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So you think you’re an agile coach?…

After conducting lots of interviews for scrum masters recently it’s clear the trend of anyone with any hint of agile experience calling themselves an agile coach is thriving.

As someone who has invested heavily both financially (in my own education) and time (seeking out opportunities for concrete practice) in this space over the last couple of years, when I see this on a CV I’m naturally curious. I want to hear other people’s stories and see the journey they’re on, but all too often end up frustrated when candidates can’t provide any coherent answers to questions around their coaching experience.

Ultimately there’s too much ambiguity in this space at the moment and to be honest it’s starting to tick me off.

So let’s be really clear. You’re not an agile coach if…

  1. You’re a scrum master. Of course there are elements of teaching, mentoring and coaching your team(s) require from you in this role, but they’re part of it, not separate. I know some awesome scrum masters who are great coaches, I also know some awesome scrum masters who are poor coaches.

  2. You’ve read Lyssa Adkins book. (It’s awesome by the way – you should definitely read it:-))

  3. You’ve never devised, written, or run a group workshop / training session outside a team you are scrum master for

  4. You’ve never been asked for or offered direct feedback to a senior leader / executive. Coaching is multi dimensional. It considers the individual, teams and the organisation. Each of these areas is complex and worthy of individual study and practise

  5. You’ve not considered attending training or gaining any qualifications in this space. Controversial? With an increasing range of options out there why would you not take the time to formalise your learning in this space? Mind you, I do concede that even if you’ve attended a course this doesn’t automatically make you a coach. It just means you are better informed about coaching and have the right tools to get started…

  6. You aren’t clear on the difference between a coaching question, a mentoring question or a teaching question

  7. You can’t explain (or spell) Cynefin

If there are multiple items on the list above that apply to you, PLEASE do not put Agile coach on your CV or on your LinkedIn profile as your job title. You’re being disingenuous. To yourself. To agile coaches. You’re putting your integrity on the line here people!!

To be clear, I’m not suggesting an Agile coach as a more senior position than scrum master. They operate alongside and complement each other. They can even be the same person, but the skills are different.

What I am suggesting is that we need to live the principles and values that we know and love of transparency (stating our actual skills), courage (to challenge those who are being disingenuous) and respect (for those in our community who study, practice and ultimately warrant the title of “coach”).

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