4 Insights for an Agile Coach

Earlier this year I started capturing a few insights needed to strengthen the impact of my coaching. It probably started around the New Year as many self-assessments do but it was when I was finishing up the 8 Ways to Measure Your Impact as an Agile Coach post in April that I realized just how much I was limiting myself. So I set out to put in the work I knew I needed to do.

Admittedly, this post has very little to do with Agile but more about how seemingly small personal changes begins to shape and influence the overall culture of an organization – one person at a time. If each person puts in just a little work, the results compound and the hard work of transforming to an Agile culture becomes that much easier.

So my hope is by revealing the areas I’m working on can trigger a few ideas for your own personal growth. Alright…take a deep breath. Let’s begin. (That was my self-talk by the way.)

Insight One: My Own Oxygen Mask. Before helping others, it is vital to find the areas keeping me from being an impactful coach. A sick coach can’t help anyone and the number one area keeping me from being a healthy and impactful coach was self-doubt.

I actually think this self-doubt is called “The Imposter Syndrome.” The feeling that no matter how much you have accomplished, you don’t deserve it. Whatever it is that causes one to question whether you are worthy, it was affecting me. It wasn’t crippling and didn’t keep me from pushing forward, but it was stealing my energy, draining my passion, and reducing my voice and message to a whisper.

Steven Pressfield in his seminal book “The War of Art” introduces “The Resistance” as the enemy to releasing our work into the world. Self-doubt is my Resistance. I would never want this doubt to be removed entirely. It keeps me on my toes and striving for improvement. One would think a person at my stage of life would have this one figured out by now…but I’m still working on it. Maybe you are too.

What I’m Doing: I have become dedicated to journal writing this year and I attempt to capture as much as I can remember about the events of the day. Especially the good things. Now, when those crazy doubts surface, I will scan through my journal, look back at those lives I’ve intersected with, have a little smile, get about removing the Resistance and “doing the work.”

Insight Two: Relationships. When I’m doubting myself there is a tendency to doubt others. When I am doubting others my ability to trust diminishes. When trust erodes there is no relationship. Without relationship, coaching becomes merely a business proposition. Just do the job.

We know coaching to deliver results are important but the human side is paramount. The role of a coach is to integrate what is necessary (catalyzing change, learning something new, instilling enthusiasm, growing capabilities) with what is beautiful (our humanness). The ONLY way to do this, in my opinion, is by building relationships first.

What I’m Doing: Increasing my attentiveness. I am trying to be intentional about toggling between leisurely and formal attentiveness throughout the day. Sometimes this will be spending more time to stop and have casual conversations or I will setup something more formal just to connect with people.

And yes, this will require me being more sacrificial of my time as mentioned in last weeks post. Always worth it as the result is often the development of long-term friendships even after our work together is complete.

Insight Three: Be prepared. The mission of a coach is to serve those who I come in contact with throughout the day. We often use the word “serve” loosely so what do I mean by “to serve”? In the context of coaching, my definition means to feed into the life of another human so they grow in capability (the skills they need), confidence (the energy they need) and joy (the purpose they need).

With the short amount of time I typically have within an organization, each interaction, each conversation, each ceremony and every person is crucial and should be treated as such. Without spending time to prepare myself I would too often feel like I was “winging it” most days. This could work some of the time but I found my coaching was scattered, would miss the mark, or would not trigger a change. While there will always be an element of randomness and chaos to what I do, a little more preparation would go a long way towards my mission.

What I’m Doing: Becoming much more intentional in blocking 15 minutes at the end of each day to reflect on the interactions and conversation I will likely have the next day. I will make notes in my calendar to capture key thoughts I’d like to communicate or model.

Periodically, I will think about all of the people I am currently working with and will capture those areas where I can support them in the areas of capability, confidence, and joy. Nancy Duarte, the author of the book “Resonate,” calls this knowing your audience.  This preparation allows me to focus my coaching and message and as a side benefit, reduce my level of self-doubt.

Insight Four: Amplification. With the “Resistance” of doubt diminished (but never removed), stronger relationships in place so we can have meaningful conversations about meaningful things, and having powerful interactions with those relationships through intentional preparation, there is a freedom to experiment and strengthen my words and behaviors.

What I’m Doing: Starting a podcast! Subscribe here. And who knows what else might be in the works!

Ultimately, amplification is about being braver and having courageous persistence. Using every moment as an opportunity to build strength into your ecosystem by communicating the right message, at the right time, to the right people, at the right volume. Every day I’m actively seeking ways to build on the previous day and ask myself if there are better ways for me to show up. More observations to capture in my journal!


From acceptance to amplification. Allowing myself a little grace so I can give more grace to others. Just a few ways I have grown recently but don’t worry, by next week I’m sure there will be something else to add to the list. That’s what I love about coaching and this journey we are on together. What insights are you discovering about the way you show up to work? Share your thoughts below.


Don’t forget…get the story behind this post at The Illustrated Agile Podcast.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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