Updated: Mar 9
Coaching Agile teams for high performance requires a specific set of skills. You can't find these skills in a traditional consulting model. Even if you worked as a Scrum Master or Release Train Engineer for several years, you still need to learn new skills to coach the team.
Nobody attend college to become an Agile Coach; all coaches started their careers with different specialties. Some coaches transitioned from management or consulting, others from software development or other sectors of organizations. The point is, becoming an Agile Coach is a journey. In this article, you will find five components to help prepare you to become an Agile Coach and begin your journey to successful professional growth.
1. Focus on Mindset Shift
A growth mindset is a critical characteristic for an Agile Coach. Many individuals claim they have a growth mindset, and the reality, they don’t. A growth mindset often being mistaken for being open-minded or being kind and empathetic with others.
“A growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. Yes, people differ greatly in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments, but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
- Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
2. Understand difference between Coach and Consultant
Let's take a closer look at each domain individually to understand the difference between Coaching and Consulting.
In the consulting role, an individual works with a client to address specific challenges in an area of specialization. You might hear the term subject matter expert, and it also refers to consult, the person with some level of expertise and experience that a group of people find valuable.
In the coaching role, an individual engages with a client to create an environment for maximizing their personal and professional growth. Coach has a set of skills to inspire clients, help them see another way of working, explore possibilities, and tap into their full potential of productivity. Coaching is not about knowing the answers or solving the problems. It is about meeting the individual or team where they are and helping them take a step or two to where they want to be.
3. Self-awareness and self-management
Self-awareness and self-management are both parts of emotional intelligence. Before coaching others, we should be able to recognize, interpret and have a way to manage our own emotional state. There are multiple tools that can help you with self-discovery. For example, an enneagram personality test can help you know yourself better. Such a tool can enable you to discover certain characteristics and behaviors that need more awareness. For instance, if competitiveness is part of your personality, you will need to think about how this can potentially affect your coaching style and the effectiveness of your coaching services to the client or team. Once you have awareness of your emotional state, behaviors, and characteristics, the next step is to find a way to manage it.
4. Understanding where to start when coaching a team (Heath Radar)
When joining the team as the Agile Coach, where do you begin? It is necessary to focus on the appropriate activities when engaging with the team. One of the effective ways to identify these activities is to determine the team’s level of Agile maturity. To get a better view of the team's processes and practices, we recommend using the Agile Health Radar Assessment.
There are many assessment tools on the market. Ben Linders shared several health radars on his website. Perform your research, select the Health Radar that resonates with you, and assess the team to get helpful insights and benchmark their maturity. You can build your coaching strategy and engagement plan from these insights. Also, you can do an assessment periodically to see if your engagement strategy is effective, or you might need to adjust and pivot.
5. What does it look like to meet the team where they are?
Meeting the team where they are is an ability to realize team level of Agile Maturity at this moment. The coach should utilize tools, techniques, strategies, frameworks, etc., and help the team mature with Agile and Lean practices over time. It is necessary to understand the right amount of change for them in the present moment. Knowing how much a team can handle will enable you to develop an effective coaching engagement plan and introduce changes that the team can accept, adopt, and sustainably practice. Coaching and transformation is not something we do to or for a team; we do it with the team one step at a time.
If making a transition to Agile Coaching or looking to enhance your skills, we highly recommend looking into the 6th step. It is learning how to create and execute a successful coaching engagement plan. ICAgile Certified Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC) training is a great place to start. The training gives you the tools and necessary skills to become the coach that can make a difference and develop a team into a cross-functional and self-organized human system. Learn how to handle organizational resistance, help team navigate conflict, learn different dimensions of coaching, explore formats for providing/receiving feedback, facilitate coaching/mentoring sessions, and much more. Remember, a great coach is a lifelong learner, and mastering your coaching skills is a journey of its own.