Managing Mirrors

It was a great pleasure to facilitate the recent Agile Coach Camp USA (twitter hashtag #accus) open space. During my regular walkabout to ensure all the sessions were happily bubbling along, I happened on an intriguingly titled session called ‘Steal My Frustration’ convened by @azagile (Michael Kutch). My observations on that session are contained in another post called ‘Pausing for Thought’.

During Michael’s session, we got into an interesting discussion about conflict management situations and what options existed for coaches or team servant leaders when trying to minimize harm and help contain the situation.

Sometimes a person can get so angry about something that the only option in the moment is to let them vent it to a point at which you can safely and reasonably engage with them. When this person is in a team and their actions can be destructive/disruptive to either themselves or to others, the teams servant leadership (coach or scrum master) has a duty to protect the person, themselves and the team from as much of the energy as they possibly can.

I coined the term ‘Managing Mirrors’ to describe the visual that came into my head as the discussion progressed.

I imagined the angry person in their period of anger, as running amok with a laser beam indiscriminately cutting down anyone around them. At a time like this, the most anyone could do might be to run around with mirrors, deflecting the beams away from not only the bystanders, but also away from angry person and ,of course, the coach.

Whilst it is tempting to assume it is only one person’s responsibility to ‘manage mirrors’ in a scenario like this, I feel that it falls on other members of the team (even if purely for self preservation) to, perhaps, manage their own mirrors. To ensure they are not cut down, whilst also ensuring they are not deflecting anger at others as they try and protect themselves.

As I described this visual to someone else, their view on the title created a different possibility, one that I feel could yield a powerful coaching metaphor as a a way to help people effect the change they would like to see in their world.

Our behaviours often reflect what happens around us. For example, if an organisation does not demonstrate it respects its employees, it can be difficult for employees to demonstrate respect for each other – particularly if they have no other social bonds beyond working together.

At a personal level during interactions with others, being able to ‘reflect’ the other person’s behavior in a non-violent way, might lead to opportunities to improve. Or being able to project the positive attitudes in a way that is then reflected back to you (almost as a measure of improvement) is very influential technique.

From a servant leadership position, sensing what a person might need in terms of what is reflected to them at any one time, is an interesting way to think about ‘managing mirrors’, because it might help to guide our decisions on how to offer connections (I know, some example would really work here!).