Putting the ME Back into Agile Coaching

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Putting the ME Back into Agile Coaching

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 I want to share two quick stories…

I was mentoring the Agile Disciples USA group a while back, and I presented an idea, theme, and set of slides around the notion of agile coaches needing to be more assertive when it came to—

  • Communicating their value,

  • Showing their value,

  • Demonstrating their value,

  • Claiming their value,

  • Declaring their value, and

  • Owning their value.

in their organizational contexts.

You might have thought I suggested harming a puppy with the reactions in the Zoom room. Reactions like—

  • But we’re servant leaders; it’s not about us;

  • We can only measure our impact thru those we coach;

  • It’s up to our coaching clients to sing our praises, not us;

  • I don’t want people to think I’ve got a big ego or am full of myself;

  • Value determination comes from our clients.

You get the picture. And I certainly understood where they were coming from and honored their humility and selflessness, but I wondered if they were missing something important.

A few weeks after the above story, I posed the same question at a Moose Herd lean coffee session that about 10-12 agile coaches attended.

Again, the room got hushed. Quickly there were a variety of reactions, mostly focused on—

  • It’s not the coach’s job to speak to their value; it’s their clients;

  • Coaching value emerges from the team’s delivery;

  • Bob, you’re wrong!

  • There is no I in coaching; there is only WE!!!

  • It’s not my job to sing my praises.

So, essentially the same reactions as the first story. And I began to reflect, and I think I’ve discovered a potentially dangerous pattern.

Please be patient with me.

Many years ago, I attended a presentation by Harold Kerzner. It was entitled— The Biggest Problem in Project Management is—Project Managers are Too Soft! Harold was famous for sharing it at many PMI chapters over several years. He got great interest and traction from it.

Dr. Kerzner’s Project Management book.

I spoke to Harold about the backstory for the presentation, and he felt that it was THE critical error that many (most) project managers at the time were making.

Well, channeling my inner Harold Kerzner, I want to offer you this observation—

The Biggest Problem in Agile Coaching is that…

Agile Coaches are Too WE Oriented!

There, I said it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think an agile coach needs to be more WE than ME. Much more. But, at the same time, there needs to be a Wee Bit of ME focus in there too.

In the Herd discussion, there were lots of points around the ME being the responsibility of others—

  • Letting the results “speak for themselves”;

  • Having the team tell your value story;

  • Having individual clients tell your value story;

  • Having a status update presentation/data tell your value story;

  • Have your boss, supervisor, or sponsor tell your value story;

  • Having some metrics tell your value story.

While these are all valid, I don’t think they replace each coach’s responsibility to make the value case themselves. That is, it is naïve to rely on others to explain and tell your value and impact stories. 

  1. It starts with self-awareness and ownership of your strengths, capabilities, and the part you play personally in your client’s journeys. A portion of this is healthy self-talk around WE and then including ME in the equation. Also, be self-aware of any imposter syndrome you might be dealing with. 

  2. The partnership is another critical part of your client relationship building while approaching each coaching opportunity with the client clearly understanding your role with them. Then circle around to ensure they realize that you helped them to achieve something extraordinary together

  3. Learning how to become an effective communicator and storyteller who can share not only their client’s (individual, team, group, and organization) success stories but the part that you played in them. Of course, with full ethical support. 

  4. How to balance your desire to be client-focused, servant-leader-oriented, ego-less, and humble with the need to effectively communicate, demonstrate, and claim your value as a coach.  

  5. Remembering that self-care of ME is an important activity as well. It’s part of the role model you set as a coach. But it also allows you time to reflect on how to connect to your systems and effectively share your impact. 

  6. Walking out boldly in self-advocacy (as discussed in this Meta-cast episode), realizing it’s your responsibility to tell your value and impact story!

To be clear.

I am not recommending that—

  • Your ME overwhelms your WE;

  • You become self-serving or self-centered;

  • You relentlessly grow your ego or become arrogant;

  • You’re always talking about yourself;

  • Or you become an asshole.

No. None of these are acceptable in a balanced, agile coach mindset. But simultaneously, you must become competent, skillful, and comfortable with blowing your own horn in appropriate situations. And never, ever assume others are doing it for you.

Stay agile my friends,


Here’s a bonus article I’ve written that strongly compliments this one –


And thanks to—Ryland Leyton, Joel Bancroft-Connors, Leon Sabarsky, Cory Bryan, Chris Diller, and Gary Cohen from the Moose Herd for your thoughtful feedback.

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