Updated: Feb 3
In 1999, before my foray into Agile, I was a driver for an upstart Formula 3 team. Things started well. I had some natural talent. At a certain point, however, I hit a plateau in my lap times. As much as I would push I just couldn’t seem to get around the track any faster. I had reached the limit of my knowledge and technique in the car. I knew it was time to dig in and learn what was keeping me from going faster.
After speaking with a racing engineer and other, more experienced drivers, it seemed my problem was due to my limited understanding of the physics involved in getting a car quickly around a corner. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about things, this was both exciting and daunting. I didn’t know where to begin. Physics is a deep discipline that would take a lifetime to master.
So, I had a few options. The first was to stop racing, enroll in a doctoral program in pursuit of my PhD. One big problem, though. This would take me 4-5 years to complete. In other words, I would be giving up 4-5 years of youth and all the benefits that help with racing cars. My eyesight would be worse, my reflexes slower, and I would be severely out of practice. This wasn’t a path I was interested in pursuing. After all, I didn’t start driving to learn more about physics. Physics was just a piece of the larger puzzle towards my goal of getting faster.
I was discouraged. How was I going to get the knowledge I needed? Now, dear reader, you are probably way ahead of me and beginning to get frustrated with the 20 year old version of me that was even slower on the uptake than the current version of me. Eventually, though, I had my lightbulb moment.
I don’t need to master physics, I need to talk to a master physicist!
Instead of me spending thousands of dollars and several years on an education that would be complete overkill for my goal, I could leverage the knowledge of someone who already had the expertise I needed.
And it worked! I set up a time for us to meet and, after three hours, a few cups of coffee, and a pack of whiteboard markers, I had been offered the knowledge I needed to get faster on the track. Not only that, I had been given focused and useful knowledge that covered things that I didn’t even know I didn’t know. I went back to my notes from that conversation for years, pulling new insights as I developed.
So why on earth am I sharing this story with you? Well, it begins to answer one of the more frequent questions I’m asked by Agile Coaches:
Do I need to be a certified professional coach to be a good Agile Coach?
This question often emerges for an Agile coach after having spent a few days or a week immersed in learning the skills of Agile coaching. You may have been in one of those classes with me, or perhaps you have taken something similar with another educator. Too often, Agile Coaches are given the misguided advice to check out an ICF-accredited coaching school as a next step in their coaching development.
In the agile community, unfortunately, the lines between Agile Coaching and Professional Coaching have been blurred too much. As a former Senior Faculty Member of the Agile Coaching Institute, I can say I bear some of the blame for this problem. By not being clear with our language, we have created a problem that is currently stifling the kind of growth needed to face the current challenges.
An important distinction for me to make here is around the importance of professional coaching skills to the Agile Coaching role. I have taught hundreds of students a model in which professional coaching is a foundational and essential competency. I stand by that model even now. In the current state of Agile Coaching, skills from the professional coaching world are a requirement. We get into trouble, however, when we start confusing professional coaching skills with professional coaching certification.
There are a few of you who will leave a workshop like the one we taught at Agile Coaching Institute, and know that your path has changed, and that you have potentially found your new calling. If that’s you - that’s great. And the long and hard work of becoming a professional coach will not daunt you if that’s the case. However, this is not the case for most Agile Coaches. If your primary goal is improving your agile coaching skills, you do not need to spend $15,000+ and a year of your time becoming a certified professional coach. Just as I didn’t need to become a physicist to drive faster, you don’t need to become a certified professional coach to become a better Agile Coach.
I believe Agile Coaching is a profession to be revered, in and of itself. Like all fields, we need to look outside our immediate surroundings to get new and different perspectives. However, if we get carried away with that, we run the risk of forgetting the core of our own profession, always reaching for something else. Instead of treating Agile Coaching as a stop on our way to something greater, I suggest we elevate the calling. When we elevate the work we are doing, and do it with rigor, we will be more prepared to meet the challenges that we are being called to face.
There are many ways beyond pursuing professional certification in another field to bring your Agile Coaching to the next level. If you are interested in building your professional coaching skills, the first thing I recommend is to find experienced teachers and mentors who can work with you to bring in the professional coaching skills you are hoping to build. This person should be practiced with professional coaching, agile coaching, and teaching. The first two are needed to provide you the knowledge required. But, don’t lose sight of the third! While any practitioner can tell you about a subject, someone with real competence in teaching will be able to deliver their knowledge via a learning experience that will amplify your development.
This kind of learning and developmental experience is our focus at TBDAgile. We are experienced Agile Coaches, professional coaches, and teachers whose mission is to bring developmental approaches from outside the agile world to coaches who could benefit from adding them to their practice. As we design classes around these practices, we view them through the lens of Thinking, Being, & Doing Agile. This is what sets our methodology apart from many others. We design our classes and workshops with a focus on the practices, principles, and inner work that are immediately beneficial for Agile Coaches.
In addition to professional coaching skills, we distill and focus learning from areas outside Agile Coaching (adult cognitive development, professional facilitation, conflict mediation, neurobiology, leadership development, and many more) into classes aimed directly at improving Agile Coaching skills.
If this is striking a chord with you, and you would like to explore the offerings that fit this methodology, please visit our website to learn more.