Five Lessons to Help You Be a Better Team Coach

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In the past two months, I lost nearly eight kilos (roughly seventeen pounds) after I joined a fitness program assisted by a personal trainer (PT). This is a success story for me. And when I traced the steps back, I noticed a number of things that resonate with coaching teams.

Below are some of the steps my personal trainer took when he consulted with me, followed by my comments to bring the idea of coaching teams into perspective. You’ll find that there is a strong correlation between what I learned during my training endeavors and what constitutes good team coaching.

1. Understand requirements: The first question the trainer asked me upon signing up for the fitness program was about requirements. Do I need to lose or increase weight or build muscle?

Coaching lesson: It is important to understand the customers’ requirements before starting any coaching assignment. It is not safe to assume that everyone needs cheaper, better software. Ask as many questions as possible before delving into the next step.

2. Inquire about health: Once the trainer was happy with the requirements, he inquired about my current health. He did a quick blood check and a blood-pressure test, in addition to taking my height and weight measurements.

Coaching lesson: Don’t jump into coaching without understanding the current health of the system. Understand team morale, culture, leadership style, and relationships. Have one-on-one meetings with key players to understand their feelings, ideas, and thoughts.

3. Recommend the right equipment: Based on the above information, the PT recommended four pieces of equipments I should use, and demonstrated their use. This moderate regime recommendation was tracked through a daily register.

Coaching lesson: Start with a few agile or lean practices and coach the team on them. Choose two or three simple practices rather than the big-bang approach of teaching everything about Scrum. Ensure that the progress is tracked carefully.

4. Monitor and coach: While I exercised, my PT observed me carefully and corrected any mistakes. He told me what could go wrong during an exercise and how to recover from any injury.

Coaching lesson: The coach needs to observe team members closely by attending their daily standups, retrospectives, or any other rituals. Set up walls with information charts to track the progress; this enables visibility and transparency in addition to providing the feedback. Correct the mistakes as it happens. Providing the right feedback is critical here.

5. Introduce advanced tools and regimes: Once I successfully completed my initial regime, my PT introduced me to advanced tools and increased the duration of my exercises.

Coaching lesson: You should introduce advanced agile or lean practices based on the past improvements. It is very important for the team to understand the “Whys” in addition to the “What” and “How” behind practices.

In the end, I realized that the weight-loss program worked because of the combined effort of the trainer and my willingness to reduce weight. Change persists only with willingness, collaboration—and not with force.

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Venkatesh Krishnamurthy

Venkatesh Krishnamurthy is an author, speaker and a coach. In his 15+ years of career in the software industry, he has played different roles as a developer, architect and an Agile coach.