After realizing the Covid pandemic was going to linger around longer than I first anticipated, I decided to make the most of it by pursuing professional development classes.

There were two areas where I wanted to improve my skills: (1) Leadership, and (2) Agility.

A keyword search in Google pointed me to the Certified Agile Leadership II (CAL II) course offered by the Braintrust Consulting Group. The decision to explore this option in more detail was made easier because I had already completed the CAL I course in Seattle, WA.

The Uniqueness of this Learning Experience

The experience for CAL II is vastly different from any other courses I’ve taken in the past. First, it was offered completely online over a 6-month period. We met via Zoom for 4-hours every month to discuss topics that included the identification of crucibles in our lives, the art of delegation, the impact of saboteurs, and finding our True North by learning what it means to be an authentic leader.

During the first meeting, we were assigned an accountability partner, which gave us the opportunity to stay connected throughout the entire class. My partner, Kim, and I held a Zoom call each week for 15-minutes to check-in and to discuss the upcoming work.

I learned the power and benefits of practicing accountability!

My Takeaways from the CAL II Class

There was so much we learned during the 6 months that it is tough to summarize in a short blog, so I will pick some of the topics which resonated with me.

  • From the assigned True North Fieldbook, we worked on an activity related to discovering what it meant to be an authentic leader. I was captivated with one homework question: “Do you lead with your heart.” This is a great question I needed to ponder. I looked at the flipside to the question and evaluated the results to the situations where I did not lead with my heart. In other words, when I cared only about how things benefited me, I was not authentic, and those around me could quickly detect this selfish approach. To be an effective leader, I must think about what is good for my team, my company, my family, and so on; otherwise, failure is inevitable.
  • All class participants were asked to participate in the Leadership Circle Profile. I can best describe it as 360° feedback from leaders, managers, peers, friends, and family members. I asked nearly 60 people to complete the in-depth survey related to my leadership qualities, and 30 of them participated. One individual provided candid feedback about how I can improve: “Jimmie may be prone to overwork and that could set unrealistic expectations for others around him.” Based on similar feedback from family and friends, I’ve decided to create a more balanced life, and have even hired a business coach to help me reach this goal. The plan is to spend 50% of my time committed to work, and 50% with family and faith-based ministry work.
  • The final topic I want to share with you relates to the Johari Window, which is a framework allowing individuals to gain a better understanding of themselves and others. I’m looking forward to exploring the Blind Self window, which includes behaviors and actions not known to me but to others. Think about that … there is stuff others can see about me that I cannot see myself. It’s almost scary to ponder this thought! I’m confident that further study in the Blind Self window will improve my leadership skills because I will be more aware of how my interactions are interpreted by others.

During one of the class sessions, the Saboteur exercise included completing an online survey and discussing it with the whole group. This exercise was worth the price of the class all on its own! The big takeaway from the activity was identifying the many times I have failed to do something merely because I think it is impossible.

Part of the training also included one-on-one coaching sessions with the two experienced Certified Scrum Trainers (CSTs): Kate Megaw and Anu Smalley, who taught the class. These discussions led to the initiation of two big ideas I previously had on the backburner … one personal and one business. The class ended with a short presentation regarding the key takeaways, and I received sincere feedback from the rest of the participants. Our cohort decided to stay connected, and we plan to have an alumni get-together soon!