Don’t Get Cynical: Change Your Coaching Approach

Photo by Christian Arballo

Photo by Christian Arballo

As I’ve been working on my Changing Organizational Mindset presentation, I’ve been thinking about how easy it is for someone coaching agile teams to become cynical. Because there often comes a moment when the coach feels frustrated by a lack of progress and thinks, “they just don’t get it!” They could be anyone: a team, a manager, or a stakeholder… In that moment, the coach feels stuck.

That’s the moment you need to pivot in your coaching. Instead of teaching, try facilitating. Stop mentoring and ask powerful questions. Start with those closest to changing. Access your creativity and find a new way of approaching the situation.

I am reminded of the farewell speech that Conan O’Brien gave when he left The Tonight Show:

All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism, for the record, it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.

You can do amazing things as an agile coach if you can recognize when you’re feeling frustrated or stuck and choose to change your behavior rather than blame or give up on people. And it will make you appreciate again how hard it is to change.

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.