Over the past decade, I have been asked about what does it mean to be an agile coach? Why would someone want to do this role? What abilities does an effective agile coach possess? And can you learn those abilities?

You may have figured it out in the first line that I have been in the agile coaching and consulting expertise since early 2008. I was lucky enough to fall into this work through a friend, Mishkin Berteig. Throughout my time in this field, I have been fortunate to work with other skilled and talented agile coaches from various industries and life experiences.

So this article will focus on 3 key abilities and powers that both a leader and agile possess, and also how to grow them for yourself.

Power 1: Truly Listen with Heart and Mind

Listening is so critical as all of us want to be heard and be validated in our opinions. With the speed of change and the sheer volume of the workload, we stop listening.

An effective leader or agile coach focus his/her energies on truly understanding and gaining insight into the perspectives and experiences of those they serve and lead. There are plenty of great resources to enhance one’s listening skills that can help you develop the practice to keep your mind open, ask questions to further understanding, and refrain from making assumptions that ultimately cause harm.

Practice to Improve Power 1 — Participate in or facilitate a Coaching Skills Dojo, a powerful article by Michael Sahota. This activity is both easy to do and fun to build up this skill.

Power 2: Create a Safe Place for Discussions

Safety is becoming a more important unconditional element of a team and company. Yet, many organizations don’t have many people that have the skill set to show others how this can be done.

Great leaders or agile coaches spend effort and time to create a joyful, welcoming, and safe environment for their peers and teams to contribute openly without fear of attack. This power has the ability to bring about cutting-edge breakthroughs, ideas to solve persistent problems, and build long-lasting relationships. Individuals that can do this with regularity are seen as trustworthy and effective.

Practice to Improve Power 2 — Read about the Open Space movement that creates conferences and workshops that are amazingly joyful as well as results-producing.

Power 3: Build Up Other Leaders and Coaches

A single agile coach or leader is somewhat powerful. A team of leaders can move an entire organization to new heights of learning and results. Yet, the focus on mentoring and teaching others to be as effective as you is not as encouraged as it needs to be. We are missing out on talented and dynamic because we want to hold onto our position of power or influence.

The most effective agile coaches and leaders spend tremendous amounts of time mentoring, training, and helping others to become the best version of themselves. This requires patience, emotional intelligence, and humility. This is not easy, but it is worth it.

Practice to Improve Power 3 — Follow or use the Co-Active Coaching model by Henry Kimsey-House, et al. This approach to building up your people is incredibly effective as well as empowering for you and them.

Being a Leader or Agile Coach is Hard Work

Those that choose to be a leader, fall into a leadership role, or have the role of agile coach all share a common element: leadership is more about how you show up then how you go there. If you have the best track record in the company but your leadership is causing harm, that previous track record means little. If you are well known as a coach or trainer but you fail to truly listen to your people, they will not trust or follow you.\

Remember that, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Become a caring and compassionate individual and then your ability to lead will grow exponentially. Continue to find the great about those around you and then support those strengths and qualities each and every day. Enjoy the journey of being a true leader or agile coach.

Paul J. Heidema


Paul J. Heidema

CEO at SparkActa Inc. -- Paul J. Heidema consults, coaches and guides senior management and staff to look for possibilities to improve their results and improve their organization. He leads large-scale organizational transformations to achieve lasting results in: building a culture that supports trust and growth, leadership coaching to mentor others, organizational effectiveness in processes, and systems thinking.

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