Who Is Your Coach?

If you are anything like me, finding a good coach or mentor is a challenge. Frankly, until recently I had a good excuse: I had no idea what a good coach looked like. After doing a little reading I’ve come to realize that there are a few things that I need to find in a coach:

  • They need to have model of the discipline or domain that is more detailed and robust than mine
  • They need to be able to make a connection with me on a personal level
  • They need to be able to provide a coherent vision of what the path to success looks like

You see, it’s all too often that I’ve been in seminars on Agile coaching and realized one of two things: either I really have no idea how to advance beyond my current skill level, or whatever the current state of affairs is – it provides me no guidance on where to go next. At these times I feel stuck in a rut. What I need is somebody who can paint a picture for me of what the discipline of coaching should look like. In the case of someone who is already fairly experienced, that picture needs to be very detailed.

Of course they need to be someone that I can relate to well. This is a tough piece of chemistry to get right. For some people this may mean that they relate best to someone who has a very spiritual bent. For me, it probably means somebody with all the scintillating personality of a marine drill sergeant (on LSD). It’s going to be different for everyone. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert by nature, but I find it hard to make that kind of a connection. Fortunately, there are lots of other proxies for a coach that are available to me:

  • Teams: Being part of a well functioning team provides insanely good feedback and guidance.
  • Colleagues: Whether it’s in consultation over a beer or between sessions at a conference, I learn a lot from my peers.
  • Social media: There’s nothing quite like saying something stupid in front of a large audience to generate feedback!
  • Reflection: I write in a journal, reflecting on what happened in the day, how I felt about it, and what I plan to do about it.

I’m sure there are lots of other obvious or not-so-obvious ways that people obtain coaching for themselves. What are some examples that work for you?

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