Am I…in the Arena?

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Am I…in the Arena?

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A few years ago, I wrote a piece about internal vs. external agile coaches and the possibility of being “pickled” as an internal coach. The first one was the primary point and the second was a response to the large number of comments the first received. As I recall, this was one of my most widely read and reacted to articles.  

Here are links to the two articles. You might want to give them a quick read for context for this one…

Several internal coaches in my network, all of whom I know and respect, were taken aback by these posts. I remember one in particular as really being moved by them. And not in a positive way.

I was reading a newsletter the other day and the following quote was mentioned as part of an article that was warning of too much criticism on the web nowadays and reminding us of the need to ignore our critics.

Theodore Roosevelt quote:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

And it hit me. Hard!

Not that I was wrong in my embedded agile coaching posts, but it reminded me that I had forgotten a very important point.

To all of the coaches who were touched and influenced by my articles, I solemnly take my hat off to you in respect and support.

You all, whether you are pickled or not, are IN THE ARENA. And I am NOT.

Which is something that an external coach or consultant, like myself, doesn’t always realize nor respect enough. We’re often critical without stepping onto your field and being side-by-side with you. In your arena.

As an external agile coach, the quote reminded me of two important things:

  1. To first, always approach my criticism with positive intent, empathy, and an understanding of the arena that everyone is in.

  2. Secondly, to try very hard to partner with my clients, stepping into their arenas to better my understanding of the field of play. From a player’s perspective.

And to hope that I too can occasionally step onto and into a variety of ARENAS to become a better Agile Coach.

Stay agile my friends,


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