How to sabotage your agility in 5 simple steps

Leadership, Personal Development.

May 30, 2023  ·  Harry Tucker


Are you bombarded by books and articles that exist to help you improve yourself? Are you exasperated by talks from agile thought leaders about helping you become a better agile practitioner? Are you tired of going 'on a journey' and want to stop and set up camp right where you are? If you answered yes to any of the above, then let me soothe your self-esteem with some hard earned wisdom on self-sabotage.

Through countless hours of practical experience with sabotaging my own growth and agility, I have curated a list of 5 simple things to ensure that you are as ineffective and dysfunctional as possible. You’re welcome.

Disclaimer: This is not professional advice. Apply these steps at your own risk to your wellbeing, work relationships, and employment.

1. Don’t trust yourself

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in your domain or just starting out, having an unhealthy distrust of your skills, perspectives, and experience is key to sabotaging yourself. As you gain experience and competence in your space, it’s important to cultivate a careful balance between continually feeding your imposter syndrome and creating walls around yourself so no one sees you suffer.

This sense of distrust can become harder to maintain over time as you become more confident in your abilities and the value you bring to your teams and organisation. If you feel self-confidence and trust start to creep into your work days, shut it down by reminding yourself how much better you should be, and how much better others are at what you do.

2. Don't trust your team

You may have heard of the foundational importance of trust within a team from Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a team, or perhaps you have read about Google’s famed Aristotle project and its findings that psychological safety was a fundamental element for their most effective teams. It may be tempting to believe these and countless other books and studies supporting the importance of building trust with those in your sphere, but remember that the goal here is self-sabotage, so slow down Sally.

To counteract the temptation to build trust in your teams and spheres of influence, cultivate the belief that those around you are competitors, threats, and ultimately obstacles to your success. Once you have propagated a potent pile of distrust, build up behaviours such as refusing help from teammates, discrediting ideas that are not your own, and creating an environment of fear and discomfort around you.

3. Ignore feedback

In Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor she describes how to give the right feedback at the right time with clarity and authenticity. Kim imparts hard-earned wisdom for giving and receiving meaningful feedback, and the invaluable gift it can be when it's done well. She even lays out the antipatterns of feedback to help the reader avoid these mistakes, be it insincere manipulation, obnoxious aggression, or ruinous empathy.

My suggestion to you is to ignore that wisdom (but not mine, you can trust me)… Building on your distrust of others, you certainly don’t want to be opening the door to genuine feedback to support your personal growth and effectiveness. Remind yourself that they don’t really want to help you hone your skills, they are either trying to discourage you, or perhaps they think they could do your job better than you can. Ruminate on your retaliation to such an affront.

4.Prioritise process over people

For those who have been in the agile community for a while, you will be well aware of the great and noble battles on different frameworks, practices, and processes. These battles have escalated in numerous and humorous ways across the internet and the real world, ranging from attacks on Scrum, SAFe, the agile industrial complex, and many more... The key to extracting self-sabotaging nuggets from this is not engaging in healthy discourse on ideas and approaches to better enable organisations, but flipping the original agile manifesto by prioritising processes and tools over individuals and interactions.

Don’t listen to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings advice: “[The reason Netflix has been so successful is because it has] a culture that values people over process, emphasizes innovation over efficiency, and has very few controls.”

To succeed in this particular branch of self-sabotage, fixate on your favourite process, framework, or way of working and refuse to accept any adaptations to suit your environment. Doing this will solidify your social status as ‘that person’ who is unwilling to consider alternative approaches to new challenges or opportunities, even as the context changes. If you sense yourself starting to develop a desire to switch your style in order to better serve your teams or organisations, don’t. It’s not worth the cost of admitting you may have had the wrong approach in the first place.

5. Keep digging your heels

One of the outcomes of being locked in our homes due to the pesky pandemic was an acceleration of the so-called Great resignation, with many office workers (including myself) seeking greener pastures for employment, location, and lifestyle. On top of this, business gurus have long been fighting to help people discover their particular passions and gifts in the workplace with models like The Working Genius from Patrick Lencioni, or the plethora of popular tools like Enneagram, CliftonStrengths, Myer Briggs etc.

Screw all of that; you know better than some silly internationally recognised models with countless testimonials of their efficacy. Don’t waste your time reflecting on what you love doing, what you’re good at, and what you want out of your career. The solution here is to settle; settle for that job that you don’t really care about but it pays the bills, settle for that company that doesn’t align with your values or purpose, and most importantly settle with that stale state of mind that suppresses learning and growth.

I hope that these simple steps will help you on the journey to transforming yourself into a closed-minded, stale, and unpleasant person... But seriously, do any of these traits reflect your experience? Have you personally struggled with some of these antipatterns, or worked in environments where they were prevalent? If any of this resonates with you, feel free to share your stories from the trenches. As someone who has struggled with and witnessed all of these behaviours at various points in my career, I'm learning the value of opening up the conversation to their reality and how we can combat them.

Beastie Boys - Sabotage (1994)