Name: Adam Murray
Title: Scrum Master Chapter Lead
People-centric Business Agilist with a diverse background spanning Finance, IT, and Hospitality. A skilled team builder, facilitator, and service management expert known for problem-solving and process optimization. Co-host of the "Awaken Agile" podcast, sharing insights on agility's transformative power. Passionate about thriving in dynamic, agile environments and delivering tangible value through honed expertise.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Adam's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
My biggest challenge has been to learn how to not absorb the problems of my people and have them weigh heavily upon my shoulders. As an empathetic leader I listen to my people a lot. I want them to bring me their challenges and issues so that they have a chance to get them off their chest. I used to bear their burden as well and I reflected on how bad that was for my own mental health. I've learned not to do this as much any longer. I can still be caring and compassionate whilst not suffering from empathy fatigue.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Back in the early 2000's I was working in an IT call centre doing remote network support. The small team of nine would watch a screen and if a customer had an issue on their network we would get an alert. It was our job to notify the customer and then diagnose and address the fault for them. Most of the time it was simple power issues or weather events causing the outage. The company at the time felt it would be a good idea to incentivise the team to achieve a certain Network Certification and if we did it within three months they would promote us! Lo and behold every person in the team achieved the goal. Shortly after the promise of promotions never materialised and seven of the team left the company. I was one of two remaining in the team and I took it upon myself to do the rebuild. It was tough going for a few months doing the work of several people whilst hiring new team members and getting the team back to normal operations. As a result of the rebuild I was made Manager of the team and tasked with growing the team further. I was determined not to repeat the mistakes the company made previously and created a career path for the team where we could grow seamlessly whilst at the same time bringing in new people to learn from the ground up. At our height we were a team of forty network engineers from ground level all the way up to very clever network architects.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I am a morning person. I wake up early with no alarm. My body clock wakes me up somewhere between 5 and 5:30. Living 35km away from the office I drive half way and cycle the rest. This way I get some exercise in the morning and it also helps me to decompress on the way home in the afternoon. Most of my meetings are in the morning and I like to check in on my people during the day. Afternoons are fairly open to be able to do some deep work or for those emergencies that pop up. I'm never 100% fully utilised as we know in the Agile world this is a fallacy and nobody can sustain that pace forever. I also want to be available at a moment's notice if my team needs me. Or to field a question from others eager to learn. Through no fault of my own I often get tagged as being the subject matter expert in areas and get requests from all parts of the business. Hence I need to watch my capacity so I don't feel overwhelmed.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
I love the story Simon Sinek tells of Noah the barista. The video is on Youtube and you will find it with a simple search. Noah has two jobs at two different establishments in Las Vegas and his experience as an employee is vastly different. Same person, two different environments. What this teaches me is it is not the people who are the problem it is the environment we sometimes inflict upon them. We as leaders hire our people for a reason. It is our job to give them the tools and systems they need to shine. Then we should get out of their way and let them show to us why we hired them in the first place.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins. When I picked up this book I was early in my Agile journey and a young Scrum Master. Lyssa's book helped me to think differently about the role and opened my eyes to the world of coaching teams rather than being their facilitator. I enjoyed it so much I sent Lyssa a letter thanking her for her work. I hope she received it.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
It's not all on you. You don't have to do everything. You have a clever team behind you. Listen to them and let them come up with great ideas. Back them up to run with those ideas and if they don't work out encourage them to try again. Pause to reflect often and celebrate the wins and the learnings equally.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Earlier this year I was not in a good space. There were was things going on at work and in my personal life. I was in a bad mood constantly and even little things would make it worse. I listen to a lot of leadership and Agile podcasts and I was listening to one where the interviewee told a joke about a poor leader. I'll re-tell it here:
"A Gorilla walks in to a crowded bar. Where does he sit?"
"Anywhere he damn well pleases!"
At that moment I realised that my mood and disposition was rubbing off on my team and they were also not in a good place. I was blaming issues upon things that were completely out of my control. Upon that reflection I decided to focus on what I can control and forget about the uncontrollables. I also bought myself a Gorilla model and sat it on my desk to remind myself to stop being that thing. It has worked and I've been in a much better space mentally.