The Software Process and Measurement Cast 612 features a conversation with Woody Zuill and Allan Kelly on the topic of being an agile guide. I have felt that the term coach was overused for more than a few years. Woody and Allan put a voice to a topic that I started writing about earlier this summer describing the term ‘agile guide’. Over the past 14 years, there have been a number of conversations that changed how I think and work.  This is certainly one of those gestalt moments.   (more…)

The discussion of whether a coach is using a directive or non-directive coaching approach is not an academic discussion. As a person that has held internal and external coach positions, the primary reason to explicitly understand the expectations of the role and how those expectations can evolve is so that you can manage those expectations. As noted in Directive or Non-Directive Coaching, coaching one way or the other is neither good nor bad depending on the context. The big but is that when a person, team, or organization expects or needs you to act one way and you act the other things go awry.  Three basic scenarios can be used to illustrate when one approach is indicated over another. They are:  (more…)

Move you head this way!

The word coach is used so indiscriminately that the meaning is hard to discern. Saying you are a coach still sends a signal, but the signal is at the mercy of the person that hears the term and it might not be what you’ve intended. In Agile Coaching Techniques: Styles of Coaches we used two different coaching approaches to define a continuum: directive and non-directive.  We used athletic coaches to mark the directive end of the spectrum and life coaches to mark the non-directive end. Each style has a very different approach to involvement.

To get a sense of how the market is leaning on the coaching involvement level scale, I grabbed a handful of job postings from LinkedIn from the US (some from the East Coast, Central Plains, and West Coast). I pulled out the job requirements and sorted them into categories. These categories could then be interpreted as directive or non-directive based on the verb they used.  For example, if the requirement used the active verb “manage” I put the requirement in the directive column. Verbs like advise and mentor I put in the non-directive category. I threw out things like projects and activities to be assigned as needed.

Coaching styles, as noted earlier, can be separated into two macro styles: directive and non-directive.  The basic approach of a directive coach is to “tell, show, do.”  The coach will teach the coachee (individual or team) how to perform a behavior or ceremony, then demonstrate, and then oversee the coachee performing the activity. The train-the-trainer approach used for transferring the knowledge to teach classes is a form of directive coaching. In directive situations, the coach needs to have deep levels of knowledge about the subject matter. For example, if you were coaching a team on behavior-driven development (BDD) you need an understanding of not only the theory but the practical knowledge of how to write and execute BDD tests.  

Directive job requirements included action verbs such as: 

  • Enforce,
  • Implement,
  • Lead,
  • Manage,
  • Methodologist,
  • Participate,
  • Improve (process), and
  • Measure.

The basic approach of non-directive coaches works by helping the person or people they are coaching to discover and apply their personnel experience to solve their problems.  Alyssa Adkins, the author of Coaching Agile Teams, uses the phrase, “ask the team” which is reflective of non-directive coaching. This style is very popular in agile circles.  

Job requirements whose action verbs include one or more of the following were judged as non-directive:

  • Facilitate,
  • Mentor,
  • Coach (this feels like defining a word with the word being defined), and
  • Train.

Even though the non-directive style of coaching is more popular in the agile community, the small sample of job descriptions include substantially more directive type responsibilities (about a 60/40 split). Styles are just styles; I have used directive and non-directive techniques. The context and my agreements with the people involved provide a way to navigate between the two camps.  

August 4:  Why understanding style matters

August 6:  I am an agile guide

Stories are full of metaphors and similes.

Many of us spend at least a plurality of our day in meetings or talking with people. The give and take of conversation is core to software development. Ron Jefferies stated that user stories included a card, conversation, and confirmation. The problem is immediately apparent to anyone that has been involved with getting work done; language is imprecise. Metaphors are one of the culprits. Clean Language, borrowed from psychotherapy, is one of the tools that can be used to shine a light on what a speaker means when they use a phrase. In Clean Language – Basic Concepts it was noted that clean language can be used to establish the underlying meaning of a metaphor. It turns out that identifying metaphors is not as easy as the literature suggests. Exploring metaphors and why we care is an important digression. (more…)

Clean Language is a technique for shaping a discussion. The questions at the heart of this approach are designed to discover and explore a person’s personal metaphor. Clean language is a very useful tool for a wide range of roles from coaching to exploring requirements and needs. Before we explore how to use this approach for developing requirements and breaking user stories down we need to cover some basic concepts.  (more…)

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SPaMCAST 556 features our essay on Socratic Questioning.  Questions are a critical tool that every coach, mentor or leader uses to help shape and improve the performance of those they interact with — I don’t think this statement should surprise anyone.  That said, pushing past the concept of just asking questions, Socratic questioning is a formal and disciplined approach to getting the person answering the questions to synthesize and answer based on knowledge and logic.

We also have a visit from Susan Parente.  Susan brings her Not A Scrumdamentalist column to the SPaMCAST. In this installment, Professor Parente discusses being agile in name only. Being agile in name only is not an enviable place to be! (more…)

 

Coach of the ducks?

A short time ago I participated in a Meet-Up featuring Craig Larman.  As with most Meet-Ups, this session was engaging and thought-provoking. One of the takeaways was that when you ask someone to solve a problem or change how they are working, they need to own not rent the solution. When you give someone the answer they can’t or won’t own the solution. As soon as your influence is not focused on them, they will revert. The role of a coach often centers on diagnosing problems and helping people come to an understanding of how their behavior or feelings are affecting their team and organization. Rarely is an issue so obvious that observing a specific behavior and then sharing observations generates a real organizational or self-awareness solution. Questions are one of the most potent tools coaches have to help someone identify an issue and then find their own answer. The term ‘questions’ represent a mega category (similar to the term automobile).  Because the category is so large there are many ways to use questions to help solve problems. Socratic questions are an approach to using questions. Socratic questions when used is a formal structured approach to questioning that ALL coaches need to understand because it gets the person answering the question to own the solution. (more…)

Is chain link transparent

Working in teams or teams of teams is a fact of life in today’s corporate environment.  Gone are the days when software developers were relegated to the basement to labor away in solitary cubes.  Today’s work environment requires collaboration between team members, other groups and sometimes even the business. Collaboration requires three prerequisites; time, transparency and trust.  Each of these areas is complex in its own right. Transparency, the middle component in the prerequisites, is the sharing of all relevant information, including motives. In order to collaborate effectively, people need to know what they are working on, why they are working on it, the background of what they are working on, and more. Unpacking the concept of transparency exposes six important attributes that further refine and contribute to the concept of transparency. (more…)

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SPaMCAST 518 features our interview with Rebecca Staton-Reinstein.  We discussed leadership, the difference between leadership and management, coaching versus mentoring and who should own your improvement program.  Rebecca and I have known each other for years and I have always enjoyed her wisdom and pragmatic advice. She really delivers the goods.

Rebecca’s bio:

REBECCA STATON-REINSTEIN, Ph.D. is the president of Advantage Leadership, Inc.

Where she works with companies around the world that want strategic leaders and engaged employees to increase bottom- and top-line results and delight customers. Clients achieve their goals through strategic planning and leadership, management, team, and organizational development. Rebecca’s team works with clients to craft customized, successful solutions to their complex business issues in all economic sectors. Rebecca’s says, “Our mission is your success.”

For over 25 years, Rebecca has contributed improved organizational value as a leader, manager, technologist, keynoter, educator, and consultant honored by organizations on four continents. She is a Ph.D. in organizational development, MBTI® Master Practitioner, a National Speakers Association Professional Member, St. Petersburg Engineering Academy Foreign Member, and Board of Directors Chairperson-Elect, Davie-Cooper City Chamber of Commerce.

Contact Information:

Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, Ph.D., President

Advantage Leadership, Inc.

320 S Flamingo Road, Suite 291, Pembroke Pines, FL 33027

Rebecca@AdvantageLeadership.com

Phone: +305-606-9312  

Web:  http://www.AdvantageLeadership.com  

Amazon Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/RSRpage

Join me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccastatonreinstein


Re-Read Saturday News
We continue our journey through Bad Blood, Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2018).  Today based on the advice of Stephen Adams we tackle chapters three, four and five. The chapters  are titled, “Apple Envy”, “Goodbye East Paly” and “Childhood Neighbors.” The chapters we cover this week paint a picture of a toxic culture full of deceit, naiveté, and vindictiveness; this will be a blockbuster movie someday. While Theranos sounds extraordinary, it isn’t hard to find similar corporate train wrecks. Bad Blood needs to be read as a cautionary tale.

Current Week:  Week 3 — Apple Envy, Goodbye East Paly and Childhood Neighbors – https://bit.ly/2zbOTeO

Week 1 – Approach and Introductionhttps://bit.ly/2J1pY2t    (more…)

Sunset over Lake Erie

A sunset is a gift with no strings!

While there are many leadership types and models, one commonality is that the really great leaders have the ability to give and take feedback. The free flow of feedback is a form of reciprocity in which the gift is honest and well-meaning knowledge, advice, or guidance. Servant leadership requires this type of reciprocity. The servant leader works to empower and serve the people he or she leads while the free flow of feedback generates engagement and brings teams and organizations together. Generating reciprocity is an important skill that needs to be carefully cultivated by a leader. Servant leaders at the team level often use two basic tools to generate reciprocity: gift giving and content marketing. (more…)