Michelle Simonkis

As a US Government Contractor, Michelle joined our Agile Leadership Practice Program to build her catalyst leadership skills and apply them across multiple teams. Through this experience, she shares her key "AHA" learning moments...

The following text is an excerpt from Michelle’s personal change story in our Agile Leadership Journey Practice Program.

Leadership Focus:

A lot can happen in nine months and most of us automatically think of pregnancy.  Some think about going off to military bootcamp in which they break you down to build you up.   It is months of growth, surprises, and changes.  Instantly when I saw the Certified Agile Leadership (CAL 2) Program was available with Pete, I knew that I had to continue from what I learned from CAL 1.  I felt that the first class only was start of my agile path.  I instantly registered.

I was growing in my career and I decided that it was finally time to leave my group after running 9 software application teams after 14 years.  I felt that I needed to grow with a new environment, different people, and dynamic challenges.  I felt that with my experience and passion for teams and people that I could easily slip into another IT organization.

Program Engagement:

The first meeting with Pete, I told him my story.  I led him through my background and my current work experience.  Something he said stuck with me.  He said, “You are either my hero or you have been set up for failure”.  What a powerful concept.  I left that conversation thinking…I am going to be the hero!

I lead two contracts and I spoke of one in particular.  It is a part-time position that I manage in addition to my full-time job.  I encountered personnel challenges and the lack of technical skills to redesign an application.  Most of the time I was running to people that had issues with other team members.  I kept this up for awhile trying to practice what my cohort was learning.  I used some of the technics in which fostered more dialogue, but due to the skill set that these individuals possessed they were looking for more hand holding that I was fostering.  What we were covering and practicing during our cohort was opposite to what this team needed and what I could offer them.  I had one team member that needed constant direction and was creating team conflict.  I was able to secure a friend that could become my technical lead and we were able to switch these gentlemen.  In the end, the one that left was asked to leave the company.   I think I broke down…

What I have Learned:

…set up for failure or be a hero.  I started to feel like I was set up for failure.  I can say the timing of this program was perfect.  Not only was I able to learn techniques and use them, I also had a support system from my cohort.  I was learning, living and trying these methods on a daily basis.  During CAL I, I found that I began as an “expert” and wanted/needed to move to a catalyst.  The team at work needed an “expert” and kept me in that box.  It was a struggle for me to try to break out of that role and into more of a catalyst role.

During the past months, I have been able to do a lot of self-reflection and I have set personal goals to learn and grow.  Through practice I have been able to have more effective conversations with everyone on my team.  My focus was on the individual first.  This helped create more of a team bond, which lead to more open discussions and more collaboration.

Looking Ahead:

…set up for failure or be a hero.  I want to be a hero.  The thing that drives me at my job is the people.  We see our co-workers more than we do over anyone else.  So to have a place where you are happy to work and to be around friends is where I want to be able to lead.    It took me months to get back up mentally and emotionally from the rollercoaster ride I was on.

The great thing about the experience I had during this program is that I was able to practice what I was learning.  I felt like before I had some great teams, but in the end I wasn’t placed into situations where I could be that servant leader.  I am happy to walk away with knowledge and confidence, that when other issues arise, I will be strong enough to know my foundation and where to begin.