5 + 1 Questions to... Sofia Peixoto

Sofia Peixoto is an Agile Coach, Scrum Master and a Systemic Constellations Facilitator from Porto, Portugal. She’s the co-founder of Late King, a company offering Lateral Thinking games and workshops.

I got connected to Sofia via a previous guest Justyna Pindel. I was triggered by the fact she’s besides an agile coach, she’s also a Systemic Constellation facilitator. This got my attention as I’m also heavily interested in Systemic Constellations.

“A System is a number of elements that are connected to one another in a continuously changing relationship”.  

Systemic Constellation is a method to reveal the hidden dynamics which operate within a family or organization. It allows us to analyze complex problems, identify hidden dynamics and find sustainable solutions for issues in organizations. A Constellation is a method of mapping/modeling the team or organization so that information about systemic issues is brought to light. Using this information the facilitator can advise the client on potential solutions to restore harmony and balance in the system.

1. What is Agile or the Agile Mindset for you? 

For me, it is about people. It is about going back to basic human values, such as respect, autonomy, empathy, responsibility and accountability. It is also about leadership and empowerment. I believe people are always capable of much more if we give them the right kind of environment, tools, training and guidance. Agile fosters all of this. That’s why we need everyone on board, to create the best conditions for people to grow and make the company grow as a consequence.

2. What’s your favorite tool or method you use during your coaching? 

I can’t say I have one particular tool or method. I use many of them. The key for me is knowing what to apply and when. For that, I have to know the people, know the teams, understand what they are going through, listen to them and try to feel what they need most at any given moment in time. For me, there’s no point in having a great tool if I use it at the wrong moment. Tools and methods are great to have, but being aware of the needs of the teams is everything.

3. What book or website would you recommend? 

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I recommend reading the book ‘Turn The Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level’ by L. David Marquet. It showcases the difference a leader can make just by adopting a different leadership style.

In the book, we read, in the first person, what it was like to be assigned leadership of a disgraced submarine and how, in a year period, changing the type of leadership, it became a consecrated submarine. I love that the principles applied are fit for any type of company and are totally aligned with the Agile Mindset. This is the kind of leadership companies need to have in order to inspire and grow.

4. What is essential for you during an Agile transformation?

I would say we need two things.

First, we need a continuous improvement mindset. Things won’t go as planned, as we all know. It is a journey, one that we need to adapt to. If we fail to adapt while implementing an Agile transformation then we have already failed.

The second thing I would say is to have the retrospective prime directive in mind. The prime directive was created by Norm Kerth in the book “Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Review”. It goes like this: “Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.”. Assigning blame won’t get the company anywhere, we need to focus on solutions, on moving forward, while helping and guiding people that were used to other ways of working to adapt.

5. What is 1 Aspect of coaching Agile teams you like the most? 

For me, it’s about watching their progress and about growing with them. I love looking back and realizing how much a team has changed over time, how much some of the people have changed. On a day-to-day basis we almost don’t notice changes, but if we look back three, six or twelve months we’ll notice. It’s like a child’s growth. Also, while observing, figuring out ways to help and coach I learn a lot. I learn many things about people, interactions, leadership and mindset. I also learn about myself, I put myself out of my comfort zone regularly, I face setbacks, I improve my resilience. I am basically growing with the teams, with the people I help.

+1. How important is personal growth as a scrum master or agile coach?

I think it’s all interconnected. I can’t think of being a scrum master or an agile coach and not applying to me the same principles I ask teams and people to apply to them. How could I ask someone to challenge themselves and improve and not do it myself?

I actually moved to an agile coach after having invested in my own personal growth. There came a moment when I realized that change is possible, when looking back I could see so many ways in which I had changed. Being a developer was no longer for me, I needed a different kind of challenge, so why not help other people and help teams to do the same thing I was doing?

And, as I said before, I grow as I coach teams, I am personally growing just by being an agile coach. Being on my own personal development journey also gives me new tools, experiences and methods that I can then take and apply to teams. Basically, it’s a two-way street, by investing in my personal growth I lead by example and become a better coach and by being a team coach I learn and invest in my own personal growth.