Often times our role as Agile coaches involves more than just coaching. We are often called to function as mentors and consultants as well. One way coaching, mentorship, and consulting can be differentiated is like this:
Coach: Identifies problems
Mentor: Teaches problem solving
Consultant: Solves problems
The coaching role of an Agile coach can be broken into three types; Team Coach, Management Coach, and Individual Coach. We can call this the Agile Coaching Trinity. Below is one example of how each one could be depicted and how each one might be similar and/or different in relation to the specific challenge of building high performing teams.
The Agile Coaching Trinity
A Management Coach primarily works with management to create environments for teams to succeed. This is true whether you are working with delivery type managers or product development managers. For example a product development manager is focused on planning for and delivering the right product. They will still ultimately fail or succeed based on how well they have created an environment for the right product decisions to be made by all those involved in developing the product. A management coach can help a product manager create an environment that balances collaboration and timeliness of decisions. A Management Coach can be considered successful if the flow of value to customers increases in quantity, quality, or both.
A team coach functions to build high performing and self-improving teams. Whether or not the team coach can leave the team and the team continues to improve is a function of how well the team coach has trained leaders within the team. A team coach usually works with the scrum master as the self-identified facilitator of team growth. If the team coach is successful the team will continue to grow and work around obstacles with or without a coach.
An Individual Coach is much closer to a life coach or career coach than anything else. They might often be performing similar functions as a counselor or therapist. This kind of coaching focuses on internal challenges within individual. The Individual Coach also draws out a person’s strengths and shows them how to apply them to team success and leadership. The individual coach must be a good listener and refrain from offering advice unless asked directly.This is often the most difficult type of coaching because it must interface with many types of personalities, behavioral profiles, and value systems.The individual coach can be considered successful if one or more people were able to grow in some way based on the questions they asked or the observations they made.