How do you prioritise team coaching over individual coaching as an agile coach?
I would question whether you do. A team is a collection of individuals so every time you are working with the team, you are working with individuals and so a blend of both team coaching and individual coaching is required.
Focus on team success
So, what we must keep an eye on is whether the team are successful.
- Are the team performing?
- Are the team working well together as a collection of individuals?
- Is the team consistently achieving their sprint goals and objectives?
- Are the team establishing great working practices?
- Are they developing great working relationships?
- Are they cultivating psychological safety?
- Are they able to have hard conversations that just a group of people would struggle with?
That is what we are focused on.
Some of that work is going to happen with the whole team. Events like sprint retrospectives are a great opportunity for the whole team to come together and talk about what is working, what needs work, and how the team can collectively improve.
The sprint retrospective is a great opportunity to coach the team. To help them decide which decisions and actions they will take to improve. An opportunity to work through their thinking, explore their lines of reasoning, and come up with ways to move forward.
Focus on individual coaching
A lot of your work will also focus on coaching and mentoring individuals.
Working with them to help them understand what makes them tick, what drives their actions and behaviours, and to achieve clarity around the challenges and opportunities in their professional lives.
You will help them achieve clarity around what they want their careers to look like and how they want to progress.
- What do they need to do?
- Why is that important?
- What do they want to do?
- What decisions to they need to make?
- What actions must they take?
- How will this impact their career and the success of the team?
Remember, your individual coaching is not always going to be in alignment with creating the best team, with the individuals who are a member of that team.
You may have circumstances where it serves both the team and the individual to explore new opportunities within another team environment. It may even serve the individual to explore new opportunities on a new career trajectory.
What do we do as scrum masters and agile coaches?
We continue to coach. We continue to teach. We continue to mentor.
It isn’t on us as a scrum master to make a judgement call. It isn’t on us as an agile coach to make a decision. It is on us to help individuals and teams explore their options, achieve clarity on the best way forward, and to help them make the decisions and take the actions that are most appropriate.
What we need to do is recognise that and work with both the individuals and the team to understand whether a compromise is necessary whether alternatives need to be explored.
You may have a scenario where an individual wants to work in a very different way to the team. It isn’t on me as a scrum master to say yes or no to that request. It is on me to explore the lines of reasoning behind the request and work with the team as well as the individual to find the best way forward.
All elements of a working environment are subject to discussion and are open to negotiation.
As a scrum master and agile coach, you will be facilitating those conversations and helping people achieve clarity in their negotiations.
Dual Focus as a coach
So, as a scrum master and agile coach, I will be working with the individual as well as the team to help them understand what good looks like for them.
Given their unique environment and application, what is a great outcome and why does it matter?
I believe that you want all the individuals working on a team to actively want to be there, to want to work together, and to want to produce work that delights customers and helps the organisation achieve competitive advantage.
To do that requires that you work with the individual as well as the team.
Some people simply don’t want to be there. They simply don’t buy into the purpose of the team and are actively disengaged.
As a coach, I have helped those individuals move on.
I have helped them discover what drives them, what great looks like for them, and what actions and decisions they must take to achieve their goals and professional objectives.
Doing so serves both the individual and the team and the organisation.
As an agile coach that is what we are there to do.
- Help them discover the best path, personally and professionally.
- Help them explore their line of reasoning and achieve clarity around what they want.
- Help them explore the options available to them and to choose which best serves their interests, goals and objectives.
- Help them formulate a plan that moves them from point A to point Z.
- Help them act in a way that serves their own personal interests as well as the interests of the team and organisation.
So, how do you prioritise? You don’t.
You have a goal. That goal is to create an environment where everyone within the team environment can thrive and excel.
Your focus lies in taking the appropriate action to facilitate that. It means working with the team when that is necessary and working with the individual where that is necessary.
You have a dual focus as a coach.
Serving the individual serves the team, and serving the team serves the individual.
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