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Improve Your Lean-Agile Coaching

In 2014, I helped an organization form and start a group of internal Lean-Agile coaches as part of an organizational transformation. Prior to that, I trained many people, coached many teams and facilitated multiple meetings and ceremonies. But I had never formally trained another coach except for pairing with him or her to train him or her on-the-job.

I was able to face the challenge by turning my tacit knowledge into a meaningful narrative that clearly articulates and communicates the purpose of a coach, the responsibilities, the activities and the interactions, the deliverables, the desirable skills and experience, the personal qualities as well as the possible career and professional growth paths.

A valuable result of this challenging and exciting research are the three spiders that describe the skills, the desired personal traits and the undesired ones for a Lean-Agile coach. The spiders also detail the skills and traits in six levels.

And here are the descriptions of the skills, the traits and the levels:

The spiders, together with an arc of mentoring (the typical sequence of steps a mentoring session goes through) and powerful questions (a tool a mentor uses to help the mentee), have been useful during mentoring sessions with candidate coaches to help them self-evaluate and figure out where they stand in relation to the role of a Lean-Agile Coach, and to spur ideas for next steps in personal growth. The mentoring sessions with the spiders led us to explore and discover a useful capital of enthusiasm, skills and professional experiences. 

The levels detailed in the spiders were also useful when writing the job posting for the role, when drafting the career path for internal coaches and during the job interviews. I filled out the spiders with my self-assessment and I periodically review them to track my progress and to identify possible next steps to become a better coach. I encouraged the group of internal coaches to do the same, and up until now we had periodic mentoring sessions inspired by the spiders.

How do you Take the Self-Assessment?

When you want to take the self-assessment, first of all, familiarize yourself with the levels and the descriptions.

Download and open the slides with PowerPoint. Then go to the slide with the spider, click on it and from the chart’s tools chose to edit data. You can enter your current skill level taking care to save the presentation before exiting. Alternatively, you can also right-click on the spider’s image online, print it on paper, and use a pencil to mark your level.

After you have filled all three spiders, organize a mentoring session with another coach and ask her/him to read together and comment your self-assessment and to help you identify opportunities for improvements.

Document your goals for improvements, which actions will you undertake to achieve those goals and what feedback can you collect to monitor your improvements. In one or two months, review the feedback collected, retake the assessment by updating the levels and have another mentoring session.

Repeat this periodically, to drive, support and sustain you personal and professional growth.

How Were Spider Charts Designed?

The idea to use spider charts and conversations for self-assessments comes from Thoughtworks where they're used extensively. Whereas the idea to turn those conversations into mentoring conversations, with the use of the arc of mentoring and powerful questions, comes from Coaching Agile Teams course by Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd.

During my experience as coach I felt that coaching, in addition to doing, is about being. That's why I really wanted to include personal traits into the spider charts. I listed all the traits that were important in my personal experience, as a consequence the list reflected my personal and subjective view. So I started to search for other coaches' experience and point of view and this lead me to a blog post by Esther Derby with a very good list of desirable and undesirable traits for coaches.

In order to select the skills to be represented on the spider chart, I've searched many different professional coaching frameworks and agile coaching framework. This is how I've found the Agile-Coach Competency Framework, the skills listed in the spider are based on that. I completed the work - wrote a description for each skill and trait and for each level in the spider charts, and made sure everything was congruent with my experience, my understanding, and with the initial purpose and intended use of these spider charts.

More Spiders?

Spiders for self-assessment can be defined and used for other roles as well. For example for Agile Software Developers, for Product Owners, for Iteration Managers and so on.

Remember that self-assessment spiders, rather than being a source of absolute truth, are mirrors that help to look at, focus and reflect on personal and professional development. Self-assessment spiders are also reminders of quality time we should dedicate to ourselves and our personal and professional growth. And finally they are placeholders for conversations we can have with mentors we chose and we trust .


Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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