Employees working on laptops

On coaching: Insights from a journey towards change

Last year was a year of change and growth for us. With new people coming in and the world evolving around us, it’s important to pay attention to internal ways of working.

The discussion concerning self-direction and agility has been lively recently. The efficiency reached with these approaches naturally fascinates and interests us. Simultaneously, the new roles of supervisors and managers in organizations has raised some uncertainty on who is responsible and for what. If everyone is holding their own share of the responsibility, what happens if they start tugging it in different directions? In these instances, a shared goal and vision are more crucial than ever.

Some may feel that the change in assignment structures brought along by self-direction can cause extra work – and life already feels too hectic. However, learning new things requires a lot of work and it can sometimes be hard to let go of well-rehearsed practices if you don’t understand a new way of working or recognize the benefits it could offer. Change can be hard, even chaotic, but growing pains are a natural part of development. You need to work for change fearlessly and give it time. It may be a cliché, but freedom and responsibility go hand in hand ­­– and freedom is something we all strive for. It is also one of our key values at Frantic.

Frantic has used Lean, Agile and Scrum methods for years now in projects and with clients. Our experts have worked in different operational environments as a part of our clients’ Scrum teams and a large portion of our project managers are certified Scrum Masters. Even though our workplace has always encouraged learning and trying out agile ways of working, 2018 showed us what sort of company-wide efforts are required in order to achieve a real self-directing work environment and authentic agility.

For us team leaders this has meant the restructuring of our own roles as well as developing our own professional skills as the facilitators, enablers, coaches and supporting pillars of both the team and the client.

Below I will go through some new things I learnt in 2018 and some insights they brought along.

Start with the basics

Inspired by the Scan Agile conference last spring, I tried to find out more about opportunities for further learning on the topic of coaching in Finland. There are multiple trainings and I began with a training focused on “agile coaching”. With this course I further improved my understanding of professional coaching and obtained tools for my ever-developing coaching toolkit. After the training I was able to better identify situations of communication and interaction where I could easily adopt the role of a coach.

Dig in deeper

In the early fall of 2018, I attended a three-day Agile Coach Camp in Espoo. As a first-timer I quickly assumed the role of an observer: I was listening carefully and learning from other coaches at the conference, based on the Open Space method. I was nervous about attending the camp because I was afraid that maybe I wasn’t distinguished enough as a coach – only to realize quickly that I was not alone. There’s a vast group of people from all sorts of backgrounds working with this subject. What everyone had in common is the willingness to improve the interaction and cooperation between people. During the weekend I got to know other coaches and fell in love with the Agile Finland community that works with this subject.  

Ask for help and gain insight

Instead of tackling this change alone at Frantic, we created a training program with our team leaders and Codento in order to build our know-how in coaching. We compared our ways of working and offered each other valuable peer support in the midst of change. We also went through agile concepts and operations models, self-directing practices and, most importantly of all: how to apply these to our specific team environment. It turned out to be an excellent idea to ask for outside help – in this way we could discuss things in the Frantic context openly and with trust.

To further deepen my understanding of coaching theory, I attended a training program called Brain-based Coaching, organized by NeuroLeadership Group Finland. To balance out all the theory, a huge bulk of the learning happens with your team and clients. As a multitasker prone to jumping to conclusions, I have focused especially on challenging myself so that I will have the patience to listen, ask and support the coachee in finding solutions on their own.

A safe environment for change

The coming year will be crucial in implanting coaching practices and self-directing operations models at Frantic. Information will not reach everyone simultaneously or on its own, so it is important to underline process transparency and open dialogue. It’s also a good idea to voice the realities of operational environments so that it is clear for everyone how self-directing practices are carried out here at Frantic.

Coaching trainings shouldn’t be seen as something project managers do exclusively, but it should be available for everyone. Designers and developers also benefit from communication and interaction skills. The most important aspect is your own interest toward the subject and the courage to seek change. It’s important to create an environment in which it feels safe to try – and also fail. In the end an agile way of working is exactly this: trying new things boldly, learning continuously, and doing things better.

Would you like to know more about how change and coaching go hand in hand? I’d love to talk more!