If you know what to do, and even how to do it, but something keeps getting in the way of doing it well, then you’re likely ready for coaching. I realise that I’ve made quite a broad statement here, but I find it difficult to define coaching work without resorting to saying things like “it’s not training and it’s not consulting”. I’ll try to do that in just a few moments, but first, I must say something about a troubling trend I’ve seen in recent years.
The “agile coach”
Sadly, the generic consultants of earlier times have become the “agile coaches” of today. It seems that virtually anyone who has read a book or two about agile software development has labeled themselves an agile coach. This means that when you truly need coaching, you have to navigate rather difficult waters, and ask quite a few questions, in order to have confidence in the person you’ve thought about hiring. If you don’t, then any success you have will come entirely by random chance. Which questions can you ask? Consider these ones.
- What’s the difference between your training, coaching and consulting work?
- When you call yourself a “coach”, what do you mean by that?
- How will I know that I need coaching?
I choose these questions because the answers themselves don’t matter as much as how natural the answers sound. A good coach has thought about these things, and will not sound like someone inventing answers on the spot, as happens so commonly in interviews. Since I feel I ought to answer my own questions, let me do that for you now.
What’s the difference between your training, coaching and consulting work? When I train people, I have the goal of helping them develop a new skill; when I consult with organisations, I have the goal of helping them decide which problems to solve; when I coach people and teams, I have the goal of helping them get out of their own, and each other’s, way.
When you call yourself a “coach”, what do you mean by that? I call myself a “coach” because I understand how to do well the work of those I coach. In addition, I grow to genuinely care about the people I coach. Not least, I call myself a coach because I won’t let people give up after the first few medium-sized difficulties. I use techniques from psychology, family therapy, and human and social dynamics to help people move past their limiting beliefs, remove stumbling blocks, and help them see more of their own ability. I try hard to help them recapture the passion they might have lost about their work. I believe that all these things reflect the essence of a coach, and I take pride in doing them all well.
How will I know that I need coaching? I know one easy way: you’ve already tried training and you hear your people say things like, “I’d love to do those things, but I don’t have time.” More than making excuses, they have identified real, significant obstacles to doing the good work that you and they both know they ought to try to do. I sense that my clients need coaching when no matter what new techniques I teach them, and no matter how much benefit we agree those techniques could provide, they don’t use those techniques in their work. This gives me the clearest signal that coaching would help.
Our network of coaches consists of people who understand the craft of coaching and learn more about it every day. They form real bonds with the people they coach and this bond contributes much to their success in helping people get out of their own way. They incorporate ideas from a multitude of disciplines to help people realise more of their ability. More than simply show you some tips and tricks, they help you understand how you work, what you can improve, and more importantly how to make lasting changes for the better.
I recently read Naresh Jain’s short, but highly informative article (click here) comparing part-time coaching to full-time coaching. I share some of his experience, having done long-term full-time coaching, long-term part-time coaching, short-term full-time coaching, and even short-term part-time coaching. Individuals have benefited a lot from remote working sessions with me, and I think companies… Read more…
I help people deal with fear when I coach people, teams, and organisations. All coaches do this. I often deal with this problem with a relatively simple working session that often takes less than an hour. If you like it, then please try this at work.
I enjoy collaborating on decisions, but only with groups that agree to use a technique I refer to as consent-based decision making. I might not use that term exactly as the coiners intended, so let me explain what I mean. I characterize consent-based decision making by putting forth a proposal, then looking for reasoned objections…. Read more…
Sometimes I go on project archeological digs with my clients through their projects, often focusing on their code bases. We sometimes run a “code bazaar”, where we set up a half-dozen machines with code to dig through, then walk in pairs from machine to machine, digging and taking notes. During these digs, I institute a… Read more…
Some ideas simply click with you. I remember reading about “the alignment of authority and responsibility” for the first time and feeling how much that idea resonated with me.1 I worked at IBM at the time, on the (then) Net.Commerce project, and after about a year, I began to feel some responsibility for delivering on… Read more…
I’ve spent the better part of the last five years helping a variety of organizations with some form of agile transition. In the process, I have experienced the symptoms that Patrick Lencioni described in his enjoyable The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. After a couple of years, it really dawned on me that I… Read more…