time. Effect of change can take even longer. And recognition and reward will not always be part of the process.

 

As change agents, we must be patient while remaining pragmatic.

Three Agile and Scrum questions from a reader

Three Agile and Scrum questions from a reader

Delivering work using Agile practices can be tough because work environments vary and different organisations throw different kinds of challenges on us. I often receive questions from readers about agile delivery practices. What I have been observing for a while is that the questions mostly relate to dealing with people. As Jerry Weinberg said through his Second Law of Consulting, “No matter how it looks at first, it’s always a people problem.”

This post answers some of the common questions that I recently received from one of my contacts. I have made some minor edits to make the questions generic. 

Coaching teams and organisations

Question 1. How should I as a Scrum master go about coaching the organisation about Agile. I come from a consulting background and coaching is usually limited to the Scrum team that I work for. Are there any techniques that can help me coach organisations or stakeholders?    

Answer: As a Scrum master, oftentimes you will only work with a couple of teams. Coaching one or two teams is easier, manageable and more convenient. However, there’s no optimum number of teams that a Scrum master can work with. Although it might appear useful that a Scrum master should only work with one team, a lot depends on the nature of the work the teams are doing, their maturity in terms of the agility, the complexity of the work, the structure, size and the culture of the organisation etc. 

One thing is sure that as a Scrum master, an organisation wouldn’t want you to be spread too thin. In his book Secrets of Consulting, Jerry Weinberg offered us his Law of Raspberry Jam, “The wider you spread it, the thinner it gets.” And, as you may know, good jam has lumps. I think a thinner jam loses taste too. In our terms, that’d be losing focus or interest.

Now coming back to your question of coaching the organisation. It pays to confirm what someone means by coaching. People often confuse training and coaching. Let’s assume that they want you to coach the organisation on using Agile practices. How would you do that? Of course you will understand their context, the training and skill gaps, and possibly the problems they want to solve through coaching. Accordingly you will find the things that will offer you few quick wins and time to find a long term solution.

Techniques of coaching depend on who you’ll deal or work with. I often mix things to make them accessible and practical. For example, I’ve organised brown bag sessions, arranged team surveys to find out what they want to learn, scheduled coaching sessions with other Scrum events so that teams don’t use the sprint time for training, coached teams by organising team contests etc. My experience is that given sufficient notice, stakeholders enjoy taking part in contests or challenges.

 

Getting pushed back on Agile Delivery

Question: Many times I get to deal with Clients who have low agile maturity. Either at the team level, or at the stakeholder level. I get pushed back on Agile process delivery as this would disrupt their business. In such a scenario, I initially did an Agile/Scrum 101 training. Talked about my successful experiences from the past with successful Agile delivery. However, I still felt that the clients or teams were not convinced. How should I have approached this as SM differently to get the stakeholders or team to buy into Agile ways of working?

Answer: That’s a good question and many Scrum masters, Agile coaches and delivery managers experience similar challenges.

First thing that we should understand is that Agile itself is not the goal. Even though some organisations might say that they want to be Agile, their main objective is possibly to solve some other problem through applying Agile methods or the mindset.

What often seems to happen is that when given a responsibility, many Agilists blindly start applying frameworks, tools or methods. This results in pushback from teams as well as stakeholders. (You might want to watch this video about tools and frameworks). Agile is about change and we know that people don’t like change because change is hard. (But remember that change is not always resisted. Having new born babies brings a huge change in people’s life, but almost everyone enjoys that even though it turns their lives upside down, at least for a while.)

Your clients must have hired you for a specific reason or reasons. They wanted you to solve some problem for them. Understanding their problems, their context and what bothers them builds your own confidence in the problem solving process and also instills confidence in the client. Running Agile 101 is the easy part. Knowing whether that is required, is the hard part.

Old School Product Owner?

Question: I had a tough PO who needed all requirements into the project delivery roadmap. What would be the best way to convince a PO that we cannot have all the features in the product roadmap and can only accommodate a MVP approach ensuring we can only focus on features that can be developed in a given period of time.  

Answer: It appears to me that your PO was not trained in product ownership and was only carrying the PO label. You might want to show them this video from my talk at the Agile POs and BAs meetup. In this talk I explained what product ownership is and how the prioritisation works. I’ve heard that many people found it useful. 

Although things have slightly changed since Henrik Kniberg wrote about MVP, sometimes I still use the sketch that he created to explain the idea.

You may also want to make sure that the POs you work with get training in product ownership and understand that their job is not to manage people, but to work with them for frequent delivery of valuable outcomes. You can do that by building a trusted relationship with them. Think about getting into a social contract with them.

Side note: there is no single ‘best way’ for almost anything, but there are always many good ways. ‘Best’ expresses ‘the only way’, while there can be more than one way of achieving our goals.

So, these were my responses to the questions. What else would you add to these answers? Would you answer these questions in a different way or would you give a completely different answer? Let me know.

Commit to CRIME

Commit to CRIME

When Mike told me and few others that we should commit to crime and also get our teams to do that, I was like, “Huh? What do you mean?”. 

 He went on to explain what CRIME acronym was. 

CRIME stands for Collaboration, Retrospective, Investigating, Mapping and Exploration. I found the acronym useful as this reminds you of the basics that we should all be following and keeping track of. In fact, mnemonics has been a proven technique for remembering ideas and concepts for a very long time. People who have studied chemistry will possibly remember how they memorised the Periodic Table.

This website is a useful resource for learning more about mnemonics.  

I have attached the sketch for you that you can share with your teams.  If you can’t download it here, then please email me and I’ll send it to you.

Mike is a friend of mine from North Carolina. He is an author, speaker and QA Director. Although he used the acronym CRIME for testers, I modified it to suit Agile delivery people and teams.

 

Crime acronym