I am in the process of reading a book that I am very excited about, “Coaching Agile Teams” by Lyssa Adkins. The reading is slow-going because each section is so thought-provoking. I am finding it clear and concise as well as plentiful in applications for life and work. Here is one section that I would like to share from the third chapter, Master Yourself. I hope you can find it inspiring as well:

Probably few of us would say that we bring violence to the people we coach. Most likely our team rooms do not erupt in violence, at least not the physical kind. What about the verbal kind? Although we may not consider the way we talk to be violent, our words can wound people and cause them pain.

To see this in action in your coaching, consider these questions honestly, and count how many “yes” and “no” answers you come up with (adapted from Baran and Center for NonViolent Communication 2004):

  • Do you spend some time each day quietly reflecting on how you would like to relate to yourself and others?
  • Do you remember that all human beings have the same needs?
  • Before every conversation, do you check your intention to see whether you are as interested in others getting their needs me as your own?
  • When asking someone to do something, do you check first to see whether you are making a request or a demand?
  • Instead of saying what you don’t want someone to do, do you say what you do want the person to do?
  • Before agreeing or disagreeing with anyone’s opinions, do you try to tune in to what the person is feeling and needing?
  • Instead of saying “no” do you say what need f yours prevents you from saying “yes”?
  • If you are feeling upset, do you think about what need of yours is not being met, and what you could do to meet it, instead of thinking about what’s wrong with others or yourself?
  • Instead of praising someone who did something you like, do you express gratitude by telling the person what need of yours was met?

If you answered “no” to more than a few of these questions, there is a good chance that your communication has been unintentionally hurtful. It has been violent, and it doesn’t mater that you didn’t mean it. To have an important impact, the kind of impact a coach needs to have to influence people and help them become good agilists, you must pay attention to you language and take responsibility for your emotional wake (Scott 2007). This means that you own up to your impact whether harm was intended and whether you think the other person should feel hurt or not.

For a leader, there is no such thing as a trivial comment. Something you might not even remember saying may have had a devastating impact on someone looking to you for guidance and approval. (Scott 2007)

As an agile coach, team members look to you for guidance and approval, especially in the beginning when being agile has them at once excited and terrified. The people we coach will not be motivated to change or take a risk when they feel we have hurt them – diagnosed them, judged them, sidestepped them or manipulated them.

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