Agile Coaches – Becoming a Trusted Advisor

Agile Coaches – Becoming a Trusted Advisor

As I think about the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel Advising (consulting, consultative) stance, I don’t think it’s initially something you automatically do as an agile coach. Instead, I think it’s something you are either invited to do or become over time.

That aspect makes it quite different than some of the other stances. For example, Coaching, Facilitation, or Guide Learning includes the invitation and empowerment with that stance.

I also think the Advising stance aligns with the Leader stance in that you must be more intentional in becoming an Advisor—

  • It’s something you step into and earn over time.

  • It has more risk associated with it than the other stances, thus requiring more courage and resilience.

  • And finally, it places more pressure on your Self-mastery and Leader stances.

This may be why many coaches struggle so much with the stance. Not only from a skills perspective, but many seem afraid of it, so they find excuses to avoid operating as advisors. And they’re not necessarily wrong. 

To help empower more coaches to become comfortable with advising, I thought I’d share some ideas around elements supporting their evolution.

1.     Considering Inside versus Outside—As I mentioned in this article about the differences in being an internal vs. an external coach, it’s much easier to advise as an outsider, not only from an organizational receptivity perspective but also based on your confidence and courageousness. This level of directional awareness is essential to cultivate as an advisor, but whether you are inside or from outside, you can still grow as an advisor.

2.     Establishing Gravitas, Presence, and Persona—I can’t tell you how vital your coaching presence is in this role. And while I do mean presence from a professional coaching stance, I want to amplify it with the word gravitas. You need to bring confidence and establish your gravitas as an advisor. That’s another reason advising isn’t for the faint of heart. But also strike a balance and don’t become arrogant or an ass.

3.     Showing and demonstrating Subject Matter Expertise & Competence—No matter your resume, history, or experience, you must validate your competence with every coaching engagement (new company or new client). It may be unfair, but it’s a fact of life. This is where your self-awareness (ability to sense the landscape) and agile mindset (small wins) will help you enormously.

4.     Realizing the Importance of Demonstrable Success—Related to #3, you must demonstrate real impact across teams, groups, and organizations. A big part of this is honing your ability to communicate your wins, which makes many coaches uncomfortable. It helps to become comfortable and adept at self-promoting within your evangelist role.

5.     Offering to Partner—I’ve found that leadership is incredibly lonely, and many leaders think they must do it alone. Therefore, they’re not always comfortable partnering with an advisor to co-create things. You’ll need to work on your abilities to truly put a servant mindset in partnering with and placing your advisor clients front and center.

6.     Holding Up the Mirror & Truth-telling—I’ve talked with many leaders, and most have a challenge. They rarely receive critical feedback from peers and subordinates, so they operate blind. But most dearly want it. This is where you come in. Be that mirror and courageous truth-teller as an advisor, as in most contexts; it’s welcome and a big part of why you’re there in the first place.

7.     Putting the Trusted in Advisor—Right from the beginning, you need to prove that you can be trusted. That you have your client’s interest at heart and that you can handle sensitive contexts, information, and strategies with the utmost privacy. From my perspective, one mistake here can break trust forever, so don’t make it.

8.     Partner with a (Trusted) Advisor (be mentored, be coached, pair-coaching)—I wanted to wrap up with my best advice for becoming an Advisor. Don’t go it alone. At the beginning of your journey, pair or partner with as many coaches as possible, demonstrating competence and skill in their advising stances. There is no better way to navigate this incredibly challenging stance than to find mentors to learn from and model.

9.     Finding your Internal Advisor—This is a final follow-up to #8. While I strongly advise you to find mentors and coaches to become an effective advisory agile coach, you must also find your style and persona. Please don’t try to mimic or copy someone else’s style. You will fail. You must navigate your learning and find your own internal, Badass Agile Advising Coach.

I should have mentioned this initially, but I think the Advising stance is more targeted organizationally or toward leadership than other stances. That’s not to say agile coaches don’t provide advice to teams; they do. But I feel the more significant challenge to your skill set, competency, and overall ability is in those other directions.

It’s also where your clients need the most help.

So…

All you agile coaches who are reading this. Study the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel, develop and sharpen your Advising stance, become more comfortable, and practice providing advice.

Your role impact and value proposition will become even stronger.

Stay agile, my friends,

Bob.

I saw this post by Lucia Baldelli where she makes a beautiful point about Agile Coaches needing Professional Coaching chops. And I agree.

But I think it’s equally, if not more important, for an Agile Coach to develop and hone their Advisory / Consultative skills. This implies you have the requisite agile/business/product/technical domain experience to advise your coaching clients.

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