Skip to main content

Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have paused all purchases and training in and from Russia.

Coaching

Unlocking the potential of people and teams

Coaching is one of many disciplines a practitioner could draw upon when serving the people, teams and organizations they work with. The popular Scrum.org white paper The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master and the widely accepted Agile Coaching Competency Framework provide insight to the other disciplines, stances and approaches practitioners may leverage. Coaching is also featured as part of the Professional Scrum competency Developing People and Teams.

Scrum and agile practitioners who intentionally use coaching capabilities are able to bring out the best in the people, teams and organizations they work with. Coaching encourages people and teams to own their accountability in taking action toward improvement. As a result, the this discipline is crucial when it comes to building sustainable change and transformation efforts that agilists are often a part of.

Scrum Masters and those practicing agile coaching are most likely to leverage coaching capabilities in their work. Agile leaders, Product Owners and developers who seek to enable people using Professional Scrum and other forms of agility will find coaching useful as well.

Scrum.org believes coaching helps organizations, teams and individuals navigate the human dynamics of change and turn uncertainty into value. Practitioners who choose to use coaching as one of the tools in their toolbox are continuously developing a wide range of capabilities. They adhere to ethical standards and practices.
 

Understanding Coaching

There is ample guidance available on the overarching topic of agile coaching. Unfortunately, there is a gap in helping Scrum Masters and agile practitioners understand coaching techniques that can impact their agile practice and help teams transform. Scrum.org recognizes and agrees with many existing models, frameworks and approaches for coaching. Our intent is to identify and clarify the core nature of how coaching strengthens the Scrum and agile community’s ability to help people and teams solve complex problems.

These resources will help you explore what coaching is and deepen your understanding of when and how to use it.

What is the Coaching Stance Icon

What is Coaching
Learn about what coaching is and how it relates to other concepts
and models.
  

Why use the coaching stance icon

Why choose Coaching
Understand how coaching helps
you better serve people, teams
and organizations.
  

Proficiency in the coaching stance icon

Proficiency in Coaching
Discover a model for
evaluating your proficiency
in coaching.
  

Capabilities in the coaching stance icon

Coaching Capabilities
Explore the capabilities that are
part of the discipline of coaching.

Resources for the coaching stance icon

Coaching Resources
Browse a collection of resources
to help you learn more coaching.

Stay up to date on the coaching stance icon

Stay Up-to-Date on Coaching
Subscribe for updates and
invitations about coaching.

 

What is Coaching

The coaching discipline is rooted in skills and competencies from the ever-growing coaching profession. Practitioners who are the most skillful in coaching have often completed coach training programs accredited by organizations such as the International Coaching Federation, the European Mentoring & Coaching Council or others.

Coaching is distinctly different from the teaching, mentoring and facilitating. It is one part of the larger collection of skills and competencies of agile coaching. Models such as the Agile Coaching Competency Framework and the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel include coaching as well as many other complementary concepts that are useful for Scrum Masters and other agile practitioners. 

Several properties make coaching highly effective when dealing with complex problems and complex human system dynamics.

  1. Coaching promotes self-management through engaged neutrality. When a practitioner is coaching they are deeply involved and interested in a person or team’s ultimate success. They aim to help others find the strength and knowledge to overcome challenges and solve problems.  When they choose to use a coaching stance, practitioners hold an agenda (or goal) set by the person or group they are coaching. While they are engaged with the agenda their client sets, they remain neutral (or non-judgemental) about it. They remain observant and responsive to emergent changes and help people achieve their goals without steering them.
      
  2. Coaching requires permission or consent. When a practitioner chooses to coach they create and manage a unique, safe and inclusive space. Prior to coaching a person or group, practitioners set agreements with them and with relevant stakeholders who have an interest in the outcomes. Agreements include the goals of the engagement and coaching approaches, clearly distinguishing between what coaching is and what it is not. They also demonstrate adherence to ethical standards while appropriately maintaining integrity and confidentiality when coaching.
     
  3. Coaching s leverages a systemic perspective, allowing for the voice of the system to be heard. When a practitioner is coaching they focus on individuals as well as on teams and the organization as a whole. This is no different from how the Scrum Master serves in multiple ways. When coaching, practitioners listen actively to what is being communicated. This goes beyond what is being said on the surface. They seek to find and allow for the voice of the system (or whole group, or the unsaid) to be heard. The work of coaching requires practitioners to notice trends and patterns in behaviors and interactions, reflect them back to enable richer communication and more effective decision-making processes.

Ultimately, coaching aims to expand people’s ability to evolve in their environment, so they can perform better at their work, deliver more value and effectively resolve conflicts or problems on their own. It allows for self-discovery and self-development because people are engaged in a genuinely creative process that helps solutions to emerge. In that process, it is the people who are accountable for their own progress and growth. 
 

Why choose Coaching

Professional Scrum is continuously inviting people to embrace uncertainty as an opportunity to uncover value. Doing so demands that practitioners are comfortable frequently learning (and unlearning) information as well as adjusting how they work together to get things done. Coaching provides methods for engaging people at a human level so that they are more skillful in each of these areas. 

Building deeper capabilities in the discipline of coaching provides support for knowledge workers who are constantly navigating change and being challenged to innovate. Coaching is pivotal in its ability to help people embrace uncertainty and unlock new ways of approaching challenges commonly faced by people and teams on an agile journey.
 

Proficiency in Coaching

Each focus area within the Professional Scrum Competencies opens an opportunity for practitioners to embark on a journey to learn and grow. Every journey begins with developing awareness of a topic, beginning to explore how to use it, and incrementally progresses towards levels of comfort and fluency in the range of skills and techniques needed to do something well. 

Proficiency Model

The journey to developing proficiency in coaching begins with developing awareness of two things.

  1. What coaching  is.
  2. What is included in the range of capabilities needed to coach well.

The proficiency levels for coaching define targets practitioners can aspire to as they seek to maximize the impact they create with the people and teams they serve. It outlines a path from awareness of coaching, includes an ability to integrate the competencies in different combinations to produce a desired result and ends at a point where practitioners are uncovering leading-edge ways for creating value. Markers of proficiency are both a measure of performance as well as a set of observable behaviors that describe what skillful practitioners do and not just what they need to know.  

Unaware
The practitioner has heard about coaching but finds it difficult to explain what it is to others. They are unsure of the value or outcomes coaching creates and cannot describe how it is different from other disciplines, stances or approaches.

Aware
The practitioner possesses some knowledge about coaching, can describe it to others, and understands that to be proficient in coaching it requires development of multiple skills and capabilities. They have limited experience coaching, developing coaching capabilities and taking on a coaching stance when serving others.

Exploring
The practitioner experiments with a limited number of tools and techniques when coaching, may struggle to create clear coaching agreements and has opportunities to improve their selections on when to (and not to) take a coaching stance.

Integrating 
The practitioner most often chooses to take a coaching stance at the right time, leverages an expanded range of skills and capabilities, and is able to regularly create value with those they are coaching. The overall way they work is becoming inspired by the richer skills they have developed they expanded their coaching capabilities although at times they may overuse a coaching stance or be more directive than needed.

Adapting
The practitioner works fluidly throughout the coaching capabilities and easily steps in and out of a coaching stance because of clear agreements with those they coach. They actively experiment with new methods and approaches for creating value when coaching.

Innovating
The practitioner is recognized for their coaching presence and how they embody a coaching stance. They frequently offer new and innovative thinking that helps shape how other practitioners deepen in their coaching practice.
 

Coaching Capabilities

Unlike skills, which define specific learned activities, capabilities identify observable behaviors practitioners demonstrate. Capabilities are demonstrable results of skills, knowledge, motivations and traits practitioners bring to their work with individuals, teams, and organizations.

Practitioners who are successful in gaining value when coaching demonstrate capabilities from both agile and coaching areas of expertise. They understand there is no one-size-fits-all approach when coaching and are skillful in pulling forward the right capabilities at the right time. Accomplished practitioners have developed proficiency in a variety of these areas. In order to have a holistic approach to coaching, we suggest agilists develop proficiency in the following areas:

Promote the Client's Self-Management

Nourish the Scrum Values

Navigate Complexity in Human Systems

Maintain Coaching Presence

Commitment to Self-Improvement

Leverage a Range of Coaching Skills

Leverage a Systemic Perspective

Exhibit Ethical Behaviors

Demonstrate Self-Awareness

Facilitate Client Growth through Empiricism

Apply the Coaching Stance Appropriately

Cultivate Trust and Safety

 

Coaching Resources

This collection of resources from Scrum.org will help you learn more about coaching:

If you want to study more deeply on the roots of coaching, explore these resources from organizations who certify and accredit those who are investing in a deep coaching journey.

Additionally, Scrum.org has joined The Agile Alliance and other global collaborators in defining the Agile Coaching Code of Ethics

Stay Up-to-Date on Coaching

We are frequently updating the resources and materials available through Scrum.org. If you are interested in coaching and want to stay up-to-date, we invite you to subscribe. Subscribers will receive periodic messages when we release new content as well as invitations to get involved with research and other coaching related activities and programs from Scrum.org. (If you don't see form, please check your ad blocker)

Share Your Feedback

We want to build thought leadership that supports your journey. Can you help us with some feedback? Select the option below that best represents the value of this content to you.

1

2

3

4

5

Low Value    Moderate Value    High Value