Agile Coaching without Poking, Prodding, or Nagging

Photo by Drew Somervell

Photo by Drew Somervell

While co-presenting on the topic of Scrum Master as Team Coach, I realized that there is a misconception that an agile coach is someone who forces the team to follow agile methods. As an agile coach, I would like teams to become agile and ultimately successful in learning, improving, and delivering, but I’ve learned something very important: I can’t want it for them. A big part of my job is helping others to see possibilities that they didn’t previously and take action to achieve the next level.

So here’s the truth: coaching isn’t about pulling people to join your thinking, and it’s not about pushing them to do what you would like them to do. It’s not teaching classes and then telling people the mistakes they’re making afterwards.

Agile teams are self-organizing. Stand with them and invite them to see what the future may hold. Listen to them and help them find clarity. Inspire them. Encourage them to take action and provide accountability—judgment-free accountability that allows them to account for their action and use it as feedback.  Not blaming or nagging or beating them up.

Lyssa Adkins explained it well in her book Coaching Agile Teams:

Set your coaching tone to these frequencies: loving, compassionate, and uncompromising.

There’s a trite, but true, saying in coaching: A friend loves you just the way you are. A coach loves you too much to let you stay that way.

Love them too much to let them stay as they are, and let this be the seed of your uncompromising stance.  Loving, yes.  Compassionate, yes.  And 100% uncompromising.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.