“Agile” has become a leadership buzzword as it continues to expand from being a strictly IT methodology to a business enabler. As with many new industries that create a sharp upturn in demand for certain skills, there has been a rapid increase in people calling themselves ‘Agile Coach’. It is impossible to become an expert in Agile (or anything for that matter!) quickly. How then do you cut through the glut of overnight experts and find a coach with the experience & insights you need to support your Agile transformation?

Here are 8 crucial questions to ask your Agile Coach (BEFORE you hire them!)

Q1. What was your world like pre-Agile?

What you are looking for:

A great answer will show the development of your coach’s thinking from their old way of working to a new way. It is essential your Agile Coach has experience in traditional ways of working, and can provide a path for you.

What that means:

This coach will have empathy for the process of change their clients are experiencing and be willing to support them in their journey of change. They also acknowledge what worked in their old world; because Agile isn’t about throwing everything out and starting again.

Q2. What obstacles did you overcome to adopt Agile?

What you are looking for:

You are looking for an understanding of the challenges that an individual faces when first adopting an Agile approach, and of the problems that their clients may encounter in their mindset, their toolkit, and their skillset.

What that means:

This provides empathy, and an insight into common objections that need to be overcome in a business before people are willing to make the shift

Q3. Who mentors/coaches you?

What you are looking for:

I’m going to be super-blunt here. NEVER hire a coach who is not getting coaching themselves. Ideally they will have a number of mentors they connect with as well as a professional coach.

What that means:

This coach is curious and actively seeking their own growth & development. They are not mired in ego, nor stuck on send

Q4. What, or who, have been your biggest challenges in adopting Agile?

What you are looking for:

Listen for challenges that are not just solved by knowledge (logic and facts), but also by passion and courage.

What that means:

Changing to an Agile way of working is a big change for many, and that means fear. You need willingness to connect and courage to overcome many of these challenges, because you can’t out-logic fear. This again demonstrates their own journey from a traditional approach to Agile. Your coach must be able to model how to overcome challenges not only of the head (logic), but of the heart (connection) and gut (courage).

Q5. What have been some of your most significant failures?

What you are looking for:

LinkedIn is full of successful projects and engagements. No one seems keen to showcase their failures. This means that either the stats are wrong about project failure, or there are quite a few of us spinning a great story.

What you want to hear about are instances they’ve tried something that has bombed, and what they learned as a result.

What that means:

Your coach has resilience and the capacity to learn from failure by remembering what didn’t work and actively seeking feedback. This also speaks a lot to ego, and their ability to be open to learning.

Q6. What is something you have learned lately that surprised you?

What you are looking for:

You’re not looking for data or a regurgitated HBR article… Ideally, they will speak to how much they learn from people they coach (it’s not a one way relationship!).

What that means:

This coach is a dedicated lifelong learner, AND they have flexibility of thought to take in new, diverse and challenging ideas. They are okay with not knowing everything.

Q7. What is the greatest challenge you are currently facing?

What you are looking for:

A frank and transparent anecdote about a challenge they are currently working through. Not a canned response that spins a challenge into a strength. Ideally they will ask you for your personal experience in that space.

What that means:

This coach has the capacity for self-awareness and favours a collaborative approach. If they are not experiencing challenge, then it is likely that they are no longer stretching or growing and have become stale.

Q8. Why do you think you are the coach for me?

What you are looking for:

They will speak to YOUR challenges and understand clearly YOUR desired outcomes.

What that means:

They have taken the time to listen, and will collaborate with an open, flexible approach to work on your outcomes rather than imposing their own.

Why these 8 Questions are Crucial

Every coach has the capacity to do the WHAT, or the “doing”, of Agile. You must find a coach who is clear on the WHY and HOW of their work, that means they have experienced the kind of journey you are embarking on, and will be a valuable guide and mentor.

What has your experience been of hiring an Agile Coach?

Are you looking for an Agile Coach? Or simply looking for simple techniques to be more Agile? Check out my book to kickstart or re-invigorate your Agile journey. Click here to download the first chapter for free.