Archives for the Month of December, 2013

A Christmas Message

Merry Christmas

“This too will pass”

As Claire Rayner once said, “When things are spectacularly dreadful; when things are absolutely appalling; when everything is superb and wonderful and marvellous and happy – say these four words to yourself. ‘This too will pass’. They will give you a sense of perspective and help you also make sense of what is good and be stoical about what is bad.”

To some, Christmas is a time for celebration. To others, Christmas may be a curiosity. Whatever Christmas means to you, it too will pass. Here’s wishing you a fun and restful holiday with the people you love.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches

The 7 Habits

Food for Thought

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches is my mini series inspired by the style of Paul Coelho‘s “Manual of the Warrior of Light“.

For more ideas on personal and team development, take a look at “The Dream Team Nightmare – Boost Team Productivity Using Agile Techniques“. Happy Coaching!

BONUS: You can download this series of blog entries as a complementary article published in the PragProg Magazine.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches – Habit 7: Flow Like a Stream

Tick Tock

Habit 7: Flow Like a Stream

A coach works with ease like running water. They are patient, pragmatic, and present. The effectiveness and efficiency with which they work inspires others to strive to achieve the same. To coach with ease is the result of years of conscious practice, perseverance, and a promise to be better.

Exercise: Pick a Tool

Pick a tool you’d like to improve in your use of. Set aside seven days. Identify improvement ideas, then implement them in those seven days. Measure and reflect, then repeat as desired.

I suggest short improvement time boxes such as seven days because the act of measuring progress in small increments and often not only keeps it in the forefront of your mind but it also encourages you to keep moving forward.

For more information, see: “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell in which he describes the “10,000-Hour Rule,” which states that the key to success in any field is through practice for approximately 10,000 hours.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches – Habit 6: Talk Less, Listen More

Exceptional Characters

Habit 6: Talk Less, Listen More

A coach listens more than they say. A coach postpones judgment on what they hear and lets others talk while they listen with care. To get to the heart of a problem or gain a deep understanding of a situation, a coach asks open questions, questions that cannot by answered by a mere “Yes” or “No.” Open questions begin with words like “What happened?”, “How would you do things differently?”, “Why do you think the same problem keeps recurring?”

Exercise: All Ears

Imagine all you can do is ask questions and listen. And, when asking questions is inappropriate, the only option is to listen.

What do you notice about the quality of conversations you have in comparison with your usual way of communicating? And what about the differences in the level of engagement you get from those you usually interact with?

My grandmother used to say, “There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth.” Help people answer their own questions and maybe they’ll help answer yours.

Give peer coaching a go with “The Yellow Brick Road—Fresh Insights Through Peer Coaching.”

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches – Habit 5: Pull not Push


Habit 5: Pull not Push

As the saying goes, “the teacher appears when the student is ready.” A coach waits and is always ready when someone asks for help. A coach creates and offers learning opportunities instead of thrusting their ideas, advice, and views onto others.

Exercise: Coaching Offer

Make yourself available by offering 20-30 minute coaching sessions over coffee for free. Advertise by word of mouth and poster or wiki page so people can contact you to arrange a session. Explain up front how the session serves two goals. The first is for you to assist the person asking for help. The second is for that person to give you feedback on your coaching so that you can improve. If no one takes you up on your offer, reflect on why that is, as this may provide a useful lesson in itself.

For more ideas on personal and team improvement, take a look at “The Dream Team Nightmare: Boost Team Productivity Using Agile Techniques”.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches – Habit 4: Think with Your Head and Feel with Your Heart

Agile Fairytales: The Yellow Brick Road

Habit 4: Think with Your Head and Feel with Your Heart

In solving problems, people typically favour one or the other, thinking or feeling. A coach balances thinking and feeling. They apply logical thinking as well as empathy when solving problems. A coach is both the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. A coach understands that change begins with the individual and that only you can change yourself for the better. They speak and act with understanding, compassion, and determination.

Exercise: Facts and Feelings

Think of a problem you’re trying to solve. On the left side of a sheet paper, write down up to seven facts about the problem. On the right side of the same sheet of paper, write down your feelings about the problem.
If you find it easier to come up with facts, it’s likely your preference is thinking over feeling. If you find it easier to describe how you feel about the problem, it’s likely you prefer to feel than think. Neither of these is good nor bad. It simply increases your self-awareness when it comes to achieving a thinking-feeling equilibrium.

For more information, see: What Type Am I? Discover Who You Really Are by Renee Baron, a book that examines the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, including the two preferences of thinking versus feeling.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches – Habit 3: Set a Sustainable Pace

Think Think Think

Habit 3: Set a Sustainable Pace

A coach works at a sustainable pace so they can think and act clearly at all times. A coach stays calm when others around them lose their heads. They know when to say “Yes” and when to say “No.” They know their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional limits and when those limits can be stretched without compromising their personal effectiveness and efficiency.

Exercise: Coach’s Log

Write a daily log to keep track of what you do as well as make you mindful of how the day has affected you. Consider recording the day’s activities, things that went well that day, things that went wrong and personal improvement actions. You can even rate the day out of 10, where 10 is “It’s been a fantastic day!” and 0 is “I wish I’d never got out of bed.” Begin the next day by reviewing the improvement actions and choose at least one to work on to keep you improving.

You’ll find more tools like this one in “The Dream Team Nightmare – Boost Team Productivity Using Agile Techniques“.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches – Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

The Story of Your Life

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

A coach knows they have to keep their eye on the goal to score. Question them and they will always know why they’re doing what they’re doing. They keep the end goal at the forefront of their mind so they don’t get lost in the minutiae. A coach works backwards from the goal to figure out the most effective and efficient way of getting from A to B.

Exercise: The 5 Whys for Goal Discovery

The 5 Whys is a popular Lean tool for discovering the root cause of problems. Start with a problem and ask why it exists. Repeat asking “Why?” to each subsequent answer. Ask “Why?” for a maximum of 5 times to discover the root cause of a problem.

In the context of goal discovery, ask “Why?” up to five times in the same way you do for root cause analysis to find out what the root or real goal is to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches is a mini series of blog entries inspired by the style of Paul Coelho‘s “Manual of the Warrior of Light“.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches – Habit 1: Lead by Example

Stuff in Your Head

Habit 1: Lead by Example

A coach doesn’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. This means living by the values and principles they espouse as well as applying the tools and techniques they know to themselves and to their work. They know when they’ve failed to lead by example and always strive to get themselves back on track. A coach knows their limits and asks others for help. A coach appreciates when others stretch their knowledge, skills, and experience beyond their comfort zone because they know that’s where the real learning happens.

Exercise: The Flaw Workout

No one’s perfect. Everyone has at least one flaw. Share one of your personal flaws with someone you’re coaching. Ask them for ideas on how you can address that flaw in order to improve yourself. Commit to actively improve regarding that particular flaw over a certain time period of your choice. After that time has passed, ask that other person to rate your behaviour before you tried to improve. Then ask them to rate your behaviour after a period of attempting to improve. Inquire about the person’s thinking behind the ratings to come up with more ideas for improving yourself.

When rating, I suggest using a range of 0-10 where “0” means “There’s plenty of room for improvement” and “10” means “What flaw? You’re already behaving perfectly!”

For more information, see: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith where he provides similar exercises for personal and professional development for highly successful individuals.

For more ideas on personal and team improvement, why not read “The Dream Team Nightmare” and go on an Agile Adventure?

Changing Jobs

Which path will you choose

Romancing a Dream

When I was 18, I met a boy in Paris. One summer, I was invited to stay with the family at their holiday home in Normandy. There I learned a lesson I would always remember.

As I understood it (as all our exchanges were in French), his father was someone important. Monsieur E. worked as part of the entourage that protected the interests of the French President at the time.

He was evidently successful both in terms of career and at home. And so I asked him for a life lesson. It’s amazing what insights people will share if you ask politely and listen carefully.

“If you’re unhappy, don’t cheat on your wife or leave your family. Change your job. It has an overwhelming bearing on things.”

Ever since then it’s one of the first thoughts that springs to mind whenever I’m unhappy with my job.

Monsieur E.’s advice has served me well over the years and I’ve found jobs I enjoy doing a little bit more with each move.

Of course it makes sense to change jobs every so often. Circumstances change, ambitions grow, people morph.

And yet, when I look back at the well-trodden path of my professional life, I now see something else. A recurring yet subtle pattern that sticks out like a sore thumb when emotions fade and memories crystallise.

It’s easy to condemn a job for things like office politics, insane bureaucracy and a toxic culture. It’s even easier to leave.

Sticking around when the going gets tough is hard. Running away is almost always the easier option.

What can you do to change the system around you to help create the place where you long to belong? It won’t be easy, but you could make it worth your while.