Coaching is more popular now than it has ever been. What was once only thought of as explicitly used in the sports world, the term is increasingly used in business and personal lives. The end goal for every coach is to help make things better for those they work with. Whether it is the sports team or individual athlete to improve their skills to win, a department in an organization to work more efficiently and effectively, or an individual to find success in their lives.

In the end, the role of a coach is to work themselves out of a job. Sounds funny? It does when you read it on the surface; it doesn’t make sense; why would someone want to work themselves out of work?

To help frame why I am reminded of the movie Nanny MacPhee and the following quote:

  • When you need me, but do not want me, then I will stay. I have to go if you wish to me but no longer need me.

Going back to my references above, you probably think the sports reference does not fit since coaches have been involved with teams and individuals for a long time. That is true; you could have a long-tenured coach. Look at Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. He’s been there since 1996; that length of tenure is almost unheard of in today’s age. Taking that, one must realize it is not the same team throughout that span. So coaches in sports remain longer because the groups change. Depending on the type of sport, coaches of individuals could also have a long tenure, yet there could come a time when a coach can only go so far, and change is needed.

Agile coaching should be a short-term initiative to help teams and individuals: Identify issues, help them discover them, establish success and hold them accountable for their actions.

Another head-scratcher? What about transformations? What about extended programs? Teaching? Correct, there is involvement in changes; they help throughout programs and could also do some mentoring and facilitating. In general, though, all those activities are short-term.

Agile Alliance has the Agile Coach Code of Ethics.

Like other coaching codes of ethics, it states that coaches work with clients to understand their needs, agree on the scope, not impose their bias, and be transparent. In general, help them identify the issue, guide them to identify the goal and give guidance throughout the process to achieve that goal.

With that, here are the signs of a good agile coach:

Not a HyperScrumdementalist 

You can replace Scrum with any framework here. A good agile coach does not push frameworks. Frameworks are tools; it is up to the agile coach to ensure they are exhibiting the right agile behaviours. Think of an expert carpenter and an apprentice. The expert understands all the tools needed in the trade and shows the apprentice how to use the tools effectively and efficiently. They don’t just use a hammer to build anything.

If an agile coach goes through a pitch of their beliefs in agility, how it is more than just theory and follows it all up with “I’m a Scrum person,” They are showing bias to one tool. That is not to say they need to like using all the tools; they need to know what tools are available, when and how to use them to get the job done right.

Not a Consultant

Agile coaches should not tell teams what to do. They work with the teams to drive the best solution to issues that best meets their needs. It would be an anti-pattern for a coach to tell the group what they should be doing or working on.

It is listed in the Code of Ethics as this:

  • I will work with clients to understand their needs and avoid imposing solutions based on my personal preferences and desires.

Has Empathy

They are not robots. They show empathy with everyone they work with. As someone who, more than likely,  is just outside the team dynamic, it could create some tension. “Why do we need a coach? Things are going great.”

Sometimes there will be resistance, so a good coach will recognize it and be able to adjust. In Leadership Agility, by Joiner and Joseph, this would be the  Co-Creator Stakeholder Agility quadrant at minimum.

Knowledgeable and good ability to frame

Agile environments use similar behaviours regardless of what product is delivered or the service provided. Knowing those behaviours, walking in, assessing, framing and working with teams on how to improve in the best way for them is priority one. A good agile coach should be able to step into most situations and help. The way to do that is to take what they know and frame it when working with others.

The key thing out of all this is they are a coach, and they are there for individuals or teams to discover the issues, help them work through developing a solution by themselves and keep them accountable.

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