Ten ways in which the ego ruins your career as an Agile Coach

Photo by: André Mouton.

I have compiled an exhaustive list of the biggest threats to your accompaniment and productivity as an Agilista or Agile Coach in this post. I have been working with people from all over the world as an Agile Coach and Agile Professional Trainer for the last 12 years. In all this time, I have seen many Agile professionals dealing with:

1. Believing that your opinions are the only ones that matter (AKA The Consultant Syndrome).

A consultant is someone who approaches you, the client, with solutions to their problems. A consultant is the one who provides the answers to all your questions.

Quite the opposite of an Agile Coach.

An Agile Coach is not a consultant. He is a person who accompanies others to be flexible and adaptable, and he does it from his four hats (Coach, Trainer, Mentor, and Facilitator).

The Agile Coach will help you understand what you need and how to get it from your schedule. He will guide you in your solutions, but he will never impose them on you. An excellent Agile Coach will give you advice asking for your permission and comments if necessary from an ethical and empathetic point of view.

As a Trainer, it will train you in the practices and frameworks you need to be and do Agile. Still, above all, it will help you contextualize each of them and help you not to believe any of them blindly. An excellent Agile Coach will not sell you any framework as a silver bullet.

As a Mentor, he will help you develop your agility skills and help you grow professionally and personally. As a facilitator, he will help you and your team with their divergences and convergences from a neutral and inclusive perspective.

2. Believing that Agile Coaching has a hierarchical role.

Contrary to popular belief, an Agile Coach is not a hierarchical role. The person who accompanies you to be flexible and adaptable needs to be by your side, without hierarchy or ego.

An excellent Agile Coach must not impose his vision and must take into account the context of each company. An agile coach is nothing more than a know-it-all, a headless consultant who lives off his biases without this humility. Being an expert in AgilityAgility does not mean that one knows more than the other and should show you the way by pointing out the other's shortcomings.

An authentic Agile Coach will listen to their teams, understand their reality, and guide them in the method without imposing it or pointing out their mistakes and without showing them that they are the head of Agile, Agility Manager, or "whatever the hierarchical position that enlarges your ego." It would be best if you were side by side with everyone, humility, and patience.

3. Believing that you are "in charge" of other people.

Agile Coaching is not well understood, especially in traditional settings. Many people used to the command and control model see the Agile Coach as a person in charge of implementing a new way of working or being the new leader of a team.

This is a mistake.

In an agile mindset, the coach is someone who has a responsibility to help others see value in flexible and adaptive ways to increase more and better value. And this is done under the own responsibility of each of the members, without imposition. He is not a person who dictates what each team member should do or how they should do it.

I recently saw in the figure of an "Agility Manager" the tyranny in charge of imposing measurement metrics on a "radar" without consulting his fellow Agile Coaches. The problem of giving a hierarchical position to a role that must be humble or an excellent active listener.

An excellent Agile Coach has no control over the work of any person, only over his career and support. And the only thing he can control is himself and his attitude towards others. In this sense, it can be said that Agile Coaching consists of self-control and emotional intelligence while accompanying others in neutrality.

4. Assuming you know everything.

If you think you know everything, you have nothing to learn.

If you have nothing to learn, you have no reason to change and improve. If you don't change and improve yourself, you're unprepared for coming.

That said, Agile Coaches need to recognize that they are on a constant learning path. The more they learn, the more they realize how much they don't know.

The ability to constantly question ourselves and our way of working are crucial in an Agile Coach's journey towards continuous improvement. Agile Coaches must identify their shortcomings and figure out how to overcome them over time to better facilitate change in others.

Most agilists and agile coaches believe that taking their new course on tool A or B or framework S already makes them experts. Experts who then offer publications on the LinkedIn end where their faces occupy 80% of the post (I invite you to search Linkedin for offers of courses in AgilityAgility or posts about it). Be careful. An excellent agile is not self-centered and is humble enough to get out of the way. At the same time, you learn, even if it means disappearing their selfie from every post they put on their networks.

5. Devalue the messages of the interactions.

The ego also downplays active listening on its global level. Many agilists believe they are doing everything right but fail to listen to the "hidden" messages of others' interactions while facilitating a session. This is a mistake.

A good example is that I saw a few years ago of an Agile Coach who thinks he is getting all the information he needs by following a task board. In reality, that Agile Coach could be overlooking problems between teams and even blocking factors in his group's work at the level of interactions or communication. Suppose he approaches them on a conversational level. In that case, he could help spark new productivity in the team and make everyone happier. Problems between group members often manifest in resistance to interactions or conversations with other team members and not necessarily in what a dashboard or "Excel Maturity Radar" reflects.

Another example is the Product Owner, who thinks she has done everything right because she has followed up on every story and checked the acceptance criteria. However, you might have missed a vital issue that is blocking the story's progress; For example, another team member does not transparently share some details about their development. This would come up in conversations between developers and would only become apparent if the product owner asked more questions about why the stories took so long to complete. We should all have the power of active listening, regardless of our role in a team.

6. Not respecting the team's agenda and instead imposing your agenda.

Sometimes we forget that our role is to support the team and not impose our agenda on it. We are not supposed to be there to mold the team the way we think it should be (despite what many believe), but to help them become a better team every day through improvement experiments. This means that an Agile Coach must constantly adjust his style and presence (Like competition) based on the team's needs.

The first step is to identify where the team is at each moment (Momentum). Once you understand this, you will be able to adapt your Agile Coaching approach. This means that you will have different expectations and approaches to dealing with a newly formed team compared to one that has been together for several years. Therefore, Agile Coaches must be able to adjust their style depending on the team's situation at any given time.

7. Assuming that your solution judgments are more critical than experiments as a team.

You should avoid providing solutions without even listening to the team. It is not about judging answers but about experiencing improvements. Some time ago, I saw how an Agile Coach was dedicated to launching solutions to her team's problems through a group chat, without considering a previous meeting with that team or wondering about its momentum.

We must observe more to accompany and ask questions that help the team to reflect on their work and interaction. As an Agile Coach, you should avoid offering solutions because they may not be relevant to the context of the team and its momentum. Instead, teams should develop their improvement experiments with you, asking the awkward questions necessary to wake them up.

Another way is to be there for the team when they need guidance or support during difficult times at work. Teams often come to you for advice, but sometimes what a team needs most is just someone to listen to them and help them find a way to address their issues.

As an Agile Coach, you support your teams and help them become self-sufficient, self-organized, and awaken to shared responsibility while embracing constant change. It would be best not to rely on your expert judgments about solutions but to use an experimental approach to help you understand what is happening in the organization and identify where and how to add value. It's all about human systems and their interactions, always.

8. You are not willing to admit mistakes.

To what extent do you admit that you are also growing and learning? Emotional intelligence also consists of accepting when we make mistakes as Agile Coaches. He is human at all times.

You don't have to be perfect to be a successful Agile Coach. You don't need to know everything or have all the answers. What makes a great Agile Coach is someone who can inspire and learn from others. Someone who can listen and ask the right questions, so teams can develop their solutions instead of having them imposed on them.

The more you trust yourself and your path, the easier it will be to accept when you've made a mistake or don't know what to do next.

One thing I've seen working with good Agile Coaches is their ability to say, "I don't know what to do next. What would you do?" Contrary to what I have ever seen in another Agile Coach, he openly told another Agile Coach that he did not need her Agile Coaching and that she was better.

Admitting mistakes and not knowing everything is one of the noblest and most powerful things you can do as an Agile Coach. Show vulnerability, which builds trust and creates a safe environment where people feel comfortable admitting mistakes. And obviously, everyone grows.

9. Thinking that you must have "Status" for your message to be necessary.

Many people believe that having status or organizational hierarchy is the formula for being influential.

Your message needs to be meaningful and transparent, but don't let your perceived status or lack of it get in the way. "Status" is a perception based on many things, such as perceived authority and power. But as an Agile Coach, you will have very little control or official power.

You can communicate with the right people at the right time and in the right way. If someone is open to receiving feedback, give it to them and make everything clear and specific using clean language: "Remember the question I asked you about your decisions regarding your Product Ownership?". (This PO is the regional manager of a major company, do you see how being transparent does not mean being disrespectful?).

10. Thinking that transformation revolves around you.

The change agent fallacy. Are we the change managers of others? An excellent Agile Coach understands that he is not an agent of change but a great communication bridge as long as the change is accepted.

True transformation is an action that comes from within us. It is our decision. As much as you try to be an "Agent of Change" and post it in style on your Linkedin header unless your team member wants to transform and shows it with their daily actions, you won't be able to do much about it.

I have often seen Agile Coaches proclaim themselves "Agents of Change," believing they are bringing transformation to the organization and rescuing the poor developer from the evil manager. They don't realize that they are the wrong person for this role. They believe they are the agents of change, which is a fallacy.

The truth is that you can't control people's change. You can only accompany this process, helping them to be and do agile in the best possible way at all times.

So?

I have seen how destructive it is for Agilists when they take the wrong approach or get consumed by their ego. The focus of an Agile Coach should be to help the team, support it, accompany it to be and do agile, and increase more and better value. This accompaniment requires humility and emotional intelligence. Do not screw up again believing that your role is something it is not.

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