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The Coaching Imposter

Agile Coaching? Hmm, yes I know what you’re thinking, “what does that mean and how is that an actual job?”

Well, I’ve had a very broad variety of comments (my wife included) ranging from ‘I literally don’t know what you do Chris’ to ‘that’s so cool we’re recruiting for roles like that now!’.    My reaction when I saw it advertised was obviously the latter, but it wasn’t until the second time it was advertised that I had the opportunity to go for it, and I’m so delighted I did. Apparently, it’s the first time our organisation has ever recruited for this role too?!

Let’s roll back a little then, I‘ve been busy building up my experience in Agile working environments for the past 6 years so I think I have at least the prerequisite interest, enthusiasm and of course badges for such a role.  I quickly realised that a true motivator for me was working within a delivery-focused environment utilising my knowledge to create an open, honest and transparent culture focussed on customer value and continuous improvement. More so I’ll admit I loved working in engineering teams where my ‘inner techie’ could come out to play.

So back to now, I must confess I already have a problem with the title of Agile ‘Coach’ in that it’s so much more than, well, coaching.  I went to a popular search engine and promptly asked for a definition – I like this one:

…. helps teams apply agile and lean thinking to the specific environments and impediments they face.  Working as an adviser, the coach can help the team adapt the methodology to their situation and help them challenge their existing environment

Source: https://www.agileconnection.com/article/role-agile-coach

This is all very well until you start thinking HOW you’re actually going to carry this out in reality.  Coming back to my struggle with the exclusivity of the ‘Coach’ bit of my role I really don’t think the above statement could be accomplished without me drawing on facilitation techniques, or creating training packages and briefings, being a mentor to someone or even just providing consultancy sessions.  Coaching is powerful if used in the right way, I’ve had some of my most truly job-satisfying experiences where someone has gone away with a bit of a skip in their step as a result of the conversation we’ve shared together.  So, to wrap this part up, the ‘How’ is difficult but it requires a wide array of skills and techniques which are usual entrenched within emotive, dynamic and unique situations.

Something else I had to deal with in my own headspace early on is what I can only liken to something called imposter syndrome (a fear of being found out as a phony or fraud).  Even though I knew I had the relevant experience and have applied myself in similar situations before, there was always that worry that the advice I was providing was not good enough and turned out to be completely inadequate for the situation.   I think I’m mostly over that hurdle now and am happy to report that I now feel confident in my decisions, I’m making a difference and hopefully being valuable.  A huge part of this progression has come down to how welcoming, friendly and accepting the teams I’m working with have been – thank you, I really appreciate it!

For next time, I’d really like to share with you some more tangible situations where I think I’ve made a difference and where I see this role going given my observations thus far.  For now, I would say don’t get caught up in a job title, it’s irrelevant really – the functions of a role are far more important. Believe in your own abilities and experience, get over the imposter hurdle but be open to challenges and new ideas from people who probably know more than you.  I’ve been very careful to not go ‘full-Agile’ on you with this blog because I actually think it’s more interesting to tell you about the stuff outside of the methodologies, structures and processes that we can all get a bit obsessed with.  Tell me if I’m wrong and I’ll crank that dial-up!