Proceedings: “What is a coach” session, org. by Andrea Provaglio

What Is A Coach – Session organized by Andrea Provaglio – 07/05/11 10:00

[These are from my fragmentary scribbled notes — there is not everything and some things are interpolated from memory so these might not be the precise words that were said. — Matteo]

Andrea: there are many styles of coaching. I’d like you to answer these questions: “what is your intent?” “What tools do you use?”

Antonio (@acarpe): For me coach was “an XP coach”, someone who helps you learn XP techniques. I now think that a “coach” is a totally different role; he should work with an organization, not [just] with a team. The tools they use are from psychology, soft skills, etc.

Silvana: An Agile Coach is a superset of an XP Coach. XP Coach is a coach to a team.

Sven: for me it’s important to understand the difference between a consultant, and a coach.

Silvana: my *intent* when I coach is to increase performance.

Andrea: the core intent is to increase performance at both the team and management levels. Some organizations need guidance. [In that case I provide advice.] For other organizations I help them find their own solutions [see later for more about this]

Claudio: I use Belbin (sp?) as a tool. With managers I also use confrontational models. When you deal with managers you can share these tools, [not just keep them for your own use]. This is a good way to coach and provide consulting. When they are in the Shu phase it’s ok to use more command and control. Prefer to use Socratic dialog [instead of just giving a solution]. This is a Lean tool.

Roberto: Some customers complain that the coach didn’t give them “strong solutions”. [The Socratic method] sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

Alberto: Sometimes I don’t have a strong solution. I don’t like being called a coach; when a customer calls me and says “we need an Agile coach” it seems they have already decided on a solution. I try to avoid being framed as an “agile coach” at the start, so that we don’t constrain the solution space.

Fabio: I have different hats. I change my hats depending on the context. When I change hats, for instance from “coach” to “consultant”, I say so explicitly [mimics changing hats].

Claudio: about technical coaching, the coachees treat us as the teachers; our goal is to make them independent from us.

Sven: Consulting and Coaching are different flavours of the same thing. When we consult we do direct advising. Coaching is a way of getting them to find the things that are good for them. Coaching requires more things from psychology [while consulting requires actual knowledge in the field we are consulting! — Matteo]

Tony (@tonyxzt): we teach by getting them to learn from mistakes. Teach them to find their own solutions.

Andrea: there’s a feeling I get whenever I start work with a customer: do they actually want to be coached or not? It’s a physical feeling of either resistance, or relaxed interest in what I say. When you propose something and they look interested, then they need guidance. When you propose something and they resist, then they might use help to find their own solutions.

[The feelings of a coach] are a very important tool; the coach should work on him/herself, focusing on the inside as well as on the outside.

Alberto: Remember to take a day off to reflect. When you work in the organization, it’s too easy to get sucked into the day-to-day work and start working like the other members of the organization. Break the rules! If you don’t have a meeting room, bring your own whiteboard in the corridor! You need time to think, away from the organization.

Maria: How do you deal with the rythm of the team? Some people are faster, some are slower.

Fabio: [answering Maria]: I use games, retrospectives, talking to the team. I use the forming-storming-etc model.

Silvana: [answering Maria]: Pair the fast person with the not-so-fast person.

Claudio: [answering Maria]: change the team from being accountable to management, to being accountable to peers. Make progress visible, create an environment so that it finally “clicks” on them that they should help the slower person finish their task.

Sven: some organizations are heavily into rewarding the individual (instead of the team). How do you help individuals become accountable to the team in this situation?

Brando: talk to the rest of the organization. I need to show my results [so that I can gain leverage?] I use a blog about the things I discover.

Maria: Create an internal community

Sven: We should do another session on how to make results visible.

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