Coaching Stances Applied

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Coaching Stances Applied

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Agile Coach and provocateur Michael de la Maza posted the following on LinkedIn

Scene: Final round of interviews for an Agile Coaching position. Down to the final three candidates. Everyone is tense, but pretending not to be.

(curtain rises)

Client: We have a problem with people arguing. What would you do about that?

Agile Coach 1 (with swagger): I would step in immediately to prevent further damage.

Agile Coach 2 (confidently): I would ask the people who are arguing what they want to get out of the argument.

Agile Idiot (cluelessly): What is the problem with people arguing?

(curtain falls)

[Based on the life and work of Steven Davis.]

As of October 14th, 2021 the post had received 42 comments.

For example, Steve Peacock answered this way in dissecting the scenario—

Another “it depends” situation.

If they are arguing because of a personality clash – I’d step in like #1 and refocus the discussion on the problem.

If they are arguing over a technical problem and simply going round in circles, I’d use tactic #2 to allow the team to step out of the circle and look at the problem differently.

However, if they are arguing constructively over the best way to implement a difficult technical problem, then I’d take the stand of #3 and let the team find a solution – so long as it’s focused on the problem and doesn’t get personal, then I’d step in again.

All 3 answers are correct, what didn’t happen is that none of them asked what they were arguing about.

Which I thought was an insightful comment that highlighted the situational nuance of agile coaching. 

Emanuele Santanche offered the following— 

There is arguing and arguing.

People may argue because they have different points of view, but they see this as positive because it may help to find a solution.

Or they may argue because the environment pits them against each other and they feel threatened.

In the latter case, the environment has to be analyzed. To talk to the arguing people is unlikely to be useful.

And finally, Steven Mak offered this with an accompanying video—

“What just happened?”

Also reminds me of how Marshall Rosenberg resolves conflict with NVC.

Just to give you a taste of the reactions…

As I read the brief scenario, a thought experiment came to me. I wondered if applying different stances in the mindset and approach of the coaches to the scenario would change the comments or your reaction to them?

I was thinking of these as being your primary stance options in the experiment—

  1. Advisory (consultative)

  2. Coaching (professional – ICF)

  3. Guided Learning (teaching or mentoring)

  4. Facilitative

  5. Leading (role modeling, change leadership)

For example, what if we had this same scenario, but changed the initial question to be—

Client: We have a problem with people arguing. What would you do about that if you were adopting a Facilitative stance as your primary agile coaching stance?


Client: We have a problem with people arguing. What would you do about that if you were adopting an Advising stance as your primary agile coaching stance?

What would that change in the answers from each coach? Might it lead to better insights on how they think of, apply their skills to, and approach their agile coaching?

I certainly think it might.

First, I want to thank Michael for his ongoing provocation of dynamic thinking in our coaching community.

Next, I want to acknowledge how challenging it is to be an agile coach. It’s incredibly nuanced and takes time to master to any degree. So, we all need to be patient with ourselves and others.

And finally, I encourage everyone to play around with the above thought experiment. One of the keys to effective agile coaching is not getting stuck in any particular or favorite stance. Instead, you need to sense where your client is and meet them in the most effective stances to serve their goals. Dancing with them, if you will…

Stay agile my friends,



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