The Agile For Agilists Podcast

Are Agile Coaches Really Coaches? Examining the “Coach” Suffix with Holly Acre

October 25, 2023
Podcast image for Season 3 Episode 4 of The Agile for Agilists Podcast featuring an image of Holly Acre, who is a Professional Performance Coach
Agile For Agilists
Are Agile Coaches Really Coaches? Examining the "Coach" Suffix with Holly Acre
In this episode of the “Agile for Agilists Podcast,” hosts Drew Podwal and Brad Nelson sit down with special guest Holly Acre, a public school teacher turned Sales Enablement Coach with a unique twist — she applies Agile principles to her coaching practice. The conversation takes a deep dive into the intriguing intersection of Agile methodologies and professional coaching, shedding light on a common challenge within the Agile community — Agile Coaches often haven’t been trained to coach.

With her extensive background in coaching and teaching, Holly offers a fresh perspective on the subject and shares her valuable insights that any professional coach, agile or otherwise, can learn from. She reveals how she applies agile principles in her work with sales teams, helping them navigate the complex business world of individual development, sales, and customer relationships.

Throughout the episode, Drew and Brad are genuinely fascinated by Holly’s experiences and how her coaching skills have benefited the sales teams she works with. They discuss the challenges and successes she has encountered, drawing parallels to their experiences as Agile Coaches in the Agile industry. Holly’s expertise in motivation, goal setting, conflict resolution, and feedback becomes a treasure trove of inspiration for Agile coaches looking to upskill their coaching game.

Tune in to this insightful episode to discover: — How Agile principles can be adapted to various professional contexts. — The importance of formal coaching training for Agile coaches. — Real-world examples of coaching practices benefiting sales teams. — Strategies for fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Whether you’re an Agile coach seeking to enhance your coaching skills or simply interested in the dynamics of coaching in sales and Agile, this episode promises valuable takeaways and engaging insights. Join Drew, Brad, and Holly for a conversation that bridges the worlds of sales and Agile, highlighting how agile coaches can use the agile mindset to successfully coach agile.


S03E04-Are Agile Coaches Really Coaches? Examining the “Coach” Suffix with Holly Acre

[00:00:00] Announcer:

[00:00:29] Holly Acre: Hi, I’m Holly Aker and I’m applying Scrum Practices and Principles within my CELS Team Performance Coaching

[00:00:35] Drew Podwal: lists. Welcome to another episode of the Agile for Agilists podcast. My name is Drew Podwal and I’ll be joined in a bit with my host. Brad Nelson. Today’s episode is pretty cool. We got to sit down with Holly acre, former colleague and coworker of Brad’s. Holly’s really special and unique. In her day to day job, she’s a performance coach for a sales organization sitting down one-on-one with them and applying the practices and principles of straight up coaching. Which you guys know, I get really giddy about. The cool thing though, about Holly is that. She came across scrum on her own and decided to figure out how she could apply it into practice with her one-on-one coaching , for the sales organization. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. And I think it’s going to be really cool because it’s not a usual episode. we’re talking about what does it mean to be a coach? Because we forget that a lot of us call ourselves agile coaches and maybe we’re great with dev ops and we’re great with scrum and we know design thinking And. All of that, but how many of you here have ever actually sat down in a classroom to learn what it truly means to be a coach? Agnostic. To agile. Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about.

[00:01:42] As a reminder, our website is www dot Agile for Agilists dot com. You could send us an email at podcast at Agile for Agilists dot com.

[00:01:51] We’ve also got some stickers that we’ve been sending out to some of our audience members who’ve reached out. Please feel free to send us your name and address, and we will get a sticker in the mail for you. So sit back, relax and enjoy the episode.

[00:02:04] Brad Nelson: Yeah, so we’re talking about sales and Agile, and I’m rereading the paragraphs because I’ll be honest, I didn’t fully understand exactly, but it sounded like you and Drew were like,, yes, this is awesome. So I trust you.

[00:02:15] Drew Podwal: I’m excited for this one

[00:02:17] Brad Nelson: Yeah we tend to talk about software development specifically, and we tend to talk about a team specifically. So I think that, just understanding more, like the way that you’re applying these practices, is important. and then I would just say, a huge component of Agile is, , feedback and learning.

[00:02:33] And so, that would probably be my bullet point, is to just understand, like, how you’re applying feedback and learning throughout

[00:02:39] Drew Podwal: Yeah, I, that’s the part that stood out to me is we’ve had a lot of people on here talking about, Agile and Scrum and SAFE and Kanban and, Lean Change Management and whatnot, all focused on how can software organizations and developers and coaches leverage Agile and Scrum and other methodologies towards improving the way that their organization is working.

[00:03:02] But what you’ve done is like on your own, you’ve kind of discovered, this is really cool. How can I apply this, , within my coaching as a model for helping the sales organization to grow in their, capabilities and performance and delivery. So, how, how did that kind of come about for you?

[00:03:20] Holly Acre: Okay. Yeah. So before I started working at Insight, I was an elementary teacher for six years. So I taught third grade for four years and kindergarten for two. , and then I didn’t want to do that any longer. So I found out about Insight, got hired as a seller there and worked as a seller for almost two years before, , they moved me.

[00:03:43] Like one of my favorite things about doing that job was I’m still a teacher at heart. Right. So What really, um, got me excited was helping others like be more successful. And I know that in the sales role, a lot of times people can be like, Oh, well, this is working for me.

[00:03:57] I’m going to keep it to myself. I could never keep any of that information that made me successful to myself. So I moved into the sales coach role, but before that I was exploring, Other, other routes, so I started talking to some people at our company who are Scrum Masters, because I’d heard, teachers make good Scrum Masters.

[00:04:14] So I was like, ooh, what, what is that? I’m really curious. And then that led me to, , The professional scrum master class.

[00:04:22] And I really loved it, enjoyed it so much. So, , that’s what sparked my interest in. the world of Agile. So,

[00:04:31] Drew Podwal: How did that kind of come about for you?

[00:04:33] Holly Acre: So let’s say I start a new, you know, coaching engagement with a new teammate that I haven’t been working with before. I viewed the sessions as different parts of the events that happen when you are using scrum. Okay. And it’s not a perfect one to one overlay. . But some of these do apply.

[00:04:52] So when I first start a coaching engagement, with a new teammate, I have what I call session zero. So it’s [00:05:00] not the beginning of our sessions.

[00:05:01] This session is just to understand, and what are you trying to Gain from being coached. Like, what are you trying to accomplish? so we, we work off of SMART goals, you know, that’s an acronym for Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time Bound. So we co create a SMART goal in this session.

[00:05:21] And then This is what I would view as my product backlog and the product being a more effective seller, uh, or an effective seller. And , my first session is the product backlog and sprint planning. I kind of combine those. So, we create their SMART goal and then brainstorm, what all does it take in order to accomplish this?

[00:05:45] I put that as like brainstorm your backlog or your action items, and then you prioritize them. Like what, what is going to deliver value like first? So which one should we focus on first? And then I also introduced Kanban, so that they can visually see, okay, as I accomplish this action item, it’s moving into this column, or like if I get hung up on this, it’s in my, doing column, and then if I need help on it, Holly can see that because she’s got access to the board that we are working off of.

[00:06:17] we usually have sessions every two weeks, so we’ll give them two weeks to go, go do the work. So in between then, though, is what I would call my, and I’m putting this air quotes that people who are listening on audio probably can’t see, um, our daily scrum, which is just for us, I looked at as just a check in ping of like, what are you needing from me?

[00:06:37] And we’re like a two person team here. Um, what do you need from me in order to accomplish this? Goal and again, I, I know just by working with my mentor, , it’s not a status update. That is what the board is for . So I wanna notate that as well.

[00:06:54] But then after they’ve done done the two weeks of work, we come back and I have session one now. Session one is where I host my mini review. and Retrospective. And I would have them demonstrate your learning. What did you learn from what you just did? And so that was really important for them to vocalize that to me. , cause I don’t think that that’s something that they get the chance to do often, especially working, as a remote sales teammate.

[00:07:25] And then my retrospective question is , how did you feel about the process? , what would you change? , how did you feel? Like while, while you were doing the work Is this how you’re going to go about doing it? This is important and helpful because I had one teammate who one thing on his action item was talk to a more tenured seller to get an idea of how to have better prospecting techniques and he said, you know, one thing Holly I would change is I didn’t take any notes in that meeting so I’m just working off of memory of what this guy told me and I was like, oh, well that’s important to notate and to change for next time, isn’t it?

[00:08:03] So, I would start to uncover more things like that about how they were going about doing their work as opposed to the work itself. So I thought that was really. a really great thing about like trying to implement these agile practices and like what I was doing and then after that we, okay, what’s the next action item that will provide more value quickest, right?

[00:08:24] And then the process would repeat. So that’s kind of how I decided to apply Scrum or Scrum Bon. Oh, no, dropped it to, um, to my sales coaching engagements.

[00:08:39] Brad Nelson: That’s really cool, actually. I really like that. That, it reminds me of a more formalized mentoring or coaching type relationship that we would sometimes do, , as coaches with Scrum Masters or product owners. , so it’s usually more scrum or software related, but, yeah, it reminds me of a coaching contract.

[00:08:59] And so I think that’s

[00:09:00] Drew Podwal: But much more structured, right? And so I was pinging Brad in the background while you were talking and, one, like I’m so excited to have this discussion. It’s a conversation I’ve wanted to have for a while. The thing that really, stands out to me and the reason why like the listeners should really be paying attention right now is, is that you’re coming from this from an angle of purist coaching that just happened to.

[00:09:25] come across Agile and Scrum, practices and has now leveraged your ability to coach, using these, these practices. And I think that most Agile coaches, and I’ve said this before, you know, most Agile coaches, they understand, uh, Scrum and Kanban and DevOps and all these things, but they never sat in a classroom to learn what it means to be a coach.

[00:09:51] And they just use the industry title of I’m an Agile Coach, you know, so Where did you learn how to be a coach? That’s what I’m curious about because [00:10:00] you are a coach like I’ve taken You know purist coach. I’ve got my ICF ACC and all the words that you’re using are like super high level like coaching Phrases and words.

[00:10:13] So where did you pick that up? Where did you learn that?

[00:10:16] Holly Acre: I mean, we had some training about, being a coach and. It’s interesting because being a coach and being a teacher, like, I have been focusing really hard on being just a coach and trying to uncover. I, myself, have also been coached. So, I’ve taken notes from what my good coaches have done with me and how, watched how they’ve pulled the answers.

[00:10:45] That like are already within me, out of me, but that’s not always the case when you’re working with sales teammates because they may need, some education, and then you slowly start to let them go, and then they start to trust themselves, and you can ask the questions, and they can uncover the answers that they already.

[00:11:03] You know, start to have, right. but yes, I had some training at the beginning of being a sales coach, but I also, in my free time, I’m also very into, life coaching. So that’s something that, uh, really interests me as well.

[00:11:19] Drew Podwal: Do you also do life coaching? Is that what you’re saying?

[00:11:21] Holly Acre: So I do also have a side hustle and I coach teachers who are looking to leave teaching. so I myself have changed my career out of teaching. So when I can turn around, help other teachers like do that process, I do so as well. So yes,

[00:11:39] Drew Podwal: so I, I took my ICF ACC certification a three years back now. and I learned so much I was struggling as an agile coach because I, really felt a sense of responsibility for the other person’s success my, Agile team success or, program successor, product owner, whatever.

[00:11:58] And. And I was kind of killing myself doing that. by learning what it actually means to be a coach, it helped me to figure out, A. I’m not responsible, I’m just a facilitator, They’re the ones who are doing all the work. They’re the ones who get to make the decisions. They’re the ones who come up with the ideas.

[00:12:17] It’s just, my job is to hold the space for them and to ask them, insightful questions that’ll help them to get better clarity and insight and whatnot. And, and so I really love that, you’re pulling this all together, that you’ve, adopted like scrum in, in your coaching practices. I also think Brad, this touches on the topic that we’ve always debated around whether or not you need to be a technologist or a developer or an architect to be a scrum master or an agile coach. And like, I think that Holly is complete evidence here that that’s not the case. Like you just need somebody who really understands the art of coaching.

[00:13:01] Holly, let me ask you a question. Would you feel confident using the skills that you had, in a finance organization or in a medical setting or in the middle of a like software organization?

[00:13:17] Holly Acre: right. So my leader of the sales coach, or she actually, when she hires people in to be sales coaches, they don’t necessarily have to be expert sellers to be a good coach. So, you can still use some of the similar questions to, , get people to uncover the answers that they need, , without having to be an expert on what it is that they are doing.

[00:13:43] you were sometimes kind of a mirror for them to help them untangle, like what they’re trying to resolve.

[00:13:50] Drew Podwal: Yeah.

[00:13:51] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. And, and what I love about your story too, is I’ve said this countless times. You don’t have to call it Agile to be Agile or do Agile or whatever verb we’re using today. And when we asked you, like, or when Drew asked you. How did you learn this? What you said was empiricism. I learned it from experience.

[00:14:12] And that is the heart of agility. Don’t assume. Don’t just make stuff up. Observe. And what you observe, use that to project future actions or best habits. And so, I would say you were an Agilist way before you took the PSM class.

[00:14:29] You just didn’t know it.

[00:14:31] Holly Acre: When you say like being an Agilist before I even learned about what Agile was, Being a public school teacher allowed me to get kind of in that mindset because I started to think of the events and Scrum and then think back to oh, yeah So my product backlog was maybe me doing my lesson planning and then the sprint was me Teaching the lessons over a certain like we worked off nine weeks then so like I’m going to do my sprint of [00:15:00] work of teaching these lessons and then at the end doing a review and a retrospective maybe with my, my teammates or the other people on my grade level.

[00:15:10] So how did these, how did this lesson planning or how did these lessons land for these students? I mean, you can also just tell just by the assessment of their knowledge, right? but then each time we did it, we were learning. This worked well, this didn’t, let’s improve upon this for next go around, um, because also it’s always changing because you always have a different, what works for one set of students might not always work for that next round of students that you get.

[00:15:38] being a public school teacher, you’re always trying to, , learn and adapt and, you’re constantly inspecting your work, because you have to be, got to be on your toes.

[00:15:49] Brad Nelson: Definitely.

[00:15:50] Drew Podwal: You know, quiz test and grade scores is not the only metrics or metric that you’re using, right? You’re watching the students and you’re observing them and you’re listening to them. Like we always joke that the best metric in scrum is, the angle of your lean in the chair. If you’re leaning back, you’re, closed off.

[00:16:07] If you’re leaning in, you’re excited. There are some people who just have a really good intuition for understanding people’s facial expressions and social cues and things like that, that, you know, help them to realize .

[00:16:22] How they’re feeling, right? And almost what their thoughts are on the subject because it’s a person’s thoughts and feelings that determine their action or inaction, Or a degree of action that they’re gonna take into it and like that’s true with students I would imagine that you could see a student like Drifting off into space or you can see when they’re engaged or like you could tell when they’re frustrated or when they’re like excited Or when they’re helping others and when others are being helped like do they feel like they’re being treated like they’re stupid or grateful for that that other student providing them with some guidance and that’s inherent to being a great coach

[00:17:06] Holly Acre: Another thing I was going to add that I was thinking of, like, whenever I was a teacher and relating it to Agile is I would have, morning meetings. And looking back on it, that was one of the best things that I could have done because in that meeting, I’m doing a pulse check with the students of , okay, what’s working, even things that just.

[00:17:25] in regards to how the classroom is running, we’re having this happening. How does that make everyone feel? And how can we change this and make it different? So having that open dialogue to have like a mini Retrospective with them, I was like, Oh my gosh, like I’ve already been doing this or in this mindset and I see how much it made a difference in how I ran that, that classroom. So being able to do that again now with my sales teammates, yeah, I need to do more of a pulse check with them.

[00:17:57] I loved asking them those questions of like. Okay, what did you learn from this? And they get to tell me, but then how did you feel about the way in which you went about that work? Do you like it? Do we not like it? I had one of teammates share with me too. He said , I just do the work. I didn’t really think about how I was going about doing the work.

[00:18:16] And I was said, yeah, sometimes it’s nice to stop and take a second and think back about how you did it. Right? And he’s said, yeah, I’m uncovering a lot. And I said, Yeah, me too. Like when I started asking myself these questions, I uncovered a lot too. It’s like, it’s okay to pause and take a second and look back of like, Hmm, do we like how that went?

[00:18:36] What are we going to change? Or what did we learn from that? So, I could tell it was very impactful when I started changing how I went about coaching the, these teammates when I started to implement some of the Agile stuff that I was learning about. I’ve learned a lot about Agile lately and I’ve started even, , in my onboarding class,

[00:18:54] I recently took a, uh, training on liberating structures, using, you know, how y’all use like Mural or Miro. All I have is Microsoft Whiteboard, but I took some of those liberating structures and I already applied them to, like, have an onboarding group. So I have a group of 10. So it’s been great to, like, increase collaboration amongst these people, , in this class.

[00:19:17] So I’m really excited about that too.

[00:19:20] Drew Podwal: Have you ever used the sailboat, exercise before to help create vision?

[00:19:25] Holly Acre: No.

[00:19:26] Drew Podwal: So it, it’s, um, you know, back when we were used to, used to being in the office, right? You would go up to a whiteboard and you would draw a picture of a sailboat. Then you would draw a picture of an island. And then, you know, you would draw a picture of like a sea monster or something like that.

[00:19:41] And the sun and the wind. . And you would ask, the team that was going off on this new adventure to form as a team and create this new product or this new area of the product. Like, imagine that you’re the sailboat and you’re going on a journey and [00:20:00] that journey is to an island, right?

[00:20:01] and there’s, there’s lots of risk along the way and, , fear and, and that’s the sea monster, right? And there are skills that you have, that get represented on the boat, but then there’s people that you can rely upon that often act as the wind within your sails, and, when you get to this island and lay down and drink your first pina colada and, look up into the sky, you’re going to feel that that warm sun hitting your face, So, who are we, what skills do we have, which is the sailboat, what’s the islands that we’re, trying to take this journey towards look like, and why is it so important that we get there, What are the things that we’re worried about might go wrong or the distractions that we might have along the way? who are the people that we can count on to help us to figure out how to keep moving forward? And then once we get to the island and we look up at the sun, how will we feel about what we’ve accomplished?

[00:20:59] And what will others who are now using our products or engaging with us or whatever that is, say about us now that we’ve given them this new functionality? Creating a personal vision statement. with a blank piece of paper can often be very challenging. But if you use like sticky notes and illustration in that regard, you can find in Miro. and Mural and Lucidchart. these kinds of diagrams that you can then use with your team as well. But, , I feel like that would be something that you could look into that would be really interesting. you know, truth be told, like I have a personal coaching practice as well and I started adopting some of those things from, from Agile into that.

[00:21:43] Um, Brad, have you ever thought about yourself as the product manager of your own product? ? You are the product and the product manager at the same time.

[00:21:54] Brad Nelson: I don’t think so. Not like, no, we’ve applied coaching or we’ve applied frameworks and agile practices to coaching and a coaching team. So kind of, but definitely not to the level you’re doing at Holley.

[00:22:11] Drew Podwal: Yeah. I kind of had this realization when I was going through my, my coaching training and coaching journey that I, my life and the life that I choose and the North Star that I set for myself. , is the product that is both me, right? And that I am the product owner or product manager I Don’t always do such a great job of managing my backlog and creating clarity within my backlog and setting the right prioritization for what it is that I’m working on and that you know If only I could have a personal scrum master and That’s what a coach does or life coach does for you.

[00:22:49] What are some of the things that people have said to you like how have they benefited from? Working with you in this way

[00:22:55] Holly Acre: one of my teammates, explained to me like. I never really sit down and think about, how do I feel about the way I’m, approaching my work?

[00:23:05] Right? so he’s said, this is good for me to stop and think back about this. Cause I don’t. Because sales is like really fast paced sometimes, like on to the next thing, on to the next thing, and one thing I added in that maybe isn’t particularly, you know, part of the scrum events, but I always made, like, stop to celebrate their wins.

[00:23:26] Like you did two, two weeks of work. were there any wins? If so, like, let’s celebrate them. Let’s take a second and stop because life goes by pretty fast. So, like, let’s celebrate those things to keep, you know, the wind in ourselves, right? To keep moving forward. and if you had something that wasn’t a win, like, what did we learn from it?

[00:23:45] It’s okay. , we’re just experimenting. Like, another thing I reiterated to them is failure is okay. I would love for you to have the courage to be brave and try different things, though. So I always tell them, the way I want you to approach your work is experimental. Like, it doesn’t always have to be perfect, right?

[00:24:01] There’s lots of different ways to go about being a very good, effective seller. And I always try to reiterate to them as well, to don’t feel like they have to sell like everyone else. Be your authentic self because that’s like people buy from people. So I try to Remind them that you can be individualized in the way in which you approach it.

[00:24:19] So So yeah, those are a couple of things.

[00:24:23] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Reminds me of some of our conversations with Dom where you’re teaching mindfulness. And I think even in an agile environment, we can become guilty of not being mindful and just going through the motions. And so I love that, that you’re teaching and there’s a lot of different words outside of Agile that we could use for a lot of these things.

[00:24:44] You know, celebrating the wins is huge. It’s a psychological thing as well. Stop and smell the roses, however you want to word it. so all these things go to, I just think being a happier person, in general, and those also make you more successful.

[00:24:58] Holly Acre: So one thing I was [00:25:00] thinking about as well is I’m also coaching them to be Self sufficient, right? I mean, that’s how you’re wanting to coach your teams when you’re running a scrum team is I’m asking them each time, like, if they have something that’s a blocker, right? Like we can work through it together, but next time, like, now you’ve got to have a way to navigate it, hopefully yourself.

[00:25:22] And I kind of explained to them, I said, I want to kind of coach myself out of a job here. so that you were able and feeling. What makes you more confident in your ability to problem solve?

[00:25:35] Drew Podwal: Not every sales or not every organization, sales organization, very few of them, I would say, have a professional coach that is purely there to just talk to people and help them to learn more about themselves for the purpose of becoming better at their job function, right?

[00:25:54] , I’m sure there are some sales people in your organization that have never had that previously in the past. What have those people said, from a standpoint of having somebody in your job function, how has that helped them to become better? Have you asked that kind of question yet?

[00:26:13] Because that’s, a much broader question as opposed to what did they get out of it from a standpoint of like, Oh, well, I was able to increase the amount of, dollars that I earned, you know, last quarter or something like that. But, what, how have they benefited from a non like money perspective, like from a growth perspective?

[00:26:31] Holly Acre: Oh, so, that’s a great question. Um, I have also done some training with some of the other Agilists in the company and I took a training called, Radical Candor and Appreciation Feedback. I’ve been practicing that in my coaching sessions as well, as the appreciation feedback just to start off.

[00:26:51] Like what are two specific things that I was able to help you with? And a lot of them were saying you helped me learn how to set a goal and reverse engineer and accomplish that goal. So I was really pleased to hear that of just goal setting and attaining something, like that just in general.

[00:27:10] Like, working them through a process, a framework, has helped them just think about, Okay, I have an obstacle. It doesn’t have to be this big, insurmountable thing. you can eat an elephant one bite at a time. So, that’s kind of a lot of what I’ve helped people on, is like something that they feel like is really, really big.

[00:27:32] We can, take it and chunk it out and make it smaller and more attainable steps. And then they can still feel successful in the way, like even if we don’t fully accomplish the exact goal, did they start getting into the behavior? like they can do this on their own so they can continue without my help in order to achieve that.

[00:27:54] , someone, in the company said, uh, I know when you’re doing sales coaching, really just coaching around sales thing, but what us Agilists do like is coaching to change behavior. And I was like, I would like to challenge you on that and say, actually, I am, coaching them around their behavior.

[00:28:08] Like they, a lot of them do not know how to set goals and how to, reverse engineer to achieve those goals.

[00:28:14] Drew Podwal: Yeah, I think that most Scrum Masters, Agile coaches can learn a lot from your story, right? I think that some Agile coach or Scrum Master telling you that like, you know, here’s how we’re different, right? They’re being very short sighted, and they’ve, as a result, they’ve missed out on an opportunity, you know, so, have you ever used the magic wand question?

[00:28:37] Holly Acre: No, no. I think I know which one you’re talking about though, but, but please elaborate.

[00:28:45] Drew Podwal: So one of the things that I do when when starting to engage with people and organizations is, you know, my one on ones with them, I asked them, , what are they worried about? What are they afraid might happen if we start to go down this path? And then I asked what are the strengths that you have or the people that you can rely on that give you confidence that you’ll be able to figure this out, and then I asked them, alright, so on a scale of 1 to 10 with, you know, 10 being the most confident and 1 being the least confident, where do you feel you are, now that we’re looking ahead at, going on this journey together? And, you know, usually you get like 6’s or 7’s or 5’s or hopefully not like 3’s, but , then I always pull out the magic wand question, which is like, all right, you said you’re a three, you said you’re a five.

[00:29:34] If I could wave a magic wand to change one thing about this organization, what would I have to change in order for you to go from a five to a six or a six to a seven or whatever that is? And, that question, that like set of questions there helps you to identify the thing. that you need to work on with this person to help them to feel more confident to be able to step into [00:30:00] action, Because now this is the thing that might be holding them back from stepping into action with high level of energy and whatnot. And, that’s a set of questions that I’ve used a lot.

[00:30:10] Holly Acre: I, I love that. a lot of like that first session, like session zero, uh, where we’re co creating their SMART goal, they come in and say like, Oh, I want to work on this. Um, but we do, we, we are also trained to be like, okay, why? You know, doing like the why over and over again until you get down to the root of like what it is they’re actually needing to work on, right?

[00:30:32] So, so not all of them come in as like self aware, right? But I, I love the magic wand question and I should probably use that, uh, next time. Cause that’s another way to go about getting to what it is we need to spend our time.

[00:30:46] Drew Podwal: Yeah. It’s an opportunity that is often missed by most Agile coaches. Most Agile coaches want to talk about DevOps and story point estimation and like these are the things that we need to do in order to, you know, help your organization become more mature and they forget that, The people are people, right?

[00:31:05] That they’re not resources, like they’ll say the phrase, right? They’re not a resource, they’re a person, but then they still treat them kind of like a resource that needs to better understand story point estimation or something like that. And the opportunity that they miss is Spending some time examining how that person feels about what it is that they’re trying to do, right?

[00:31:25] So, if they’re trying to figure out how to hire for a new team and set a new team together, Or, as a leader, if they’re, trying to help their part of the organization start to adopt Scrum or whatever that is. All right. Well, how, how does it make you feel?

[00:31:43] to know that we’re on the precipice about to go on this journey together, and you

[00:31:50] know, how confident are you that you’ll be able to be successful with this? asking those kinds of questions to get to get the feeling, helping them to understand that they have feelings about this thing, that it’s not just some, task or mission or mandate that’s been put on them.

[00:32:11] There’s feelings involved here. And people adopt change, when they’re in touch with those feelings and feeling secure about them. And if they feel like they’re going to fall on their face, they’re less likely to go down that journey together. There are a lot of coaches out there, agile coaches who get that.

[00:32:29] right? Lyssa Atkins, whole methodology. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Lyssa Atkins, but her whole way of approaching, she wrote the book called Coaching Agile Teams. Like an amazing book, amazing program. And she’s just such a wonderful, I like to say coach of Agile, right? As opposed to an Agile coach.

[00:32:50] But that’s her whole concept is that, Yeah, people on our teams and our organizations. They’re not resources. They’re people and guess what people have feelings

[00:33:01] Holly Acre: Hmm.

[00:33:02] Brad Nelson: you’re touching on something, Drew, that I actually, Holly, you mentioned earlier that I wanted to circle back around to at some point, is if you’re in an organization and your focus is, how do we adopt this framework? How do we implement this framework? How do we implement this practice? Story points.

[00:33:19] You’re not coaching. your teaching or your mentoring. And there’s different stances. There’s four main ones that we tend to talk about. Teaching, mentoring, facilitating, and coaching. And that’s the only thing where I could see, like, if you’re not super knowledgeable in the area that you’re coaching, it might be harder to step into a mentoring or teaching stance.

[00:33:39] However, you had mentioned early on, , in one of your descriptions, switching between those stances because sometimes people need to be taught and sometimes people need to be coached. And I don’t think it’s very often, in fact, Damon Poole talks about it, a lot of people talk about, it’s not very often that we as Agile coaches are truly coaching. And so I would say it’s really refreshing to hear how much you’re coaching, and I’m curious, , if you off the top of your head could say, like, what percentage of time do you feel that you’re coaching? versus actually teaching.

[00:34:13] Holly Acre: Okay. That is so funny that you asked that because I actually worked with another coach on my sales coach team. Like we were working with each other to practice our coaching skills. And one of the things I wanted to work on, my goal was I want to spend the majority of my time coaching and not teaching.

[00:34:31] So I was like, I truly want to wear the hat of a coach and , figure out , what does that feel like? And I actually. took notes of my coaching sessions and went back and okay, so this one I was mostly Teaching. This one I was mostly coaching. This one coaching, coaching, coaching. I did the percentages and I think I spent 80 percent of my time, which was my goal, I wanted to spend majority of my time in my coaching stance, right, as opposed to teaching.

[00:34:58] So it ended up being [00:35:00] that percentage was like 80 percent or more. So I achieved that goal. So I was kind of proud of myself, but now I understand better that I have to go back and forth because it’s all depends on the knowledge base of who I am coaching. So I need to understand that first to see, okay, is it a teaching thing that needs to happen here or is it truly like a, like I need to be a mirror for this person?

[00:35:26] depending on, yeah, just where they’re Skill level is that

[00:35:30] Brad Nelson: That’s, that’s really impressive. And I would shy away from having any sort of ongoing target for something like how long we spend coaching. Exactly to your point, Ollie. Everyone’s different. Everyone needs different things. But I think if you really boil down, you explain those four stances to most Agile coaches, they’re probably not even twenty percent of the time coaching.

[00:35:53] Like 10 percent maybe. And part of it is because we tend to be consultants, and so we’re really living dual roles. As a consultant, you’re brought in for your knowledge, and therefore there’s usually a lot of pressure on you to be more of a teacher and mentor, and so you don’t have as much opportunity to coach.

[00:36:12] But I also think that coaching isn’t comfortable for a lot of people, and it’s overlooked. by a lot of people, or they just don’t understand it. And I would say that for me personally, I know that coaching isn’t my strongest stance. Like coaching and facilitating aren’t my strongest stances. I’m much better at teaching and mentoring.

[00:36:30] Drew Podwal: You know Brad to that point, right? We’ve talked about this before like I’ve learned so much from the old salt, coaches that have that I’ve crossed paths with right and the point you made about, consultants, right? That’s why we don’t get to coach. I want to counter that to say that’s not why, right.

[00:36:52] you know, I feel like I’m at a place right now in my coaching where, where I am probably like, I want to say 60, 40, but the reality is it’s probably 70, 30. you know, coaching to mentoring to teaching and things like that. And, but if you asked me like a couple of years ago, right, it would have been like maybe 10 percent and years before that is I wasn’t coaching at all.

[00:37:17] And I was calling myself an agile coach, you know? , and I think that what winds up happening is like with experience, with trying on wearing the hat of remaining in a coach mode, even though you might feel uncomfortable with that. The more you do that, the better you get at it, the better you get at it.

[00:37:36] That’s when the needle flips from now you’re 60 percent coaching, right? 40 percent teaching and that just keeps on going up and up and up. So I don’t think it’s really specific to the fact that you’re an internal employee or that you’re a consultant. I think really what it boils down to is. You know, how much experience do you have with, with asking the right types of questions in the right types of, of manner, you know, like Holly, as you were talking about that, like what I was realizing and thinking about myself in the past, like week, where were the opportunities that I, could have Coached, but instead chose to teach, and there were many opportunities I’ve realized that I thought about like in hindsight in this few moments I realized I probably could have coached that one but instead I went straight for it and taught it instead and I think that’s where like being more cognizant and aware of the opportunities that you missed to coach something and ask yourself the question, Why did I choose to show up in that moment as teacher, Or a mentor instead of being a coach, And, if I were to go back and re coach that, what were the questions that I would ask instead? what would it feel like? What would, what would be different? And I think that by being more aware of those missed opportunities and spending more time thinking about, well, how can I make an experiment in the future to, even though it’s uncomfortable, try to remain a coach, That’s how you become that old salt, coach that just, Ask questions all the time.

[00:39:16] Holly Acre: well, that’s why I was saying I Tried to look at myself more as a mirror for them because I don’t want to take away their opportunity to learn so Instead of them coming to me and asking me a question, and I give them the answer, I took away their opportunity to seek out that answer on their own.

[00:39:38] Like, I want them to be able to solve their problems by themselves, and they may initially be like, Well, no, you’re here to help me, but it’s no, I’m here to help you to learn how to help yourself at the end of the day. So, see what you mean though, but yeah, a lot of times they’ll ask me a question and I will just immediately put it back in their court of well, [00:40:00] what, what do you think? And they don’t usually love that, but it causes them to use those critical thinking skills. So I think that’s something that they may not see it as a benefit in the moment because they’re like, I just want to get the answer right now.

[00:40:14] Brad Nelson: . you’ve said multiple times now being a mirror, reflecting back on, on them. And as I think about my consultant comment earlier, and even some of the reasons why Coaching, I think, is harder is that it’s selfless. You have to remove the ego from it. And we want to be the person with the answer.

[00:40:37] I think naturally everyone wants to be the person with the answer and consulting in my mind is the person with the answer. That’s why they hired you is to be the person with the answer. And I’ve definitely had people I’ve worked with get mad because they’re like, well, how have you done it in the past?

[00:40:51] Like I hired you to teach me essentially. And so that can be a struggle, but also I think it’s the easier and faster in the moment thing to do is to just give someone an answer. To your point, Holly, that you brought up, is that the best solution in the long run? Is it the fastest solution in the long run to constantly have to go back to someone for an answer?

[00:41:16] Or is it better for you in the long run to be able to get those answers yourself? And it’s really interesting to me, too, that you come from school, a school background, an education background, and you’re making me rethink some of my preconceived notions on school, because I am not really a fan of our current school structure, and one of those reasons is that I don’t feel like We teach kids how to find answers.

[00:41:45] We don’t teach them how to learn. We tell them what they need to know. And that’s one of the things that, what I’m hearing that I really love that you’re doing, it’s almost deprogramming people to stop and think for themselves. Be more mindful. Did I like this? Did I not? What could I do better? What not?

[00:42:05] You’re teaching them to learn, teaching them to be in the moment. And I think those are really great things.

[00:42:10] Drew Podwal: Is Common Core still a thing?

[00:42:13] Holly Acre: Yeah, I kind of think that they changed the name of it, but it was still probably similar.

[00:42:19] Drew Podwal: so I just remember my ex wife was a teacher in middle school and I just remember that she, she felt entirely restricted, she had to hit certain metrics that were not really valuable metrics in the school system that, that she was in. and it prevented her from actually creating, whole people.

[00:42:40] Um, to their potential , and I feel like the analogy I’m trying to make the correlation is, is that the way of working that most software organizations have right now, Waterfall, right? It’s kind of like Common Core, It has a certain specific set of metrics that you have to follow, but following those metrics actually prevent Could teams and organizations from actually achieving higher value, and working in ways that they potentially could if they didn’t have to focus on those type of metrics, those type of phase gates and milestones and things like that.

[00:43:20] And, as a coach, who’s gone into those kinds of environments to Brad’s point earlier, sometimes there’s a misalignment and an expectation that, you’re not a coach, you’re, you’re called a coach, but the expectation is, come tell us what we should do differently, right? , and not, come help us to figure out how to become something more than we already are.

[00:43:46] Holly Acre: Ooh, that’s interesting. Yeah, um, see, I, and it’s hard for me to contextualize that right now because I’ve not served in that role yet, right? So, um, you are teaching me things today are things that I may encounter in the future.

[00:44:04] Drew Podwal: So you never experienced that sort of feeling though as a teacher? Like, where, where you had to teach something and weren’t allowed to teach it past a certain point or, didn’t, as a result, you didn’t have enough time to teach this other stuff because it wasn’t part of the curriculum that, you know, really is a value,

[00:44:24] Holly Acre: Yeah, for sure. I mean, we have a certain like timeline that we’ve got to stick within and, hate it too. Cause sometimes it’s like, we’ve got to move on even if. Not everyone grasped that concept. So it’s, it’s really tough.

[00:44:40] Drew Podwal: Yeah.

[00:44:40] Holly Acre: kind of an impossible job if you think about it.

[00:44:44] Drew Podwal: Yeah.

[00:44:45] Brad Nelson: Yeah, I definitely don’t blame teachers. It’s the system that I think has failed. I mean, we all have a role in it as well, but, I definitely think the system could be reformed or revamped. One of the other things [00:45:00] that I, I will say I often criticize of it is that I feel like teachers, oftentimes, they grow up in school and they go to school to teach in school.

[00:45:10] And so all they ever know is school. And so, it’s its own industry. I know Patty thought it was weird, but agreed that I called it that because apparently in academia, they don’t call it that, but it’s its own industry. And I’m curious when you made that shift out of teacher to sales, did you feel like things were drastically different than how you were taught in kind of that academic.

[00:45:38] Holly Acre: Actually, yes. and I also was going to comment and say that I was someone who went to college for Four years and then immediately went back to school like as a public school teacher. So that, that was me. And so, yes, I was in that, , merry go round for quite some time. , and I was like, so relieved to get out and actually work for, a company, as opposed to being in the public school system, because, , I do feel like I have space to like.

[00:46:12] innovate a little bit more now. , I actually, I mean, I just feel very lucky to work at the company I do now because I feel like me bringing in new ideas or new ways to use things, or new things to cover. is accepted and encouraged and I was like, Oh, this, this is new to me. so glad that , we’re not just like, Nope, got to stick to the basics.

[00:46:36] Got to stick to, this is the only way that we do this. And this is the only way we will do this. So I’m like, Oh. Cause I do feel like the Agile mindset is kind of woven into the organization. So obviously y’all, y’all did a good job. , because, , it wasn’t very often that I, like even a senior sales leader, , would come to our teams and say, we’re going to have like.

[00:46:58] Basically like a mini retro being a start, stop, continue meeting. And I was like, wow, a leader who is listening what, what’s working, what’s not working, what can we change? that was new to me. That was not something that I was used to and I was, I noticed and I very much appreciated it.

[00:47:19] Brad Nelson: Do you hear that, leaders? All you leaders out there. I mean, I’ve said it before, and I don’t think that… I think anyone can learn to be an Agilist. I definitely think it’s something that you can learn. But I do think that there are some of us… Where it’s just natural. Like, we’ve always been and didn’t have a word for it, or didn’t realize it, or not that we were perfect at it.

[00:47:41] And that definitely sounds like you a little bit to me, Holly, is that you were already doing these things and you didn’t have a name for it and could get better at it, but that was just kind of how you operated. And I would say I was definitely the same as well. When I started I didn’t have a name for it, but I was doing these things in the factory.

[00:48:00] Before I even really understood Lean, and then when I was teaching Lean, I didn’t know what Agile was either, and Lean and Agile are very similar. So, I definitely think that, you know, when we are coaching people or we’re trying to spread the good word of Agile, like it’s a cult, but it’s not a cult, we need to be more considerate of people.

[00:48:22] And so, I think it’s great that you have Agilists coaches. that are able to flex over and help you, but I would say, you know, give yourself some credit too, and maybe even challenge them a little bit, because learning is a two way street. And I do, I mean, I know your company very well, because I just left there.

[00:48:41] I do know that there’s some very, , agile minded leadership, in higher positions as well, that are really open to, to learning and feedback. And that was one of the things that I appreciated about it too.

[00:48:54] Holly Acre: So, when I presented to the greater sales coach team on, the way I applied agile to my coaching sessions, one of the comments made during that was, actually I would challenge you to, , Like we’re not coaching to be effective sellers. We’re coaching them to level up to this specific set of things that require them like, but they call it a level two seller as opposed to level one.

[00:49:21] So we’re coaching them to leveling. And I was like, well, okay, I hear you, but I would also challenge you to think about how, effective is different per. each seller. So, we can try to still coach them to leveling, but what one person’s, thing that they’re wanting to work on might be totally different, than another person’s.

[00:49:44] So, I thought that was really exciting to be able to… think about that and like, challenge your bag and say, actually, we’ll think of it this way. So, I was already like, kind of taking a stance for myself, even within, the organization from people who have [00:50:00] been doing this longer than me. And I was like, well, like, let’s just think outside the box here and…

[00:50:05] Yeah, it can be totally different for different people.

[00:50:09] Drew Podwal: So I had this dream for a while that I just kind of let fall flat on its face to be a Agile life coach I, because I’ve played around with this idea of, creating a model for, for personal Kanban or personal Scrum and things like that. So much so that I, I , I register the domains, the agile life, the agile, scrum master life coach, and personal scrum team.

[00:50:40] And I may need to hire you to be my personal coach to help me to get that off the ground again, because, I feel like there’s, there’s so like this overlap that you’ve created here, is where the magic really happens, you know, So I’m thrilled about this idea, this topic, this, you know, what you’ve shown us, and, I feel entirely validated as well.

[00:51:07] Holly Acre: I worked with my own coach in the spring and it was just, I love referring back to this story whenever I’m coaching someone, because I’m like, I myself have been coached and here’s the ways in which it benefited me. But I was working with him and I said, okay, I want to accomplish this. And I had just been putting it off, putting it off, putting it off.

[00:51:30] And what made me jump into action was just like, just, Simply having like Saying what I was trying to accomplish out loud to someone else and then knowing that they are later going to ask me about it Just like when you have like a gym accountability partner, but I explained that to them. I was like There’s there’s some sort of statistic like when you say something out loud to someone you’re like Or you write something down, you say it out loud to someone, you commit to someone else, you’re like 95 percent more likely to achieve said goal.

[00:52:01] And lo and behold, I did achieve the goal that I set out to do and it was pretty lofty. And it was a personal one of mine. And I was like, Oh my gosh, look what I accomplished just by simply committing it to someone else, because I didn’t want to show back up to a meeting with my coach and say, Hey, Actually didn’t do it because I know he was going to say, okay, well, what was blocking you from doing that?

[00:52:23] And I, it was simply, I just didn’t want to set aside the time to do it. But since I knew that that was looming over me, I surprisingly was able to set aside the time to do it. So just simply committing, , what you’re trying to accomplish to someone else, uh, is. Huge? That simple act just actually can help you move mountains.

[00:52:44] so, yeah, I also have used my own coach.

[00:52:48] Drew Podwal: that’s great.

[00:52:49] Brad Nelson: I believe that, yeah, I feel like our podcast was a little bit that way because we had a partner that we were accountable

[00:52:56] for. There’s definitely times where I’m not feeling it and Drew picks up the slack or he’s not feeling it and I pick up the slack, which is part of it. But it’s also, you know, if he’s picking up too much slack, I feel

[00:53:09] guilty, right, because I’ve committed to this.

[00:53:11] And so I do think that, there’s some of that that we’ve definitely applied. to this side hustle of ours, but I think it’s also just great that you are applying, you’re eating your own dog food or drinking your own champagne, however you want to call it. And we often say Agile coaches are usually the worst Agilists.

[00:53:32] We’re really good at teaching other people and we’re really good at coaching other people, but we’re not so good at internalizing and doing it ourselves. So to me, this episode is a reminder. to be my own coach, be my own product manager, whatever it is, right, take control of my life, even outside of work.

[00:53:51] And that’s something I’ve been working on, and one of the reasons I actually left Insight, was because my life purpose became my work. And I became work obsessed, and so I’ve been trying to find more of that balance in my life. and so… see that as being very relative to me right now, so thank you for joining us, and I will definitely be reflecting on that.

[00:54:16] Holly Acre: Glad I could help.

[00:54:18] Drew Podwal: So this was a fantastic episode. I’m really like one. This wasn’t specifically the topic that I thought we were going to be talking about going into it, but it was definitely the topic that I was really delighted. And like, I wanted to talk about this for a really long time on this podcast and, , I think this has been great. What’s your website. Like how can people, if somebody’s interested in being agile life coached, , by you work, where can they find you?

[00:54:48] Holly Acre: so I have a decent following over on Instagram and TikTok. So if they want to follow along on Instagram, it’s holly. acre. , and then [00:55:00] TikTok is just at hollyacre. ac. CRE. but my link to sign up for coaching, it’s specifically right now geared towards, career coaching for specializing in teachers who are transitioning out of teaching.

[00:55:13] However, that doesn’t have to be the only thing that I can help people on. Right. because it can apply to all different things, the way in which I coach. But yeah, that’s where you can find me. I don’t have a, A website like landing spot at the moment. But if you go to my Instagram profile, I do have a link in there.

[00:55:29] to my, it’s called a stand store and there’s a way to sign up for coaching. Or, , if there, if some, somehow it’s a teacher who’s wanting to transition to technology sales, I have a teacher to tech sales resume guide there as well that they can, , check out.

[00:55:45] Drew Podwal: That’s great.

[00:55:46] Brad Nelson: Cool. Well, thank you, Holly. I think this has been great.

[00:55:50] Holly Acre: Well, thank you for having

[00:55:51] Brad Nelson: being a fan as well.

[00:55:53] I mean, this was all because you were interacting and reaching out. And so we, we talked a bit about it and, uh, so yeah. So thank you.

[00:56:01] Drew Podwal: going to send you stickers. I’m hoping that tomorrow is the day that the post office sends me my, my stamps. I am that lazy. I could walk 10 minutes to the post office, but it was just easier to do it online. So, we’ll definitely

[00:56:15] Holly Acre: well thank you so much. Yeah, thank you for the stickers and thank you guys for having me. This has been really cool.

[00:56:22] Drew Podwal: Have a

[00:56:22] wonderful night guys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *