What I wish I’d known when I started agile coaching

We asked the Agile Coaching community What is the ONE thing you wish you had known when you started agile coaching? Their answers are surprising and varied…

For example, would you have guessed that our CEO and founder, Simon Powers told us “I’m not sure I would have started if I had known how hard it was!“? He went on to say, “However, having started, I would say that the most important thing is relationships that provide the support you need to stand in your leadership role and safely hold the mirror for other leaders to grow. Support is everything.”

I’m not sure I would have started if I had known how hard it was!

Simon Powers, CEO & Founder of AWA Global

And Dan Moody agreed. “I echo what Simon Powers said about not starting if I’d known how hard it was. That said, the harsh realities of the job have made me a better person. So there’s that.
Dan told us that he wishes he’d known from the start that:

  1. It’s about the people. The work is secondary.
  2. Tightly coupled with number one – you are not responsible for the choices your coachees make.
when i started agile coaching

Self knowledge, self-awareness and self-development

Many coaches told us that their practise has taught them as much about themselves as their clients, if not more…

Sam Jeffries told us the one thing he wished he had known before he started agile coaching is:

Finding contentment (or at least peace) in moving at the pace my client can manage, rather than the pace I might want to go at.

Sam Jeffries

Since starting Agile Coaching, Tom Hoyland has learned “That I can say ‘No’ if a situation is not in alignment with my ethics or boundaries.” Martin Jarcik has learned “humbleness” through agile coaching.

And Malcolm Lisle realised “How hard it is to watch [clients] fail despite your best efforts.”

He elaborates on this thought with a caveat “To generalise is dangerous, because each organisation and each set of circumstances are different but there are some things that re occur despite the circumstances.
1. A willingness to experiment to find better ways of working. Or should that be fear of failure of making yourself a target for redundancy after this wonderful new Agile stuff has made everything slicker and quicker and the company does not need my skills any more.
2. Middle management still trying to work in the same way because a) “this is just a new fad. Give it a couple of months and we will all be back to normal”, b) “I don’t know how this all works because I have not been effectively trained in it. I had better not make any mistakes so I am not singled out. How do I do that? Don’t do anything risky”. c) “They want us to hit all our targets as well as introduce all this new stuff and both are of equal importance”
To name but a few.”

Coaching is as important as agile expertise, if not more so!

Kenny Grant told us:

I wish I’d known I needed to spend as much or more time and energy on developing coaching as a craft as I spent on gaining Agile expertise. Knowing what a person or organisation needs to reach its goals isn’t helpful on its own unless skills are there to support that entity through the change.

Kenny Grant

And Chichi Afiah couldn’t agree more. She replied: “Thanks for stating it so clearly Kenny. Agile expertise is much more effective with professional coaching… I’m realigning my journey this year towards professional coaching to be even more impactful.”

Striving for simplicity

Janina Łaszkiewicz stressed the importance of “the core coaching competencies of active listening and asking the right questions are actually at the core of everything else: facilitation, mentoring, anything at all you do in agile coaching and especially change management and transformation. Simply ask what they really want and listen. As simple as that.”

Georg Buchroithner agreed on both keeping things simple and the need to put what you have learned into practise. He says: “Keeping things simple and start exploring agile methodologies and practices by trying them out instead of ‘understanding‘ them asap.
This allows you to be way more present and explore, but also coach around the agile beliefs.”
He adds:

By being more present you will realise that you work with smart and awesome people who quite well know how they want and need to work. The job is then encouraging and supporting them, rather than coming up with your solutions which most probably they don’t need or understand.

Georg Buchroithner

Georg also told us that The 3 core beliefs helped him a lot, along with Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins.

Working with clients

Finally, agile coaches told us what they wished they had known about clients when they started. Pietro Maffi told us “I would have known that an organisation’s interest to change is needed and should be part of the contract.”

Francesco Pratolongo added “When engaged by a company in a transformation campaign, to dig deeper into the “why” behind it and the expectations. More importantly, always ask which indicators the company will use to measure the progress of the transformation. And if the answer is “how many teams/squads/tribes we launch every month” or “how many people we train about Agile”, well… maybe help them move to other indicators from day one.”

So that’s what agile coaches wish they had known when they started agile coaching. Do you have anything to add?

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