The Leadership Game
The Leadership Game
YvesHanoulle, Meike Mertsch (Contributor) and Ignace Hanoulle
Buy on Leanpub

1. Recommendations

Christophe Thibaut: I’ve attended the LeaderShip Game workshop that Yves presented with his father at XP days 2008 in Paris, and I recommend it, as an unique occasion to learn about different kinds of leadership and share point of views with every other attendee as well on this topic. The workshop was a lot of fun and a great occasion to practice my observation skills.

Xavier de Labouret: My attendance to the Leadership Game was extremely instructive. Typical situations where proposed, each allowing a very different leadership experience, and rich debriefings thereafter.

That was a very pedagogical workshop, raising excellent questions; I am confident that all the attendants shared this opinion. Yves suggestions were very helpful.

Yves said his project was to continue his coaching activity for a long time. From what i perceived of his skill and experience, I feel he is well armed, and sincerely wish Yves best luck on this way.

Matteo Vaccari: I met Yves when he organized a session for the European Summer School on Agile Programming, of which I was an organizer. Yves’ session was about how to handle leadership in a team; therefore it was highly relevant for Agile programmers, who aspire to work in a self-organizing team. Yves has a skill of inventing games for the purpose of teaching; or to be more precise, he invents an environment where the participant learns by exploring and experiencing a subject. This is a powerful way of learning.

Yves is serious and dedicated to what he does. He is creative, original, careful and competent. He is committed to facilitating a positive improvement in the people he works with, and likewise he is committed to improving the way he works. I highly recommend hiring Yves for all work concerning team building.

Erik Groeneveld: When Yves has a session on XP-Day, Ill be there. The sessions he organizes together with father - who is a psychologist - are easy to join and illustrate the point they want to make clearly. Yves is a knowlegdable an agreable coach.

(PS check out Eriks profile on linkedin. He calls himself “Optimalist”. I love that !!

Patrick Debois: Yves is one of the rare gems that can mix social interactions within the world of technical IT. At first sight his Agile Games seem like fun, but the level of detail is stagering: layer by layer, he weaves his insights like a real wizard!

Stephane Boisson: I attended this workshop held in french by Yves and his father at XP Day France 2007. Playing these leadership games was very insightfull and enjoyable!

Erik Bos We played the Leadship game at Philips Research during a XP-NL evening (see We liked it very much. The game was interactive and hands-on and showed people reacting to the tasks and revealing different leadership roles. Recommended to play at your company.

Josh Assad I attended an Agile Workshop in Toronto held by Yves and Michael Sahota. We played games and simulations designed by Yves that effectively demonstrated fundamental concepts in team performance within different structures, as well as process improvement techniques. During periods of retrospective, Yves offered very deep insights about the psychology of team and personal interactions which I found particularly interesting. I would highly recommend attending one of Yves’ workshops!

Anko Tijman Yves is able to set great learning environments for groups and indivuals. He creates an open atmosphere and is able to give thoughtful personal advice.

Marc Evers In the Leadership Game, Yves is able to create an experiential learning environment that is safe and fun. He provides an effective way to experience and learn about leadership and team dynamics.

Didier Blanjean I attended the XP Days France 2008 and participated to the leadership game. Instead of giving us a boring lecture about the type of leadership and issues that could arise, he has put us in some practical situations so that we could discover this by ourselves and discuss it afterwards. I found it very valuable and highly recommend it to anyone working in teams.

Nicola Mommaerts I played the Leadership Game under the professional guidance of Yves and his father Ignace. It was loads of fun while at the same time very educational. I can recommend it to everyone, regardless of your occupation! (and don’t be shy to apply for the role of leader in the game)

Harold Shinsato I’ve known Yves Hanoulle for a few years now as a pioneer in pair coaching, agile software development, and in work with Jim and Michele McCarthy’s “Core Protocols”. I participated in a three hour training he offered at Agile 2009 in Chicago this past August which demonstrated with amazing depth and speed three different styles of management - from command and control hierarchy, to anarchy, to facilitated self-organizing. I found it the best method to get a powerful experience of the benefits of facilitation and coaching when moving towards self-organizing. It also demonstrated that often the anarchy format can quickly degenerate to a form of command and control. The Agile & Lean communities recommend facilitated self-organizing teams - not anarchy and not pure command and control. So this was a very effective three hours spent.

I congratulate Yves on his ingeniously devised experiential training and hope that many others are able to benefit from it and from other trainings that he offers or facilitates.

Kristian Lindwall

This game will most likely give its participants some great insights about group dynamics, leadership - and themselves.

2. Foreword

Of all the people who could be writing a foreword to this short book, and tell you all the reasons why the book is so wonderful that you should skip straight to it and skip the damn foreword… I’m probably the least qualified to do so.

To explain why, I need to tell you a little story, if you would spare me the time. But I think that the story will, in fact, tell you why the book is so wonderful. So, if you are still reading, please settle in…

I first met Yves and Ignace in 2004, in Mechelen, a small town near Brussels. The occasion was XP Day Benelux, a one-day conference for people interested in Extreme Programming and other Agile approaches to developing software.

At the time I was intrigued by the notion of “self-organized” teams, which I thought contained a paradox: if a team doesn’t want to be self-organized, it could be a bit difficult to force them to be. My colleague Emmanuel Gaillot and I had created an activity, based on Emmanuel’s experience with the theater, to explore that paradox and collect insights from people attending that workshop. I’d made the trip from Paris to present that workshop.

Ignace attended the session, found it interesting, and discussed it with Yves. Apparently, they found inspiration in it to create a new workshop, one that would explore the broader theme of “Leadership”. It was also considerably more sophisticated and well thought out than my own attempt.

The next time we met was in 2005, at that year’s XP Day in Rotterdam. Yves and Ignace were presenting the Leadership Game. As my rotten luck would have it, I was presenting a session myself at precisely the same time, and couldn’t attend.

Afterwards, I kept running into people who gave me rave reviews of the Leadership Game.

I don’t mean just at the Rotterdam conference. In 2006 I found myself organizing the first XP Day in France, and I wanted to see for myself what the fuss was about. Yves and Ignace were willing to come to Paris, so they were invited to present there.

If you’ve ever planned to organize a conference because you were interested in all the cool sessions you could then get to see, I have one word of advice: don’t. As an organizer, I was running around all the time trying to see if everyone was happy, and missed all the sessions.

So I managed to miss the Leadership Game once again. Everybody was raving about it again.

This turned into a tradition of sorts. Yves and Ignace were back in Paris in 2007 with the Leadership Game. Perhaps I could have attended the session that year; a conference in its second year tends to run itself with less oversight by the organizers. But the game was very popular, and seats were limited - if I attended, that meant someone else couldn’t go, and that didn’t feel right to me.

I missed the Leadership Game once again in 2007.

And I’m going to cut the story short, since you’ve probably spotted the pattern. The tragic fact is that in all these years I’ve never actually attended a session of the Leadership Game.

That isn’t going to stop me from endorsing the game wholeheartedly, and for saying that Yves and Ignace have done a remarkable job over the years of tweaking and refining it, and that what you now have on your Kindle or iPad or Kobo or whatever device is a wonderful gift from them to you.

Creating an experiential learning session is difficult. One of the ways people get it wrong is, they create a game or activity which “forces” you to agree to some predetermined conclusion. For instance, a game that is rigged in favor of the “Agile” way of doing things, so that when you try both the Agile way and the more traditional way you can only succeed with Agile.

That’s not experiential learning, that’s manipulation.

Even though I never participated in the game, I know Yves and Ignace well enough to know this isn’t their style. And even if you don’t know them, you too can tell by browsing the book and noticing how deep their thinking about Leadership goes. This depth of thinking is reflected in the way the game doesn’t blindly favor one or another style of leadership, but in fact forces everyone in the room to confront the sum of their life experiences that lead them to prefer one particular style of leadership. This in turns brings them to thinking deeply about what leadership is for, and why they might want to explore other sides of it.

That’s powerful stuff. That’s what experiential learning is about.

And that’s why the Leadership Game has been getting rave reviews since 2006.

And now you hold in your hands the key to making that happen even if you don’t have Yves and Ignace in the room to do it for you.

What are you waiting for?

Laurent Bossavit

3. Abstract

What do you expect from a leader?

  • That he goes away?
  • That she takes you strongly and firmly by the hand?
  • That he enforces the team spirit?

In this three-hour game, together we will try to find an answer to these questions. By practicing different leadership styles and approaches in our “playground”, you will gain insights about:

  • The different results that can be achieved by different approaches
  • Your own and others’ personal preferences
  • Group dynamic effects

We will give special attention to the link between these three themes and the daily practice of project teams. After the game, we will explain the three models and give you references to further reading for those who want to learn more.

Expected benefits of participating

This session lets you see what influence the leadership styles have on your team. It lets you reflect on the leadership style you wish to use or/and want to develop.

What did the session creators hope to learn?

When we created this session, we hoped this would bring us one session closer in the integration between the two worlds we both live in. We selected these three kinds of leadership because these are the most extreme cases. A real situational leader would use the three leadership styles in different situations. By exaggeration the three styles the differences and uses of each style become much clearer for the participants.

4. Trainer instructions

Circle of chairs
Circle of chairs

As for any workshop or training, try to be in the room 15 to 20 minutes before the game starts. Especially if it is your first time playing the game or working in this room.

The ideal layout for this game, is to have a large room with place for two circles of 20 chairs and one big playing table. You create the first circle with 20 chairs + chairs for both trainers. (We strongly advice you coach this game with two trainers.) This is the circle where you start the game, explain everything and hold the feedback round.

Next to that circle, you have a second circle that the players will use to have their meetings. Although you can work with only one circle, we noticed that making this separation makes it easier for the players.

You also need a playing table. Put the boxes with lego on the table. Leave the boxes closed. Some participants might know what is inside, others don’t. That is ok.

Have piles of the observation, feedback and feedback questions documents ready. Don’t distribute them yet.

  • Put a timer clock in front of you.
  • Have a printed copy of this document for each trainer.

We have put the default time on the different parts. Use these timings as a guideline. When you notice that you are not following the timings, make sure you adjust on the paper how much time you use for each section; It will give you insight on where to adjust the game. (We use it like a non graphical burndown) When we know when the game will be played, we write down the exact times on the printed documents. When we facilitate, we don’t want to use our brain, to convert 1:25 to 9:25. When the real hours are written on the document beforehand, we can use our brain to react to the participants.

Little things in the preparation that make our life easier while playing:

  • When you play the game, and you check the time, and you notice you are on track, you put a yellow index card in front of both of you
  • if you are behind schedule, you put a red card in front of you
  • if you are ahead of the schedule, you use the green index card.

This is a visual management, that enhances the communication between the two trainers without the need to talk. (Although during this game you have plenty of time to talk to each other.)

While people come in, ask them to write their name on a name badge and put the name tag on their body. (we prefer sticker badges as they stay visible and easy to read.) As people walk around a lot and play closely to a table with lego, you might even want to ask them to acc a sticker to their back.

Tips for first time presentors:

3 hours is a lot; You might be tempted to trim the game. Especially on the feedback round. Don’t. The feedback round is the most important part of the game.

If you don’t have 3 hours, play another game (or contact us, see the contact page to know how.)

It’s really important in the second game to give 25 minutes in total to the players. A lot of times the group does not respect the 10 minute advice for the meeting. (That is fine.)

They might be ready after 20 minutes. Don’t stop the game, see what happens. Sometimes groups keep building. We have seen groups that keep building, while they still have time (gold plating). We also have witnessed groups that had their church collapsed a few seconds before the time was up. That is very important to bring this up at the closing round. This is why we only stop when there is a real group decisions on stopping (and not one or two people proposing to stop and no one listening or agreeing.)

Not only the “leaders” learn a lot but also the other players learned a lot about “their preferred way of being led” and how they look at a leader. Many participants also told us they learned a lot from being an observer. That is the moment to ask them when they observe in their team; if they don’t encourage them to do so.

This game can be particularly useful if everyone works at the same company. It might be used to make real situation visible and still offer a safe environment to talk about things. (It’s safer to talk about the game then it is to talk about the real situation.) If you use the game with this intention, be sure you have the skills to deal with this.

Foresee enough time to debrief and follow up with the team; If you don’t have this luxuary, let the situation closed. Opening up a situation that the team is not aware without having the time or skills to deal with the stituation is at least unproductive and at worst dangerous.

Decide who is trainer 1 and trainer 2. Add names to the different parts that need to be explained. (Be sure you both are prepared to explain everything, so that you can, when something unforeseen happens.)

Pictures from previous games

Don’t offer the pictures to the players; It will limit their imagination. We noticed that players that have pictures of the game usually have less nice results than people without.

5. How to run the game

1 Introduction from Trainers

Preferable, the trainers sit so that they can see eachother. (And not next to eachother as is usually done by pairtrainers.)

What we say:

  • Who are we
  • What connection do we have with the subject
  • What connection do we have with the group.
  • What have we learned about leadership.
  • What connection do we have with each other.

Trainer 1 starts, then trainer 2.

Till 0:05. ( .. : .. )

2 Short round table:

Trainer 2 continues here

  • Who are you?
  • What is important we know about you?
  • What makes you different from the rest of the group?

Make sure everyone speaks. Also make sure no one talks too long. If a team lead says something like, and “everyone else is the same”, make sure to react to that and say; yes and still I think it is important to hear everyone else’s voice. When it’s a new group and you will work more with this group, make sure you repeat the persons name. You will remember their name better if you repeat their name in the first 5 minutes. Thank everyone after they introduced themselves. (Combine this with their name: “thank you Els”)* When every participant, speaks in the first 10 minutes, they’ll all engage more in the rest of the training/meeting.

3 Introduction of the Game:

You have to get into the sea, to get wet
You have to get into the sea, to get wet

Trainer 1

Today we are going to do three assignments that look similar but that are on some essential parts very different. You can see these assignments as a game, if you take this game serious, you will have lots of fun and learn a lot. We ask you to be very alert of what you feel. At the end we will ask you which of the three situations you preferred and why. It is our intent that you learn something about yourself and about leadership in general. We want to invite you to play as serious as a child would do.

You don’t have to believe in the sea to get wet, you just have to get in. Enjoy

We will need 2 volunteers to play leaders in the first part. (These days we tell them we look for people who want to experiment with directive leadership. As a facilitator, it is your choice to tell them this upfront or not.)

In later assignments we will need more leaders.

Wait till you have 2 leaders. Give them the black leader hats and trainer 2 takes them outside.

Trainer 1 continues

We also need XX observers. These observers will be flies on the wall. They see everything, but you cant interact with them.

You can find how much is XX if you look at the schedule and the number of players. If you have less then 8 players, you will also have 1 leader instead of 2. Give everyone who is not a leader the text about observing and feedback.

Ask remaining participants & observers to read through the handout on how to observe (since most people need help with this).

You can answer questions about being observers. Don’t forget to warn observers they should be a fly on the wall, so they should not react when people speak to them, and don’t speak to players of leaders. (that is why we use the visual white hat to remind people.)

You also give the observers the feedback questions, a ballpen, empty paper and a white observer hat.

Till 00:15 ( .. : .. )

4 1st session: strong directive (command and control) leadership

Briefing of the selected leaders (5 to 10 minutes)

In this session we want you to lead the group to build a village, with minimum 5 buildings. (Some people will be observers, they wear white hats.)

Examples of buildings: Cafe, small shop, bakery, municipality house, garage, farm, police station, restaurant, fire station, gas station, flat.

After this briefing you have 5 minutes to prepare for the session. You as leaders have to build your vision of the whole concept.

You have to decide what you want these people to build. You can ask questions now, during the game you have to decide on your own.

You should be command and control and very directive leaders. Even if you don’t like that, it is important for the game you do that as best as possible. Don’t try to play a nice command and control leader. Be as directive as possible. It is your project. It is important their is some correlation between the buildings of the village.

When your time is up, you go into the team room and you control the game, we trainers don’t say anything anymore. If you forget to ask a question before you have to decide yourself!

You have a meeting for 10 minutes where you explain what you want them to build. Do this meeting in the second circle. After the meeting the team has 15 minutes to build what you have decided. At the end of the 25 minutes times is up. No extra time. You know have 5 minutes to get to know each other, decide what to build, to think and ask question to us. GO

(Turn the 5 minute hourglass.)


What it means to be a nice command and control leader.

We added that remark because when people get the feedback they were not command and control, they use that as excuse. It is important for the leaders to realize that when that is the role, some of them can’t do that, which is a big learning experience.

As trainers you don’t say what the correlation in the village should be. It’s up to the leaders to decide. Some leaders let the team decide. That is not the purpose of the exercise, if that happens it is important to write that down and give that as feedback at the end of the game. It’s important for the experience, that all decisions should be taken by the leaders.

We let the leaders walk in and take over to help them as much as possible to have a command and control relation with the group.

The first years playing the game, we showed the leaders some picture of possible results; We stopped doing that. We noticed it blocked peoples creativity. If you want to show pictures to the players, in this part only do it to the leaders, remember, they are in control.

The leaders can look at the building blocks if they ask.

  • 10 minutes the leaders lead a meeting with a team.
  • 15 minutes of building.

When you see remarkable things happening, you can tell observers. Remind them to watch for body language, level of noise etc.

Till 00:50 ( .. : .. )

5 Feedback

Hand out feedback questions and ballpens. Ask the participants to write their personal experience (based on the feedback questions they get) for 3 minutes alone. (Turn the 3 minute and 10 minute hourglass).

After that make groups of 2 players + 1 observer. You have 7 minutes to discuss about your experience.

The leaders form a group together with one observer and a trainer.

Till 01:00 ( .. : .. )

6 2nd session: without leader

Select new observers.

[Can be leaders from first session or players. To make sure we have as many observer as possible, it’s not allowed to observe twice in a row.]

In this session we let the group build a church. This time we have no leaders. The team gets again 10 minutes to meet and then 15 minutes to build. During the 10 minute meeting, the team decides how to build the church.

As trainers make sure they use the full 25 minutes. If they are finished early, let the time pass. If they as a group decide to stop, then you can stop. Usually it is a few people who think it is a good idea to stop, but no real decision is taken. When you as a facilitator don’t react, the group might start building again. (It is as if you said, please keep building.) When this happens, make sure you talk about that at the debrief.

Till 01:25 ( .. : .. )

7 Break

Till 01:40 ( .. : .. )

For conferences the break might have to be adjusted. Try to fit the sub games into the schedule of the conference. If that is not possible tell people in the beginning.

You can play with the timing of the feedback to do it before or after the break. It’s best to select already the next leaders before the break so you can inform them during the break.

Again ask for volunteers, for both leaders and observers. Leaders should just as with observer be new leaders.

8 Feedback

Hand out feedback questions part 2. Again the participants write their own experience down for 3 minutes (Use the questions as guideline).

(Turn the 3 minute and 10 minute hour glasses)

After that we make new groups of 2 players + 1 observer. And again 7 minutes to discuss in group about your experience.

Till 01:50 ( .. : .. )

9 3rd session: process leader

Again new observers.

Briefing of leaders (preferable during the break)

In this session you will have to lead the group to build monuments: five (depending on number of participants) famous world monuments. Pyramids are not allowed. You will have to be process leaders.

This means you guide the process, you make sure decisions are taken, but you don’t take decisions yourself. If you see people not doing something, tell this to the team, if you notice that a decision has not been taken, help them take a decision. You start also by leading a 10 minute meeting, where the group decides what they want to build. You have to make sure that during the the meeting it is decided who builds what monument and with what blocks the monument will be built. You make sure that someone watches the time, take care that the people who need help get help, ask regularly if people know what they will do etc… Although you don’t fix problems yourself, you make sure the groups fixes all the problems. Don’t lead the content (help each other if you start deciding on content.)

After the meeting the team building again for 15 minutes.

Till 02:30 ( .. : .. )

10 General Feedback round

Hand out feedback questions part 3. First everyone writes short their experience from the last game personally. (3 minutes)

While they are writing down their feedback, take pictures of the buildings and break it apart.

Then we come back to the first circle. (they could write their feedback in that circle already)

We start by asking the four leaders to share their experiences. You ask the leaders to first talk about the game they led. Then you ask them about differences with the other games.

After that we ask the other participants to share theirs, it’s best to follow the circle to do that, that way you are sure you don’t miss anyone, and it’s easy to figure out how you are doing concerning the time.

Depending on how you are doing on time respond to the remarks by asking opening questions (enough time) or closing topics.

When people want to discuss the setup of the game, point them to the bar. Discuss the setup of the game outside the game.

(45 minutes is already a very limited time to have a feedback round with 20 people.)

At the end don’t forget to distribute all the text. (if one of the trainers starts to distribute the text, it shows the people time is almost up.)

Don’t feel afraid to block people and say they only have limited time; It might feel disrespectful, yet it is actually more respectful to the rest of the group. People that want to talk and people that want to hear everyone. If time is limited ask people to focus on new things, or things they disagree with.

Till 03:15. ( .. : .. )

11 Theory

Till 03:30 ( .. : .. )

If there is time left, you can talk about the theory as distributed in the text. If there is not enough time, talk about the three different text to explain what they can find in the handout. Please ask them to join the Agile games mailing list, so we can keep in touch with the players.

6. Overview Timetable

# Steps Time,min Ends Remarks
1. Introduction from trainers 5 0:05  
2. Short roundtable to 5   Participants introduction
3. Introduction of the game 5 0:15 Select leader and observers
4. 1st session      
4.1 Briefing of leader(s) 5-10   Leader decides on a concept
4.2 Meeting preparation by leader 5    
4.3 Leader’s meeting with the team 10    
4.4 Construction 15 0:50  
5. Feedback     Feedback questions 1
5.1 Personal reflections 3    
5.2 Discuss feedback in groups 7 1:00 Form groups 2 players + 1 observer
6. 2nd session     Change observers
6.1 Team meeting 10    
6.2 Construction 15 1:25 Use whole time slot of 25 minutes
7. Break 15 1:40 Brief leader(s) for 3rd session
8. Feedback - 2nd session     Feedback questions 2
8.1 Personal reflections 3    
8.2 Discuss feedback in groups 7 1:50  
9. Break 15 2:05  
10. 3rd Session     Select new leaders. Change observers
10.1 Meeting of leader(s) with team(s) 10   Group decides, what to build
10.2 Construction 15 2:30  
11. General feedback     Feedback questions 3
11.1 Personal reflections 3   Take pictures of buildings, then break them apart
11.2 Feedback of the leaders      
11.3 Sharing of participants’ experience   3:15 Distribute theoretical parts
12. Discuss theory 15 3:30 Optional

7. Schedule Players

You can use this table to check how many leaders and observers you need.

Participants Leaders Observers Players
30 2 8 20
29 2 7 20
28 2 7 19
27 2 6 19
26 2 6 18
25 2 5 18
24 2 5 17
23 2 4 17
22 2 4 16
21 2 4 15
20 2 4 14
19 2 4 13
18 2 4 12
17 2 3 12
16 2 3 11
15 2 2 11
14 2 2 10
13 2 1 10
12 2 1 9
11 2 1 8
10 2 1 7
9 2 1 6
8 1 1 6
7 1 1 5
6 1 0 5
5 1 0 4
4 1 0 3

8. Observation

Observing is for most people something unnatural. We are used to participate in a conversation. Sometimes we react without thinking. Sometimes we speak without listening. When we observe, we do the opposite. The easy thing about observing is you can learn it by just doing it. The hard part is that you have to do it a lot.

Exercise for at home

You can practice by watching pictures. Take any picture out of the newspaper. Describe the surrounding. The persons, the interaction between the persons. Watching this picture? When you observe, try keeping the following things, interpret, what you feel, In other words try starting your sentences with:

  • I see / I hear …
  • Or I interpret…
  • Or I feel …


  • “Interpretation”: it is night. Observation: I see a dark environment. I interpret this as being night.
  • “Interpretation”: Person X is mad. Observation: I see that person X has a strange face. I interpret that he is mad.
  • “feeling”: I feel my stomach hurts when I look at him.

This last part of the observation is an internal observation, mainly important to learn more about yourself, and to understand why you react to something.

Don’t ignore your feelings when you are observing. Write down what you feel and try to understand where this is coming from. Sometimes your subconscious mind tells you something you don’t know yet.

Example: There is a section in the movie Disclosure, where Tom Sander (Michael Douglas) stops a sexual intercourse. When he later listens to a recording from that event, he realizes that his partner was coughing at a moment this typically does not happen. That made him realize she played and planned it all. His subconscious mind had already noticed it, he just could not see it clearly.

As an exercise it is very interesting to limit your observations.


  • Only listen: Observe a conversation blindfolded…
  • Only watch: observe the body language… (listen to music instead)
  • Observe only the (possible) interaction between people, for example try to see who ignores the leader
  • Only check if the body language is congruent with what the persons says.
  • Are they toughing each other?
  • What is the distance between the people?
  • Are they watching each other right in the eye?
  • Do they laugh a lot?
  • What do you notice about the noise they make?

9. Feedback

Feedback on the first level is giving back what you see, hear and feel. On the second level feedback is giving back what the behavior of the other does to you.


I saw that your eyes look angry (notice that this is already an interpretation, see earlier) and your mouth was trembling (this is the first level). This anger made me being afraid (second level). In these two levels no evaluation occurs!

The effect of the feedback, even on the first level, is surprisingly strong. The other feels “seen” in a correct way. His existence is acknowledged much more than usually.

The second level of feedback is very relation improving: when I give back to the other what his behavior does to me, he understands what happens, and we are on our way for a real authentic relation. Even if I say really confronting things to the other, this usually enhances the relation. In a lot of situations people avoid this, because we want to ‘save’ the other person. we are afraid to go into an authentic way in a relation.

We are showing our self vulnerable and the reaction of the other can be heavy.

Real relations aren’t smooth.

Feedback can be given both verbal as non-verbal. Can be positive and negative. Feedback can be given on content or relational aspects of a communication


Ben works very precise and cleans up everything.

Jan gives feedback:

  • I notice that you also watched on this and that, and that you clean up (content feedback)
  • Your work is finished on every detail. (This is already more giving value then content and mainly relational feedback.)
  • I experience this as very pleasant, because I can feel safe that your work is great without I have to control it. (Relational feedback on the second level: Jan tells how that makes him feels)

Feedback rule :

  • I see, I hear, … (facts)
  • I interpret, think, feel… (interpret)
  • I feel myself (feeling), I experience
  • I wish, I hope, I want


“You said that the file was ok, and it’s is not, this and that is wrong with that.”

Remark: if you would say here “you are a liar”, that is that by our definition not feedback. It is more a reproach: a reproach is partly feedback (you did this so and so), and on the other side there is a present undertone that the persons should have done it differently (a negative evaluation). Saying “you are a liar” is even more, it is an insult, a disapproval of the whole person.

10. Feedback Questions

After the first Game

  1. How did you feel during this part?
  2. Is this way of working (with this kind of leadership) something that you like?
  3. What was the goal of the exercise?
  4. How was the collaboration in the total group? Did you help people? Did someone help you? Did you need help? Did you ask for help?
  5. How were the leaders? Did they fix all the problems themselves, did they decide who should do what, or did they let the group decide? How did they improve collaboration? Did they irritate you? Did they ignore you?
  6. Are you happy with the end-result? Do you think the leaders are happy with the result? How do you know?
  7. Was there room to be creative?
  8. When do you think such a leadership style is needed?
  9. Did you recognize this situation from your real life? Do you react in the same way? What is the same, what is different

After the Second Game

  1. How did you feel during this part?
  2. Is this way of working (without a leader) something that you like?
  3. How was the collaboration in the group?
  4. What difference where there comparing with previous session? Differences for collaboration, differences for result? What about energy?
  5. Are you happy with the end-result? Do you think everyone is happy with the result? How do you know?
  6. When do you think such a leadership style is needed?
  7. Did you recognize this situation from your real life? Do you react in the same way? What is the same, what is different?

After the third Game

  1. How did you feel during this part?
  2. Is this way of working (with this kind of leadership) something that you like?
  3. How was the collaboration in the group?
  4. How were the leaders? Did they fix all the problems themselves, did they decided who should do what, of did they let the group decide? How did they improve collaboration? Did they irritate you? What decisions did they take?
  5. What difference where there comparing with previous session? Differences for collaboration, differences for result?
  6. Are you happy with the end-result? Do you think everyone is happy with the result? How do you know?
  7. When do you think such a leadership style is needed?
  8. Did you recognize this situation from your real life? Do you react in the same way? What is the same, what is different?
  9. Evaluate yourself after these three games: how do you deal with leaders? What kind of leadership do you prefer? Or do you prefer no leader ? What kind of person do you prefer as leader: male, female, old or young, very smart of less intelligent, a warm personality or a cool efficient business personality?

11. PairCoaching

Yves & Els
Yves & Els

Leading a team with two people, that is what we (Ignace and Yves Hanoulle) do for a while, and what we find normal. And then we realize that this is not the common view: a leader “should” be alone. In another part of our society, parents (who are also leaders) “should” raise their children together. Strange: in one area, that of professional leadership in any kind of company, it looks obvious that a leader does it on his own. In the other area, people regularly ask, is it possible to raise children on your own. The habit that in the past there always was a mother and father, made the question appear when divorces became more frequent. The question usually was mixed with, “don’t you need a man and a women to raise kids”, but she existed on its own: is one person enough for this difficult leadership task. And we hear a lot of single parents, say it is a hard task. So we ask is leading in other area’s not mostly a too heavy task for one person? Don’t we ask too much of inner strength from a leader in these situations?

Two different area’s (the relation between leader and employee at one side, and the relation between parents and children at the other side) two totally different “ideal” solutions that are pushed. By this time, it is already proven enough that it is possible (although tough and no ideal solution) to raise children alone. On the other side, that of the leadership function in enterprises, there is little or no experience with “pair coaching”, the leadership of two leaders with both the same competence. Although there are quite some situations where pair coaching is designated.

What are the advantages of pair coaching?

The parenting model can serve as to look for some of the advantages.

  • Single parents complain e.g. that it is hard to punish and caress. If there are two parents, they can take on both contradictory tasks, preferable with switching positions. If we go more general than punishing and caressing, then we see total contradictory areas where parents have to lead. One area is that of offering security, listening, hugging (literally or by words), the understanding for the weak edges and the feelings of the child. The other area is fostering greater performance, pointing out its duties, pointing the child to his little lace and prompting to improve his lower edges. Take up both areas with two is for sure easier then alone.
    Leadership in enterprises has for sure as much to do with both these areas. The first area we could call motivate, reward, listening, show understanding for the feelings of the employee. The second area is more demanding that agreements are met, rebuking. Seldom we see a leader that takes on both task areas and combines them willowy. Just as with parenting we also see a pitfall for paircoaches: the two leaders have to watch that they switch enough and make sure hat one of them not always takes on one area and the other the other. But even if that is the case, that still is better than when one of these areas is not been handled as now is the case with a lot of leaders.
  • Another difficulty of single parents and singe leaders is the loneliness of the leader. You see it happening all too often, single parents that ask their children too much support, want to become the friend of their children. Or single leaders that are becoming familiar with one or more subordinates, tell them things they should conceal, etc. Parents who are parenting with two, just as pair coaches have this problem less. They can talk to each other. And they can warn each other when one of them does.
  • Two different parents that raise children together, start from a different style. That difference gives discussion,which can be both difficult and can be very fertilizing. It is also one of the best remedies against rigidity: the other partner with his style stays a constant challenge. With pair coaching you see the same thing happening, the differences make that the partner coach comes with solutions that are out of sight of the other.
  • Talking with the co-parent about the kids education is what single parents miss the most. By talking to the other, who stays interested listening, everything becomes clearer, feelings get a place and the solution is clear. The same happens with paircoaches.

Some work situations look a lot like the education situation, some are totally different. This means that some of the earlier mentioned benefits value less or not at all, in a lot of cases they actually value more. The fact that a leader lead much bigger groups than an average family, makes the advantages of pair coaching stronger. Another point in the advantage of pair coaching is that a lonely leader has to manifest himself, most of the time both to his subordinates as to his superiors. That pressure asks for more inner strength. (Single parents don’t have this problem, if they do -as in fight divorces where the parenting is questioned, they often make large mistakes until the pressure is removed) and that pressure is the cause of lots of mistakes, until the leader “no longer has to prove himself”.
With two supporting this pressure is a lot easier.

In work situations you have the extra advantage (just as with pair programming) that two people see more than one. While one leader talks in a meeting, the other can watch the reactions of the people. And see when it is no longer aligned. The co-leader also notices when the talking leader becomes nervous, does not explain something correctly, is unclear or does not respond to a question, etc.

What are the disadvantages of Paircoaching?

  • You have two leaders, so you have to pay 2 people (you have to compare value vs costs to see if it is more expensive. This brings the question, would you prefer to raise kids on your own, just for costs reasons?)
  • When pair coaches don’t have enough leading tasks, they might work with the team, but then they risk to dilute their position as leader.
  • An advantage from paircoaching is sometime seen as a disadvantage: shared responsibility. It is an advantage to have less pressure, the outside world, prefers one wringable neck.
  • Both leaders have to be able to work together, what some leaders can’t. In that way it is as with pair programming; some people can’t adapt to certain structures, if they are important to the organization we adapt the structures to them. (In our opinion, this also weakens the company and gives these people too much (unhealthy) power.)
  • There is no culture of pair coaching. The resistance for this is significantly higher then for pairprogramming. (which is already big) Our professional world has already mixed feelings about leadership. One way we are not paying much attention to it (except from the management aspects of it.), on the other side we are paying leaders a gigantic piles of money to our leaders. Where leadership in the economy and in our culture has a place, its image is that of a authoritarian, male and lone hero who remains a rock in the turbulent sea. Pair coaching, that points more to the image of the deep human, fair and sometime sever parents who dare to admit they need each other, is not consistent with the archetype of the tough hero.

Examples of pairing in other jobs

  • Pilots
  • policemen
  • ceo + president of the board
  • Scrummaster and product owner

12. Contemplation on leadership

Some projects are guided, others are not. When there is a leader we may notice that there is quite a difference in leadership. We can even say there is a lot of difference between leaders. Even speaking of different styles of leadership is putting it mildly, not only do we notice a difference in the approach of fulfilling a task, but also that different leaders take on different tasks. That is why we ask here some questions, and try to formulate some answers.

Why do people want a leader?

To realize a project with a leader, has of course a lot of practical benefits.

The leader can make sure that no important task will be overlooked, and can take care that everybody at all times has a task. He can make sure that most of the resources are put in for the tasks that need most time. He can make sure that everybody got a task that is most appropriate to his possibilities. In short, he can take care of the coordination.

The leader can make sure that the whole team goes in one direction, so that individual members do not have to worry about a direction, and do not have to keep an eye on the others, to see if they keep more or less to the same direction.

The leader can stimulate the dialogue between the team-members. He can make sure that people listen to each other, even if they wouldn’t do that easily otherwise.

In general, the leader can take care of all the tasks that come under management, or make sure that these are taken care of: planning, distribution of responsibilities, controlling and solving problems, making sure that people work together, taking care of a good bond with the environment, making sure that contractual commitments are taken care of, etc.

There is altogether another aspect that influences the choice to work under leadership: the psychological aspect. Where people love to have a lot of power, there are a lot less people eager to take on a lot of responsibilities. The well-known Milgram experiment proved this in a rather surprising way. Milgram noticed, to his surprise, that almost everybody was willing to administrate deadly electrical shocks to people, when there was a leader saying: go on, I’ll take the responsibility! This experiment was repeated hundreds of time, with every time the same results. The research showed as well that it was no sadism on the part of these people, but only the refusal of responsibility. On the internet-encyclopedia Wikipedia one can find a reasonable good description of this experiment. Subordinates expect from their leader hat he acts as a good protecting father or mother, and do not feel safe without a leader. This looking for security from a strong leader is even strengthened by the seeking of security in a group, the wish to be “included”. In extreme cases we notice how these psychological tendencies - for instance in the USA where 9/11 created such a fear - make people look for simplistic ready answers from their leaders, sacrifice eagerly all their critical qualities, just to not have to bear responsibility, and make them accept that ersatz enemies are being attacked, just to be able to stay in the illusion that nothing like this will ever happen again. The illusion that big strong daddy will protect them from all evil.

Looking for protection is one strong tendency we all carry in us, in some people more than in others. There are other powers in us as well, there wouldn’t be any leaders otherwise, and no people preferring to work independently or self-employed.

More about that in a next item.

For the moment we notice here already the benefits of the directive or even authoritarian leader: besides the practical benefits of coordination and management, he is giving security to these looking for a sense of safety, the need thereof springing from childhood and this need can be very strong for some. Frightening or unsure situations will make the success of the directive leaders.

Why do people refuse a leader?

It is an ideal that rises up again and again: the team wherein creativity, respect, self-realization, freedom, responsibility, friendship, are values that are held high, and where no leader is needed. The team that guides itself. The team wherein only a healthy competition lives and no relation-destroying passion for power.

1) What are the factual benefits of a team like that? It is a paradox that many of the fundamental benefits of a team without a leader are by-products of its disadvantages. The preceding chapter showed the advantages of working with a leader: taking care of the coordination, taking care of safety, direction, and taking care of a great deal of the responsibility. In a directive, well-guided team, nobody has to worry too much about the work of another team-member, about the feelings of another, or about the rightness of one’s own work: the management and the structure take care of all that. One can be working perfectly egoistical and irresponsible, and still, in the whole, everything works. In a group without a leader this is impossible. Or nothing gets ever done, or one has to count on everybody. Human relationships are far more important. If there is a leader, some meetings are only necessary to show the directives. Sometimes real consultative meetings are needed, since reality proves that people participate more actively when they participate in the decision-making. But even if some people are against the decisions, they can be forced to participate. Without a leader deliberation is needed until everybody agrees to participate.

This can take a long time, especially when the group is relatively new. But thereafter there exists a dynamic one finds rarely in guided teams. During the work itself, the partners have to consider each other, also each others feelings. Otherwise everything will go constantly wrong. The cohesion of the team is very strongly strengthened. The forces of the group dynamics working in a team like this make sure that everyone is strongly confronted with his own being, his own responsibilities. Whoever cannot take this leaves the team, or evolves, or breaks down. People, who do not consider the others, get a lot of pressure from the team to change that attitude. People, who don’t take care of themselves, also suffer. In teams where the tasks can be done independently, where people function independently, there are no significant problems. In teams where a lot of consultation and adjustment is needed, the task is not so simple. When it works, it proves an enriching experience for everybody, to compare with an interesting partner-relationship. And what is more, the members of the team are motivating each other, so that everybody gives the best of himself with pleasure.

2) Teams wherein the members change frequently, and stay on building on one whole, are quite often able to realize very complex structures, structures that would have been impossible to be realized by one person. The construction of our culture is such a complex structure, realized by a group without a leader. Our legislation is another example. This last one is a very good example: all the ethical laws and principles that were presented by philosophers in the course of history were simplistic and didn’t take in account the day to day realities. Only the democratic power-play made sure that a legislation - although complex - was made wherein as much as possible everybody is included. That this construction is not completed is not due to the lack of leadership, or to bad leadership, but due to the fact that many parties still have no say, that we have no real democracy yet, especially when seen on a world-scale.

In nature there is an endless series of examples of structures, made out of many different elements, which organize themselves. Some (f.i. Kaufmann, 1995) think that this (i.e. the self-organizing quality of nature) is the most important force of evolution, rather than the “survival of the fittest”.

It is very tempting to think that this also gives the best results in groups.

How can the benefits of working without a leader be kept by a certain way of leadership?

Both preceding chapters showed the advantages and disadvantages of working with or without a leader.

The question can arise in how far a team-leader can guide his team in such a way that the benefits of a team without a leader can be kept. Or maybe even strengthened? A team with a leader who works only to further the process (and is not directive) answers this for the greatest part. What does it mean, stimulating the process? It means that the leader especially takes care of the communication in the group, makes sure that everyone is motivated, that the conditions for working are optimal, and that the contacts with the outside world are going smoothly. Solving problems is not his main task, he tries to make sure that this is done by the team.

Let us look at how the advantages and disadvantages of the two preceding items are working in a group with such a leader.

Concerning the practical benefits cited in chapter 1, these are, with the exception of item 3 (“The leader stimulates the dialogue between the team-members”) a lot less present with the process-coach. The leader who just stimulates the process can pay attention to the tasks of management, but it is not his priority. As process-coach he will take care that these tasks are done. The advantage of the leader keeping an eye on these tasks is kept in every way, and he has to keep an eye on the one doing the management, so he doesn’t get all the power, otherwise a pseudo-manager would rise up, concerning himself only with the structure.

Giving security to people is on the one hand very explicit, the team-members can get a strong feeling that the leader cares about them and sees them and values them as human beings. On the other side, team-members who want to avoid their own responsibilities and rather avoid making choices are quite often heavily disappointed. The process-coaching leader, who does not point at the direction himself, confronts very strongly his co-workers with his attitude. Also, in conflicts between the team-members, the process-coaching leader will nut cut the knot himself, but will demand a dialogue between his co-workers, and demand that they learn to get on with each other by themselves. We notice here some of the same phenomena as seen in a group without a leader. But here the process-coaching leader can act as moderator in the talk between the parties. In frightening situations group members will not choose for such a leader. Actually, they will choose rather for pseudo-safety than for a realistic fear.

Realizing very complex, creative structures as made in groups without a leader, is also possible in teams with a process-stimulating structure. After all, the leader provides neither the direction nor the solution. These are provided through consultation by the group members, as in a group without a leader. But since now there is a leader present, he can point out to his team-members when they are working too much in different directions. So less time will be lost in needless work. It is also less likely that the goal will be overlooked as is the case in groups without a leader.

Process-stimulating leadership is very much like coaching. The training of a sports-team is a nice example of the importance of stimulating the process. A football-team from Greece becomes then Olympic Champion, without a doubt less due to the present individual talent than to the cohesion of the team. And this again is an achievement of the trainer. A trainer can be very directive as well, and plan the game to the very last detail. But then you get a team from which all creativity is taken, that plays rather defensive and stereotypical. Coaching a team with a lot of ball-conjurers, like Brazil, asks for a very good process-coach. See f.i. P. Winsemius (2005) about the famous football-player (and trainer) Johann Cruyff and leadership.

Concluding considerations and other theme’s concerning leadership.

All this shows a lot of possibilities to work with the given of leadership.

Everybody’s own personal history determinates for a part, and in what manner, how they prefer a certain way of leadership. It is a pity that it is also a psychological given that people, who take being led very difficultly, also have problems with taking up responsibilities (even for themselves) and have trouble to work independently or take up leadership themselves. These people function at best in the environment that they protest again the hardest: under an authoritarian leader. Then they are angry with the leader, but less frightened.

This last consideration proves something of the complexity of the problem of leadership. Even considering this complexity it is possible to point out some general rules, as was showed in the preceding pages:

  1. Different situations demand different styles of leadership. Often one speaks about situational leadership. See f.i. P. Hersey (2001)
  2. Even if it is not always known, management is not the same as leadership, and management alone is not enough.
    Management puts the accent on planning, on creating stability and routine, allocating responsibility, controlling and solving problems, taking care of compliancy, emphasizing the contractual commitments, keeping the power, distance and rationality of the manager, approaching the environment creatively. But leadership emphasize more vision and mission, creating change and renovation, motivation and inspiration, creating involvement, stimulating extra effort, interest in others and intuition thereof of the leader, empowerment of the others, a pro-active attitude and creating possibilities and conditions. See f.i. Muijen (2003) for a rather thorough exposé of these differences.
    The strange thing is that no-one would consider only managing a football-team, or playing without a trainer, while big companies do live in the illusion that they only need managers. Of course, also parenthood is an important case of leadership: would it feel good if your parents only managed you?
  3. To give leading on a top-scale (general manager f.i.) is totally different than leading on a middle-manager scale, and still different from leading a project. On these three scales the most adequate style of leadership will be mostly different.

Actually, as yet nothing is said about the most essential question: “What is actually essential to leadership, when is someone adopting the attitude of a leader, and when as a subordinate?” Or more concrete: “How can you notice if someone is acting as a leader?” Related questions are: “Do you need power to act from the position as a leader? What is power actually, and what kinds of power are there?” and: “Does one need something like ‘inner strength’ to be a leader, and why does one need it?” The text “The rose of Axes, applied to leadership” gives, based on a model, answers to these questions.

Ignace Hanoulle & Yves Hanoulle


Hanoulle, Ignace (2004) The Rose of Axes applied to leadership course text.
Hersey, Paul (2001). Situational leadership. Contact Amsterdam.
Kauffman, Stuart (1995). At home in the Universe Oxford University Press.
Muijen, Prof. Jaap J. van (2003). Leidersschapsontwikkeling: het hanteren van paradoxen,uitgegeven door de universiteit Nyenrode:
Winsemius, P. (2004). Je gaat het pas zien als je het doorhebt - over Cruijff en leiderschap.Balans.

13. The Rose of Axes, applied on leadership

There are different ways to stand in relation to others. One way of looking at it is the relation-rose or the rose of axes (F. Cuvelier). This relation-rose tries to be the expression of a snapshot of behavior in a relation to someone else, of a kind of an average behavior in a relation during a certain time. One distinguishes six possible ways of behavior.

In each of these kinds of behavior the other partner in the relationship may react with behavior from the same category or from one of the five other axes. The positions ‘to give’ and ‘to receive’ are complementary and easy to understand. One should take notice that there are many different things that can be given: products, care, elements of leading (for instance instructions), closeness, etc. Receiving is totally different from taking: with receiving there is an active accepting of the giver in his act of giving.

To keep is the withholding of things that could be given, explicitly withholding in a situation where giving could be expected. It is the position of the arrogant employer who makes his subordinates beg for help, and who shields himself very much. It is a very safe position, but the subordinates miss contact.

Confronting can mean: punishment, wage cut, getting angry, giving criticism, etc.

Resistance is different and is connected with the position of the subordinate. It concerns refusing all help, shielding oneself, not observing directions, etc. Explicitly protest against directions given by the boss is rather to be interpreted as confronting than as resistance. (Although not all authors would agree). An example: the employer demands that all phone-calls are answered by certain employees. When he is present the employees do it.

When he is absent they don’t. When he demands an explanation, the employees answer: ‘Probably nobody was here’. This is the way of resistance. If someone would answer: ‘This is not our job’, than he himself is in the position of confronting.

To undergo: to let it be, to lose control over the situation, feeling guilty for not doing anything and still continuing to do nothing, being unable tot say yes or no to an offer, and then feeling sorry for not participating, etc. Here the resistance is not against the outside world, but happens inside the person, as an ongoing internal conflict that leads to depression.

We can see three zones in interaction in the relation-rose: in the zone of giving and receiving there is cooperation.

In the zone of confronting and resistance there is conflict.

And in the zone of keeping and undergoing the relation-partners live beside each other, almost without any contact. The axes giving, keeping and confronting are positions wherein mostly the leader moves. Facing it are three positions (receiving, undergoing, resisting), these are the positions of the subordinates.

Seen from this model, leadership is thus the movement in the positions giving, keeping and confronting. This looks simple, but it is not so simple for a leader to always stay in these positions. One needs two very important elements: power and inner strength.

If the one seeking leadership has no power the subordinates will not accept him as boss. To speak with the terms of the axes-rose: they will not accept that someone at all times stands above the power-line (the line between the three positions giving, keeping and confronting on the one side and receiving, undergoing and resisting on the other side). There are different kinds of power through which one is accepted as a leader.

  • formal power: the power given by the system, by the organization wherein the boss and the subordinates are placed. It is the power the boss gets from his superiors and from the social context.
  • sanction-power: this is the power someone has through the possibility to sanction someone (positive or negative).
  • competence-power: is the power someone has when he is seen as competent for the task by the group of people which has to realize this task.
  • information-power: is the power of the one who has a lot of information relevant to the task the group has to realize.
  • referential-power: a boss has this kind of power when other people want to take example from him, want to be like him, want to be with him, etc. One says sometimes that someone like this has ‘charisma’.

Such power one has only in a certain area: thus an employer can have a lot of competence-power for nursing tasks, and none for psycho-social support tasks. In the same way a boss gets only authority from his superiors on certain levels and his formal power on other levels is non-existent. Also the employer has only sanction-power in a certain area and in connection with a certain kind of work. And the same applies for information-power: everyone has only information on a certain level.
Concerning referential-power, it is less clear to prove that it applies only on a certain area.
A boss who gives leading for a task which is in the area where he has a lot of power is seldom under attack. Yet no leader is free from counter-reactions.
Hence the second element, the inner strength, is needed to be a leader.

Even if the boss has enough power (a minimum of power is certainly necessary), he often gets opposition. In such a time he is very lonely. Even in times when he does not get opposition, he is in a very lonely, giving position. Hence the employer needs a lot of inner strength to be able to stay a leader. One could ask oneself: “Is it possible, when many subordinates protest against a boss, that he wins at the end? It is rather an unfair fight: one against many!” It may seem unlikely, but there is an important given in our culture that helps the boss: the subordinates are permitted to stand freely in the position ‘resist’, and this is very annoying for the employer, but in this position the employer still can make sure, although it is very difficult, that the task is realized. The employer does feel he is completely disapproved of and rejected, but if he has enough inner strength, and he can charge his batteries in time elsewhere, he can survive. But the subordinates can not be permitted to go above the authority-line themselves, for instance by attacking. It is indeed a cultural given that subordinates would not take this from each other. In other words, someone who attacks the leader takes a strong risk that everybody will turn against him. The underlying reason is that many people have a great need of a leader and feel unsafe when the position of the leader is under attack.

14. Library

15. Supplies

  • Per 20 people:
    • hourglass of 3 minutes,
    • hourglass of 5 minutes,
    • hourglass of 10 minutes,
    • hourglass of 15 minutes,
    • one large table,
    • flip-over (needed for organization) or a magic whiteboard
  • Camera for photos
  • Books on leadership
  • 3 index cards: one red, one green, one yellow
  • 20 ballpens.
  • clock or timer device
  • (sticker) name badges for everyone
  • 2 black hat’s for the leaders
  • white hat’s for the observers.
  • (optional) gong


Per person:

  • Observation and feedback
  • List of questions for feedback
  • Contemplation on leadership
  • Rose of axes
  • Literature list

We distribute the whole set of papers at conferences.



  • Orange: 100 X Blocks of 2 on 1
  • Purple: 50 X Blocks of 2 on 1
  • Red: 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2
  • Red: 20 X Blocks of 4 on 2
  • Blue: 50 X Blocks of 4 on 1
  • Blue: 40 X Blocks of 2 on 1 on top and 2 on 2 bottom (rounded)
  • Blue: 100 X Blocks of 2 on 1
  • Green: 50 X Blocks of 4 on 1
  • Green: 40 X Blocks of 2 on 1 on top and 2 on 2 bottom (rounded)
  • Green: 100 X Blocks of 2 on 1
  • Yellow : 20 X Blocks of 4 on 2
  • Yellow : 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2


(These blocks fit on the Quattro’s.)

  • Red 50 X Blocks of 4 on 2
  • Red 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2
  • Red 10 X Blocks of 8 on 2
  • Red 5 X Blocks of 6 on 2
  • Red 5 X Blocks of 4 on 2 on 1/2 size
  • Blue 50 X Blocks of 4 on 2
  • Blue 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2
  • Blue 10 X Blocks of 8 on 2
  • Blue 5 X Blocks of 10 on 2
  • Blue 5 X Blocks of 6 on 2
  • Light green 50 X Blocks of 4 on 2
  • Light green 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2
  • Light green 5 X Blocks of 4 on 2 on 1/2 size
  • Dark green 50 X Blocks of 4 on 2
  • Dark green 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2
  • Dark green 5 X Blocks of 4 on 2 on 1/2 size
  • Orange 50 X Blocks of 4 on 2
  • Orange 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2
  • Orange 5 X Blocks of 4 on 2 on 1/2 size
  • Light blue 50 X Blocks of 4 on 2
  • Light blue 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2
  • Light blue 5 X Blocks of 4 on 2 on 1/2 size
  • Bordeaux 50 X Blocks of 4 on 2
  • Bordeaux 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2
  • Bordeaux 5 X Blocks of 4 on 2 on 1/2 size
  • white 50 X Blocks of 4 on 2
  • white 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2
  • white 5 X Blocks of 4 on 2 on 1/2 size
  • gray 50 X Blocks of 2 on 2


  • 2 X box 4497
  • 2 X box 4104
  • 2 X box 6119
  • 1 X box 6117

The list is the lego we use in Europe.
When we take a plane, we use a subset of this lego. The subsets fit’s in a suitcase and is about 20 kilo’s of lego.
Pictures of the games can be found on Flickr

16. Networking

We invite you to become part of the Agile Games google group

17. Acknowledgments

We would like to THANK:

People that have given numerous tips:

Document reviewers:

Everyone who invited us to have this game played at their conference or company.

Special thanks to the people from XP Day France (now agile France) where we were invited to play the game 4 years in a row.

Pennier F. Henriksen: Allborg University Denmark for playing the game in a non agile environment.


  • Els Ryssen: all the pictures used in this booklet, except where mentioned different.
  • Smetty : for the picture of Yves & Ignace
  • Mateo: for the PairCoaching picture of Yves & Els

18. About the authors

Yves & Ignace
Yves & Ignace

Ignace Hanoulle:

started as Civil engineer in IT in 1976. Now working as psychologist with strong interest in system thinking. Advanced training in leading groups. 20 year experience as counselor of experienced based groups. Ignace invented the term PairCoaching.

Yves Hanoulle:

I started working in IT in 1994. I worked as software support, developer, team lead, trainer, agile coach. I believe that IT is mainly about working with people. A skill that can never be learned enough.

Yearly I spend at least 10 % of my revenue on training and books (You can find details and recommendations on my linkedin profile.)

After my father invented the term PairCoaching, I started to use it to promote pairwork. When I dont work as an agile coach helping companies in EMEA, talking at conferences around the world about agile or the core protocols, Im using agile ideas to raise my 3 kids. (And I use what I learn from them when I work with teams.)

Since December 2012, I work from a walking desk. Check out the link to see how many steps I took since then.

Im a big fan of parent pair work with their children. I have already given a presentation with my whole family in 2011 and since December 2014, Im giving pair presentations with my oldest son Joppe.

I have also released anguis, a (Dutch) android game that I have parent pair programming written with Joppe.

Collaboration projects


You can find my books at If you are interested in agile, you might want to buy the leanpub agile bundle

Yves’ Contact Data:

Snail mail:

Objectsoft bvba Congregatiestraat 16 9031 Drongen

19. Game Feedback

Will you send us your feedback to
Please use the perfection game format for sending us feedback. (The perfection Game is part of the Core protocols, a set of communication patterns created by Jim & Michele McCarthy)

The Perfection Game protocol will support you in your desire to aggregate the best ideas. Use it whenever you desire to improve something you’ve created.


  1. Perfectee performs an act or presents an object for perfection, optionally saying “Begin” and “End” to notify the Perfector of the start and end of the performance.
  2. Perfector rates the value of the performance or object on a scale of 1 to 10 based on how much value the Perfector believes he or she can add.
  3. Perfector says “What I liked about the performance or object was X,” and proceeds to list the qualities of the object the Perfector thought were of high quality or should be amplified.
  4. Perfector offers the improvements to the performance or object required for it to be rated a 10 by saying “To make it a ten, you would have to do X.”


  • Accept perfecting without argument.
  • Give only positive comments: what you like and what it would take to “give it a 10.”
  • Abstain from mentioning what you don’t like or being negative in other ways.
  • Withhold points only if you can think of improvements.
  • Use ratings that reflect a scale of improvement rather than a scale of how much you liked the object.
  • If you cannot say something you liked about the object or specifically say how to make the object better, you must give it a 10.


  • A rating of 10 means you are unable to add value, and a rating of 5 means you will specifically describe how to make the object at least twice as good.
  • The important information to transmit in the Perfection Game protocol improves the performance or object. For example, “The ideal sound of a finger snap for me is one that is crisp, has sufficient volume, and startles me somewhat. To get a 10, you would have to increase your crispness.”
  • As a perfectee, you may only ask questions to clarify or gather more information for improvement. If you disagree with the ideas given to you, simply don’t include them.

20. History

This game was invented in 2004. After a try out, it was played an event of the XP community in the Netherlands. This game was well received and then played at Agile conferences around the world. Yves & Ignace where invited 4 years in a row to play the game at XPDay France, every time we played the game, we had to refuse people at the door.


  • Version 1.0 2004
  • Version 2.0 November 2005 Added PairCoaching idea’s to the Dutch Version
  • Version 3.0 June 2008
  • Version 3.01 July 2008 (Minor edits)
  • Version 3.02 July 2008 (Added new url)
  • Version 4.0 October 2009 Recreated the document on google docs. Document reviewed.
  • Version 4.01 May 2010 (Zip file instead of 1 pdf, translated PairCoaching in English, added pictures, updated license)
  • Version 4.02 July 2010 Added Agile Games google group and Gamestorming Book reference
  • Version 5.00 02 July 2013 Leanpub booklet version
  • Version 5.03 04 July 2013 bug fixes based on feedback leanpub readers.
  • Version 5.04 05 July 2013 bug fixes based on feedback leanpub readers + Added 10 recommendation about the game that Yves received over the years on linkedin.
  • Version 5.06 10 July 2013 bug fixes based on feedback leanpub readers + Added 3 more recommendation about the game that Yves received over the years on linkedin.
  • Version 5.08 21 July 2013 bug fixes based on feedback leanpub readers + Added Foreword from Laurent Bossavit.

21. Countries

This is a list of the countries we know the game was played.

  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Switzerland
  • US

22. License

  • Attribution:
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    If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same, similar or a compatible license.
  • Waiver:
    Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
  • Public Domain:
    Where the work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license.
  • Other Rights:
    In no way are any of the following rights affected by the license:
    • Your fair dealing or fair use rights, or other applicable copyright exceptions and limitations;
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    • Rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.


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