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Coach Series: Prioritizing Self-Improvement

Expert Lyssa Adkins describes Agile Coaches as being a competent in the following areas: “Agile Lean Practitioner, Professional Coaching, Facilitating, Teaching, Mentoring, Technical Coaching, Business Coaching, and Transformational Coaching.”


Lyssa Adkins diagram of Agile Coach competencies

How many of us feel like we are masters in all of these? It is okay if you don’t, I certainly am don't! And that’s okay! Our goal is to make sure we are at least working towards mastery. But how?


First, do some self-reflection. Identify what areas in Lyssa’s X-Wing diagram are you confident in and which ones might you need to spend some time exploring. For me, I was pretty comfortable in the mentoring/teaching area but knew I needed to work on my facilitation and professional coaching skills.


Second, now that you have identified some areas of improvement, figure out HOW you are going to grow yourself.


One way is making sure you take advantage of any professional development opportunities offered to you. I am fortunate to have worked with a lot of progressive organizations. Each one of them valued professional development.

(If your company does not currently value professional development for its employees, here are some articles that preach the benefits):

This certainly helped me to improve my Agile Coach competencies. But relying solely on my once-per-quarter or once-per-year professional development allowance was not nearly enough. I still felt like I was going obsolete. So how else could I develop myself?


I created an iterative self-development plan. Below are the examples of things I tried with successful results.


Scrum the Self-Development

  • Created a cadence similar to a sprint.

  • Inspected how I did, achievements, goals accomplished or missed.

  • Root cause analysis on any trouble spots..

  • Created a plan for improvement & goals for the next “sprint”

  • Regularly asked for feedback from my stakeholders and users.

Get involved in an Agile Community

  • Agile Meetups! I did a quick Google search to see what was in my area then committed to going to at least one meet-up a month.

  • Connected with other Agile Coaches in my organization and created my own Agile Community.

Study Sessions

  • Booked out some time on my calendar dedicated to growth through reading books, watching online tutorials or trainings, listening to audiobook, or asking others to try out an Agile Exercise with me.

The caveat to doing any of these is to make sure you have a learning goal and that it is achievable.


Example: If your goal is to learn all about Kanban! That is a HUGE goal.

Break it out into smaller, more incrementally achievable goals (like we teach in Agile)


Smaller slices of the bigger goal

FINALLY, commit to actually doing your plan! I might be stating the obvious but I certainly struggled taking charge of my self-development at the beginning. I had a well-intentioned list of all of my growth areas and development plans. The problem was, it remained just a list.


Being able to act on it was difficult. It felt selfish. Taking time away from others to focus on me? I needed courage to make the time to actually do it. I had to work to change my fix mindset of “This is selfish of me!” to a growth mindset of “If I grow my skills, I can be more useful to others.” Once I had overcome my own mental hang-ups, I took my first small step forward.


I began booking out 1 hour a day on my calendar. This was “me” time. I turned off notifications, and just focused on what my next priority was to develop. Once I started committing to this 1 hour a day routine, it became a habit. I started to crave more because I was actually seeing the benefits of my growth reflected in my sphere of influence. The teams were growing too! It felt amazing!


Can you make the time?

So, the takeaways?

If you aren’t already doing this, start prioritizing your own self-development!

  1. Identify your personal areas for growth.

  2. Create an achievable development plan.

  3. Commit to acting on your plan!

By growing yourself as an Agile Coach, you will be able to better serve others.

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