Powerful Questions: Human-centric coaching
Human relationships are at the center of the Agile manifesto. Anything we do as coaches to allow humanity expression in our teams directly affects the individuals’ ability to live the manifesto more fully. This immediately translates into better, more astonishing, creation-ability in teams, and a greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment for the team members. In this session, experienced coaches/trainers Lyssa Adkins and Tobias Mayer will introduce ‘Powerful Questions’ and share their personal experiences of coaching teams and individuals towards a more human-centric way of working.
This is an informal session, intended to offer the participants the opportunity to take part in a conversation —a verbal and physical conversation— with two experienced coaches, acting as facilitators of the session. The facilitators will share their coaching experiences in the area of Agile humanity and tell stories of how they helped teams really appreciate the principles of self-organization, empiricism and collaboration, and the values of trust, openness, honesty and courage. Using Powerful Questions and other established coaching techniques the facilitators will describe, in words and action how they have helped individuals improve their listening skills and develop the qualities of empathy and compassion.
The following two examples describe simple techniques Lyssa has used successfully.
Goals at multiple levels — It’s not enough for teams to know the vision and goals of their project. They need goals at multiple levels: individual (what’s in it for me), team (what’s our team vision, what’s in it for us), project and company. Team members need to know what each hopes to accomplish and where each hopes to grow so they can explicitly state their ability to support that for each other.
Introducing each other — When a new person comes to work with the team, team members introduce each other in a short, qualities-focused way such as this: This is Kelly Davenport. She’s an expert in pipeline control systems. One thing I like about Kelly is her courage — she says it like it is. This is fun, quick way to introduce a team while building team respect and appreciation for one another.
The session would frequently break out into spontaneous short interactive exercises to illustrate techniques we have used to embody these concepts, making the point that we need to go deeper than conversation, beyond head-level learning to truly understand Agile principles and values. Here’s a riff on Lyssa’s second exercise (above) that illustrates this.
Introducing each other v2 Have two people do the introduction, one standing behind the other and being their “arms”. The arms lead, and the voice has to follow. This is a bordering-on-ridiculous exercise, potentially making you both look foolish, but failure in pairs is so much more fun than failure alone. Alternatively, this is as likely to turn out to be brilliant and inspiring. If the team use pair programming, this is a perfect exercise to get new team members into the pairing groove.
The session flow will be organic, using the empirical process to determine its direction. The session is targeted at coaches of varying skill levels and the facilitators will use the raw material (the people, their experiences and their passions) to determine the course the session takes. Lyssa and Tobias will start the session with a quick introduction of the learning goals, followed by some physical warm up exercises, to break us out of ingrained habits. What occurs during the introductory part will determine the rest of the session. The facilitators are inspect/adapt veterans, and will apply those skills throughout the session. The learning goals are clear, and they will act as our vision for the session.
Lyssa Adkins is a project and program leader with over 15 years’ experience in a wide variety of industries and teams - large and small. She coaches Agile teams and enjoys delivering software, process, business and operations projects this way. She also loves coaching coaches. She believes that Agile is more than an alternate project management methodology and is keenly interested in deepening the roles in Agile, especially Agile Coach, to help Agile move into its fullest expression.
Tobias Mayer has been a coach and facilitator since 1990, working in the areas as diverse as the probation service, art college, youth and community, employment services and refugee programs. Tobias also has a background as a software developer and manager. Since 2004 he has been applying his coaching skills in the Agile context, most predominately as a Scrum coach and CSM trainer.
Lyssa and Tobias work together in a very inventive and collaborative way, playing off each other’s ideas. This promises to be a creative and exploratory session. Improv techniques of “yes, and” and “because of that” will be used to build on each other’s ideas, and possibly generate new exercises and conversation pathways.
- a fresh approach to coaching, from a human-centric perspective
- new conversation pathways
- interactive exercises that can be applied in the participants’ own contexts
- an understanding of ‘powerful questions’