2020-07-23 11:37

Emotional Maturity

Ville Svärd

I had a couple of discussions with two separate colleagues a while back. At first I was not aware of the concept we were discussing (and mutually appreciating). After some thinking and after one of them actually put a name on it I realized that what I was thinking of - and really liked having seen so prominently in our organisation - was emotional maturity.

I interpret emotional maturity as being mature in a way that you can take responsibility for your own emotions, how they affect you and people around you. With that maturity comes also a sense of how emotions play a part in how other people make decisions or will react to actions on your part. Empathy is naturally a part of all this. So are boundaries - knowing your own and respecting others. Taking ownership and responsibility for both how you react to the world around you and also for your actions - good and bad. Showing patience with yourself and others. All these traits (and more) weigh in. 

Back to what I was talking about. One of those conversations revolved around how I was happy about a retrospective I had taken part in. In truth I had mostly witnessed the retrospective while staying back. I was invited but had not been an active part of the work the retrospective was meant to reflect upon. Three things stood out for me:

  • The retrospective had no set “format” - it ended up being mostly an open and reflective discussion
  • There was an atmosphere of safety, respect and recognizing missing or unrecognized expectations as well as failures in communication.
  • There were distinct, actionable outcomes

To further belabour my point - there was no facilitator or “professional coach” (agile or not) present. This was a discussion among peers with varying levels of seniority - all of them showing emotional maturity in my opinion. All of them developers I am proud to call my colleagues.

So, why was I so happy? In many other organizations where I have worked, setting up a retrospective like this - especially finding the right environment, mood or setting as well as getting results like this - calls for having roles like “project managers”, “scrum masters”, “lead developers”, “agile coaches” etc. etc. We have none of those titles or explicit roles but I feel confident that my colleagues are capable of fulfilling the tasks otherwise delegated to such roles and also that they feel that doing so is important and part of their job.

I am confident that we can be safer, quicker and more flexible as an organisation while having emotionally mature developers. We can also be sure to learn and adapt as we go.

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