Player Led Coaching with Geoff Watts

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Keeping Agile Non-Denominational, Episode 29

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Alex Kudinov   Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of Tandem Coaching Academy's Keeping Agile Coaching Non-Denominational podcast. We are Cherie Silas and Alex Kudinov, your hosts today and today we have Geoff Watts, who is joining us from UK. Geoff is very well known in Agile community. I don't need to introduce him so, Geoff, I'll give you the reins to introduce yourself.

Geoff Watts   Okay, cool. Thanks. So I think probably most people are aware of me from the Agile space. I've written a few books, like Scrum Mastery, and Product Mastery, and things. Before I was even involved in the Agile space, I was a professional coach and I've always had those two worlds going on simultaneously. I kind of describe my career as a bit of a Venn diagram, if you like, I've got my Agile space, I've got my professional coaching space, and then there's quite a bit of an overlap where they, those two worlds, meet and that, for me, is the really interesting area.

Alex Kudinov   So and I know, we talked about topic, and now I want to completely drop that topic and go to how the heck did you move from professional coaching to Agile coaching, what happened?

Geoff Watts   So it's probably not as exciting or as interesting as you think it is but it was just a case of being in the right place at the right time, I suppose, or the wrong place at the wrong time, depending on your perspective. When I joined my first company, after university, I was on a graduate scheme and as a part of that graduate scheme you were invited to see lots of different parts of business. It also provided lots of different training courses. I was invited to do things like interviewing skills and one of the things that I could choose was coaching, and it was something that grabbed my attention, and it was something that the company I was at had a big investment and belief in. So right from -- I got professional coaching qualifications very early on and I was part of this internal coaching program where anybody in the organization could request a coach. I could be coaching anybody from it from a director to a new graduate. It was brilliant. I loved it, absolutely loved it, and I then followed that up with some, what you might call, night school; we call it here Open University Qualification, so another degree that was done in my own spare time in coaching. So that just started and went and it was a big part of how I was a manager and leader, I believe. Then, my day job, as it were, what I was actually being paid to do most of my nine to five work was Project Manager but I was a Project Manager for a technical team and I didn't have any kind of technical skills, so I kind of had to trust my team. I worked at a telecoms company for seven years and I still don't know how telephone works, let alone the cloud, or any of the other-- IPTV or anything...stuff that they do. So I had no technical skills; I really was there to facilitate clever people and that sort of led me to this Scrum Master thing that was coming out of the US at the time. I managed to wrangle my way onto one of the first Scrum Master courses in Boston with Ken and shortly after that, we got a new CIO, who came from the States and said,"Yeah, as a company, we need to do Agile or we die. Oh apparently someone's got a CSM. Right, yeah, you need to go start helping all these teams do Agile." So that's how that started.

Alex Kudinov   All right, and you've got them 'do Agile', and as you--

Geoff Watts   Pretty much what he said *laughs*

Alex Kudinov   *laughs* and as you were starting that, how did your professional coaching and kind of training experience help you to get a foothold in the Agile world?

Geoff Watts   So the Scrum Master side of things was where I started, you know, that...even though my title said, project manager, I didn't really manage anything. So my coaching skills seemed like a natural fit to the way that I was playing that role, if you like, within the teams. Then when it came to helping others 'do Agile', or 'rollout Agile', or whatever the other terms they had. Again, I had-- I was quite young at the time. I had no...I hadn't been in the company-- this was a company that people generally joined at sixteen and stayed there until they retired. So people that have been there twenty, thirty, forty years, sometimes. So they weren't going to listen to me telling them they needed to do a different way of working. I had no authority, formal or informal. So the only way that I could really get anybody interested in doing something different was by genuinely listening to their concerns, their pain points, and those kinds of skills, I think, helped me connect to people from completely different parts of the organization, completely different roles, without having the domain knowledge. So that, looking back, I think that's what helped.

Cherie Silas   It sounds like you organically learned the best way to handle Agile coaching.

Geoff Watts   I'm probably filtering out all of my terrible mistakes.

Cherie Silas   So then as we look at this concept of player led coaching, how does that tie in?

Geoff Watts   Well. That's probably a good point, actually, because I was... I glossed over, you know, a good fifteen years worth of growth there in a minute. So, there were times when I was trying to get people working with a new way of working, trying to tackle the status quo, challenge really quite strongly held and deeply ingrained cultural habits and behaviors.  I was very keen and enthusiastic and, you know, naive, you might say, and so there were times when I said, "Do you know what this is? This is a no brainer, why aren't you doing this? Just trust me on this, I've seen it, it works, come along with me" and sort of try to push people into the Shu state of 'just listen to me', rather than get them to pull me into that state. It took quite a few. Well, it was a combination of trial and error but also a bit of self-confidence and trusting the process.  So I guess there was an element of-- I can remember actually, I was doing a talk at one of the Scrum gatherings a few years ago, it was on a mindful approach to pull attention. Someone in the audience asked me a question and said, "How's your approach changed over the years?" and just completely off the cuff, it wasn't scripted, I said "I care less." and they kind of misinterpreted as a slightly frivolous comment. What I meant by that was, I'm less attached to the outcome than I used to be. You know, I really wanted people to get to this great place in terms of process of working, efficacy, and just general, what I would call a more humane way of working. I could see that, and I wanted them to get there really, really quickly. I'm very impatient Type A person but I realized that the more patient I was, the quicker they got there but it took a lot of time to realize that I need to let go of pushing them and just let them go at their own pace. That would play at that coaching that you mentioned. It was a big... it was something that just really, really reinforced it for me, when I wasn't really looking at it, if that makes sense. I really wasn't expecting that, from a sports perspective.

Cherie Silas   Yeah, you know, it's interesting how close Agile coaching and professional coaching are, because there's this thread here around, 'Get your eye off of the goal.' Like, the goal of professional coaching isn't to get to the three steps you're gonna take away, it's learning and growing in the process so you'll be able to do that. It sounds like you've discovered that same thing in that Agile coaching space. If you let go of trying to push at the goal, you can actually get more learning, which will bring them closer to the goal.

Geoff Watts   Yeah. I mean we're a funny species, I think. I mean, we're a fantastic species, but we are very, very odd and one example of that is: no matter how good for you, genuinely good for you, an idea is, if I'm telling you 'you need to do that', you will resist it, even if it's the best thing that could possibly be for you simply because it's challenging your autonomy. You don't want it to be my idea; you want it to be your idea. So letting go of "This is what I think you should do"  and becoming less attached to that was a big thing for me. If I'm looking back, and putting myself in that position again, I can give myself a little bit of leeway, if you like, some justification because my job was an Agile coach. This idea of "Well, I'm there to help this company become more Agile. I'm there to help his team become more Agile. So if I'm not helping them become more Agile, I'm not doing my job." It wasn't necessarily a conscious or an explicit thing that I was saying to myself but it was part of my script as my role. I think it was part of other people's expectations as well. I think the one thing that I've been talking a lot-- probably the biggest topic that I've talked to teams, and not just Agile teams and leadership teams. The last few years has been, effectively, contracting. I probably wouldn't call it contracting but, you know, what are our mutual expectations of one another that is really, really important in the professional coaching space? Probably something that's glossed over or not even really considered to be that important in the Agile coaching space but what is this team expecting of you as an Agile coach? What do they want from you as an Agile coach? What are they ready for from you as an Agile coach, and what are you looking for from them, and having that conversation. Even between your development team and the product owner, that kind of expectation doesn't really happen. One development team and one product owner is very different to another development team and product owner depending on what they're ready for, in terms of that balance of collaboration; that balance of mutual togetherness.

Alex Kudinov   So it's kind of co-designing the change and getting the team and coach agree on what the expectations are. Kind of pulling a little bit back on what you said. You said, interestingly, like, "Don't tell people what to do" and what popped in my mind 'Specifically, don't, don't tell people what not to do' and I sometimes do the experiment with the students. "I'm going to tell you something not to do and tell me what popped up in your mind. Don't think about pink elephant."

Geoff Watts   Yeah

Alex Kudinov   Everybody's like, "Oh, that was a beautiful pink elephant." So if an Agile coach or Scrum Master doesn't focus on the outcome, somebody needs to focus on the outcome. That's kind of what the company is for there. So how do you, as an Agile coach, go about focusing somebody else on the outcome or helping them to focus there?

Geoff Watts   Well. So what I think what I would use here is this phrase that I probably didn't really appreciate when I first heard it, which is, "Trust the process." I think I just sort of let it wash over me but I think the assumption here or the working assumption here, the working model is, that the coaching approach is the way to achieve autonomy, and to achieve engagement, and to achieve creativity, and to to enable an iterative, incremental approach in a complex environment. I think that is the assumption, the hypothesis that philosophically, we can agree with, and we can work through logically and rationally, and we can say, "Okay, so it's not about telling people what to do; I don't have the knowledge, I don't have the answers. Even if I did, we need autonomy, we need engagement, we can't have that time lag of going up and down the escalation chain. So it's got to be around creating autonomous teams, it's got to be around enabling creative teams. The best way to do that has been proven, over a long period of time, is through a more coaching approach in mind, an enabling approach. So that's the working assumption. If I believe that, then I don't need to worry so much about the outcome. My focus has got to be on the process because if I focus on the process, not talking about the scrum process here or the Agile process but the coaching process, the enabling a person, then the outcome will take care of itself. That's the assumption that I think it took me a long time to get my head around, given my impatient nature; my Type A behaviors, all these different perfectionist tendencies, and all these different-- my people pleasing-- all these things that really inhibit me being my best. It took me a long time to trust the process. Well, I'm just going to let go of the outcome because I'm sure if we get this right, the outcome, whatever it is, will take care of itself. So I didn't want one person to focus on it because I implicitly believe that people are good. When everything is equal, everybody wants to do a good job, everybody wants to be successful. So I'm just going to get rid of all the things that are going to stop them naturally doing their best.

Alex Kudinov   So help me kind of understand this contradiction. So I will go back to Scrum, and in  Scrum the Scrum Master facilitates events when asked or wherever needed, right. In facilitation, we know that professional coaching and facilitation are really, really close. Right? The skills are pretty much same, with an exception that facilitator calls an  agenda and drives an agenda. So how does this kind of Scrum Guide thing and Scrum masters hold it as a Bible? "I need to be facilitator. I need to hold the agenda and drive the agenda." How does that jive with what you're talking about Agile coaching?

Geoff Watts   Well, I think that's just a natural and natural state of progression to the natural state of greatness. It's like the Shu Ha Ri of the Scrum Master, they're going through and they're using the scrum guide as their teacher, if you like; their Mr. Miyagi is the Scrum Guide. If they've got an Agile coach with him, or they've got their own code, or they're doing their own reflection, or even just reflecting with the team themselves on, "What are you expecting from me, and how am I serving you well as a Scrum Master and where can I improve?" Then they will gradually start to let go of the formalities and safety nets as their personal insecurities start to lessen. They become more comfortable with themselves, more comfortable with the process, more comfortable with those that they're working with. They don't need the formality of the guide as much so they start looking at the principles behind the practices. Then, as I've been called a bit of a heretic in the past, effectively getting past Scrum, and we don't need any of that kind of framework anymore, because we've just got a good way of working together and constantly reflecting, inspecting, adapting collectively. We don't need that kind of framework anymore; we are past that.

Cherie Silas   So when we're looking at Agile coaching, we can compare that to ICF coaching and I've also heard people compare it to sports coaching. It is completely different, sports coaches, you come in there, you whip them into shape, and you tell them what to do. You were telling us a story about a different experience you had. Would you mind sharing some of that?

Geoff Watts   Yeah, it was amazing. So I think sports coaching does get a bit of a bad rap and I think it's changed over the years but it's also, I think, partly down to TV. So TV editing-- the things you see on TV, what makes good TV is a coach shouting at their players, that makes great TV. The middle of soft conversations or reflective conversations, one on one, or in the changing rooms, whatever, that doesn't really make great TV. So you don't really see that. So this still has always been a lot of that but my personal experience, which I think is pretty common to other people my age, and in my culture, and I don't think it's that dissimilar to this as well, is that historically, the sports coach has been seen as the expert, they've been seen as the owner of the technique, if you like. They know what good is, either because they've achieved well in that sport or they've studied strongly and they've got a lot of data to back it up. So I fell into cricket coaching and I don't necessarily want to bore people with the intricacies of a very quaint, idiosyncratic English sport. The principles of it, I think, span all sorts of sport, and very much match up to what I've read about Phil Jackson, basketball, as well. I was absolutely blown away, because when I was a kid, I was coached in the sport of cricket and I was told how to position my body to play each particular shot or deliver a particular delivery. I was told what was right, and I was told what was wrong, and I was given feedback, and it was effectively a textbook way of doing it. Literally, you could be given a textbook for how to play your shot and how your body should be positioned. It was done with good intention, right? It was drawn up with hundreds of years of data points, studying the most successful people but it was a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, if you like, that you would only get so far if you followed the textbook. Which  kind of worked for a while but slowly but surely, England, which was the country that invented the game, were slowly and surely getting worse and worse to the point where they were the laughingstock of international cricket. They were having what I refer to as technical successes, projects that came in on time that your customers didn't want them because they hadn't responded. All of the other countries in the world had basically thrown the textbook out the window and said, "Right, your objective is this. So however you want to achieve it within the rules of the game, just go for it. My job as a coach is to make sure that you're not going to give yourself an injury, or do yourself a disservice, or break the rules of the game." So I was went on this course and the first thing they asked us was, "What's your number one objective of the training session?" I wasn't the only person, we all pretty much unanimously said the objective training is to get better. The people who are rolling out this coaching process said, "We don't want that to be your number one objective. We want your number one objective to be that the kids want to come back next week." I said, "So technically, they could get worse and we'd still be successful as coaches." Which seemed weird to me. "Okay, they might get worse, but next week, if they come back, they can get better but if they don't come back, they'll never get better." Which alright, I could buy that logic and the next sort of mind blowing thing was they didn't want us to decide what they should be being taught. They wanted the children, themselves, to decide what they should be being taught and these are ten and eleven year old kids. We were taught as coaches to ask the children, "So what do you want to get better at this week?" and then they would decide, ideally based on their reflection from the previous match, and they would do some self analysis and say, "Okay I want to get better at catching, or hitting" or something. Once we've been told what they want to get better at, our job was then to craft a training session that they would enjoy so much that they wanted to come back next week -- priority one -- and maybe get better but not at the technique, at the objective. So we didn't want to coach talent out of people. That was a phrase they gave us, "Don't coach talent out of people, let talent express itself." Which I thought was mind blowing from a sports perspective where I was-- I had a completely different experience.

Alex Kudinov   So that, definitely, is not going to make the primetime TV. It was like, "yeah, you let them choose what?" So if we take that experience into corporate world, right, and an Agile coach, a Scrum Master, comes in and like, "Yeah, you will get worse before you get better, but keep coming back and keep doing this." So a big impediment to that, I see, is the leadership, who is measured by milestones, by delivering goals, by deadlines, and all that. So how do you coach leadership to understand that, who is focused on something else than what your goals, there, are?

Geoff Watts   So the good news is that leaders-- I know, they don't feel like it sometimes but leaders are also human. This is what I tell myself, all right because it's good news, because they would have gone through exactly the same kind of human process, that human process of having to learn and going through that conscious incompetence. The one question that I think it's really important for leadership to ask themselves is, "What's my view of human nature?" because if I have a positive view of human nature, people are generally good. All things being equal, people genuinely want to do a good job, they like to please, they want to be successful, and given the choice of getting better or worse, most people choose getting better. If I believe that, fundamentally, not just saying it, if I actually believe that, then I'm much more comfortable with this idea of letting people learn how they want to learn, and what they want to learn because I know, ultimately, they're doing what they think they need to do, to get better. If however, I have a negative view of human nature, people are only out for themselves, they just want to do the bare minimum, they're here to take, take, take what they can, if I give them an inch, they'll take a mile-- if I have that view of human nature then I'm not going to be comfortable with that. That's, for me, the one question that we need to ask. If I have that positive view of human nature, the rest of the conversation is easy, because they've gone through the same thing. If they haven't, then this whole coaching thing, this whole Agile thing, is never going to work with them.

Alex Kudinov   So, and I get that, and I have a pretty good assumption what your view on human nature is, and then you come to the organization and you run into managers who got into their position. First line, manager for example through the halo effect, you were a great software developer, know you're going to be a great team lead or great development manager, and you run into a completely opposite view that humans are not natural, creative, resourceful, and whole, they are broken, and my job is to fix them, and in the process to deliver all the stuff that I need to deliver. How do you coach that?

Geoff Watts   So it's...we have-- we don't really call it the halo effect, we call it a pizza place where people are eventually promoted, outside their capability level. I think, again, for me, there's this view of, "Where would I rather be wrong? If I'm going to be wrong, would I rather have trusted someone and proved to be wrong or not trusted someone who could have been trusted?" The good thing about trust, the good thing about this hypothesis of human nature, is that it doesn't have to be binary; it doesn't have to be absolute. So I can trust you a small amount and I can see whether you worthy of that trust. Then if you are, I can trust you some more. We can use the iterative incremental nature and Agile approach not just to our product development but also to our relationship development. I think if you really think about it, we do that anyway.  What's been slightly different for me, recently, is actually looking back at part of our script, our sort of personal life script, around trust and I was certainly taught this. I can't remember anybody actually verbalizing these words to me but it was an impression that was formed. I talked to a lot of people and it's a similar kind of thing. People should earn your trust. That was a message that was part of my script from a young age and I get that, right, because you're not to be taken advantage of. There's-- I had a course probably a long long time ago now at our company. We were talking about this idea of self organizing teams, and trusting, and one person in the room said, "See you're too naive Geoff. You're young, you're naive, you're a tree hugger. You missed the point. Alright, people are lazy" He said it with conviction and he wasn't just saying it for an argument. You could genuinely believe-- you could tell you he had experience to back this up. He said, "People are lazy. You can't go around giving lazy people freedom and autonomy. They need-- they want to be managed, Geoff. People don't want autonomy, they want to be told what to do. They need to be told what to do."   I was taken back but, thankfully, I didn't need to respond because somebody else in the room did. Somebody else with the same company said, "Well, that's interesting, because my people are pretty good. Maybe you're hiring badly." and we had this sort of discussion amongst the group about, ultimately, whether people live up to down to your expectations of them. If people know that you don't trust them, then why are they going to-- what incentive do they have to go out there and prove themselves because they know you don't really trust them anyway. So they're just going to do the bare minimum, which then reinforces your view that they're not trustworthy, they're gonna do the bare minimum, it's a sort of negative reinforcing cycle. Whereas this other person's colleagues, who kind of just assumed they were going to do the job, they seem pretty good at the interview, give them a chance, they seem to be pretty good. So I just let them go and it just got better and that was the positive reinforcing cycle but it does take a certain element of vulnerability and courage to take that first step. So going all the way back to what I was saying about 'do people need to earn your trust?' Well, yeah, they kind of do. All right but if you start with trust, then you have a much better chance of people earning your trust. So it's not a case of, "I've just met you, I don't trust you until you prove yourself." It is "I've met you, I trust you to a degree unless you prove otherwise" and the more we work together, the more that trust will grow. That tends to lead to a more positive and rapid growth of trust.

Cherie Silas   So as Agile coaches, people assume we have an agenda, which I guess in some ways, we do. We've got this agenda to help you change your company to more Agile ways of being

Alex Kudinov   Oh, come on, I thought our agenda was to transform!?

Cherie Silas   Oh I hate that word. That's not... *laughs* So, um, what I hear, the question I hear, coaches ask me all the time is about, "Well, how you deal with resistance? We're there, we're trying to do our thing, and we butt-up against this resistance. How do you deal with it? So what about you?

Geoff Watts   Well, I think resistance is a funny thing. So I sort of already mentioned that if I feel my autonomy has been threatened then I will resist because autonomy is one of our fundamental drivers as a human being. The other funny thing that I found about resistance is that actually, we kind of get what we look for, we see what we look for. We're kind of expecting resistance and so any behavior that could potentially resemble resistance, we tend to label as resistance when actually it's kind of a natural response. Whether that's, they're feeling threatened, their status has been threatened, that they don't understand what the value is coming from. They don't understand the purpose of it, they're worried about whether this is real, how they can contribute, stepping in-- so there's a number of different fears associated with any kind of change of working and the longer you've been doing something, the more attached we are to that and the less comfortable we are with change.  So I generally look at something and really try and when I find myself labeling something as resistance, I consciously try and reframe it as, "I'm seeing that as resistance but why might it not be?" I think that's quite helpful because I can remember  one person who really sort of flipped the switch for me. It was back in my first job and he was, I would have labeled him, at the time, as the most resistant, disruptive, negative, cynical person about Agile that I'd never come across. This was relatively early on in my career, so I didn't have massive sample size, but still. Every time you said something you'd get, "Yeah, but...", "Yeah, but...", "Yeah, but...", "That's not how it works right around here.", "You don't get it, this isn't gonna work here because..." he had all the comebacks, all the questions. It was just one of those where I thought, "Oh no he's going to be there again in this meeting. I don't want to go. I don't want to be there."  I was preparing my arguments for his counter arguments before I went, it was that kind of level. At some point, we just had a chat outside -- in the good old days when you could actually have a coffee together -- and we had a bit of a chat and he said to me, "Geoff, you must hate me." I said, "I don't hate you. There are very few people in the world that I would ever consider using the word hate with; I don't hate you. You're difficult. I'll grant you that but I don't hate you. Why do you think I hate you?" They said "Because, I know what I'm like, I know I really question a lot, I know, but I really need to understand something before I buy into it. You and a couple of the people have just constantly answered my questions and given me insurances here, but also been honest where there aren't insurances and told me how I need to get used to that and sort of grow up a little bit. Do you know what? I'm with you. I'm on board now. I needed to go through that process of really pulling that idea apart, and you helped me do it, and I'm wit you." He then turned into one of the biggest evangelists I've ever seen and, for me, that just reminds me that what looked like resistance was just him rationalizing. It was just him working through all his concerns or his fears, all of-- and he was a really great person to have on your team, because you would find out all the risks, you would have the black hat, but you play that role for the service of the team. That's a bit of a waffly answer but I think just reminding yourself that what looks like resistance usually isn't.

Alex Kudinov   I don't think it was any waffling. What it brought up for me, like when you talked about resistance and autonomy, the instantaneously the SCARF model popped in my head.  What you're thinking about, like how you either build people up or tear them down on those kinds of dimensions status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. So I'm wondering, if you do that, and if you, kind of, survive with the organization and middle management doesn't kick you out, because you're not focusing on the goals and outcomes. How do you know if it's working? How do you measure the progress and maybe progress in the right direction?

Geoff Watts   I think that's always the biggest challenge, isn't it. We had our CIO, who came in and said, "You need to be Agile or the company's going to die. Geoff, you've got to CSM, go and coach these teams do Agile. For all the good that he did, he did a lot of good and there were a lot of things that in hindsight, he probably wished he hadn't. I don't have his word for this but there were times when you think, "Ehhh..." and one of the things he did was he'd set a target for being 100% Agile. He committed that to the stock market and because he had made that commitment, of course, he had to meet that target. So there was a time when he declared we had achieved that target to the stock market. Yet, I knew, half the company hadn't even heard of Agile. So metrics can be really, really damaging. It's tempting, right and, again, all those things came with good intentions, right? He wasn't doing that to an ulterior motive. He wanted to help encourage progress and help us sort of track things but it led to all sorts of things like -- so retrospectives are Agile. The more perspective you have, the more Agile you are. So let's have a retrospective every week -- that kind of behavior came from the metrics. So how do you know? Well, I'm not afraid to use a little bit more...I suppose you might call rough and ready gut-feel metrics, do things feel better? What kind of stories were we telling about how this company is working? What's a good story for how things work here and what's a typical story of failure compared to a year ago, two years ago? What's the gut feel for how-- what the ratio is of successful stories and failure stories and what does failure mean for us? These types of metrics. I'm not averse to using some kind of visualization tools. Something that I spent a lot of time with Dave Snowden, Andrei Tommasini created was a visualization of the organizational culture. So using a sense maker to actually capture data points around real stories of our organization culture that we can use to graphically represent how much our culture has changed over time, in real time. I think that's a really good indicator but I would also be just asking people to say, "How we think we are" whatever-- I've seen teams use all sorts of metrics and all of them have potential to be really, really valuable. All of them have the potential to be really, really terrible. So as long as you're holding them loosely, you know, I think even looking at Agile principles for a while, or Agile values, even Scrum values.  Anything can be useful, as long as it's not held too tightly because as soon as a metric becomes a target, then it's useless.

Cherie Silas   Now, so I want to go back just a little bit. When you were talking about resistance, and seeing people like what do you believe about what they're saying, to me, that ties back to the question now of Supervision. I know that in professional coaching, Supervision is super, super helpful. In fact, you're the one who introduced me to it vicariously through one of your books and I think-- I have some thoughts around Agile coaches and their need for Supervision, I'd love to hear what some of your thoughts are on that.

Geoff Watts   I think it's really important. I mean, my biggest -- so when you came across the coaches case but -- my biggest, my number one priority, at that time, was to try and bring more of the professional coaching world into the world of Agile coaching. I think that's definitely, definitely getting there and what you're doing is really driving that forward. So thank you for that. In terms of supervision, I think coaching has still got a long way to go, regarding Supervision, to be perfectly honest with you. So I'm a member of the ICF and part of my accreditation requires me to do some mental coaching, but it doesn't require me to do Supervision. I choose to, because I think it's valuable but I assume, I would say, the vast majority of people who have the word 'coach' in their job title, I would say, aren't even part of a professional coaching body. If professional coaching bodies don't mandate Supervision, then the people who aren't part of the professional bodies are highly unlikely to be doing it anyway. So it's still got a long way to go even in the coaching world, I would say, but at least it's moving in the right direction.  So the Agile coaching world, it's conceivable, it's just going to be a couple of steps behind. It's always a couple steps behind because it's looking for the good practice and best practice from the professional coaching work that kind of makes sense. So is it important? Yes. Do I see a lot of it? No. Do I see a lot of potential for it? Yes. So I see a lot of informal Supervision. So I see another sort of Scrum Master communities of practice, for example, which are, which can be pseudo Supervision for Scrum Masters in an organization. Agile coaching communities of practice, which are often an opportunity for that. Coaching circles, these kinds of informal coaching Supervision opportunities. One of the things that that I've been working on recently is a form of that, which is just a small, private community. Because, there's so many people out there that have experience and can share experience, but it's quite... 'scary' might not be the right word but it's probably not a safe environment. You talk about forums and Twitter and Social Media. It's not safe to be vulnerable. It's not safe to offer advice and generally, it's an opportunity for people to flag their ego and try and score points. It's not a great place for Supervision, even though it has the potential to be a great place. It's just never going to be that safe place. So my experiment at the start of this year was to create a small community of people from around the world who just want to support each other get better, share experiences in a closed environment to offer that sort of formal and informal Supervision. I think that you're probably going to see a lot more of that going forward inside organizations, but also across organizations, because it's so easy to just get a very blinkered view of how Agile coaching works in our organization. If you get those different experiences, different places, you can learn from other people, I will say, if you get the chance to learn from other people's mistakes before you learn from your own, absolutely. If you can learn from other people's mistakes, it saves you a little bit of time.

Alex Kudinov   So it's kind of interesting. One of the Scrum values is openness and then we create these closed groups to create that safety.

Geoff Watts   Yeah, it's that, again, these values aren't really absolute, right? They're contextual. So within the group, there's openness, but you need a certain level of closeness to have enough safety to be open. That's a balance that all teams have to strike all organizations need to strike. Eventually, as you grow the trust, as you grow the safety, as you grow the working agreements, the expectations of one another, the customs, then you can expand that. That grows from one team to across the organization and so on.

Alex Kudinov   So Geoff, I hear you had a good beginning of 2021, probably already much better than 2020, and the second version of Scrum Mastery is out and LinkedIn is abuzz. So what else is on your desk for the rest of the year?

Geoff Watts   Well, so it has been, it has been a good start to 2021. It's been a difficult start to 2021 because I've been in one way, as you say, taking your own medicine, but in another sense not. So when faced with uncertainty and complexity, you need to run multiple parallel experiments to see what works. For the first four or five months of this year, I've been running lots and lots of different experiments. So from creating a second edition  of Scrum Mastery, to creating this community, to creating some on demand, e-learning courses, things like that. All sorts of different things that I've been doing, and channeling my energies in lots of different ways to see what people want, what people need, also, what brings me joy, because things have changed. There's no denying that and it's a case of responding to that to a degree not staying in denial and trying to hold on or wait for the old world to come back. It's trying to work out where we are in the new world and shape the new world. So, you know, I've been doing all sorts of different things and that running multiple parallel experiments is an example of me, living my work, practicing what I preach. Spreading myself quite thin is where I haven't been. So this idea of keeping a sustainable pace has been a bit of a challenge for me, it's been a bit of an energy draining and not having a holiday for two years, it's starting to take its toll.

Alex Kudinov   So success comes at high price.

Geoff Watts   Well, it's something that you can-- sustainable pace is an interesting one as well, right because you can be-- what's sustainable? So what's sustainable during the day, might be different to what's sustainable during the week, to what's sustainable over a month or a year. It's just about making sure that you're-- you know, I get enthusiastic, I get an idea. I start running with it. Fine, because I've got the passion, and the energy, and it's not like I'm getting burnt out or anything but if you have multiple plates spinning and you're not really seeing results for a while, and staying up late, doing talks in different time zones and things, it can can quite easily drain your energy without realizing it. You've got to stay mindful and having some coaching Supervision, for example, is a great way of both formally and informally moving forward; just checking in with yourself.

Alex Kudinov   Well, thanks, Geoff, for coming today and talking to us. It's really fascinating to eventually meet somebody who actually moved in a different direction. Usually we see Agile is now going into professional coaching and you're like-- you really moved from professional coaching to Agile coaching and that's fascinating. So, thanks for sharing your experience and your thoughts with us today. This was Tandem Coaching Academy's Keeping Agile Non-Denominational podcast. We were your hosts today Alex Kusinov and Cherie Silas. Bye now.

About Episode Guest

Geoff Watts

As an experienced and passionate servant-leader myself, I work with bold, forward-thinking leaders who recognise the value in creating engaged, autonomous and creative teams but aren't quite sure how to do this. I offer training and ongoing coaching support to help them develop a culture of reflection and empowerment that helps create productive, mindful and motivated teams.

If you have one of the following questions, I may be able to help:

* How do I create an environment that encourages my team to self-organise?
* How can I become a more effective leader?
* How do I unlock the potential of my people?
* How do I create a culture of responsibility?
* How do I build a more engaged, empowered team?

I am the author of four best selling books:

Scrum Mastery: From Good To Great Servant-Leadership which is based on my years of application and coaching of teams using agile approaches such as Scrum.

The Coach's Casebook: Mastering The Twelve Traits That Trap Us which is based on my years of executive and leadership coaching to help people bring their personality traits into balance for greater personal and professional effectiveness.

Product Mastery: From Good to Great Product Ownership which looks at the practical and personal skills required to be a truly effective product development leader.

Team Mastery: From Good to Great Agile Teamwork which covers the characteristics of great teams and includes tear-out milestone cards allowing teams to plan and celebrate their growth.

I have worked in various industries around the world with companies such as BT, Man Investments, Nokia, Sage, JP Morgan, Citigroup, AOL, EMI Music, Motorola, Investec, KPMG and the Reed Elsevier group among others.

Specialties: Leadership Coach, Executive Coach, Change Coach, Talent Coach, Development Coach, Professional Coach, Career Coach, Certified Scrum Trainer, Certified Scrum Coach

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