The first rule of agile coaching: Be coachable!

Comparative Agility
4 min readNov 10, 2021


This article was written by Bob Galen, President and Principle Agile Coach at RGalen Consulting.

I have some coaching colleagues who’ve joined a relatively large firm. They’re tasked with being the internal agile coaches and leading the organization’s agile transformation.

Several times members of the organization’s leadership team have reached out to me to come in and discuss various aspects of high-performance agility. Topics like culture, scaling, and leadership agility was of heavy interest. I think they were simply looking to get an experienced coach to come in and provide some insights. And certainly not looking to undermine the internal coaches.

But each time the internal coaching team squashed the inquiry and insisted that they do the information session. In fact, in other cases of invitation, they wanted to go over my “talking points” to ensure that I wouldn’t say something that differed from their guidance or perspective. Given that level of scrutiny, I respectfully withdrew any interest in sharing my experience with this organization.

This is an actual example. But I’ve seen and heard it repeated many times in my own agile journey.

These were not bad or inexperienced coaches. They had loads of experience in a wide variety of business domains and across a variety of agile scaling models and frameworks. In other words, it was a very SOLID team of coaches.

But any coach or team of coaches clearly lacks some experience. They have weaknesses. They have limited experience in specific business cultures. In other words, they’re not perfect and can always use and leverage help in their learning, growth, and ongoing coaching journey.

My real issue with them is that they were closed off to any outside views. They viewed outside ideas as a threat instead of a gift. And fundamentally, I think that’s a bad habit to get into for any agile coach.

Situations like this inspired me to share a set of “rules” that might help remind agile coaches, all of us, to receive as well as we give…

The first rule of being an agile coach is that you shouldn’t be making decisions based on yourself. That is, your ego shouldn’t be getting in the way. It’s all about serving your coaching clients and that goes for internal and external coaches.

If someone else can help your clients (and you) learn and grow. Or provide a different perspective or approach, then why wouldn’t you fully support them? It’s really about leveraging all of your tools and resources to help your client.

The first rule is — be open to all possibilities, not just your own.

Multiple eyes and approaches are always better than one. It’s why I wrote about pair coaching and the power of it in this blog post. I’m always a better coach when I pair with someone.

And the client outcomes are always better. They help me to consider my blind spots. And to consider and avoid my own baggage. My partner keeps me sharp, honest, open-minded, and observant.

And the obvious extension to this rule is being open to learning from those you’re coaching as well.

The second rule is — be open to the wisdom of the crowd.

You should be coachable. How can you expect to be effective in coaching when you don’t walk your own talk and seek to be coached? What kind of role model are you presenting?

And what does being coachable look like? I think of three key things:

External coaching & mentorship — you seek out external coaches who have experience and skills to share with you. And you’re open to their ideas.
Internal reflection — you spend a lot of time reflecting on your journey, your strengths, your successes and failures, your experiments, your comfort zone, etc. Continually improving your self-awareness.
Feedback — you relentlessly look for and listen to feedback. This would include improving all aspects of your observational and listening skills.

The third rule is — be a sponge focusing on continuous learning from everyone and everywhere.

The primary problem is that many coaches don’t want to ask for help. Or to admit that they might not know something or that someone else might have more experience than they do.

This happens a lot with internal coaches. Once you have the word “Agile Coach” in your title, you often feel that you have to provide all of the answers. Or that asking for help is a sign of weakness or incompetence.

I actually view it quite the opposite.

When we’re open to others, learning, growing, trying new things, and asking for help, we truly become a much more skilled and capable coach.

This article was first published here.