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Tackling the Agile Coaching Work/Life Imbalance

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Agile Coaching often involves travelling outside of a coaches home town to whereever the client may be located. As a result, coaches may feel like they're working all the time. Is there hope for a work/life balance?

Ashish Mahajan raised the issue on the Agile Coaching Support mailing list:

Being an agile coach demands you travel to different places in the world and interact with different people. It seems exciting. I would like to hear from the group the disadvantages of having a moving job.

Mark Levison provided his list of drawbacks:

  • Most of your clients are never in the nice downtown parts of a city, they're often in industrial suburbs.
  • Food and coffee in these suburbs can be lame, especially the coffee.
  • Fitness - I miss a regular fitness schedule and rarely get to my dojo anymore.
  • Time on planes - they're small and cramped.
  • Time away from family - my kids are 4 and 7.
  • Being an independant means you're either swamped or starving

But aside from these minor details I can't imagine a better job. Seriously people ask for help, are happy to receive your ideas/thoughts and thank you when its over.

To which, Lanette Creamer added:

I'd say that the time away from family is especially hard on relationships. If you have a spouse or children who expect you home every day, coaching would be difficult. The coaches who are successful long term seem to have worked this out with their partner in advance to some extent, and paid attention so that they know when to revise it.

Christopher Avery shared how he deals with the issue:

Here's what makes it work.

  1. I do not use travel as an excuse for anything.
  2. I office at home and see my family more than most people who go to an office.
  3. I only take work that interests me a great deal.

This challenges me to find a way to get paid for what interests me -- and I believe that is one useful strategy for generating a unique niche and value.

Yves Hanoulle added:

I'm a person that struggles a lot with sustainable pace and the balance between my different roles. One thing that my partner and I agreed on a few years ago was to have a fixed day of the week to go out eating together. That got dropped while I was traveling and to my shame we have not picked it up again.

Mark Kilby brought it back to Agile values:

Agile values, principles and practices apply: especially the value of Respect and the practice of Sustainable Pace

Tim Ottinger had a very poignant take on the situation:

Life is wonderful, challenging, and difficult. In order to have a great career with any kind of consulting, you end up traveling quite a bit to find those people who are good candidates for your message and also who will improve you as a consultant. Agile coaching is no different. But life happens at its own pace. You can't plan the baby's first steps, or the loved-one's disease that changes everything, or the teen driver's first accident or car date. The basement floods, the roof leaks, the dog is run over, your aged parent has a stroke. These are not under your control. You are agreeing to trade some of your availability to your family in exchange for learning, teaching, growing your reputation. The family accepts this because they believe you're making something of yourself and working to provide for the group.

Just know that you will come begging to the market at first (poor conditions, lower pay) but if you establish yourself you will have options to manage your time better. If you can establish yourself locally, you have a real advantage (see Brandon Carlson, Iowan "celebrity agilist"). With "sustainable pace" we say that working long tonight will leave us impaired tomorrow, so the question is whether tomorrow is the right day to be impaired. Similarly, is today the right time to trade your home time to establish your reputation?

Don Gray reminded us:

It’s all worth it when a client says: “You know, Don, a couple years ago I watched you ‘join a team’ and help them work together better when your charter was actually to get something shipped. You weren’t there to ‘fix them.’ But, you ended up helping that team and another team be better together.”

As Agile Coaches, how do you acheive a work/life balance?

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