Interviewing Agile Executive Coaches

hiringIn a previous post we proposed the question..  “How do I hire a good Agile coach?”

…however that was inadequate – so, we proposed a new question..  “Which type of agile coach do I need?”

Followed by…  “How do I hire a good agile executive coach?”

Start a true agile transformation with agile executive coaching, not Scrum or technical coaching. Here are a few characteristics of great agile executive coaches:

1. Passionate about agile

Ask the interviewee to “Describe what you like about agile and why?” They should be able to talk about it for hours.

2. Significant personal successes

Agile has been around long enough now you should be able to hire an agile executive coach who has pulled off more than one significant transformation. You should be able to visit the organization they transformed and see in person that it is real. Better yet, do this before you hire the executive coach!

3. Experience with organization type

If you are a startup they should have experience launching startups. If you are a large bureaucracy they should have experience working for years in a large bureaucracy. If you are executing the Hero Model they should have experience with heroic organizations. They do not need experience in your specific business domain, but they must have experience with your organization type.

4. Highly suspicious of KPIs and metrics

They should be highly suspicious of KPIs and metrics yet insist you use at least of few of them to track progress. Look for executive coaches who back up their stories with data, yet can also tell you how the data is open to radically different interpretations. They should leverage data yet be able to tell multiple different and even conflicting interpretations from the same set of data. As a result, they should insist you observe agility in action in addition to trending the KPIs and metrics.

5. Refuse to work alone

Agile transformation is always a team effort. You do not need one coach, you need a mutually supporting coaching team with different skills at different times. An effective agile executive coach should be able to describe this reality in detail.

Coaching is not a one stop shop. It is not one size fits all. A good sign your agile executive coach knows what they are doing is they seek to bring in all sorts of different resources at different times to help your organization grow. They have a list of specialists they trust and they use that list extensively.

6. They make executives agile

This is listed last, but it could easily be first. An agile executive coach should be focused on making the executives themselves agile. They should be working with the executives to change the nature of the executives’ communications, meetings, interactions, metrics, reports, and pronouncements. They should be transforming the executives themselves into a living breathing examples of agility. No, this is not done by teaching the executives Scrum.

A note about exceptional executive coaches.

Not only do you pick an executive coach, a great executive coach also picks you. They work with people they enjoy, with people who love to learn, with people who really want to be more agile—a great executive coach finds rewards in observing the successful transformation. Hence, a great agile executive coach may be very difficult to hire if you are not really ready for them.

It ties all the way back to our first characteristic—great coaches are first and foremost passionate about agile. They find transformation exhilarating and stagnation depressing.

So, if you want to attract a serious agile executive coach be serious about your desire and need to change. Be able to explain what needs to change, why, and why you believe agility is the best direction. A good agile executive coach will ask you what you have already done, what you’ve read, what conferences you’ve attended (note: they may be happy if you say none), and what resources you rely on to grow your knowledge of agile.

A great agile executive coach will insist you visit other sites. A great agile executive coach will require you to take training. A great agile coach will provide you with a library of books to read, articles to peruse, and Ted Talks to watch. A great agile executive coach commit to supporting you long-term, if they see you are serious about making progress.

“How do I hire a great agile executive coach?”

Ask big open ended questions and listen for all of the above.

By Tom (Thomas) Meloche –

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