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Free yourself from limiting beliefs, to become a better agile team

One of the obstacles to implementing an Agile mindset in a team – and even for oneself – is the set of beliefs we have about ourselves or our environment. These beliefs are often negative and impact our efforts to progress.

In this article, I give you a few insights (and some tools) to help you understand these mechanisms and unlock these beliefs, so that you can finally move forward.

What are these limiting beliefs that hold us back?

“Agility is not for me”, “It is absolutely necessary that everything is planned before starting”, “I am too old / old to change”.

Do these thoughts speak to you? Yes, you can say it…

Well, these are called limiting thoughts or beliefs. It means these thoughts about yourself are blocking you or slowing you down in your attempt to progress.

These thoughts are deeply anchored in you and are a real obstacle to your ability to change and evolve, to achieve your goals.

They are often unconscious and they have been built on the basis of your past experiences, but also via the way you were raised and the culture in which you evolve. We often do not realize their “presence”, nor the impact they can have on our lives.

In a transition to agility, these thoughts will keep you from taking risks and experimenting with new things. You will not dare because one or more of these thoughts will interfere in your thinking.

Some beliefs are extremely strong and even reinforced by the current work environment, which proves it.

For example, if you think “We have no room for error, we must avoid them at all costs” and indeed, a sponsor or a stakeholder becomes vocal in the face of the slightest problem encountered, and makes everyone feel guilty, it’s a safe bet that this belief will remain firmly rooted in your head and that of your team.

However, this type of belief reinforces behaviors that are not conducive to agility. The search for perfection or too much planning are thoughts to be absolutely deconstructed, for the benefit of a growth mindset. It is by working on this aspect that it will become possible to move forward.

Challenging your beliefs: invaluable benefits

Engaging in work on your beliefs can seem difficult, even scary.

However, in this context, it is a question of helping you to unravel the blockers that you may have in the establishment of a new state of mind and new ways of working such as agility.

This approach allows you a greater ability to adapt to changes. Indeed, going after these beliefs and overcoming them, trains your brain to be more flexible. And it is through this mindset of growth and this flexibility that you will learn and experience better.

At the level of your team or organization, challenging limiting beliefs will allow you to better meet the needs of users and customers in the market.

For example: rather than releasing a software after a year and a half, without ever having questioned the end users and after having invested a lot of time and money… and failing miserably at the launch, we are going to identify THE main need, to derive solution hypotheses and test prototypes with the target. This allows you to build a product little by little, while ensuring that it is what customers are looking for. You know, those who will PAY to use your product or service.

It is thanks to this change of mindset that it will be possible to innovate much more and to remain strong in front of your competitors.

But then, how does this change take place?

How to identify and overcome limiting beliefs?

This work is done in 2 main steps. It’s first about identifying where your beliefs come from and exploring them, then deconstructing them and creating new ones that will be much more effective in your journey towards agility.

Step 1: Identify your limiting beliefs

It is often very useful to get help in identifying these limiting beliefs because you do not necessarily see it. If you have an Agile coach on hand, he/she can help you research these thoughts and highlight them through open-ended questions.
Questions like the following, which can help you:

  • What is stopping you from making this change?
  • How do you see things?
  • What are your main concerns in implementing new working methods?
  • How can your current working methods hinder your ability to respond effectively to your customers’ needs?
  • What makes you say that your current methods are more effective in meeting the needs of your customers, without having tried new approaches?

You can also ask for feedback and constructive comments on your way of doing and thinking, from colleagues, your team, your management, a mentor. Prepare to listen carefully to these comments. Put yourself in a posture of curiosity.
It’s not always easy to hear feedback about you. You may feel anxious or even threatened by this idea. In this case, ask yourself what you want to keep from this or that comment, and what you want to leave. Breaking beliefs can take time. Work on what speaks to you most first.

Once you have identified your limiting beliefs, you will be able to explore and deconstruct them.

Step 2: deconstruct and think differently

One of my favorite methods for deconstructing limiting thoughts is what is called “reframing”. It’s about changing the way you’re going to think about a given situation. The idea is to explore other angles, other points of view on the context in which you find yourself.

Your brain has this extraordinary ability to be able to think about your thoughts. It is this mechanism that you can use. Here again, a coach will be your best ally to explore other avenues together.
Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself, once you’ve identified a limiting belief:

  • Why is it a problem for you to think that?
  • What benefits might you find in letting go of these thoughts?
  • What do you have to lose if you try something else?
  • What makes you hold on to these beliefs?
  • If you were in …, how would you see things?
  • Close your eyes and project yourself into a future where you have succeeded in achieving your goals: how does this future see you in this situation? What state of mind is he/she in?

Beyond this individual exercise, certain tools can be useful for deconstructing beliefs as a team.

The retrospective is thus a privileged moment to improve and propose to test new things. The trust generally created with the group provides a framework for daring to explore and experiment.

Brainstorming and mind maps can also be great to use to flatten ideas and thoughts and connect them together and sort out what is useful for the team or not.

There you have it, you have some avenues to explore to free yourself from your limiting beliefs. Ah yes, I have to tell you one more important thing: it is relevant to start with yourself. You know: role model to set an example for others. It’s not the easiest thing, but I guarantee that once you deconstruct your beliefs, a world of possibilities will open up before you.

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