Not a bed of roses but rather a . . .

Trust is an important factor in decision making. The higher the level of trust in the in the information you are receiving or people involved in a decision, the easier it will be to make a decision. Easier, in this scenario, equates to using trust as a filter or qualifier of information. Filtering information does not always generate the best decision. When trust is a filter, trust intensifies many cognitive biases. There are more than a few cognitive biases that reduce the amount of perceived uncertainty and risk attributed to a decision. For example, I trust my wife’s ability to see color (she is an award-winning graphic designer and I am color blind).  When picking out clothes for work or an evening on the town I am disadvantaged and I am at risk of creating a bad impression. My trust in her ability to match colors reduces the uncertainty and risk that I will have glaring color mismatches (unless I have irritated her before asking for help). Examples of cognitive biases impacted by trust include the following: (more…)

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Coaching is a tool to help individuals or teams improve performance. Effective coaching requires trust but – not all trust is the same. Christophe Hubert (@christopheXpert) responded to our essay, Trust, the Backbone of Coaching by tweeting:

“Could we define a trust level on a scale?”

The answer is obvious, we do not trust everyone to the same level. I trust the person that delivers mail to my house differently than my wife or family. The knowledge that trust is variable is important to help coaches tailor their approach. (more…)

Coaches are among most effective tools used to help teams improve. In SPaMCAST 496 – Sam Laing and I highlighted the need for trust between a coach and the team or person they are coaching. Without trust, a coach will not be very effective. Bad coaching can leave a team worse off than they were before. Trust, however, is not something you can purchase at the corner gas station. Trust is something that needs to nurtured and developed. The term”developed” is code for hard work by everyone involved! The overall level of effort needed to find and bond with a coach strongly suggests that teams should have established a relationship with their coach(es) before they jointly have to deal with a crisis (we will explore long-term coaching later in this series). Building trust, for the most part, is a point affair. The behaviors that build trust between a coach and coachee include: (more…)

The difference between mentoring and coaching is slippery.

The coach is a core role in the discussion of adopting agile.  Coaching is important because it can lead it to smoothly functioning organizations, higher productivity, and profits. The perceived value of coaching has caused some practitioners and team members to confuse the concepts of coaching, mentoring and, in some cases, counseling.  Confusion leads to misapplication of techniques, mismatched expectations, and lower value.  Some of the more salient attributes of each role include:

Coaching

  1.     Targets specific behaviors.  For example, a speaking coach works with the person they are coaching on behaviors that revolve around speaking.
  2.     Set duration. Coaches are typically deployed for a specific period of time. For example, the speaking coach noted above might be retained for a specific speech or retained for a period of time. Using a sports example, pitchers typically have a pitching coach that works with the pitching staff during baseball season.  (Note: I am a baseball fan – the Cleveland Indians pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 14; I bet the coaches have been hired and are already planning.)
  3.     Might not have specific experience in the area they are coaching.  For example, many agile coaches might not have specific coding or testing experience.  Coaches have experience in asking the right questions.
  4.     Agendas are defined to address specific job-related goals. Performance of a speaking coach will be evaluated based on the “coachees” performance when speaking, not based on other goals.
  5.     Involve other stakeholders.  Coaches interact with and often involve stakeholders to help the person being coached to improve the behavior they were coached on.

Mentoring:

  1.     Relationship driven. Mentoring is built on the relationship between the mentor and mentee.  Mentors tend to have long, on-going interactions with the person they are helping.
  2.     Broad-based rather than focused.  Mentoring focuses on the person rather than on a specific behavior.
  3.     The mentor has been there and done that. Mentors will have more experience than the person they are mentoring.  My wife’s association assigned her a business coach that had been a successful business owner that was able to provide guidance and direction based on that experience.
  4.     Career and personal development oriented. A mentor’s role is to develop the person, not to address a specific issue. Even though a mentor might provide specific guidance, they need to think about guiding and molding the whole person.  Early in my career, a very young CIO of a bank that I worked for had a mentor from one of the big accounting/consulting companies.  The mentor helped the CIO learn how to shift from being a technician to an executive leader over several years.
  5.     Mentors remove barriers. Mentors get things out of the way so that the person grow.  A coach will help mentees to remove barriers themselves.
  6.     Not based on explicit power.  Mentors derive their power based on their experience and the mentee’s interest.  They can not force the person they are mentoring to take their advice.  Coaches tend to have more positional power. In some cases, the coach can impact whether a person plays or is promoted.   

Counseling

  1.     Focuses on the underlying issue.  Counselors are focused on the underlying issues that drive behaviors.
  2.     Rarely involve other stakeholders.  Counseling focuses on what is driving behaviors.  In a business scenario, it is rare for individuals to share at that level with others in the organization or team.

In a recent interview with the agile coach, Sam Liang (to be published in February), the distinction between mentoring and coaching was illustrated in stark contrast.  Coaches ask questions while mentors provide more specific guidance. When asked how he saw the difference, coach and mentor David Herron said, “I see them as similar, using some of the same skills and practices. However, mentoring is more personal and longer term, a relationship. Coaching may be shorter term, with targeted goals and objectives.”  Coaching, mentoring, and counseling can deliver huge benefits but only if the right technique is used in the right circumstances.

Next:  More on the differences between coaching mentoring

Horse Crossing Sign

What is the Question?  Horse Crossing

Questions are a powerful tool for eliciting information, helping people grow, or leading people.  However asking questions often requires more than just opening your mouth and uttering the first words that come to mind.  Asking the right questions at the right time is a combination of art, science, and preparation. (more…)

Asking Questions Implies Listening

As coaches, leaders, change agents and even parents, the act of asking questions can take on an almost magical power to guide and change behavior. As with any powerful tool, when the tool begins to take on magical attributes, the users of the tool begin to forget that a tool is just a tool.  At that point, to quote Ian Brown, “they just become a fool with a tool.” Questions are a useful tool for a coach because questions: (more…)

A pile of empty pizza boxes!

WIP limits are needed to stop waiting in queues.

Recently a long-time reader and listener came to me with a question about a team with two sub-teams that were not participating well together. In a previous entry we began describing how kanban or Scrumban could be leveraged to help teams identify issues with how they work and then to fix them.  We conclude with the last two steps in a simple approach to leveraging kanban or Scrumban: (more…)