The role of Community in my Journey— Part II

Holding Space & Paying it Forward

If you stumbled upon this article I want to share that this is part of a series. In Part I, I shared about a pivotal point in my Journey that motivated me to get involved with the local agile community. This is a continuation from that point on. If you would like to start at the beginning of my Journey here is a link to Part I.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

After a burst of inspiration and signing up as a volunteer to host a Lean Coffee for Agile Orlando, I was waiting for the perfect moment to take the plunge. I attended a couple of Lean Coffees hosted by co-organizers and I was impressed. They were very knowledgable in their craft and facilitated the sessions flawlessly. I started to have second thoughts about whether I was a capable of taking this on.

Did I need to be an expert in Agile & Lean to host a Lean Coffee? Even though I knew I was an effective Scrum Master & brought energy and happiness to my teams, this was daunting to me and I suddenly felt ill-equipped for this task. Why was I having second thoughts? Was I experiencing Imposter Syndrome?

Holding Space for a Lean Coffee @ my favorite Cafe (Stardust)

A few months later I started a new role as an Agile Coach for a Healthcare IT company near downtown Orlando and was still on the search for a perfect spot to hold a Lean Coffee. Mark Kilby connected me with a co-organizer of Agile Orlando (Luis Moros), who was looking to partner with someone to get a Lean Coffee going. This was the perfect opportunity for me to co-host but I was unable to find time to think about it further. I was juggling the responsibilities of my new role and trying to find time to connect with Luis when I discovered that he had just joined the company I was in, as a senior developer. What a coincidence!

Was the universe clearing the way and making it easier for me to make a decision to host a Lean Coffee by removing the barriers to entry?

We immediately setup a lunch, talked through the details and explored the logistics of a local favorite coffee/hang out place to serve as the location — Stardust! It was an eclectic place with plenty of seating options, a ton of character, the right energy to spur creativity and 10 mins from work. We decided on the recurrence — the 3rd Friday of the month @ 7:30am. It was exciting to have found the perfect little spot for our event!

After a rocky couple of months, the event slowly started to attract a few regulars and then there was no turning back. The 3rd Friday of every month was always my favorite Friday. The mere feeling of connecting with agilists outside of work, talking through what we experienced, feeling like you are not alone in this journey and finding a way forward was exciting! The stories I heard inspired the new experiments I tried with my teams.

Over the next few months I realized that I did not need to be an Agile or Lean expert to host a Lean Coffee. It was not about me but about our participants and the conversations waiting to be had. It was about “holding space” and “showing up”! I had kicked Imposter Syndrome to the side and was fully in.

“If you think of holding space as being in the center of the wheel, it’s being in the center and holding the energy of what’s both inside the bounds and outside; it’s magnetic — you draw in what’s most coherent to the intention.” (Margo Adair)

The unexpected element of Open Space was prevalent in a Lean Coffee and there was always learning that followed. Co-organizers would come often to support the event. Mark Kilby, Sarah Baca and Ken Nordquist made the experience meaningful for me and I started to get more energized about my journey ahead.

Stepping up as Co-Organizer of Agile Orlando

A few months after the Lean Coffee was successfully running, we had an Agile Orlando meeting to discuss roles and responsibilities as a Committee for the upcoming year. Mark and Sarah had been shouldering a lot of the responsibilities so far & Mark wanted to get more involved in the “Remote Agile” community. There was a need for someone else to step up to keep Agile Orlando going. I volunteered to help without fully knowing what I was getting myself into. A co-organizer (Ken) partnered with me to take the lead which was a relief. Filled with apprehension and excitement I was looking forward to what lay ahead!

I had a very full life already with a full time leadership position leading a company through their Transformation and other hobbies which occupied most my time. How was I going to find time to support the Agile Orlando community? I had never failed at something I had taken up, and this was going to be no different. Mark always reminded us to only do what we could sustain; yet we felt the responsibility to deliver and get on a cadence since the community was yearning for more events.

What happened over the next 2 years was driven by the inspiration I got from my co-organizers & the burning desire to pay it forward.

Mark, Sarah, Ken and a few others helped me get up to speed and soon I was able to keep things going for the Community along with their help. The responsibilities involved orchestrating monthly events for the community — that needed a speaker, venue, food and a lot of other logistics that had to be figured out, in addition to creating and socializing the event online. This commitment along with the Lean Coffee had me fully immersed in our mission as a member of the Agile Orlando leadership team!

In addition to feeling a sense of purpose & paying it forward what I took away from this experience is how beautifully the Agile Orlando Leadership Team worked together. We all had — clarity of Mission, inherent Trust, strong Purpose & a desire to Pay it Forward. This was a high performing agile team in action and it was beautiful to experience!

The Unexpected Learning Opportunities

After a year or so of immersing myself with Agile Orlando I reflected on my experience and was grateful for the direction it was taking:

  1. With a simple desire to “get involved” I went from co-hosting a Lean Coffee event once/a month, to taking the lead on organizing the monthly events for Agile Orlando.
  2. This unlocked a lot of learning opportunities for me — learning more about facilitation, coaching mindset, holding space, the art and beauty of open space events and more.

I started to focus my attention more on “holding space and facilitation” and creating the right environment for my teams to thrive!

To think I have might have completely missed out on this opportunity if I had not “taken a leap of faith & believed” was humbling. The opportunity to volunteer my time, co-create events with my co-organizers and pay it forward was an experience I will always look back at, smile and be extremely grateful for.

My Journey was taking exciting turns …

I am passionate about growing people, building “psychological safety” within teams and organizations.