Leaning In & Out as an Agile Coach

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Leaning In & Out as an Agile Coach

My friend and colleague Joel Bancroft-Connors has been doing a fantastic job contributing to the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel community project sponsored by the Scrum Alliance.

While I heavily reference the Wheel in my Extraordinarily Badass Agile Coaching book, I haven’t been paying detailed attention to its ongoing evolution.

One area I noticed the volunteer team added was to group specific competencies into categories of neutral versus active. And, when someone asked me about them, I didn’t know what was intended. Here’s a question/answer dialogue that provides some additional context—

When asked—

What is meant by distinguishing between “neutral” and “active” competencies on the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel self-assessment guide?

Joel replied—

Neutral means you have no personal agenda. You are there to help the person, team or organization get to the objective they need, e.g. facilitation and coaching.

Active literally means you have skin in the game. You are actively giving advice, leadership guidance, and are involved in the process (almost like the old Pig & Chicken joke—you are invested). If your advice is bad, it reflects on you as well. Active is also a lot more about bringing your experiences and expertise to the subject/goal.

To be clear, in the Agile Coaching Self-Assessment, the high-level competencies in the Wheel are identified as—

  • Active competencies: Agile/Lean Practitioner, Transforming, Leading, and Advising

  • Neutral competencies: Serving, Coaching, Facilitating, and Guide Learning.

  • Core competency: Self-Mastery

As I thought about those delineations, I struggled with the terms neutral and active as they related to Joel’s definition. Sure, it made sense to me, but I felt the terms didn’t communicate the nuance I’m accustomed to in my coaching.

I want to offer an alternative to those terms.

I think all of the ACGW competencies, except for Self-Mastery, have a duality associated with them. I’ll define it as—

Leaning in—this is the active or skin-in-the-game aspect that Joel mentions. If my stance is Coach as a Mentor, I can lean into that competency and actively partner with the client.

Leaning out—this is the neutral or independent aspect that Joel mentions. Again, if my stance is Coach as Mentor, I can lean out from that competency, give my client more space, and reduce or eliminate my goals and agenda.

My point is, in one coaching conversation, I can, and sometimes need to, lean-in AND lean-out of each competency or stance.

I don’t want this article to undermine Joel’s contribution in any way. He’s done yeoman work on the ACGW, and I appreciate all of it. He’s an incredibly thoughtful and gifted coach who walks his talk.

That being said, I want to offer this alternative interpretation of the Wheel’s competencies.

However you slice it, though, remember that all of this advice is—in service to your clients.

Stay agile my friends,


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