This is the first lever in a series of 7 that we are working with so that we can co-create powerful spaces that support coaches and so enable valuable, relevant coaching that supports Exceptional Agile Delivery.

For all the levers, see the 7 Coaching Levers overview blog post.

The first lever, Activate the Person is the foundation on which all the others reset. Without it, the other levers don’t seem to take off. Effective coaching is completely dependant on the coach. Yet we so often focus on what an Agile Coach knows rather than on how they are using what they know.

This is THE LEVER! Without it nothing else works as well as it should. It started as something simple, a quick check in on everyone’s experience and it then evolved into activating the person as coach.

Here is where we started and where everyone starts – with activating the person.

To use the inevitable sporting analogy, balls don’t take themselves across the field, the players do!

I work with 5 amazing coaches and when I arrived as their chapter lead I knew that I needed to find out who they were as individuals. I wouldn’t be doing the coaching, so I couldn’t just tell them how I would do it. They aren’t me! How I coach is based on my strengths. I have had to learn how to blend agile content and knowledge with those strengths to find my own coaching voice, one that works for me. My strengths just aren’t necessarily yours so you can’t copy how I coach (or anyone else for that matter).

So our starting point as a chapter was a simple question, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how are you experiencing being a coach right now ?”

A couple of things on this. If you have been working inside a corporate for a while you may have a very strong frame of reference around ‘scores’ and an expectation that low scores are bad and need to be turned around. The point of this question isn’t to focus everyone on getting to a 7 and above and staying there, come hell or high water. The point is to have a conversation. I want to know and understand where everyone is at. If it is a 3 then it is a 3. A 3 isn’t wrong or bad. It is reality. The question is how can we shift that reality because no-one is going to be doing their best when their experience is a 6 or below. The conversations we have then are around what is missing for you ? Where could you see yourself getting ? A 7 perhaps ? What would that look like and how would you get there ?

Simply put. Until we can see and talk about how we are experiencing work we can’t change it. When we can see it we can start to understand what can be changed and what can’t (right now). When we start to talk about this in a non-judgemental way the power comes back to the individual.

When we started with this question we had a 3, a couple of 5’s a 6 and a 7. I started to explore these with the individual coaches being just curious. I also started to ask what delights them as a coach and how much of that they had in their day to day. It got really interesting when we started to explore what would take them to a 7. That was when the energy shifted. It went from, well there is no point really, to oh look, I can do this and try that.

Even more amazing was what happened over the next 3 weeks. We checked in and that 3 was now a 7. In actual fact, everyone had shifted to a 7. And yes, these were real and not fake because a 7 is what we are supposed to have.

I use this scale regularly for myself and with coaches I catch up with around the world and the results always amaze me. My working with a number we find a way to make something very personal accessible. We can talk in a rational way about a bad experience and quickly shift into a more empowering space – what would it take to shift this experience.

It also allows us to really start to see ourselves and the system we are in. What do I mean by this ? Well, no 2 days are equal. Your best today is seldom the best you have ever achieved. There is an epic cycle race in South Africa called the Argus, it goes for about 100km around Cape Town. Some years the times are fast, some years there are howling gale force winds that knock cyclists over and make finishing an accomplishment. The point here is that a 7 is relative and contextual.

When we are able to see what we can control and what we can’t it starts to become much easier to have 8, 9 and 10 experiences.

The next lever is Activate the Space.