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Two are Better Than One – The Benefits of Paired Agile Coaching

Two are Better Than One

Anthony Mersino

September 30, 2020

11:21 AM

In 2012, I was given my first opportunity to coach some new agile teams for a client. I was paired with a more senior coach and I never thought twice about how much sense that made. I was coached and was able to use the senior coach as a sounding board. We brainstormed together and we shared our opinions and perspectives. It was fun and highly educational.

Looking back, I can see now what a blessing that was to me at that time. Paired coaching is not typical or at least not for me. More of my coaching engagements since then have been solo efforts rather than paired agile coaching. I think this is partly driven by client budget concerns and reflects attitudes toward pairing more generally.

Fortunately, I did get the chance to pair with some wonderful coaches over the years. I’d like to give a shout out to the following people to acknowledge their contribution and say THANK YOU!

My Paired Agile Coaching Experience

Tom Cagley – Tom is a software development expert and agile guide that I have known since 2010. Tom was the experienced coach that took me under his wing back in 2010 and I am grateful for that. Some of the key things I learned from Tom include being patient, asking great questions (and listening for the answer) and being a voracious reader and lifelong learner. He left a lasting impact on me and I am grateful to still be working with him and learning from him.

Sallie Elatta – Sally is a great agile leader and strategic thinker. And a terrific coach. Back in the day, Sally patiently helped me to learn about agile and how to be a great coach and instructor. She really encouraged me as a coach and supported me early in my agile coaching career. In addition to her fantastic positive attitude, Sally also taught me to jump in and just do it.

I remember once when we were working together to develop a training class over the phone. She simply flipped on screen sharing and said “let’s pair on this”. Pairing wasn’t something I had done before and I was immediately defensive. That experience helped me to learn but also to appreciate how team members might feel when pairing for the first time. Sally was a patient listener and she would be there for me at the end of a frustrating day of coaching.

Kellie Morrell – Kellie Morrell and I taught some workshops together and she served as a mentor to me when I was coaching. I haven’t laughed so much nor had as much fun as when we did a role-play together and I got to be the bad agile coach to her good agile coach.

Dan Herman – Dan was an employee at a client I supported and he quickly grew into the internal agile coach and expert. I started out coaching him but I think I had less impact on his development (since he was already agile) than he had on my own. I think I was unnecessarily tough on Dan when we was practicing the Scrum Master role especially considering that he is a natural coach and probably didn’t need much from me. I learned from him to express things in the language of business and to not attribute bad intention on other people’s actions.

Susan DiFabio – I has the opportunity to partner with Susan for paired agile coaching more than with any other coach and probably learned more from her than from any other coach. Susan was infinitely patient with me and was great about helping me to see that there were always alternative viewpoints that I could take. We had fun teaching courses together which was always more fun than teaching courses solo. And Susan and I would also do the good cop / bad cop routine with me being the bad cop of course.

There are quite a few others who I had the opportunity to pair with for coaching. One of those is Anjali Leon. Anjali and I have served on a few panel discussions and I had a blast and learned a lot from her. Her responses were always well thought out and practical and she comes across as very patient and knowledgeable. (Note: Learn more about Anjali in my interview with her on Fresh Agile Voices).

Your Paired Agile Coaching Experience

I’d love to hear about your agile coaching experience. Who impacted you and why? Who would you be most interested in pairing with that you have not paired with before?

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