Agilist need coaching too


I left the Agile world to coach leaders. I still keep strong ties to the Agile community and speak about coaching at Agile conferences and events. (Transparency - I also coach Agilist and offer group coaching for Agilists)
In my Agile speaking engagement over the past year I have been conducting an informal survey asking “how many Agile coaches, ScrumMasters, and Agile Managers have coaches?”
I am shocked to see the response hover just below 5%.
The thought of a coach not having a coach sounds hypocritical?
I would like to hear the community’s input on what might be at the root of this issue.
Why are so many Agilest not leveraging Coaching?

My hypothesis is most Agilest have learned the mechanics of various Agile frameworks and methodologies, but never learned what it means to be a professional coach.

Your thoughts?

Hiring: Coach for beginning agile coach

Maybe it was the wording of the question. I have mentors, peers, experts in a field but I don’t refer to them as coaches but I also don’t refer to myself as a coach for whatever reasons even though I could refer to myself as an Agile coach but I choose not to. It seems to imply there is a cost/rate to it but that could be me.


Definition of coaching from the International Coaching Federation website, to clarify semantics.

"ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to:

  • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
  • Encourage client self-discovery
  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
  • Hold the client responsible and accountable
    This process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential."


I agree mentors, peers, & experts may or may not be coaches.


I always find it useful to refer to Lyssa Adkins “stance” diagram when attempting to communicate the nuanced differences:


Andy, I agree. I am a huge fan of Lyssa’s work. She has put substantial effort in defining the coaching stance and promoting the value of coaching. Her work is some of the best available in the Agile community. My question is looking to understand the root of the problem “Why are so many Agilest not leveraging Coaching?”


One root cause might be we get a little too much pleasure from playing the role of the hero with all the answers…

In his great book “Humble Inquiry”, Edgar Schein explains it well:

“Our culture emphasizes that leaders must be wiser, set direction and articulate values, all of which predisposes them to tell rather than ask.”

And that keeps us in Teaching/Mentoring…


Great insight Andy
"playing the role of the hero with all the answers" so sad but unfortunately true.
In my talk on Powerful Questions, I explore that the need to have the answer is a limiting belief.
You may indeed be correct. All our life we have been conditioned to be right, to show how smart we are, and asking for help is a sign of weakness. I would hope in the Agile world, where we preach continuous improvement and collaboration, we would rise above to model the behaviors we profess to be true.


Perhaps one our most powerful responses might be:

“I don’t know. Would you like to work together and see what we can find out?”


I’ve had 3 personal coaches over the years, on the verge of finding another, but it’s not limited to agilists. Having a support system (ICF’s 9th competency, I believe) is incredibly valuable.


@jasonlittle if you’re looking for one I have an amazing friend who is in our industry but does life coaching on the side. When I was going through my divorce last year, she spent 4 solid months of productive sessions with me.

@andycleff hit the nail on the head when he said we get caught up with being the hero with answers. I will admit that when I facilitate a session with execs and the light bulbs go off it is an amazing feeling. Almost like a drug that I immediately want more of.

Which is why I have a circle of those to radiate successes and failures with. We aren’t necessarily “coaching each other” per se. More like we encourage each other. Sometimes that means giving some tough love, or ask some probing questions that reveal a blind spot. Very thankful to have many around me I can do that with.

Yes, I am a “coach” and yes, I don’t have all the answers. But rather than recognize who is the coach and who is the “coachee” I just want to partner with people with the goal of improving my work and the work of the community at large.

I’ll get down off my pulpit now lol.