On August 18, 2020 I joined some colleagues for a MeetUp session on the Business of Agile Coaching. I have done similar sessions on this topic over the years. This was one of an annual series presented by the San Diego chapter of the Agile Coaching Exchange. You can find out more about the group and the session here. (ACE is a great group with local chapters in the US and UK.) Slide decks from some of my prior sessions can be found here. My friends on the panel were Alicia McClain, John Eisenschmidt and Brandon Raines. 

In this year’s session, we wanted to add some commentary around the current state of affairs, how the COVID-19 lockdown has impacted business for most of us in the US and many beyond. Since my personal response was to just step back from my one active client and let my fellow coaches do the real work, I did not have a lot to offer myself. So I went to one of my strongest sources, the Scrum Alliance™ Certified Team Coach® and Certified Enterprise Coach® community for lessons learned. This community is close to my heart, having been a founding team member for both programs.

I posted a survey with a short list of questions.

  1. How has the pandemic affected your coaching business?
  2. What changes have you made to your business and which have been helpful, which not?
  3. Has your certification had any effect on business this year, positive or negative? Why?
  4. What have you learned to achieve more success at coaching under current conditions (you being remote, clients dispersed and working from home, company downsizing, etc.)?
  5. Is there anything else you would like to add?

This is my aggregation of responses from 20 coaches. It was anonymous so please don’t ask me who said what. You may find some answers to be obvious and familiar. You may also find some surprises and ideas on how to make the most of our unusual situation.

Impacts

  • All work is remote and leverages video and digital tools, of course.
  • Have had to retool training products.
  • Less travel means more time for new clients and/or self-improvement work.
  • Billable Hours: 3 increased, 9 decreased, 1 up and down depending on client, 2 down then up.
  • Leads and prospects decreased in general.
  • I now have more global exposure.

Behavior Changes

  • Set up tools and space for video-based work.
  • Learn more about marketing. (frowny face)
  • Remote work takes more hours.
  • Doing more training, less coaching.
  • Retooled training and facilitation artifacts for online interactions.
  • Put effort into more persistent IP (video, blog, books).
  • Less time spent on email.
  • More time to mentor others.
  • Expanded product and service offerings to replace what I can’t offer remotely.

Value of Certification

  • Is CTC/CEC helpful at this time? 6 Yes, 7 Neutral, 0 No
  • Indirectly, certification leads to more speaking engagements, thereby helping to get business.
  • Reputation is worth more than certification.
  • With everyone online and remote, there is more competition from self-proclaimed experts.
  • Training certificates are helpful now to allow sales of online training as a substitute and/or funnel to coaching business.

Lessons Learned

  • Skills and Tools
    • Level up on tools: Zoom, Miro, Mural, Calendly mentioned most.
    • Level up on remote facilitation skills.
    • Keep tool use simple to focus on content instead of technology.
    • Facilitation tools can also provide documentation of decisions made.
    • Make instructions visible when facilitating an exercise.
  • Business
    • Sure glad I had a financial buffer in case of really big emergencies.
    • Do more marketing.
    • Less travel == more time for the client
    • Build your network. Tap your connections.
    • Re-calibrate your compensation expectations.
  • Self-Improvement
    • Patience, patience, patience
    • Be more flexible and open-minded.
    • “Someday” has arrived for professional growth. Make good use of the time.
  • Client Interaction
    • Interactions are more targeted and more pro-active
    • Limit Zoom to 12 people. Use breakouts if you can’t.
    • Actively schedule everything and use a regular cadence when appropriate.
    • Show up for the schedule; don’t wait for client to respond (ie. 1-1s)
    • Kids and dogs are ok.
  • Client Atmosphere
    • Teams adjusted better than expected
    • Team members seem to have more equal voices.
    • Transformation is easier when people are not tied to “place”.
    • Hard to get the bigger picture and undercurrents.
  • Personal
    • Have a separate home office.
    • Let family know your schedule.

Other Observations

  • When working on a coaching team, all-remote work has too much communication overhead (my personal experience)
  • Ironic how much resistance to change there was among Agilists.
  • Remote coaching takes a lot of energy.
  • Quality of coaching is even more important.
  • Don’t try to recreate in-person culture in an on-line world.
  • Self-learning opened up new communities to tap. (ex. Online schools.)

Feel free to comment with your own lessons learned that may benefit your fellow coaches.

 

 

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Agile Coaching in the Age of COVID-19

One thought on “Agile Coaching in the Age of COVID-19

  • August 26, 2020 at 5:24 am
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    Hi Roger! Loved “Ironic how much resistance to change there was among Agilists”! Sometimes we need a strong dose of reality to see and reflect on our own default behaviors. Change can be hard!

    COVID-19 is an unavoidable test of our agility. Agility done right is always situational. The question is, “Do we pass the test for our own unique situation and do we continue to pass the test as the situation evolves through time?”

    Thank you for your continued contribution to our community!

    Onward and upward!

    Reply

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