Being An Agile Coach
It’s not what you know, it’s who you are.
Sometimes I get asked what do I need to know to be an Agile Coach? What course do I need to go on? Or how did you learn all those tools and techniques? However, you can learn all about Agile frameworks, scaling, leadership, facilitation techniques, and still ultimately do more harm than good as an Agile Coach.
Who you are, what motivates your actions and how you show up. These things are much more important. So being an Agile Coach is about working on yourself, this involves a lot of self-reflection.
Growing yourself in service of others even over Tools and Techniques.
You will need the tools and techniques, but they can be acquired when they are needed to serve your client. What is hard is working on yourself to the point that your behaviours support your client with positive change. Having both an Agile and a Coaching mindset (let’s call this our Agile Coaching mindset), is more important.
An Agile Coaching Mindset
An Agile Mindset is built on the foundation of Agile values and principles, which guide our thinking and actions when approaching new situations. A deep understanding of Agile allows an Agile Coach to apply frameworks and practices in the way they were intended. An Agile Mindset requires belief in yourself and in others, people are the foundation of Agile working. We trust, support and nurture people to unleash their full human potential. Being Agile over doing Agile.
There seems to be a lot of synergy between what is at the heart of agility and coaching. In a word, it is people, people who are at the heart of everything we do. So an Agile Coaching mindset includes an Agile Mindset but in addition, we start to bring in some key beliefs from coaching. With these in mind, it allows us to focus on being an Agile Coach over doing Agile Coaching.
People are different
People are different, they have different desires and needs, therefore having respect for people as individuals is essential. Having equality doesn’t mean treating everybody the same, but it does mean we treat everybody with respect and provide them with the equal opportunities so that they can be the best version of themselves that they want to be.
People always do their best
Many times I have been asked as an Agile Coach, “go fix my team they are not performing”. However it is never that the individuals or team are bad, they are always doing their best within the constraints of the organisation, their resources, their knowledge or their experience. More often than not people act the way they do because of how they are being measured, or organisational policies and structures. As a coach it is healthy to know that people are doing their best, you can then help people identify their real opportunities for improvement and be a catalyst for positive change.
People have choice
There is always a choice in how we behave and what we feel. As a coach, we can help people explore those choices and maybe even identify new ones.
People can change
People are resourceful and have everything they need should they wish to change something. Sometimes all they need to do is to think it through, as a coach, we can help them create that space, be there for them as their learning partner.
People have the answers to their own questions
The biggest challenge for an Agile coach, when coaching can be to unlearn the art of being the expert in all things Agile. Rather than telling a client how they should be Agile, you are their learning partner helping them navigate a path through their map of Agile. When areas of a map are unfamiliar that is when you may need to take on a different stance of a teacher or mentor, or you may simply challenge the client to find out more for themselves. Once the map is understood, you can once more return to your role as coach.
As a coach we aim to stay with the not knowing, we are not experts in the lives of our clients, they are the experts. Knowing this allows us to bring our childlike curiosity to the table as a coach. Not giving answers, but rather asking questions to bring out insight as they explore their map.
The Art of Self Reflection
Only by reflecting on your own practice as an Agile Coach are you going to improve. However it is so easy to skip this, you don’t always like what you see when you take a look in the mirror. Every day as an Agile Coach you will be interacting with people, each interaction is an opportunity to learn. Conduct regular mini personal retrospectives or after-action review:
- What – What did you set out to do? What happened?
- So what – What worked? What didn’t work?
- Now what – What did you learn? What will you do differently?
When you do this, put most of your focus on the ‘So What’ and ‘Now What’, rather than just telling the story of what happened. Do this daily, perhaps write a journal, find a coach to help you reflect.
Some never learn to do this in the first place, they may have an appetite for learning about agile, technology, new techniques, but they never take a look at themselves and the impact they are having with all of their tools and techniques.