I Am a Certified Scrum Coach and I Am Not Nice

by Lyssa Adkins on September 25, 2010

Congratulate me.  I recently learned that I have been accepted as a Certified Scrum Coach (CSC).  I have been wanting to be among the ranks of the other CSCs for a while and it took me a long time to do a complete job with the CSC application (and the time delay had a bit to do with writing the Coaching Agile Teams book, too).  The road was long and the achievement is finally here!

So let me clear up a myth that I believed for a while about professional coaching skills in the agile context (actually, in any context).  Maybe you believe this myth right now.  Here it is: Coaching is “soft” because we don’t tell people what to do when we coach.  Instead, we use coaching skills to help them discover what to do next, knowing that action freely envisioned and chosen by them has a much greater chance of happening.  And, a much greater chance of being a real change – the long-lasting kind.  Just because it feels softer than the “hard” methods of compelling, convincing, persuading, influencing or otherwise controlling does not mean that it is soft — or nice.  Coaching conversations are not like polite conversation at all.  In fact, they are patently not nice.

Coaches help people face unpleasant things about themselves and their circumstances.  Coaches hold people as big and as powerful as they really are and we do not collude with people when they play victim or otherwise shrink from their abilities. Think loving kick-ass (minus the shame and guilt because those feed the victim cycle).  In the Coaching Agile Teams book I say this:

Set your coaching tone to these frequencies: loving, compassionate, and uncompromising.

There’s a trite, but true, saying in coaching: A friend loves you just the way you are. A coach loves you too much to let you stay that way.

Love them too much to let them stay as they are, and let this be the seed of your uncompromising stance.  Loving, yes.  Compassionate, yes.  And 100% uncompromising.

We are building excellent agilists here.  That’s what agile coaches do.  No namby-pamby, Kumbaya, fluffy stuff in that.  So my question to you is this:  Are you hard enough to be an agile coach?

{ 3 trackbacks }

QuickLinks for November | (Agile) Testing
November 30, 2010 at 7:08 pm
Just one thing… at Rediscovering the Obvious
January 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm
Being An Agile Coach – A Sheep or Lion? | Agile Scout
May 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Laurie Bailey January 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Congratulations Lyssa! Since I read your book (this year), I became a huge fan of your coaching skills and style. I’m trying to become the best Agile Coach I can be here in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. And I always catch myself wanting to have you as my mentor. Very nice work! I’m “Shu”, you’re “Ri”!

Derek Neighbors January 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm

If people like you all the time, you are not invoking enough change. Improvement is impossible without change. Therefore an effective coach is not going to be nice a lot of the time. It’s nice to see someone stand up and state that the goal is the journey of excellence.

Tremeur Balbous October 18, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Congrats for the CSC!

I agree with you. Conversations with people that do not want or ask to have them are sometimes hard to set. But compromising is the enemy of greatness.
‘No fear’ is my new motto, and I’m working hard to make it real.

Thank you for helping the agile coach community to grow 😉

Harry Long October 7, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Good to hear!
I follow you regularly, but am what I call a “Texas ScrumMaster”.
It is good to understand that a coach cannot afford to love people into failure, but rather has to help them face where the weaknesses are in order to build a better team.
With your previous posts, this makes perfect sense – to me at least.
Congratulations!

Ellen Grove October 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Congratulations on having attained your CSC goal!

I love the way you have clearly articulated the need for coaches to be both compassionate and uncompromising. It’s a hard road to walk, and I’m grateful to the people in my life who have set fine examples of how to do this with grace and fun — I’m hoping I can be that person to others, both in an Agile context and in other facets of my life. Thanks for this post.

Tom Reynolds September 25, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Lyssa,

Congratulations on gaining CSC designation, you certainly deserve it and truly are a great coach and asset to the whole Scrum and agile community.

Long may you continue to inspire teams and agile coaches around the world :)

Rafael Nascimento September 25, 2010 at 11:22 am

Congratulations Lyssa!

Since I read your book (this year), I became a huge fan of your coaching skills and style.

I’m trying to become the best Agile Coach I can be here in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. And I always catch myself wanting to have you as my mentor.

Very nice work! I’m “Shu”, you’re “Ri”!

Eric Laramée September 25, 2010 at 9:44 am

Congrats for the CSC!

As Agile coaches in small to large organizations, we need to remember that most (if not all) of the individuals and teams we coach, never asked for it.

The trick is being able to have those “patently not nice” conversations and being 100% uncompromising, all the while being able to contend with the “kaboom factor” ( http://bit.ly/aQnU1l )

Cheers!
Eric

Dave Nicolette September 25, 2010 at 9:12 am

Well said!

Congrats on the cert (and the irony was not lost).

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