Genuine Service = Agile Coaching

Jaime Yáñez
5 min readMay 17, 2022
Photo by: Brett Jordan.

These days I was helping a great team of Agile Coaches from a technology company in Asia to understand the importance of servant leadership. Amid my accompaniment, exciting questions arose that I want to share today through this post.

What is serving? Why is it essential in Agile Coaching?

As an Agile Coach, you want to help people, teams, and organizations be and do agile in the best possible way. The process allows them to explore their own strengths and limitations to understand how they can best contribute to their organizations through such flexibility and adaptability. One of the keys to developing this kind of self-awareness is understanding the role of the service you provide as an Agile Coach.

In this post, I will share with you about genuine service: why it is so vital that, as an Agile Coach, you understand its meaning and also that those people, teams, and organizations share that vision.

it is not about you

It’s not about you when you have the role of Agile Coach. It’s about the people, the teams, and the organization.

You’ll likely find that your sense of service is about more than just “solving” impediments.

Serving means giving oneself for the good of others. If your goal is only to help others get better at what they do, you are not serving them or yourself. Serving also requires courage because giving without expecting anything in return takes courage. Serving can be hard when you know it’s going to be hard work, but if you don’t have what it takes to serve, agile coaching isn’t for you!

Agile coaching is very different from agile training. Training is a one-way communication event where information is delivered by someone who knows something, and those who don’t are expected to get it all by listening and reading. Instead, coaching is a two-way communication event where everyone makes a valuable contribution to the discussion.

Agile coaching is not agile mentoring. Mentoring is also a two-way communication event where people learn from each other’s experiences. Still, more emphasis is placed on giving advice than asking questions. Mentors are more experienced than their mentees, so they share their knowledge with others rather than ask for their input. Trainers ask questions because they want information from their clients, not because they think they already know everything there is to know about them or their situation.

Genuine service is doing what is suitable for everyone involved, not just yourself. Everyone benefits, including yourself, when you focus on serving others with true sincerity and authenticity (instead of trying to get something in return).

The importance of listening

Listening is more than hearing. Listening is a way of being. It is an active process, not a passive activity. When you listen, you learn and understand what the other person is saying. You also build trust with the other person. Trust is the foundation on which all healthy relationships are built, whether personal or professional.

Listening well allows us to establish positive relationships at work and in our personal lives. The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves. It also helps you build trust with your team members by showing that you are genuinely interested in what they say.

And when this ability is lived and shared by everyone you accompany, you will notice these benefits:

- Increased collaboration: When everyone actively listens to each other, the team will feel more connected and collaborative. They will better understand each other’s roles and responsibilities, which will make them more effective in working together.

- Better problem solving: When you actively listen to someone, they feel heard and appreciated, making them more open to exploring their own learning process. You will be able to better understand their perspective and their needs and wants. This helps you raise that potential and use it to benefit the system.

- Reduction of conflicts: When people listen to each other, they are less likely to argue or disagree because they understand the other’s point of view instead of becoming defensive or frustrated with opinions that may differ from their own. As a result, they are more likely to resolve conflicts peacefully rather than let things escalate into arguments or even fights (which can happen because someone doesn’t feel heard).

The importance of asking questions

The question is the most powerful tool in your agile coaching toolbox. Asking questions is an excellent way to learn and get to know people, teams, and the organization.

Many people believe that agile coaching tells people what to do and how to do it (The agility consultant fallacy). It’s really about asking questions and then listening to the answers.

As an agile coach, you are there to ask what they think should happen next. And then, you listen carefully to that answer before asking another question.

Why? Because that is where the real learning happens: when people have the opportunity to talk about their experiences and describe what has happened from their own point of view, instead of someone else telling them what has occurred based on their own. Assumptions about reality (which are often wrong and full of bias and value judgments).

Asking questions is also very powerful because it gives everyone an equal voice, which is essential for agile teams, where everyone’s voice needs to be heard equally for the team to work effectively towards its common goal.

Real Service

Ultimately, suppose you’re looking for the best way to serve the organization. In that case, you don’t have to look any further than your people. And if you want to help your people, there is only one way: be genuine.

The best way to be genuine is to be open. And if you want to be honest and authentic with others, you have to be yourself first, which means being vulnerable. The genuine service in agile coaching is to fully accompany individuals, teams, and the organization as a system. It means seeing the big picture, not just the parts. It means helping people on their journey and being transparent about what we do and why.

Agile coaches are not there to make people feel good about themselves or tell them what to do next. They are not there to tell people how to do things better.

We want to help people be more effective at working together to make better decisions as a team and be more successful. We want everyone involved to be inspired by their own ability to make things better for themselves and others. We want everyone involved to take responsibility for their own actions and learn from them. We want ethics in this accompaniment, and for this, the first step is to understand that we are the living example of genuine service, without ego, for everyone.