Badass Agile

Badass Agile


Episode 36 - Team LIfe V - People Voodoo

February 12, 2018
Magic matters.  I was having a conversation today and I realized some of the most impactful things that I do with my team have nothing to do with coaching Agile.  It’s not teaching them Scrum techniques, which they could easily learn on their own.  Of course this is an important part of what I do, but none of that stuff builds better teams.  At all.




  • There are parts of my job that come down to voodoo.  Things that appear in exactly zero agile texts, and barely in the leadership canon either

  • The truth is we hate this stuff.  It scares us to talk about things that aren’t quantifiable

  • The groomed leader would have you believe that a deep knowledge of the art and science of business plus some natural breeding is what makes a great leader

  • Others are more comfortable thinking that great leadership can be learned.  Both are a little bit true

  • The one thing I do that grabs more attention than any other is an ability to read people, lock down their core essence, and even predict their next move, sometimes after only one meeting.

  • If you think about it, this is a badass trait.  The badass just has your number.  He calls you out on your bullshit.  He may be inarticulate but he still has you dead to rights.  It’s almost like he has a street wisdom that no amount of education or social grace could substitute for.

  • That’s kind of true.   Our animal heritage actually gives us all the equipment we need to read people.  Being able to observe, distinguish patterns and then observe variations from those patterns and being able to assemble a complete picture from a person’s words, body movements and postures AND microexpressions is how we detect threats

  • Can you learn this?  First you have to learn to observe people, which means taking the focus off yourself and putting on the other.  Next is knowing where to look and when.

  • I believe in learning skills from the people who are the absoulute best at what they do - they understand their craft and can do it more accurately and faster than anyone else

  • In this field, law enforcement agents and interviewers - also customs agents have the best knowledge.  Check out books from some of these guys.

  • Here are some tips.



  1. Posture - Open versus closed.  Open means upright, expansive, and not protecting the vital organs.   Crossed legs, crossed arms, or covered body parts (neck, chest, sides, groin) indicate fear and discomfort.

  2. Eye contact

  3. Fidgeting and movement

  4. Automatic responses - dry mouth, dilated pupils, sweating, over-explaining or repeating




  • Of course you have to get comfortable enough to be an observer yourself but 90% of people don’t really bother to observe consciously.  HOWEVER - whether you know it or not, every persons reacts subconsciously to these cues.   That’s why its so important for a badass to practice the right ones.

  • Look for baselines.  If they’re always like this, they might just be anxious people or nervous in groups.   What’s illustrative is how a person’s behaviour changes in different situations.

  • Watch for this very closely in leaders or people you are trying to negotiate or bargain with.  It can give you tremendous competitive advantage if you know how to do it right.

  • If you want to build trust, do two simple things.   Mirror and Echo.