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Coaching

You know what to do and you know how to do it, but somehow—for someone reason you can’t quite figure out or don’t want to admit to yourself—you just don’t do it. If this sounds like you (or your organization), then you’re likely ready for coaching.

You’ve probably heard some bad things about coaching, especially “life coaching” in general and “Agile coaching” in particular. The generic consultants of earlier times have become the Agile coaches of today. “Coach” seems like a nebulous term that service providers can hide behind, stripping it of its meaning. Sadly, this passes the risk on to you, the buyer. Getting the coaching you need doesn’t have to be so risky.

On the other hand, I don’t think one needs a special certification to do the work of coaching. Certainly, a coach should learn about coaching, but credible coaches take control of their own professional development without necessarily participating in internationally-recognized certification programs. Remember: certifying bodies have a financial interest in promoting their certification to make it seem authoritative and indispensable. Even well-meaning certification programs eventually get in the way of learning for the sake of staying in business.

So where does that leave us?

My philosophy of coaching

I take my philosophy from The Inner Game of Work, and that starts with this idea:

performance = capacity − interference

I interpret “coaching” as helping a person reduce interference, while I recommend training to increase capacity.

Capacity relates to what you know and how well you can perform in situations where you feel calm or at peace. Interference describes all those things that get in the way of feeling calm or at peace. When you read a book to learn how to organize your workload, you’re increasing capacity, and when you talk to someone about why you procrastinate, you’re working to reduce interference. That second kind of work is what I mean by “coaching”.

If you prefer less “touchy-feely” language, then coaching helps you perform more optimally: closer to your capacity.

Hiring me as your coach

If you’d like individual coaching for yourself, then you can book an appointment with me by the hour. We do the work using video conferencing, audio conferencing, or even an old-fashioned phone call. You hire me just as you might hire a tutor or a music teacher. We schedule regular appointments or you book them as you need them. As I travel to work on-site with clients, if we find ourselves in the same place at the same time, then we might be able to schedule an in-person appointment. Read more details about how to schedule a coaching session.

If you’d like coaching for your company, then you can book an appointment with me to discuss an overall plan, which could include group discussions, one-on-one coaching, and working sessions where we do together some of your “real” project work. We would decide together how much of this work to do on-site and remotely. I tend to favor working remotely over a longer period of time so that your group has the opportunity to learn something, experiment, then analyze the results with me to decide what to learn next.

Coaching is just a label

Don’t read too much into the words “coaching” and “training” and “consulting”. When we work together, we do what you need when you need it. We switch seamlessly from coaching to consulting back to coaching. At some point, we see that you need some training to increase capacity in a specific area. Later, we resume the work of coaching. These labels help us describe what we’re doing so that we can plan, but they don’t have to define nor limit what we do together. You need to perform better, you believe that I can help, and we figure out how to do that together.

On-site coaching isn’t always better

Most companies assume that they must receive all their coaching on site, live, and in person. (Few individuals have the budget to even consider hiring me this way.) Working together in person tends to speed up building trust, but long-term, full-time, on-site coaching doesn’t always deliver better results than doing this work periodically over time. Coaching doesn’t work better just because we do it all the time. On the contrary, clients need time and space to put into action what we’ve discussed in a coaching session, and when I’m on site for long periods, clients tend to feel pressure to “put me to good use” while they “have me”. It’s bad enough when a “coach” inflicts help on their clients; it becomes worse when the client uses the “coach” to inflict help on themselves. When we work together remotely, you can book appointments as you need them, and the pressure to put me to use goes away. You pay less to get more of what you need when you need it. You experience less disruption and feel less pressure. You give good results a chance to happen. You save your money for when on-site coaching would really make a difference: when you have no idea what the problems are and need someone to observe you as you work, or when trust has become a serious problem and you’re ready to do something about it.

Related Articles

While you’re thinking about whether to hire me as a coach, here are some articles that might help.

The Part-Time Agile Coach: no, it’s not crazy

Companies overvalue full-time, on-site coaching. If you want intensive learning, buy training; and if you want lasting change, build a strong relationship with a trusted adviser.

System and Method for Alleviating Fears in Clients*

Fear interferes with one’s performance more than any other single force. Fear paralyzes. It often makes improvement seem too difficult to be worth the effort. In this situation, I recommend a simple way to categorize possible improvements that offers hope without denying reality. This balance tends to reduce fear and spark action. Maybe you can use this technique to coach your organization even before we start working together.