Agile Coaching Exchange – Kim Morgan


This week I attended Agile Coaching Exchange meet up in London. The guest speaker for the evening was Kim Morgan of Barefoot Coaching who is co-author of “The Coach’s Casebook: Mastering The Twelve Traits That Trap Us”

Principles of Coaching

Kim introduced us to some of the Key Principles of Coaching:

  • Listening to ignite the human mind
  • Presupposing success
  • Leveraging Motivation
  • Understanding Transformation
  • Use of emotion and creativity
  • Coach as instrument of change

Dynamics of Personal Change

Kim explained that transformational change is almost always linked to strong emotion.

A typical journey towards transformation includes:

Kim also introduced to us the thoughts of Jack Mezirow who is widely acknowledged as the founder of transformative learning. Two situations that give rise to transformative learning are:

  • A disorientating dilemma
  • A state of puzzlement

In contrast we also looked at Peter Jarvis work which explores Non-Transformative situations which are everyday things that require no learning:

“Non-learning is our response to everyday experience. As long as experience conforms to our mental models, no learning is required.”

We also looked at common motivators for individuals. We either move towards pleasure or away from pain.

Coaching Cards

The first practical exercise of the evening introduced us to Coaching Cards. We used the Barefoot Coaching Picture Cards

Each person was asked:

  1. “Think about a time in your life where you experienced a significant change.”
  2. Select a picture card that represents that change
  3. In pairs, share the experience and why you chose that picture

Feedback following exercise:

  • Pictures acted as a bridge to get thoughts out into the real world
  • Our minds make a mental connection to the picture
    • This demonstrates “Physcological Projection” which was conceptualised by Freud.
  • Picture cards could be used for Sprint Retrospectives “Pick a picture card that you feel  represents this sprint.”


Next Kim introduced us to deep and bold listening citing much of Nancy Kline’s work in Time to Think


She talked about listening as a belief not a behaviour. Interestingly there is scientific proof that genuine listening from another person generates the feeling of being in Love. Listening is a skill that many of us struggle with. How often are people interrupted in your workplace?
An interesting example  presented was from Doctors surgery. GPs thought they listen for 3 minutes when a patient first arrives into their surgery. In reality it was 20 seconds. This essentially led to longer consultation time and patients feeling like they weren’t understood. If the GP listened for longer they would have shorter consultations and patients reported better experiences.

To demonstrate the importance of listening we did another practical exercise.

In pairs do the following:

  1. One person assume the role of Listener
  2. One person assume the role of Thinker
  3. Listener asks “What do you want to think about today?”
  4. The thinker than has 5 minutes of uninterrupted thinking time. The listener cannot respond in anyway.

Feedback following exercise:

  • Thinker talks like the other person wasn’t there
  • Silence is good! Don’t fill the space with talking
    • PAUSE is very effective!!!
    • Think WAIT:
      • Why
      • Am
      • I
      • Talking
  • Helps to understand without interjecting. Our understanding of the other person isn’t so shallow if we listen for longer
  • When listening Body language important – Use it to express interest but avoid leading the session through body language

Want to explore coaching further?

I’d highly recommend getting “The Coach’s Casebook: Mastering The Twelve Traits That Trap Us” It is full of lots of real examples and exercises.


What is coaching?


At the start of this year my job title changed to “Agile Coach”. I’d always thought I had a pretty good idea of what “Coaching” is and that i’d been doing it to some degree in my previous testing and agile roles. Now I was officially a “Coach” i wanted to explore it further. It’s been an eye opening journey.

Firstly lets look at Agile Coaching which Lyssa Adkins defines as:

“Agile coaching is really important because we have a bunch of crappy Agile happening in the world right now. Even when it’s happening fairly well, I just know that pumping up mediocre results faster was not really the main intention behind this way of working.

I think coaches are an integral part to helping teams get to astonishing results because it’s all in the interactions of human beings where that happens. There is no piece of it in the Agile framework that’s going to help you with that. Having Agile framework there and working well, it’s certainly going to provide the structure and the container within which that can happen, the boundaries. But there are so much more to do within those boundaries, so many more things to bring to the team, so many more ideas and things from different disciplines – things from conflict management and facilitation and teaching and mentoring and professional coaching and a few more.” [1]

If we look at this definition Lyssa clearly highlights the benefit a coach can bring to the Agile context. In particular helping teams apply Agile principles and practices more effectively.

Things get interesting though in the second paragraph – “interactions of human beings”. This opens up a whole new dimension to the “Agile Coach”.

Timothy Gallway author of the Inner Game defines “Coaching” as:

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” [2]

This was an eye opening perspective. When I reflect much of my prior experience has been around teaching. 

In my quest to get a deeper understanding of “interactions of human beings” i’ve been reading Geoff Watts excellent book: 

The Coach’s Casebook: Mastering the twelve traits that trap us.

In the book Geoff explores common traits within individuals that can often trap us such as Imposter Syndrome, Going to Excess and Cynicism. Geoff explains that with the right techniques individuals can harness these traits to become highly successful people.

Geoffs book has provided me with a valuable inisight to coaching and with each trait he provides Tools and Techniques to help harness the traits for good.

 I’m enjoying exploring “Coaching” at a deeper level even though I’m a little overwhelmed by the the small stack of books next to my desk.

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