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Coach the person, not the problem

Updated: Jan 18

You will often hear a Scrum Master or an Agile Coach say, I coach the teams around some issues they are having or if they are struggling with something pertaining to scrum. When I dig deeper, this “coaching” is not coaching in the real sense. I once heard Cherie Silas, the first Scrum Alliance Coach to attain ICF MCC, say if you have to use the word COACH in your sentence then you're not coaching.

Some days ago someone seeking guidance around Scrum Alliance guide Level certification approached me, they wanted me to mentor them to be a Certified Agile Coach. Upon asking them some questions, I could sense this person could do with some coach training.

Here is how I figured that out:

Me: Let’s assume I am a scrum master who approached you because I am struggling with my team. The team isn't doing scrum well. Coach me around this.

Them: Well, I will tell you to check what the scrum guide said about scrum. Then help you coach the teams, observe them and tell them what scrum is. ( I have paraphrased this)

The above dialogue is more of advising or perhaps responding to the question that I have and not coaching.

So what is coaching?

I love how the Coactive describes coaching and it is always at the back of my mind when people approach me as a Coach. This statement is one of Co-Active’s 4 Cornerstones.

“People are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. People are not broken and do not need fixing, and have their own innate wisdom on how to live life.”

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.”

However, when your role is to support an agile team to become self managed, you will find yourself dancing around the agile coach stances. That doesn't mean you still can’t coach people (You need their permission) or use your coaching skills ( Such as Paraphrasing, Listening, Normalising etc).

How you can improve your coaching skills

Experience coaching: I stumbled upon professional coaching some years ago and it was an eye opener. I was eager to help others experience it so I embarked upon my first Coach Certification (Coative), and then my next (ORSC) and then my next (Coaching Supervision). You can't give what you don't have- I always say this to myself.

If you would like to experience coaching, I offer 30 mins free coaching. Book some time using my Calendly.

Practice Coaching: There are meetups where people get to observe and practise their coaching skills in a safe environment and you receive feedback on coaching growth. The agile coaching circles is one of them. I had the honour of joining as one of the Facilitators in November 2022 and it was a pleasant experience.

Coach Training: Professional Coaching training can be very expensive however, you won't have to break the bank with the Scrum Alliance’s Path to Coaching videos. In addition, there are tons of videos on Youtube to help you on the journey.

That said, taking the Coactive and the ORSC was money well spent for me. Should you wish to take that investment, I will suggest you start with either of these two. (There are lots of Coaching certifications out there.

What you need to become a Certified Agile Coach with the Scrum Alliance

The Scrum Alliance CEC/CTC certifications focus is mostly on professional coaching capabilities. Currently, the Scrum Alliance does not offer training to help build these capabilities and You will need to demonstrate knowledge and experience in subjects such as, but not limited, Leadership, Scaling, Psychology, Facilitation, coaching.

Bob Galen, whom I look upon as a ‘mentor’ elaborates better on these certifications from his experience. You might also find his other blog useful

Should you need guidance around embarking on these certifications, reach out to me using my calendly to book some time.

Wrapping up

Leave a comment below and share the blog on your social media platform as some people might also find it useful. In addition, your gesture motivates me to write more. Thank you.

Remember, I am simply a zoom call away!

Here are other blog posts you might find worth reading

Becoming a Scrum Coach

How to grow as a Scrum/Agile Coach

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