Checking In on You

I love supporting people and showing teams ways to be better, be happier, build great products and be exceptional. I’m not alone, there are others who have spent years watching great teams and have shared their learnings. In this post, I’m standing on the shoulders of those thought leaders that have come before me: Jim and Michele McCarthy. They ask:

What if you could take the practices of … exceptional teams – the best of the best, teams that consistently delivered great products, spread the most happiness, and were the most effective at creating new opportunities – what if you could take what they know about Shared Vision and other things, and teach it to others? And what if these best practices were available for free, for anyone to use and improve on?

I don’t know Jim and Michele, but they have a way to meet the goals listed above. Their body of work is called: Core Protocols. The only ask of the McCarthys is that their work is cited.

Core Protocols

Copyright © 2010 Jim and Michele McCarthy

(The Core is distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version. For exact terms see The Core is considered as source code under that agreement. You are free to use and distribute this work or any derivations you care to make, provided you also distribute this source document in its entirety, including this paragraph.)

The Core Protocols are made up of both commitments and protocols; use the links to the right to view them.

The Core Protocols are also be available in other formats:

The Core Protocols are set of useful protocols coaches should use to help teams reach greatness by working together with a more human-centered approach.

One of the Core Protocols is the Check In. This intentional facilitation technique establishes engagement with the meeting or event, and can be useful in building team psychological safety in the longer-term, if the Core Protocol is followed consistently.

One of the techniques I like to use is asking each person to say, “Today, I am…” and fill in the blank with only one word. As each person shares their sentence, the only response allowed is “Welcome.” This means that everyone’s current state is acknowledged, without judgment or shame or any well intentioned problem solving from team mates. Over time this practice can help a team establish psychological safety with one another, which will form a foundation for high-performance. I used this technique in a session I facilitated recently, and it really helped to set the tone for our time together — the group seemed connected to what I went on to share in the moments that followed.

In looking through the Core Protocols, it’s clear that many of these have potential to be applied to ourselves. Check In is one of them. It’s an application of Agile Best Self Principles 5 and 6 — mindfully and intentionally creating a supportive environment for self.

So ask yourself the same question.

Today, I am…

And then fill in the blank. Are you listening to the word you selected? Were you being authentic with yourself? Was it compassionate toward yourself? This is a moment for yourself — no comparing yourself to others, and avoid projecting what you might like to be. Just you. Right here. Right now. Applying Principles 5 and 6 here is key.

Agile Best Self Principle #5: Create a best self environment of motivation, trust, and support for yourself and others.

Agile Best Self Principle #6: The most effective way to be your best self is to be mindful and intentional. 

In my own experience, I don’t stop and do this exercise often enough. By making this a more regular habit, it could help bring more intention to my day, and create a foundation of support for myself. Might this be an inoculation to help me deal with the Inner Critic, who will inevitably make an appearance at some point? Always great to beat the Trickster to the punch, isn’t it?

What does science say about this? In one research paper comparing the benefits of self-compassion to self-esteem, data points show that self-compassion provides greater emotional resilience and stability than self-esteem, but involves less self-evaluation, ego-defensiveness, and self-enhancement than self-esteem. In today’s volatile and uncertain world, greater emotional resilience and stability are more important than ever.

Other research, as noted in this article in Psychology Today (Feb 2018), shows the positive consequences of self-compassion on numerous aspects of our well-being: including a greater life satisfaction; higher emotional intelligence; more interconnectedness with others; wisdom; curiosity; happiness; and optimism. Self-compassion is also associated with less self-criticism, depressionanxietyfear of failure, and perfectionism (Neff, 2009).

Some good stuff, right? So, here goes me for today.

Today, I am intentional.


Now I am ready to go be a light.

Copyright © 2020 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson

Visualizing The Journey: Take 1

I’ve always liked frameworks. Going back to my school days, I appreciated it when my teachers and professors taught using frameworks. Why? If I knew the right framework to apply, solving problems got much simpler but still allowed personal creativity. It gave me a feeling of security – I had something solid to lean on.

This is also why I like the Agile Best Self Principles. As you have read in our stories, this set of principles, also a framework, gives me something stable I can use to work through challenging situations in my work and life.

But where are we going, really? Good question. Sounds like we need another framework, or at least something we can lean on a little bit to see if it holds. This is what I am sharing today, a first cut at an Agile Best Self Journey framework. It’s a solid first draft, ready for the world to help make it better.

Notice that it is a cycle: a) this journey never really ends; and b) there is no prescribed starting point. I believe (and Michaele agrees) in this particular journey it is important to start where you are and work your way around the cycle. I also think it is possible, and practical, to put these pieces in whatever order you wish. Maybe you already have some good methods in place, and maybe focusing on connecting these to your values makes sense. Sounds good. If you are like me, and like a more linear approach, start with the North Star perhaps. Be where you are and go from there!

Ok, here it is. As you can see, I have been honing some of my own Methods – I learned some drawing skills by taking a Bikablo class.

Version 1 of the Agile Best Self Journey

North Star

We’ve written a bit about the North Star already. The North Star is a word or phrase that describes who you intrinsically are. Having a deep connection with our North Star helps us show up authentically more often, with more ego resiliency. A clear North Star also helps bring clarity when deciding how to respond in life situations. This level of clarity helps us access our true self in most any situation.


This one is pretty self-explanatory. One definition of values, according to Oxford Languages, is “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.” I like to think of values as the guardrails I put in place to help shape the choices I make many times a day.


Vision is just what it sounds like. I like to think about it as my Just Cause. Just Cause is a concept from Simon Sinek’s book, The Infinite Game. Read the book to learn more. It was one of my favorite books over the past few years. Just Cause has five elements to it: 1) it’s for something you believe in; 2) inclusive; 3) service-oriented; 4) resilient; and 5) idealistic. Sounds like the recipe for a great vision statement.

In the Agile Best Self sense, the Vision (or your Just Cause) describes where you are headed — who do you want to be? Or, what outcome or impact to the world do you want to create? It should have the same strong, personal connection, much like the North Star.


Methods refer to the actions you are taking to create a better version of you. Maybe it’s focused on your self-care, maybe it’s something you are learning, maybe it’s something else. Maybe it is taking a Bikablo class to be able to visualize your ideas more clearly. The main thing is it has a bias toward action. I like to think about Methods and Measures working together. Used in alignment with the rest of the journey framework, Methods work as experiments you run on yourself, based on your own curiosity, to drive yourself toward your Vision.


Measures describe the data you go to for calibrating your progress. There may be quite a large number of measures. For me, some measures are self-care related, such as weight, blood pressure, quality of sleep, step counts. I also look at happiness data, like Scrum teams do, to catch trends. There are many more, for sure, and they are different for everyone.

Hoberman Ball

The picture above shows two Hoberman Balls. I just recently learned that this is what these spheres were called. I think these two pictures show how our journeys look and feel. On the left – the tight little ball where the sphere is clamped down – this may be how something less than our best might feel like. This is when our inner critic is getting us down or causing us to tighten up; or there are some very real obstacles causing us to engage in ego-protective behavior and be less than we can be. We all face these challenges, there is no denying that. On the right -the expanded ball with lots of space – might be what our best self looks like: our tank is full and we are authentically showing up, resilient, and being our very best. Maybe we are equal parts wobbly and resilient. But hopefully, with the help of a framework, such as the Agile Best Self Journey, we can spend more time like the figure on the right: open to possibility and expanded to our potential. That’s my wish for all of us.

So there it is. We are ready for the world to vet out and help us improve this framework. Michaele and I want to help others. Sounds a little like Principle 1 at work, don’t you think?

Agile Best Self Principle #1: Our highest priority is to be our best self and enable others to be their best selves.

Copyright © 2020 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson

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