Why do Agile Coaches have an Aversion to Consulting?

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Why do Agile Coaches have an Aversion to Consulting?

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Benjamin Cooke – recently published an article entitled What Agile Coaches Can Learn from the Other ‘C’-Word. To be clear, the ‘C’ represents consulting or consultant. And there was also a lively discussion on LinkedIn around the post.

I first have to applaud Benjamin. I believe he’s the first agile coach I’ve read that referenced a concept or model from Peter Block’s Flawless Consulting. Myself included. Bravo, Benjamin. Before poopooing consulting as a competency, I wish every agile coach would read Block’s book and Gerry Weinberg’s Secrets and More Secrets books on consulting. It would give them additional insights, skills, and confidence in providing advice.

And secondly, I appreciate his sharing the above model. You could convert Pair of Hands Mode to Professional Coach Mode – Coach asks many questions, and the Client might gain insight or frustration.

The key to this model is Collaborator Mode, where the client and consultant work together to explore needs, challenges, and problems, then co-creating solutions that serve the client.

One of the things that I like about the ACGW’s Advising and Leading competencies is that they encourage or demand that the agile coach has more skin in the game. The mentor stance also approaches it, depending on the coach’s views towards mentoring and mentorship.

As a teacher, facilitator, and professional coach, there is intentionally little partnership with the client. That is with the client’s challenges, context, and situation.  Yes, there can and should be empathy, but the connection to the client is much more loosely held.

That’s not inherently bad.

But I think it’s more powerful to occasionally switch into a stance where we look more strongly through our client’s eyes. And beyond that, where we have some shared responsibility in the outcomes. We’re in it together, we’re partners, and we’re peer-level participants.

In other words, where the agile coach is a part of the outcome. Not in entirety and not alone, but where we have some skin in the game. When the client owns the outcomes, we’re “off the hook” as professional coaches. Yes, we provide incredible value and can help our clients immensely, but we lack some skin in the game.

As I said earlier, regarding Professional Coaching versus Advising,

  • Is it simply wrong to mix the two? Am I doing my client a disservice if I give them advice?

  • Or is it a skills challenge where many coaches find themselves under-skilled or uncomfortable delivering consulting advice?

  • Or, is it easier or less risky to coach professionally versus providing consulting advice?

  • Or is it something else altogether?

As I come to the end of this article, I think it combines #2 and #3. I also think that the ACCF never directly included advising, AND how widely adopted it was in the agile coaching community was a clear gap over time. That is, something else in #4.

But to be clear, what am I saying?

That an agile coach needs to be adept at adopting all of the stances of the ACGW when necessary to serve their clients; while Professional Coaching is indeed incredibly valuable, so are the others. And we need to develop our Self-Mastery to sense which ones to adopt when serving our clients.

To be a Badass Agile Coach, you must stop avoiding the Leader and Advising stances defined by the agile Coaching Growth Wheel. I’m not saying that from a theoretical point of view. I’m saying it because there are times, in agile contexts, when your coaching clients need you to show up this way to serve and support their agenda.

It’s not about you, your skill, or your comfort but about serving your clients.

Stay agile my friends,


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