Coaching is an artful conversation in which the coach helps the coachee see new perspectives and possibilities so they can take the next step in their personal and professional growth. In the context of agile teams, coaching takes on the dual flavor of coaching and mentoring. Yes, you are coaching to help someone reach for the next goal in their life. You are also sharing your agile experiences and ideas as you mentor them, guiding them to use agile well. Coaching and mentoring are entwined for the sake of developing talented agilists so that more and better business results arise through agile.
This is the same at the whole team level. Coaching is helping the team’s performance get better. Mentoring is transferring agile knowledge and experience to the team as it becomes relevant to them. Both parts of the equation combine to help agile come alive for the team.
Each side – coaching and mentoring – is useful and can be powerful on its own. Together, they are a winning force for helping people adopt agile and use it well. The context of agile makes you a mentor; the focus on team performance makes you a coach.
Coaching and mentoring have been wrapped up in the cumulative term “coaching” for some time. As an agile coach, feel free to use just the one word, but know that both coaching and mentoring are involved. Also know that we are using coaching skills rather than truly being a coach.
In professional coaching, the client’s agenda is the single guiding light of the relationship. The coach is for the client solely. This is not so in the agile context because we coach not only the client (a team member, for example) but also the team as a whole and the people in the organization surrounding the team, as well. We are not truly coaches, although we use the term liberally. We are mentors with an expertise in agile. We educate from this expertise and use coaching skills to help each person make the transition to using agile well. This is what it means when I proudly say, “I am an agile coach.”
Note: This text is from the forthcoming book Lyssa is writing called “Coaching Agile Teams” and this blog post first appeared on her blog, Cricketwing, Lyssa’s Agile Musings. Copyright 2009 Lyssa Adkins. All rights reserved.