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Posted on: Saturday, 17 July 2010 by Rajiv Popat

I'm late. We were going to have a product scrum. I worked late and could not get up. Shit. I was supposed to get the scrum started. We were supposed to talk about the features we would address in the next sprint. I overslept.

When I rush to office, my gut reaction is to email everyone and let them know that I am sorry for cancelling the scrum. We can do it later during the evening.

But the scrum has already happened. The team has already met. They have already picked the items they would address in the next sprint. They have already started working on those items.

I glance through the backlog, desperately looking for items that they should not have picked up. Items that are not 'high priority'. Items that are not even 'required'. I am desperately and quickly glancing through the list, looking for every single item in the list that they should not be working on. Looking for any mistakes that they might have made during this morning's scrum that basically happened without me.

Stop it. A voice deep down within me tells me.

I glance through the list.

Stop it. The voice repeats itself.

There, that's the item they should not be working on. It's just packaging. They could have done this later. There are so many other high priority items that they could be working on. I tell myself.

Yeah right. You are scared. Scared of losing control. Shit scared. Deal with it. The voice says coldly and disappears.

It's like being slapped on my face.

The voice, as it often turns out, is correct.

I decide to keep my gob shut, focus on fixing the bugs that are on my plate and let my team do their thing. They are growing. They are learning. They no longer need me to give them direction, and that, in a very special way, is a hugely good thing.

Want to see if your manager is worth his salt? Stop involving him in a couple of decisions. I am not even talking about the overall product direction. Just a sprint which lasts a month. Go pick a few items from the backlog that you feel are most needed for the product and start working on them without involving your manager.

Did you piss him off?

Did he freak out?

Did he just politely invite you to a meeting room that tell you that you are working on items which are not high priority?

Or did he find something bigger and better for himself and let you continue with the sprint without any interruptions?

How you react when your team stops asking you for direction and starts taking their own decisions is your true test of leadership. Go on, give up that insecurity. It's way too heavy and you cannot carry it with yourself in the long run anyway. Go ahead. Throw it away. Shred it off.

I wish you good luck.