I Am a Certified Scrum Coach and I Am Not Nice
Congratulate me. I recently learned that I have been accepted as a Certified Scrum Coach (CSC). I have been wanting to be among the ranks of the other CSCs for a while and it took me a long time to do a complete job with the CSC application (and the time delay had a bit to do with writing the Coaching Agile Teams book, too). The road was long and the achievement is finally here! So let me clear up a myth that I believed for a while about professional coaching skills in the agile context (actually, in any context). Maybe you believe this myth right now. Here it is: Coaching is “soft” because we don’t tell people what to do when we coach. Instead, we use coaching skills to help them discover what to do next, knowing that action freely envisioned and chosen by them has a much greater chance of happening. And, a much greater chance of being a real change - the long-lasting kind. Just because it feels softer than the “hard” methods of compelling, convincing, persuading, influencing or otherwise controlling does not mean that it is soft -- or nice. Coaching conversations are not like polite conversation at all. In fact, they are patently not nice.
Coaches help people face unpleasant things about themselves and their circumstances. Coaches hold people as big and as powerful as they really are and we do not collude with people when they play victim or otherwise shrink from their abilities. Think loving kick-ass (minus the shame and guilt because those feed the victim cycle). In the Coaching Agile Teams book I say this:
Set your coaching tone to these frequencies: loving, compassionate, and uncompromising.
There’s a trite, but true, saying in coaching: A friend loves you just the way you are. A coach loves you too much to let you stay that way.
Love them too much to let them stay as they are, and let this be the seed of your uncompromising stance. Loving, yes. Compassionate, yes. And 100% uncompromising.
We are building excellent agilists here. That’s what agile coaches do. No namby-pamby, Kumbaya, fluffy stuff in that. So my question to you is this: Are you hard enough to be an agile coach?