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Agile Coaching Advice

A recent posting at Avanoo's "Meditations on Meaning" relates seven tips to successful debating, but the advice applies equally well to successful coaching. The connection may seem odd, but good coaching advice is hard to come by, and so agile coaches must sometimes draw inspiration from unlikely sources.

1) Winning isn't really winning
Many people think that a debate is about choosing a position and holding steadfastly to that position until, perhaps, an opponent breaks. But this is a very limiting view of winning, because it doesn’t allow for the kind of discussion that creates better options and better decisions. Winning isn’t about forcing our opinions down others’ throats with whatever rhetoric we can muster… it’s about creating an atmosphere for collaboration and change.
2) Using "logic" is oftentimes not an effective strategy
A good coach doesn't tell, a good coach shows. If the team can't appreciate the rationale behind a particular value or practice, then the coach may have to wait for a "teachable moment" in which the team can see the benefits for themselves.

3) Monitor your emotions... Always!
Any team will sometimes try a coach's patience. The coach's job is to stay calm, constantly guiding the team back to agile values and agile practices whenever the team starts to go off the rails.

4) Be declarative
Many of us prefer to soften our strong opinions with words like “likely” or “mostly” or “almost,” and then we spend time further considering alternatives... People want to know where we stand, so that they can quickly form an opinion based on that position. Nuanced and conditional statements make this process harder.
5) Tell a good story
Telling stories isn't just the customer's job - it's also the coach's job. To be successful, the coach needs to do more than simply explain the benefits of agile values and practices - the coach must connect with team members in ways that enable them to become emotionally invested in the team's success.
If we want to win a debate, then we’re asking people to do a lot of work: First, we’re asking them to listen… then to think about what we’re saying… then to formulate an opinion… then potentially to do something about it. To help them along, we must tell good stories that make our ideas easy to digest, synthesize, form an opinion about, and act on.
6) Don't take objections personally
A good agile coach will ordinarily strive for community consensus. But coaching is a leadership position, and sometimes a leader must make unpopular decisions.

7) Don't worry about the outcome - others will take care of it
Ultimately, the coach isn't playing the game. A good coach simply creates an environment in which the team members can play their games to the peak of their abilities and have fun doing it.
Our opinion is just that: our opinion! And if expressing it helps to create a forum in which real discussion and new opinions can flourish, then we’ve won… even if most people don’t ultimately agree with us.

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