How do I nurture and develop coaching skills?

In an agile environment such as a scrum team, a scrum master acts as both the glue that binds the team together and a coach that helps both the individuals and the teams achieve high performance.

It’s a dual role that evolves with time so the sooner you can nurture and develop your agile coaching skills, the better.

Coaching as a practice

Coaching is a practice of practices.

So, once you get over the fundamental theoretical knowledge and skills that you need to get going with coaching, you actively need to practice coaching as much as you can.

The only way you are going to grow as an agile coach is through practice.

It’s always a good idea to invest in coaching courses, mentoring and books to improve your skills and knowledge but coaching is something you actively need to be doing to improve.

So, one of the first things you need to do is actively seek out opportunities to practice.

If you’re fortunate enough to work in a large organisation where there are multiple scrum masters and agile coaches, talk to your colleagues and set up a coaching triad.

Your colleagues will also need opportunities to practice coaching and would also benefit from feedback loops, so you’ll find that it’s easier to get started than you think.

You only need to find two other people to form the coaching triad and ideally you’re looking for people who are open-minded and willing to try new things to improve in their practice as coaches.

If you aren’t part of a large organisation, touch base with fellow scrum masters via LinkedIn or via your network. Again, you’re only going to need 2 more people to set up your coaching triad so it doesn’t need to be a super time-consuming adventure.

The coaching triad

Once you’ve got your two partners, all you need to do is meet on a regular basis and run a coaching dojo.

A coaching dojo is a set up where you have one person who acts as the coach, one person who acts as the coachee (the person being coached), and one observer who will provide feedback.

The focus is on the coach, not the coachee. You’re there to practice coaching and as such, both the observer and the coachee are there to actively help the coach practice and provide feedback.

Each of you will take a turn as the coach, the coachee, and as the observer so you’ll have multiple perspectives to learn from.

Don’t just show up and have a crack at coaching. The greats in any domain are incredibly deliberate about their practice and what they are trying to improve.

So, instead of simply diving in, take some time out beforehand and think about where you need to improve or focus.

Map out your strengths and weaknesses and earmark the areas that need work as your focus for each of your coaching sessions. Explore where you want to focus in your practice for that day.

Once you’ve done that, actively tell your observer what it is that you want to focus on and where you want to improve. It empowers them to focus on those core areas of your practice and make notes on your performance in relation to the specific goals and objectives you are aiming for.

Help the observer understand the purpose of your coaching session and what a great answer looks like from your coaching client.

Once the observer understands the purpose of their role and how they can best serve you, they will act as a mirror and provide you with feedback, challenge some of your actions, and help you develop the skills you most value.

Rather than attempt to provide you with broad and vague feedback on the coaching session as a whole, the observer is able to report back on the areas of focus you discussed earlier and provide you with detailed, actionable feedback on your performance.

As a coach, that deliberate practice combined with immediate and specific feedback will empower you to reflect on your performance and develop ways to improve.

The coachee

In your coaching triad, make sure that the person being coached (coachee) turns up with a real problem that needs solving or a real line of reasoning and opportunity that needs to be explored.

That way, you are practicing with specific and relevant issues and the person who is being coached is deriving very real value out of the interaction and practice.

As the coachee, you want to be open to being coached. You must believe in the value of coaching and that time invested with a coach is a valuable use of your time.

Remember to be nice. Remember that the person coaching you in the triad is actively practicing with the intention of becoming better as a coach. Make sure that you respect their journey, their time, and their effort.

The coach will be trying things out. Experimenting. Actively trying different frameworks, models, and techniques. Some of them you will recognise from your own practice and learning, and others will be completely unfamiliar to you.

Stay open-minded and focus on learning through the experience.

Focus on helping the coach as best you can and ensuring that you remain free of judgement and simply open to the coaching experience and relationship.

You’ll be surprised at how much work you can do, even in a short period of time.

You may also be surprised at just how much value you derive from being coached by someone else.

Structured practice

Understand that this is a practice to improve your capability and competence as a coach. It is work. So, structure the practice during your working hours. It’s part of your job and on-the-job skills development so make time for it in your schedule.

If you simply can’t find others to practice with, look for an opportunity in the formal coaching and training space.

Agile Centre host an ing Academy that is designed to mentor and coach aspiring Agile coaches. It also provides a safe environment where you can actively practice with others as well as receive feedback from highly experienced agile and professional coaches.

Build on your practice with courses, books, and continuous learning.

As you devote more time to mastering your craft, you are going to be better and reap the rewards of a satisfying career journey as well as the monetary rewards that come with being great at your job.

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master, visit our Certified course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill, visit our Advanced Certified course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to both validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional course page.

If you like the idea of mentored and coach-driven skills development, visit our Academy.

If you have identified coaching as a valuable skill to develop, visit our on-demand Introduction to coaching course page.

For more information on John McFadyen, visit

author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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