To Coach, You Need Permission

Feedback from my original article on Agile Coaching posted yesterday has been good and opened up more conversations about what coaching is. This got me thinking that I could write a sort of (almost) daily digest on coaching.

As always, at the heart of everything we do at AWA is community, so if you are interested in coaching, please ask for me to cover certain subjects in the comments and if I have anything to offer, I will.

I will also interview others to get different perspectives, so watch out for guest appearances!


Today the insight I want to share is that in order for you to professionally coach you should ask for permission.

I don’t use the word ‘should’ lightly. In fact, you will hardly ever hear me say that word. In this case I believe that to coach without permission is an act of violence.

Coaching without permission is an act of violence

I have seen first-hand the damage to relationships that using coaching for someone else’s development without their permission can cause.

In one-to-one coaching at best people may think you are bit weird asking powerful questions or using clean language and be confused as to why you are not having a ‘normal’ conversation’. At worst it could be seen as a violation of their integrity and your respect for them and this could undermine your relationship.

At an organisational level, telling people how to work, behave, and what they should believe, may be seen as arrogant. Agile is about people moving away from command and control. Coaching someone without their permission violates this deep respect for people and assumes you know best.

If you are experiencing resistance, lack of engagement, or ‘push back’, you are almost certainly violating this principle.


You ask for permission explicitly and directly. Such as ‘May I use a professional coaching approach to help you?’, or ‘Would you like me to set up a coaching session between us?’ and then you need to explain what coaching means to you.


The next step if they agree, is to set up a ‘ways of working’ contract or alliance. This details how you will coach and what is expected from each of you.

Once this is in place, then you may coach.

If you think this is weird at your place of work, then you can phrase this as ‘to get the most out of us working together, we can start with a way of working session’ or something similar.

I will cover creating a way of working contract tomorrow.

My advice is to immediately approach your new and existing clients / coachees and set up a ways of working contract / alliance before doing any more coaching.


I hope this helps you get more success from your Agile Coaching.

Let me know any other topics you might be interested in the comments below.


AWA is an Agile Coaching and Training Organisation based in Europe and the United States.

If you want help with your coaching, you can either come on one of our public coaching courses or book us for private onsite training and / or coaching at your organisation.

We offer a 2-week systemic coaching engagement at your place of work that accelerates your organisation’s agility in ways that would usually take years.

You can contact us at:
UK: +44 (0) 2033691125
USA: +16468322328 

Simon Powers is the CEO and founder of Adventures with Agile. He has over 20 years’ experience helping very large organisations to thrive in the market and to be better places to work. His approach led him to create our transformative ICAgile Certified Enterprise Agile Coaching training courses, which run worldwide and online. Simon is one of the first ICE-EC experts in the world.