Updated: Jun 20
Recently I have been pondering over this question.
It is important to mention upfront that my approach is just one of the ways of engaging with teams. There is no strict rule. It may work for you or it may not. It is just my experience what I have learned during my journey. And when it comes to experience, all experiences are meaningful and useful.
NOTE: For me, a team is a team, it can be a leadership team, software building team, hardware building team or anything else. Hence below can be tried for all kind of teams.
There are various methods and lessons that I have learnt from others, tried and then liked them.
In my experience, first of all, how a Coach is introduced to a team, plays a vital role during the journey. In 2017, at a Bank in South Africa, I was introduced as an Agile expert and team members were informed that I am going to correct their agile practices and solve all the agile related problems. People thought that I am superior and different than them. They also assumed that I am there to correct them and their mistakes. People do not like to hear – What you are doing is a wrong way, let me show you the right way. People also do not look forward to hearing- “Let me correct you.” The moment I became judgemental, people stopped sharing their views, understanding and solutions to a problem.
They were always fearful that what if their suggestion is not a good one? The team also went into a comfort zone that when I am there to correct things, why should they worry and produce suggestions.
For my next engagement, when I worked for a South African based Insurance company, I tried a different approach. I introduced myself using different words, that were something like – Hello, my name is Rahul, I have heard this team has done lot of remarkable things. I am here to partner with you as an agile coach and together we will try to make this environment more fruitful for our stakeholders as well as for ourselves. We will see how we learn from each other and make this agile journey an exciting one.
The above may work well for a team, that is already working together for some time. I have tried this with C-suite leaders and Directors and this approach has given some positive outcomes. There may be a case where you are as new as the team you are working with, then you will need to position yourself in such a way that you are looked like a partner rather than a superior in agile context.
I found this theme of introduction quite powerful as I made it clear that I am just like them. I am not superior in knowledge. I am also not there to find their mistakes and correct the team. I may have more experience in agile ways of working but the team is an expert in their field. It is critical to remember that the coaching relationship with the team is a collaborative one.
I call this approach a “non-judgemental” approach of a coach. I have learnt a lot about this approach from one of my previous colleagues and favourite coaches Bevan Williams.
Look out for more techniques soon.
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