What’s in your coaching tool kit?

What’s in your coaching tool kit?

Once you get past the metaphorical answers; depending on the type of coach you ask you will get a common set of answers. A sports coach generally has a whistle, stopwatch, athletic tape, and a few sport specific items. A life coach may have some assessment forms. Most Agile coaches immediately reach for their stickies & markers (does anyone still call them Post-Its?).

I often hear the answer, The quintessential list of 500 Powerful Questions, but none could pull this out of their briefcase when asked. Although I have assembled a list shy of 100 questions, I don’t cary mine with me either.

Having the right tool for the job is essential. Improvisation and necessity may get the job done, but … 

If you don’t have a personal coaching tool kit I strongly encourage you to start assembling one. Start with one or two simple familiar tools. Build your collection over time. 

What do I cary in my tool kit?

My tool kit fits into a sandwich size ziplock and is as versatile as a Swiss Army knife.

  • First, money talks, so I cary $1,000,000 in assorted (play) currency. Can you put a $ value on…? 
  • I have several card decks:
    • A deck of 12 story cards from the Human Side of Tech This is my mini version of powerful questions.
    • A couple decks of Moving Motivators, Delegation Poker, and a deck of Improv cards from Management 3.0  Each of these have multiple uses with individuals and/or teams.
  • My go to manipulative, as a Lego Serious Play facilitator, is an LSP window kit (ask, build, tell, reflect). This is the best tool I have found for getting traction with complex problems. What is your superpower?

I cary all of this in a Quart size ziplock in my briefcase.

Here is the important catch. If you are going to cary a tool, be sure you know how and when to use it. I cary these physical tools with me. BUT, just because I have them does not mean I always use them. In any coaching situation I first and foremost rely on my skills, and years of training and experience. I don’t let my tool kit become a crutch or a premature shortcut. I reach for these tools only when they are the right tools to help my client move forward.

What’s in your tool kit (and how do you use it)?    

Coaching - Interacting with experiments

Interacting with experiments

Every choice we make, every action we take, is an experiment. Learning comes from how we interact with the data (output / results) of experiments.

Lean Change Management, Experiment Boards, Celebration Grids, Experiment and LEWI Cards all help us to understand how to right size, run, and retrospect experiments. Start with a hypothesis. Make a small change or try something new. Measure the results. Rinse and repeat.

I wholeheartedly believe this is the the best way to interact with complex systems. I also believe most people (myself included) leave money on the table between the measuring of results and moving on to the next experiment. We leave value hidden in the data by not interacting with data.

There is a a profound opportunity for meta-learning by interacting with the data generated from experiments. To get the hidden value, interact with the data beyond the traditional retrospective and inspect and adapt cycle. By questioning the data we can look beyond the “cult of the average” and ask, what stories are the outliers telling? What is happening at the intersection of correlation and causality? How can we subdivide the outputs to see new patterns and what fractals are forming in the meta-data? How can we display our findings to encourage others to explore and interact with both the data and with us? 

Getting intimate with the data makes it easier to ask questions like “what if” and “how might we?” Leverage the output of one set of experiments to create the next. Build micro-experiments to deliver focused results. Personally interacting with the data moves the the information from the cold and impersonal, to a tool for growth and exploration where we own the process from the design to result. 

Working with the data provides an audit trail to show how specific actions create meaningful results. As a coach, I have a tool to measure my contribution and the value my effort delivers.

How can you use the output of your experiments to leverage learning and increase your ROI?

Additional resources:

Jason Little’s Lean Change Management

Jurgen Appelo’s Celebration Grid

Vanessa Shaw’s LEWI Cards