Who is a Coach?

The other day my son asked me “Dad what work do you do? What’s your job?”, which led me to tell him that I am a Coach. This immediately led to another question from him, “What does a Coach do?”. So here I am thinking 1st about  “Who is a Coach?”

When I look back at my career, I can see that my own career is filled with people who have coached me time to time. Some of them were associated for long time, while a few others were just acquaintances who happened to coach me in a situation I was dealing and they happened to witness it.

From the looks of it I feel our 1st coaches are our parents. Ironically for me they were just my parents. Looking backwards till date, I feel they are my longest running Coaches in my life. Time and again when I stumbled they were there for me, sometimes teaching, sometimes handholding, sometimes mentoring and sometimes coaching me. In hindsight, even my parents became parents the 1st time when I was born. So, they too were not born coaches! 😊

So, for me no one is born as a Coach. It’s a journey that one starts somewhere in one’s life and it continues till they want to continue being that. More often, in my own journey, I have met people who have coached me and have also seen a few of them stopping to coach after some time. It looks like they were more of Transactional Coaches who were around for certain events in my life and later moved on to their own life or maybe I was already coached enough or that they felt I was UNCOACHABLE further.

But many times, I have found myself UNCOACHABLE. Looking in hind sights I can fairly assume that most of it was driven from the emotion of I know my situation better or the fear of unknown which potentially could lead to failure or lack of trust on the coach itself.

We always imagine ourselves to be knowing every aspect of our situations. While we try different things, but are stumped by the fact that things don’t turnout the way we expect. We push ourselves in the process of doing different things, where in we lack focus or are so obsessed with our approach that we don’t listen to other viewpoints and in fact do end up arguing. We are so confused with thoughts of failure that leads us to be blind to think differently or just make small changes that produces huge impacts. This according to me are the signs of being UNCOACHABLE. I can relate to incidents in my career where this has happened.

For me Coaching has always intrigued on its two main elements, namely Student and Coach. Coaching also means to have attributes like “Attitude”, “Ability”, “Creativity”, “Trust”, “Respect”, “Courage” and “Openness”.  The list is long and many times most of us need to develop one or more of these attributes as we progress on the journey of Coaching.

But before we progress on the journey, two things needed to be asked in Coaching:

  1. Firstly, is the student Coachable?
  2. Secondly does the coach have the right ability (proficiency) to coach someone and is the coach knowledgeable?

This leads to next set of questions:

So, who is the student and who is the coach?

As always, the one who is seeking answers becomes the student, which is easy to define. But before going on a grand search of a Coach, the student must look inwards to be knowledgeable about his strengths and weakness. The student must do this impartially without any justification. Many times, in my life there were situation where I was not even aware let alone knowledgeable about my strength or weakness. I am glad that such situations manifested for me to be able to be aware of them and had people around me who helped me in the journey of the discovery. This I think is the crucial aspect in being a student!

But defining a Coach is harder. The simple reason is that to be a Coach it needed a mixture of being a student while being the teacher at the same time. The Coach needs to be knowledgeable yet be learning to discover new aspects of teaching and subject which make him the teacher and the student at the same time. It is far more important that the coach understands and respects the student and his background, finds out mechanisms and means to help the student understand the nuances and intent while he teaches, mentors, handholds or coaches.

What’s the definition of Being Coachable?

For me being Coachable means someone who is more introspective, analytical, looks within and is willing to learn, adapt and act on the information given and is respectful to all. One needs to have a burning desire to learn and be aware that the knowledge gained so far is so infinitely small compared to the knowledge available out there. Coachable also means that one can never consider oneself as the authority of knowing everything, as one’s knowledge is just like the tip of an iceberg.

So, coming back to Who is a Coach, I think the following 3 points are very important:

  1. Coach must have the mindset to consider himself as a student
  2. Coach must be Coachable himself, as he would not be an expert in everything
  3. Coach must be aware of the situation and the mindset of the student

This now leads me to think about what’s an Agile Coach. I have chosen my career path to be an Agile Coach and this has been over a decade journey for me. Looking back, I started somewhere in early 2000 as a student of eXtreme Programming(XP). What started as a simple journey over the time has evolved in to a state of continuous learning for me. I have moved from one flavour of Agile to another like from XP to SCRUM to KANBAN to LEAN to LEAN STARTUPs. During this journey, I also met awesome expert students who have influenced my learnings and have altered my understanding of the subjects. Even today I feel so nervous to open my mouth and shout saying I am an expert Agile Coach. I still have not been able to grasp all aspects of Agility and have not been able to apply to each and every scenario.

Thinking about Agility, makes me wonder if it:

  1. is all about the Process, Techniques or Jargons?
  2. is more deep rooted?
  3. is all about execution or more about strategy of an organization?
  4. is different for an Individual in a team or a Manager or a Leader?
  5. is for Domains like Computer Software and Manufacturing or can a house wife can apply it to running her house?