Starting With You

My last post was laid out the basic parts of how I think about agile coaching. This post will take on the first piece which is: You.

The first question I’d ask is what is your agenda as a coach? Think about this. More than likely this agenda will involve teaching and making a team more agile. Here’s where I like to begin. For everything in your agenda, begin to replace any pronouns like, “They,” or, “You,” and replace it with a personal pronoun.

So I would change, “Teach them about Kanban,” to, “Learn about Kanban.”

The reason I do this is to humble myself. First, even though I may normally think I know about Kanban I’ve forced myself to intentionally admit there is more to learn. Second, by changing my agenda to focus on me I get to react to it myself. Many times I find that new agenda is boring and tedious. Now I can see the agenda I thought I had in a light that lets me be humble about it and empathize with how others may perceive it as well.

Next, I like to define who I am as a coach. This is just a around 3 - 5 sayings that remind me of the better version of myself as a coach. I revisit this every time I coach. I make sure it still lands with me and still challenges me.

Then, if it’s appropriate, I will make an inventory about how I feel about people I will be working with. I’ll name those feelings and impressions. I’ve learned over time that if I don’t make myself aware of how I feel or perceive those around me those things will begin to dominate me as I work with them. This practice of acknowledging those feelings helps me begin to diffuse them before I ever walk into the room. The step to take with those feeling afterwards is to work on them until you can truly believe that however they are making you feel is coming from a place where they believe they are doing the best that they can. Give yourself plenty of time with this one. It can take a long time to move from, “Fuck that guy,” to, “He’s doing his best, why can’t we see that?”

After dealing with how you feel about those around you, turn that spotlight on yourself. How are you feeling about stuff? Are you emotionally that coach you defined above? If not, spend time here as well. Give yourself permission to feel the way you feel. Feelings aren’t wrong. What you do with them could be. So figure out what you need to move past the point where those feelings will begin to drive your behavior instead of being momentary things that can be clues and insight to what may be going on around you.

Lastly, I want to talk about something ambitious. Pick something that you hold to be true about agile. Something crucial that underpins a lot of your perspective and beliefs. Take the position that you are going to have to change your mind to survive this coaching gig. See how you feel as you take that sacred cow to slaughter. Prepare to make that change yourself first, before you ever ask anyone else to.