Jessica Katz

Jessica Katz

PolyLabor, CEO

Nashville, Tennessee, United States


Jessica Katz is passionate about the development of consent-filled environments, accelerating organizational growth, and enhancing effective leadership. She leverages her deep expertise in navigating complex, non-traditional relationships to revolutionize the world of work and champion diversity of thought. Specializing in establishing clear boundaries and effective communication, she provides strategic guidance to leaders tackling challenging workplace dynamics, ensuring mutual respect and maximizing productivity within their teams.

Area of Expertise

  • Business & Management
  • Information & Communications Technology
  • Humanities & Social Sciences


  • agile
  • Agile and Culture
  • Agile Coaching
  • Agile Enterprise Transformation Initiatives Leaderships
  • agile culture
  • Agile Influencer
  • Agile Leadership
  • Agile Methodologies
  • Agile Mindset
  • Change Management
  • Change Leadership
  • Impact of Change on Teams Coaching and Agile Mindset
  • Leading People in Change
  • Psychological safety
  • Boundaries
  • Leadership
  • Authentic Leadership
  • Conscious Leadership
  • Inclusive Leadership
  • Project Management
  • Product Management
  • Human Resources
  • People Management
  • People and Culture
  • Managing the Human Dynamic within Virtual Teams
  • Agile People
  • Human Change
  • Human centered design
  • Ethics
  • Business Ethics
  • Complexity
  • complex systems
  • Complex Adaptive Systems
  • Relationship Skills
  • Relationships
  • Relationship building
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Diversity in Creative Teams
  • Diversity in the Workplace
  • trauma and resilience
  • trauma
  • Communication
  • communication skills
  • community
  • Community Building
  • Business Communications
  • Effective Communication
  • Team Communication
  • Community Engagement
  • Community Management
  • Empowering Communities
  • Strategic Communication
  • Corporate Communications
  • Internal Communications
  • Internal Communication

Serving TEA with NVC

Have you ever left a conversation (in person or in text) and immediately regretted your words or behavior? What about just a general feeling of confusion or dissatisfaction with an interaction? Or maybe you wished the outcome had been different? How about that one person who you always dread talking to? There is a way to feel more mutual satisfaction with your communications, interactions, and relationships both professionally and personally.

You can empower yourself using tools from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the Nonviolent Communication models. We will practice a pragmatic approach to fully understand and be understood and to achieve mutually satisfying outcomes for all participants. Join us to begin the adventure of building open and honest relationships with your colleagues and maybe also your more personal connections.

Building in Resilience

In a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, one must be ready to turn on a dime as conditions change. In technology, we build in disaster recovery which offers us technological resilience. As individuals, we're also in need of our own disaster recovery plan.

This session will explore how we build in resilience so we have the ability to turn away from how we used to work to the way we need to work now. We'll also look at how we welcome change rather than following a plan leveraging Agile ideas in our life and work.

Learning Objectives:
Explore concepts of VUCA and how they are affecting you today.
Shift perceptions so that change can be seen as an opportunity instead of a challenge.
Discover ways to be resilient professionally, mentally, emotionally, financially, and socially.
Identify some actions to that can be taken to make yourself more resilient.

Distributed Culture

Teams thrive on a culture of collaboration, positive energy, and deep trust. Culture is often built in the spaces in between work during hallway talks and at lunch. But when we're all remote, how do we adapt? What are the techniques we can use to build and reinforce great culture in our teams?

Learning Objectives

Recall what a Team is and what builds collaboration and trust
Investigate what is lost when teams are distributed
Review strategies for retaining and supporting healthy team culture
Create a strategy for culture in your team

Managing Distributed Employees

Whether you're a new manager or work from home policies are the new norm, managing employees from afar presents an interesting challenge. Management is about building good relationships. How do you build a relationship with someone you never see? This session answers the question, "You've become a manager of distributed employees, now what?"

Learning Objectives

Discuss the behaviors and responsibilities of a great manager
Investigate the challenges for employees and managers when trying to create a good relationship from a distance
Review strategies for connecting with employees and being an awesome distributed manager.
Identify one or two things you can do in the coming weeks to improve your management for your distributed employees

Findings of the 2021 Agile Coach Income Report

How much are Agile coaches paid? Who makes more, full-time salaried coaches or self-employed contractors? How much do experience and formal education matter? How does the compensation of women and minorities compare to the average? Does speaking at events and conferences affect compensation?

Until now, it has been almost impossible for Agile Coaches, managers, and recruiters to understand market rates for coaching services. But that changed with the publication in March of the 2021 Agile Coach Income Report, a survey of 156 Agile coaches around the world working in full-time and consultative roles.

Join us to find out what you might earn as an Agile Coach, or how much it costs to hire the kind of coach your organization needs. This discussion presents a great opportunity to build transparency and start using our combined knowledge of the market.

Learning Outcomes:
* Understand the findings in the 2021 Agile Coach Income Report
* Compare and contrast pay across gender, race, and age
* Compare and contrast pay based on education and certification
* Compare and contrast pay across localities
* Discuss the limitations of the report and potential improvements for next year

The Report can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/81i72tt1vv0hbml/Agile%20Coach%20Income%20Report.pdf?dl=0

Intro to Agile for the Non-Technologist

Has your company started asking your business unit to adopt Agile practices? Are you working with a technology team or organization and want to better understand Agile process or lingo? Are you just starting out in your Technology career and want to understand Agile a little better?

Even though Agile has been around for 20 years, there are still many reasons people are just now coming to it. Attend this session to get a basic understanding of the mindset and history of Agile as well as why and when you or your organization may want to use it.

Basics Learning outcomes:
Understand the Values and Principles intrinsic to BEING Agile
Discuss the practices that help people, teams, and organizations DO Agile
Evaluate when and why you might use Agile

Beyond the basics, this session will allow attendees to determine what other concepts they might want to investigate including but not limited to:

An overview of Scrum
An overview of Kanban
The Cost of Context Shifting
How to Estimate and Size
Why Batch Size matters to Flow
Any other question you may be curious about

This event can be run as a talk (1-2 hours) or a workshop (up to 8 hours)

Braving it Without Bulldozing it: Assertive communication for a win-win result

Have you ever been in a situation where your choice not to speak left you feeling like you were stuck with a decision you didn't agree with? Have you ever spoken up only to find out later someone felt pressured or railroaded by you?

Assertiveness is the art of speaking boldly and with compassion, speaking confidently and with humility, and speaking up while not speaking over those around you. We will discuss the key tools to help you work out this balance and build your emotional intelligence in conversations so that you can be confident in your communications.

Learning outcomes:
Self-assess where you fall on the spectrum from Passiveness to Assertiveness to Aggressiveness.
Understand and analyze the underlying motivations of the actions of people in these stances.
Assess a personal or professional situation in which you wish you had been more assertive.
Design how you might deal with that situation again if you could turn back time.
Create a plan for improving communications in the future.

This can be a 1-hour talk or 2-hour workshop

Get Focused and Get Things Done: 6 Principles of Time Management

Ever wonder when your magical ability to stop or slow time will emerge? We've all found ourselves overwhelmed by our calendar or our to do list; looking for a way to get out from under the stress.

We may not be able to slow down the requests but we can get better at managing the time, prioritizing our work, narrowing our focus and saying no when we should which allow us to use our time more wisely. When you leave this session you'll have 6 principles of time management and the ability to take control of your time and your work.

Learning Outcomes:
Examine the effects of context switching
Practice one of three task prioritization techniques
Evaluate when is the best time to do different kinds of tasks for you
Decide how you will focus your time and create ritual to lower the mental burden
Analyze the value of saying "no"

This session can be run as a 1 hour talk or 2 hour workshop; in person or virtually.

Facing My Own Privilege: Acknowledging advantages, bias, and power and using it to help others

Discussions of privilege have two frames of reference. One is that of those who feel held back, unheard or unseen by those with more power and privilege. The other is of those with power and privilege who use it toward their own ends. What do you do when you realize that you are part of the problem?

This is the story of how I came to realize that my use of power was negatively impacting my work with others, sometimes even causing them harm. When faced with my complicit engagement in the systems of patriarchy and racism, I realized that I had a lot of work to do. I will talk about how I am learning to use my own power, voice and skills to push back against those systems.

Perhaps, you are struggling to see a path through this work to a different future. Perhaps you are finding your way through your own biases and cognitive dissonance and are looking for empathy. Perhaps you are the one who feels held back, unseen or unheard by those with privilege and power. My hope is that sharing my own story can help us all feel a bit more optimistic that the world is on a slow, but steady, path toward change.

Making Your Emotions Work For You: Emotional Intelligence at Work

Have you ever found yourself overcome by frustration or anger at the office only to later wish you'd kept your cool under pressure? Do you ever find yourself wishing there was something you could do to shift your daily discontent or ambivalence about your company or coworkers?

What if you could leverage your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to better understand how you feel, why you feel that way, and what to do about it? In this session we'll build a foundation which allows you to regulate your emotions and choose intentional action instead of letting your emotions run the course of your life.

Learning outcomes:
* Discuss why EQ matters
* Understand the components of EQ
* Learn how emotions occur and why we need them
* Evaluate how you respond emotionally
* Identify tools and techniques for self-management
* Identify next steps for enhancing self-awareness and self-management in the moment when it matters most

This session is currently designed as a 2 hour workshop. It can be adjusted to be a 45 minute to 1 hour talk if needed.


Introduction (5 min)
Why EQ Matters (10 min)
Emotional Intelligence (23 min)
Understanding Emotions (15 min)
Break (10 min)
Handling Emotions (15 mins)
Self-Assessment (20 min)
Tools for Self-Management (15 min)
Next Steps (7 min)

To adjust down for a smaller time period, I would eliminate several interactive activities in favor of informational slides, audience polling, and discussion

Conflict Management: Turning conflict into a tool for problem solving

When people hear the word "conflict" they often feel anxious or hesitant to lean in and avoid critical conversations and opportunities for feedback. Meanwhile, some people are willing to lean into those moments and neglect to consider others' needs causing harm in the process.

What if those two views on conflict weren't the only ones? What would work and life be like if conflict was identified before it escalated, addressed following established agreements, and leveraged for the benefit of all?

This session is designed to give a deeper understanding of how conflict occurs, why it occurs, and how best to navigate it.

Learning Outcomes:

Understand the types of conflict, how they show up, and how they escalate
Identify some techniques for defending against harm.
Establish ways to address conflict.
Determine the best course of action when other people are in conflict

This can be a 1-hour talk or 2-hour workshop. It can also be blended with other talks to create a training series.

Poly-Labor: Navigating Consent and Agency in the Ways we Work

Business is complex. As agilists, we know this. We also know that individual mindsets and relationships are what truly build the culture needed for an agile way of working to flourish: A culture that is defined not only by the organizational structure, but also the network of people communicating and working together every day to deliver value.

The relationships are as complex as the business. They have all come with varying degrees of entwinement, trust, safety, care, and implied power. To meet this complexity, we need to structure our business systems to meet people as individuals who create their own unique system when brought together.

In this session, I’ll share how my experience with polyamory — a personal relationship approach that allows for multiple loves, in which every partner is aware that there are other partners and all parties consent — can be a guide for creating a new business ethical model: One built on transparency, explicit agreements, and inclusivity, which ultimately lead to a more humanistic way of working.

Transparency: Becoming a Better Window

The more we see into every level in an organization, the more empowered we are to make informed decisions. The more empowered we are as individuals, teams, and organizations, the better we are at providing products and services quickly and with high quality inside and outside the four walls of our offices. We cannot see into every level in the organization with closed doors and secrecy. We must put windows of visibility onto everything we do. The Scrum pillar of transparency is designed to create just such a window.

As with most things in Scrum, the idea of transparency is simple but the practice is difficult. Transparency is built on trust and courage in relationships and requires an overarching ethical relationship mindset and approach. From this perspective, behaviors change to create healthy and genuine relationships that make the space for transparency to show up and broaden.

Learning Objectives:
• Define transparency
• Identify key benefits of transparency
• Describe challenges faced when becoming transparent
• Discover how ethical relationships are key to an environment of transparency
• Review the mindset, values, and principles intrinsic to ethical relationships
• Apply the ethical relationship model to real world problems
• Create a plan to move transparency forward

Safety and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

The key role of leaders in Agile organizations is to enable the mindset, values, and principles of Agile to take shape in their teams and organizational culture. This means that leaders must also go through a transformation in which they face the self-deceptions that helped them get where they are but now hinder their ability to support their organization. All transformation efforts are a journey through change whether they be for one person or many. Awareness of one's self-deception offers an opportunity to investigate what is really driving the behaviors that support and undermine the journey.

This session will investigate the lies we tell ourselves that both help and hinder our individual and organizational success. Participants will be given an opportunity to explicitly identify self-deceptions and identify an action that begins the journey to deeper self-awareness.

Learning Objectives:
Participants will be able to
• Explain the common types of lies we tell ourselves
• Describe how we benefit from self-deception
• Recognize accepted group deceptions in organizational cultures
• Discuss the impacts of deceptive behavior at the individual, team and organization levels
• Practice bringing self-deception and group deception forward transparently
• Identify a specific action that can be taken to apply this knowledge in your day to day life

Creating Boundaries, Practicing Curiosity, and Making Requests

We don't always get to choose who we work with. We seldom get to choose the policies that affect us day to day. We do have the ability to request what we need, the ability to manage our own perceptions, and the ability to choose to act instead of reacting.

This session will lead you down a path towards recognizing where boundaries exist, how to manage your emotions when they're crossed, how to make space to help others when their emotions create unpleasant reactions, and teach you skills for making solid requests that get results.

Brain Hacks: Retaining and using what you learn

You've attended a conference, gone to a training course, watched a video, or read a book! Good job, that's the first step to learning. Now what? How will you hold onto that learning and put it into practice?

We'll leverage psychology, neuroscience, and productivity techniques to uncover ways to hack your brain. Join us for this interactive exploration of ways to improve learning and increase your ability to apply that learning more deeply in your life and work.

Welcome to Whose Agile is it Anyway? Where the stories are made up and the points don't matter

That’s right the points are just like t-shirt sizes, only useful if you’re buying clothes. The #NoEstimates movement would tell us we shouldn’t waste time estimating as it alone adds no value to the process or product. It is true that we utterly suck at estimating thanks to planning fallacy mired in a cognitive bias known as the optimism bias.

There are still places where estimating makes sense. In this session, I’ll share my transition of thinking from “always estimate” to “no estimate needed”. We’ll talk about how to recognize when a team needs estimating and when a team can avoid estimating. As well as reviewing the pitfalls and traps of estimating in an Agile world. Attendees can expect to walk away with an understanding of how to coach and mentor teams through this transition if #NoEstimates is actually the right way for their teams.

Creating an Environment for Wholeness to Make Space for Creativity

People are their most creative when they feel safe to bring their whole self forward. In our agile environments, we are looking for that level of investment so that individuals can flourish and our customers can benefit from what comes forth. How do we make space for courageous creativity in our workplaces? What does it take to really be a place that values individuals and interactions over processes and tools?

This session will cover how we move to a mindset that fully embraces people and gives them room to explore their full potential. We’ll discuss the fears and mental models that are holding companies back from this. Using the Relationship Bill of Rights we’ll investigate a possibility of what our day to day lives could be like.

Learning outcomes:

Identify what Wholeness is and the parts necessary to understanding this concept
Understand the impacts of the scarcity and abundance mindsets
Review the Teal organization model and how it relates to Dan Pink's motivation model
Investigate the ethics of relationships and how labels limit us
Learn the assumptions necessary to support wholeness and ethical relationships
Explore the Relationship Bill of Rights gaining an awareness of what might be possible

The Relationship Bill of Rights can be found here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1t5PFrW0HhZdNg_Dhs-BwtzDAbvWLC9JCXaHarr8IMRM. This has been adapted with permission from the authors of “More Than Two”. My intent is to bring the abundance mindset and the idea of full personal agency to the agile community

Full list of Events

See all past events following this link. The list includes: Conferences, meet-ups, and podcast interviews virtually and in-person with links to videos where available.

February 2017

Jessica Katz

PolyLabor, CEO

Nashville, Tennessee, United States


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