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How I became an Agile Coach without a certificate

A few years back I participated in one of the first ICAgile trainings for Agility in HR (ICP-AHR, which was then still called ICP-TAL). I was familiar with the facilitator through my work.

Along with me there was one more (non-HR) familiar face and of course a lot of HR people. At a given point in time the facilitator asked ‘the other agile coaches’ in the room to lend a hand with an exercise. I did not respond, until she actually called out my name…

I was converted to Agile Coach with a snap of the fingers. When the others at my table asked why I hadn’t responded in the first place I simply told them that I do not consider myself an Agile Coach (apart from the fact that I don’t have the certificates…).

Wonderful was the surprise when at the end of the 3 day workshop I received this Kudo Card.

I kept that card. Because to me, THAT is worth more than any Agile Coaching certificate.

I don’t know what it is that so many people and organizations see in the title (and certificates) of ‘Agile Coach’, I’m just a person with an interest in other people:

  • I love to see people shine, especially when they seemed uncertain of themselves

  • I feel uncomfortable when I see people lost due to (yet another) change

  • I can’t stand to see people holding themselves back because of the uncertainty of their current situation

So, I try to help.

Help sometimes comes with just listening and asking questions, sometimes by offering suggestions, and sometimes by taking people by the hand and do something (different) with them.

I don’t need a title or certificate for that. No Agile Coach, Agile Leadership, Empathy or other certificate or proof.

Just a simple card with an acknowledgement of somebody I hadn’t met before the start of that course. 3 days just being myself, it was enough for others to put me in the Agile Coach box.

Being oneself is not always enough to “land the job”.

A while ago I had an interview with a corporate transformation lead in a large multinational. They were running a Lean based transformation program to optimize their production plants, and had decided it would be beneficial if the back-end teams would "do something agile" as well.

All went well till the point where I was asked “…and what would you do first when you get together with the team?”. Judging by the change of face of the transformation lead, the answer “sit down and have a conversation about how they work today, what they want, and what they need” clearly wasn’t what he expected.

“Of course,”, I added quickly, “I can list practices that I can explain to the team and then start to introduce to them. But that’s not how change works in my experience”.

“What would that first conversation be about?” was then the next question.

“I’ll ask them to provide me some context on their perspectives on their job, the organization, and the industry they’re working in. I'll try to help them identify their current pain points. What follows I don’t know exactly, that’ll depend on their feedback”.

From that point the conversation became circular, my interviewer was looking for a concrete action other than a conversation, and I can’t provide an answer if I don’t have contextual inputs which he couldn’t give… Deadlock

Not an Agile Coach

Now IF I would have had an Agile Coaching certification, I may have responded differently. I may have proclaimed the framework I know most off as “best-in-class” and explain in what sequence I would introduce its practices that come with it to the team.

But that, to me, is not acceptable. That is imposing change, new activities, on a group of people with the risk of breaking something (or someone) that works perfectly well. Not having the opportunity to first include the impacted people in a conversation more often leads to frustration and stress than that it actually makes things better.

I can’t work like that; I can’t step in a team and dictate what they need or must do. If I accept an assignment, it is because I’m allowed to help people cope with change. How can I know if and how I (can) help them without having a conversation first?

I’ll always keep good memories of that course in Sweden, but Wendy…

I’m not an Agile Coach, I’m a Change Facilitator.

Now if you want to have a conversation about Change Facilitation (...... ok, or Agile Coaching), just book some time:

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