The Power of Scrum for Olympians, Entrepreneurs and Solopreneurs

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What do the Scrum Framework and an Olympic journey have in common?

Turns out, quite a bit.

I was trained by, and am now coached by, Ferzeen Anis who is one of only 360 Professional Scrum Trainers globally.

In this interview for the community, Ferzeen and I discussed the lessons we’ve learned applying Scrum to help build my business and the parallels in my Olympic journey.

We explore the alignment of core principles such as coaching, feedback, planning, adaptation, reflection and recovery.

We also discuss how these principles are applied to entrepreneurship for small teams (even as small as 1) in order to create the conditions for sustainable, high performance, learning businesses.

And finally, we take a look under the hood of how I run my days and weeks.

Key takeaways

  • How an Olympic experience translates directly into Scrum

  • How to Scrum helps to focus on doing what truly matters

  • What “Done” means in entrepreneurship and how this drives accountability

  • How the Scrum events such as daily huddle, retro, review and planning (and mindfulness) help to switch roles in small teams.

  • Practical ways the Scrum framework and complementary practices have helped entrepreneurs.

What frameworks do you find most useful? I’d love to hear in the comments.


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[Podcast] The Power of Decoupling Identity, Building An Internal Compass, Waking Up At 3am, Filling The Void, My Daily Practice

Jack Ferguson (entrepreneur, host of The Push business podcast) and I caught up recently.

It became clear very quickly that we were in similar situations. Having both gone through big challenges and change in our businesses, and neither of us really knowing what the next step is, it seemed like a good idea to explore this on Jack’s podcast.

In this episode we speak about:

  • How and why I’m working at decoupling my identity
  • What was waking me up in the middle of the night.
  • What recently happened to Jack that has him in a tailspin.
  • Choosing to hit publish on vulnerable content.
  • Becoming more of who I am.
  • Trying not to mentally fast forward through crappy times.
  • How to do the work of defining values to use them to navigate uncertainty.

It’s cool to be able to share this kind of thing publicly, so thanks to Jack for initiating it. You can find him on LinkedIn.


Listen on


Apple Podcasts:


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Show Notes

Conversation Time Stamps

3:00 What business are you currently involved in?

5:25 Why have you done decoupling work?

8:45 Why were you getting up at 3am?

19:00 Why cutting away is usually superior to addition.

21:25 What impacts achievement more? Personal attributes or one’s environment?

28:00 Why did you decide to post vulnerable content recently?

34:20 What questions do you ask to understand who you are?

39:00 Strategy vs Execution.

42:20 How long did you feel content after the olympics?

45:20 How did you manage identity changes when moving between careers?

50:00 What are your experiences of going all in?

Reference Links and Resources

Kevin Ryan – Changing The Game Of Influence

In a world bursting with technology, data and devices, our ability to connect with another human has never been more important.

Whether it’s a stage or a boardroom, 1-on-1 or group, public or private, how can we master the delivery of messages that matter?

This event was a wide ranging discussion with Kevin Ryan who has been a secret weapon for me in sport and business for 20 years as a speaking, sales and negotiation coach.

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About Kevin Ryan

  • Inducted into the Australian Speaker’s Hall of Fame (2011).
  • Certified Speaking Professional – the highest internationally recognised accreditation for a professional speaker.
  • Past National President of Professional Speakers Australia.
  • 30+ years as a workshop leader, coach and MC who has specialised in presentation skills, sales and negotiation.
  • Clients include Microsoft, Cisco, Hilton, Crown Law, Lend Lease, Carlton & United, Singapore Tourism, Malaysian Ministry of Trade, Roche and Allianz.
  • Has written ten books and is a regular article contributor to major newspapers.

You might also be interested in my interview with Jonah Oliver and Chris Gaviglio on The Art & Science of Recovery.

Event Notes

Conversation Notes (with video time stamps)

  • 00:00 Intro
    • 00:50 – Kevin’s bio
    • 2:20 – One of my worst speaking moments
    • 6:30 – The importance of video review
    • 7:00 – Brutal audience feedback from one of Kevin’s first speaking engagements
    • 8:30 – How presentations go wrong, even after 30 years of being a pro.
    • 10:45 – Know your audience and know the needs of the client.
    • 11:20 – How Kevin stumbled into speaking – through a business product launch and how influence skills are the key to break through career plateaus
    • 12:30 – Toastmasters as a path to learn – great learning environment
  • 14:05 – How to accelerate the skills of influence
    • Using imagery for influence – “rather than asking for help, I’ll ask if they can give me a hand. Rather than seeing a problem or challenge, I point out the hurdle we have to get over.”
    • The role of the limbic brain only processes images and emotions – “logic makes you think, emotion makes you act.”
  • 15:30 – Business presentations
    • In person or video – tend to be focussed on information transfer – speaking is a crappy way of transferring information, but an incredible way to get people to change their minds.
    • Incorporate emotional content and images so that your audience feels right about a decision.
    • People don’t value new information.
  • 18:40 – Sales
    • “Sales is decision facilitation – it’s getting other people to make the decision that I want them to.”
    • To have and build ongoing relationship requires the purest of intent.
    • Influence – By Robert Caldini; 50 influencing strategies
  • 20:10 – Changes in the study of sales and negotiation
    • From behavioural to electrodes
  • 21:50 – The role of a speaking coach
    • Taking ore and finding gold
  • 23:10 – Kevin’s own story of adoption
    • 30 years to discover that the story was useful in a business context
    • 20 years of crafting and still going – the work is never done
    • The effect of framing and storytelling
  • 27:00 – Getting to the core of your own story
    • Johari Window model – the focus on the 4th quadrant that others can see more clearly about myself than I can.
    • “Your best story is always your own story, but you’re often the worst person to tell it.”
    • Why you need an outsider/coach to tell you which bits are great and which bits are to be saved for another time. This is why Kevin always runs new material past other speakers.
  • 29:45 – The role of props in story telling
    • It takes you back to re-living the story rather than re-telling the story.
  • 31:30 – Going off track in a presentation
    • Why Kevin stopped worrying about it 10 years ago.
    • His key question to the audience for coming back on track: “Now, before I started talking about that, where was I?”
  • 32:50 – 3 things that audiences want:
    • Vulnerability, authenticity and spontaneity
  • 34:00 – Examples of speaking props
    • Rose, handful of rice into a metal bowl, 3D, functional part of the story telling
    • Sand in a beaker for a land reclamation company
    • 40% are visual, 40% audio, 20% kinaesthetic learners and you need to cater for all of them
  • 39:20 – Building a presentation
    • Every presentation is a sales presentation
    • CEO is selling change
    • Our greatest challenge as speakers is that we’re going to put ourselves through all of the worry and anxiety and work and the second people walk out of the room they’ve forgotten you.
    • If they remember one thing I’ve said, that’s going to make me better than the average of most speakers they’ve heard.
    • Influence is incredibly powerful but can only be used with the correct intent.
    • Documentary – Hitler: The Seducer – a deconstruction of Hitler’s speeches and influencing tools.
  • 42:45 – Manipulation
    • The right intent is crucial
    • The principle of labelling to impact influence eg “you seem like a really smart group…”
    • I don’t want to out negotiate you – because I want that negotiation to be equally successful for both of us. Anything else builds toxic relationship and resentment.
  • 46:00 – Negotiation as a process
    • Clear boundaries up frontBuilding in renegotiation triggers to contracts
    • Two parties never want to renegotiate at the same time.
    • 4Ds of planning for the partnership: Death, Disability, Departure, Disagreement
    • Build a fence in the good times – not when you need it.
  • 48:50 – Crafting a presentation
    • First thing to determine: What is the one thing they’ll remember when they leave the room?
    • Audience analysis: motivations, common concerns, attitudes
    • How does this all fit to my core message?
    • Start working on the conclusion – then you know where you’re headed (because you will definitely lose your way).
    • What is your call to action? What are you going to ask this audience to do?
  • 56:20 – Writing out a presentation vs bullet points
    • Some need to write it out, some don’t.Totally new topic – write it out in full to get the thoughts out
    • The script doesn’t work in a presentation
    • Graham Freudenberg – greatest Australian speech writer. [Documentary: The Scribe]
    • Using Google Voice typing to capture your own tone of voice
  • 59:15 – Fear
    • Allan Pease international speaker – said that imposter syndrome never goes away.
    • Sleepless nights – get up and do more work to refine it.
    • Action overcomes anxiety – it’s never as bad as you imagine it to be.
  • 1:03:20 – 5:30 mins principle of preparation before a presentation
    • 5 mins before your presentation + the first 30 seconds of your speech
    • How to manage video attendees who have come prepared, formed incorrect opinions.
    • Hans Rosling – professor of demographics from karolinska Institutet: “The problem is not ignorance, it is incorrect assumptions.”
    • Address incorrect assumptions
  • 1:05:50 – First 30 seconds of the presentation
    • No surprises.
    • Know who you’ll make eye contact with
    • Smile at the room
    • Who was self selected, who was sent?
    • Complete control
    • Slower walk to speaking position
    • How do you stand at the beginning of your presentation?
  • 1:08:00 – Speaker neutral stance and movement
    (Unfortunately someone stood up in front of the camera for this, but we’ve still managed to capture the audio instructions)
    • feet shoulder distance apart, toes pointing slightly out, weight evenly balanced on both feet, standing as tall as we possibly can, hands at your sides
    • Focus on lower part of the body – carries credibility
    • Upper body creates engagement
    • Stand still to make a key point
    • Movement – laterally, forward and back,
    • Audiences love pauses. Pauses are when they think, when they internalise.
    • Write your pauses – don’t let them happen by accident.
  • 1:12:00 – Repetition of key message
    • Minimum 3 times per presentation
    • Kevin once repeated a key message 17 times in 7 minutes
  • 1:14:10 – 5 minutes before the presentation
    • Feet solidly on the floor even if you’re sitting down
    • Amy Cuddy – research into positive body language.
    • Her blockbuster TED talk (53M+ views) Your body language may shape who you are
    • Kevin’s routine:
      • Slow deep breathing – slow body down to slow opening down
      • Thinking about the preparation you’ve done
  • 1:18:00 – 2 minute mindfulness exercise
  • 1:20:00 – Tailoring to the audience
    • Opening changes often
    • What is the one thing I want them to remember?
    • How do I want them to feel at the end?
    • Content sharing journey + an emotional journey
  • 1:25:30 – Showing data
    • Data visualisations and content
    • 24 different types
  • 1:26:55 – Q&A
  • What could politicians learn about being better communicators?
    • Belief versus truth
    • Mindless voice
    • Unfair questions and preparation
  • 1:32:00 – Almost no-one likes having self-assessment on their presentation. How have you been able to help people through that process?
    • Group scenario: allow people to self assess first, then ask for feedback from group.
    • Record on own device – allows them control and then they can choose
    • Having others analyse you is the most intimidating factor
    • ONLY points that are good can be given by the group or audience, ONLY the trainer can give points for improvement.
    • Maximum 2 or 3 points to improve
    • As a coach or trainer, an experience can be either confidence building or confidence diminishing.
    • “Alright?” “Ok?” much worse than um or ah – they are approval seeks.
    • Chunking the practice and feedback loop process to reduce the overhead of having to listen and improve the whole thing.
    • Recording yourself on a phone and listening back is really powerful and fast way to improve.
    • Practice the pieces of your presentation and then the transitions ie: intro, conclusion, story by story, specific parts.
  • 1:40:10 – When in a board room situation and you’ve prepared your speech, how do you maintain control of that conversation when people can easily disrupt and take over?
    • Find out if there’s a Q&A session
    • “Great point – I’ll be coming to that in 5 minutes time, is that ok?”
    • Spend half the time prepping for questions you might be asked
    • What questions are likely to occur?
    • Practice those answers
    • Responses to the questions have about 3-5 times the credibility than the prepared stuff.
    • Structure your presentation so the audience asks the questions you want them to ask.
  • 1:44:20 – Is there a technique to acknowledge questions?
    • Thank you for the question
    • Use it as an opportunity for a compliment eg “That’s a very astute insight, thanks for your question.”
    • Shutting down is always done in the context of the audience, not myself. Eg “I want to make sure other audience members have a chance to ask questions, so let’s talk privately afterwards.”
  • 1:46:30 – Where you have the mix of in person and video, do you have any techniques for keeping the connection with the people on the video?
    • Similar to a radio interview
    • Ask specific people if they have questions
    • “For those outside the room, was that clear?”
    • Body language needs to be designed for the people on the camera
    • Text questions in while you’re going
    • Almost the standard modality
  • Are there any other techniques to analyse your audience? And how can you feedback the audience into a presentation immediately?
    • Survey beforehand – 3 multi choice questions + 1 or 2 open questions
    • What is the main thing you want from this presentation?
    • Run ideas and questions past an audience member before the presentation
    • Is this joke ok? They’ll laugh louder and sooner than everyone else and others will follow them.
    • Try to test run
    • Rearrange the room – try and talk to informal leaders in the group. I want people to be able to see the influencers in the room.
    • Make the environment work for you.
  • One piece of advice from Kevin
  • Find Kevin

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