Agile Coaching != Life Coaching…Really?

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Agile Coaching != Life Coaching…Really?

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This post is related to an earlier post on the same topic…

Brett Maytom posted some thoughts on LinkedIn, including an article entitled Exposing the Truth: Life Coaches Masquerading as Agile Coaches. As of March 26, 2023, there were 68 comments on LinkedIn to the post. 

In one of the comments, Brett gives some additional background context behind the article—

One ruffled my feathers last week, and what they were saying just had no business or product sense.

A few people in my network and local communities are like this. They only talk about agile in the context of a life coach for a few years now. I have tolerated it because I know them personally. I have now had enough of it.

Also, many companies promote life coaching courses, claiming they need this. People are getting suckered into that.

I attended an “agile coaching” course in 2014 (ish), which was more of a life coaching course. I was not impressed. Ken was on it too, and he walked out after the first half day. I should have too but I did not as I traveled to USA for it.

And here’s the conclusion from his article—

In conclusion, the madness of life coaches masquerading as agile coaches needs to stop. Agile coaching is a specialized form of business coaching that requires expertise in agile methods and practices and deep knowledge of business and product development. Let’s leave the frolicking in the meadows to the life coaches and focus on getting businesses the results they need to succeed. It’s time to put a stop to this life coaching madness and get back to the business of agile coaching.

Just to put a finer point on his perspective.

I first need to thank Brett for his courage in raising this topic. I know how challenging it is to share your ideas broadly and get folks like me to pick them apart. I appreciate his boldness. I also appreciate his experience, as he’s got a lot of it.

But I do want to weigh in on this crucial topic…

First, Brett unfortunately never clearly defined what he meant by “Life Coaches.” I think what he was trying to say is Professionally trained coaches, ICF-aligned Coaches (ACC, PCC, and MCC certified) style coaches who focus on one-on-one individual coaching around life journey choices.

But, to be clear, he never said that. Without a clear and bounded definition, I struggle to determine if I’ve personally seen “life coaches” overrunning our agile coaching contexts. I don’t think I have, but I’m not quite sure.

Second, I think Brett made a fundamental mistake by not establishing a baseline definition or aligning with a general framework that supports what he means by agile coaches and coaching. His article alludes to the strengths that an agile coach should bring to the table. This quote speaks to them—

although this post targets life coaches, your point on technical skills is also valid. We also have to consider the fact that very few coaches have a solid understanding of business, product development, and product strategy, yet they are often employed to improve these areas in organizations. And let’s not even start on the topic of recruitment and certification.

So, the business, product development, and product strategy understanding and skills are critical. I would agree that they’re an essential part of it. But I’m not convinced they’re the only things to bring to the table as an agile coach. Nowadays, I’m leveraging the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel (ACGW) as my standard competency framework, and those are only about 25% of the requisite skills.

Finally, does Brett’s experience apply to every coach, context, and organization? I’d argue no. Neither does my own. My experience is that, as agile coaches, we must continuously build a broader, deeper, and situationally nuanced skill set.

I believe we need agile coaches to have—

But we also need them to have other skills and competencies (see the ACGW as a reference).

To be a Badass Agile Coach, we must be well-rounded and respectful of ALL the ACGW competencies. Not just pick the ones we like or are more comfortable with. And don’t even get me started on Self-Mastery as a requisite coaching core competency… because it is.

I want to say that sometimes, just sometimes, as a coach, it’s perfectly ok to help your clients and even allow yourself to frolic in the pastures. A little frolicking is good for the soul, balance, and business.

I also want to say that we’re all masquerading at one time or another. So, instead of stereotyping and marginalizing each other, let’s work together to become better coaches by learning from one another and continually raising the bar on the broad, deep, and inclusive craft of Agile Coaching.

Stay agile my friends!


Breaking News: right before I published this article, I came across this related post by Jem Jelly.

As of March 26th, there are 50 comments posted on LinkedIn. The entire conversation is worth a view as it directly relates to this one.

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