The Agile Bear Inspirations:
Episode 6: Respect

Respect is the last Agile value and it brings us to the last episode of the Agile Bear Inspirations series.

As our teams kick off their new adventure doing Scrum as it’s meant to be done, we must all remember to respect ourselves and each other.  While we as coaches insist you follow the rules for now, we also want you to learn how to become truly self-managing and self-organizing. Part of the motivation behind this is to ensure that the team has the right amount of “positive conflict” or friendly competition to challenge each other.  A high-performing Agile team does not look like it lives in a constant state of nirvana… But even as team members drive each other to persevere and outdo themselves, they must always remain respectful.

Most of us assume the founding Scrum fathers meant the dictionary definition of Respect, which is to have admiration for one another’s skill and knowledge and offer the respect that comes from that. That’s a pretty good start, but they meant something deeper. If you look at their definition in the earliest books, they meant respecting the inherent diversity of people’s backgrounds and experiences. Not just tolerating differences by giving respect in a quid pro quo fashion, but using differences to tussle and struggle a bit and come out with a novel idea. Scrum is about novel ideas, generated through open honest conversation and collaboration.  Diversity is a key way to get there.

Lyssa Adkins gave me the inspiration to fashion the following thought experiment:

How much diversity can your team handle? The more they can handle, the more creative they will be. Does your team have the “right” to be diverse and creative? Have the the team talk about how they will become more inclusive of diverse ideas.

Respect Within the Scrum Team

The Product Owner demonstrates respect by:

  • Supportiing the team’s ability to create its own plan of action
  • Giving the team the right amount of their time the team needs to meet their commitments
  • Helping them improve their story creation skills so they can meet their commitment and so the stakeholders receive the value they “need”
  • Making sure that the team understands the priority and negotiating it with the team when it is needed
  • Celebrating both the team’s failures and successes
  • Learning with the team and being a part of the team, never an outsider, nut a true team member
  • “Owning” one’s individual approvals, decisions, and definitions, thus creating a respectful environment for everyone

The ScrumMaster demonstrates respect by:

  • Showing empathy and taking into consideration everyone’s roles, ideas, and needs, as well as the entire situation, and adjusting their style to meet the need
  • Building trusting relationships with everyone on the team
  • Listening to team member concerns and taking upon themselves the task of escalating valid issues to the person or group capable of resolving the issue

Team Members demonstrate respect by:

  • Working as or toward becoming a cohesive high-performing team, wherein all team members trust and respect each other
  • Managing conflict and challenging conversations, always assuming positive intent so that the outcome is also positive and not destructive to the team
  • Keeping others from wasting time
  • Showing up on-time to meetings
  • Helping the team solve problems by listening and sharing ideas and thoughts in a positive manner, and not using silence as a defense mechanism
  • Creating a positive environment by being optimistic and flexible and trying not to be impulsive to the team’s detriment

The 12-Item Respectful Leadership Scale

Does your leader pass the 12 leadership checklist as developed by Niels van Quaquebeke in his paper “Defining Respectful Leadership: What It Is, How It Can Be Measured, and Another Glimpse at What It Is Related to”?

My leader…

  1. trusts my ability to independently and self-reliantly perform well
  2. expresses criticism in an objective and constructive way
  3. recognizes me as a full-fledged counterpart
  4. recognizes my work
  5. shows a genuine interest in my opinions and assessments
  6. treats me in a polite manner
  7. does not try to hold me responsible for his/her own mistakes
  8. unequivocally stands up for me and my work against third parties
  9. provides me with any information that is relevant to me
  10. takes me and my work seriously
  11. interacts in an open and honest way with me
  12. treats me in a fair way

“When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they will become what they should be. ”

~ Thomas S. Monson

 Homework, One Last Time

Now for the homework. I suggest each team fill in the blank in the following sentence:

“We believe in the Scrum Value Respect therefore we will ________________.”

For example, your team might come back with:

“We believe in the Scrum Value Respect, therefore we will be careful to listen and consider everyone’s ideas on the team so that all team members feel they are important and are respected.”

See how many you can create.  Yes, it is a part of your growing team agreement!


Then What?


My suggestion is that you can hold a small workshop to create this artifact or you can do it through email, having everyone add to the list their thoughts in filling out the sentence.  Once you have all voted on the ones you want in your team agreement on the Scrum Value of Respect, add one final set of ideas around how the team wants to hold each other accountable to this new team agreement.

Finally take a commitment vote.  Post it in a prominent place in your team rooms.  Remind each other and really follow through with the agreement and gently calling each other out; both as a celebration of the good and the opportunities to improve and learn.  Also, every once in a while have a conversation with the team about how you have been applying this value.

Bye For Now

As this is the last episode in this series, I find it appropriate to sign off. Thank you for observing the five Scrum Values with me–and if you’ve forgotten them for some reason, I’ve given them below here, along with the Agile Manifesto. I leave you with something I sometimes say, with regard to Respect:

“Respect me enough to tell me the truth. Care for me by doing it with a hug.”

~ Carl Shea, the Agile Bear

The Five Scrum Values

  1. Focus – Because we focus on only a few things at a time, we work well together and produce excellent work. We deliver valuable items sooner.
  2. Courage – Because we work as a team, we feel supported and have more resources at our disposal. This gives us the courage to undertake greater challenges.
  3. Openness – As we work together, we express how we’re doing, what’s in our way, and our concerns so they can be addressed.
  4. Commitment – Because we have great control over our own destiny, we are more committed to success.
  5. Respect – As we work together, sharing successes and failures, we come to respect each other and to help each other become worthy of respect.

 The Agile Manifesto

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Episode 1: The Scrum Values

Episode 2: Focus

Episode 3: Courage

Episode 4: Openness

Episode 5: Commitment