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Agile Coaches

Walking the Thin Line of Humility

17 March 2016

Raghu Angara, CSP, CSM, MBA
Infosys Technologies

Coaching is an art, regardless of the domain. In today's world of global economy and enterprise Agile transformations, the art form is even more pronounced. Organizations want to profitably deliver quality products quickly and efficiently. However, their biggest impediment is the transformation journey.

Enter the enterprise Agile coach!

A coach's role is continually changing and evolving. Every organization, group, and individual is unique. Each is bound by hundreds of constraints, limitations, and uncertainties. It takes enormous amounts of patience, tolerance, and understanding from coaches to help these individuals or entities succeed.
  • "I have coached many organizations throughout their Agile journey. I am an expert."
  • "Why don't people listen to me when I tell them how to practice Agile?"
  • "They think they know everything. But they don't."
  • "They all suffer from the Agilist's Dunning-Kruger effect."
These were a few of the lines I heard from people who claimed to be Agile coaches with years of experience in coaching. Regardless of their knowledge about Agile and people in general, what is most apparent is their own lack of understanding of human dynamics. Let's get one thing straight: Nobody wants to be told what to do. It's good for a coach to be confident, but, as has been said, "there's a fine line between confidence and arrogance. It's called humility."

Coaches need to walk a fine line between humility and confidence. It's easy to point fingers and play the blame game. In truth, though, all of us have opportunities to improve in our areas of expertise. Many times this improvement opportunity appears in the form of other people, who unwittingly become our coaches or teachers. Imagine how many lessons parents learn from their children and others around them. Every day is a new day, and every experience is a new one. We need to capitalize on that.

A good rule of thumb for coaches is to step back and listen. If we, as coaches, stop listening to ourselves all the time and tune our ears to people around us, we would learn a great deal about ourselves and our abilities as coaches. To read a few books, participate in book clubs, and throw buzzwords around is not enough. There's more to coaching than quoting the Dunning-Kruger effect as applicable only to other people — which, by the way, is an undesirable attribute for a coach to have. People relate that sort of thinking to arrogance instead of confidence.

As coaches, we must learn to exhibit humility. It shows balance, understanding, and maturity. People begin to trust us and look to us for guidance and direction. We need to understand that coaches, too, don't have all the answers. It is perfectly all right to be uncertain and plead ignorance when necessary. For us to show humility, we need to give up our egotistical pride. Humility is a fine line, and we need to constantly keep it in our sights to walk it without tripping. That's how we become good coaches.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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