What Is Your Coaching Stance?

Professional coaching is considered critical in the original whitepaper on ACI’s Agile Coach Competency Framework. It refers to the coaching stance as “the heart” of the framework.

The coaching stance of a coach may vary, depending on the situation. In their paper “Principles and Dynamics of Matching Role to Situation,” Douglas P. Champion, David H. Kiel, and Jean A. McLendon described nine such stances which help the clients achieve their goals.

Coaching Stance
Source: https://dandypeople.com/blog/agile-coaching-in-a-nutshell/

The coaches can also pick a stance based on how they want to help their clients: whether they wish to help their client achieve results or help their client grow.

To better understand the different services that an Agile Coach provides, we will review them in the context of a particular stance that the coach takes.

The 9 Stances

Reflective Observer

When working with an individual or a group, an Agile Coach who takes the Reflective Observer stance will attend sessions and participate in discussions. They will pay attention to interactions, reactions, attitudes, and moods, giving their perspective and analysis on what they have seen or use them contextually.

It is up to the individual, group, or team to take up, implement, or utilize the observations. This applies in both directions: the coach should not disguise his criticism as observation, and the individual or group receiving it should not dismiss it because it is negative or critical.

This stance impacts very lightly on the growth and results.


A Facilitator will apply their knowledge of meeting conceptualization, structuring, facilitation, moderation, conflict resolution and navigation scenarios, group dynamics evaluation, and workshops to the meeting.

In general, they help achieve specified goals or develop new ways to improve the efficiency of existing meetings and events. However, when an agreement is difficult to achieve and moderation is required, these facilitation abilities are sometimes employed to assist a group in reaching a conclusion.

A facilitator improves the growth but not the results.


They have a clear vision for the future, actively question the status quo, and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. Visionary Coaches are unrelenting in focusing on what could be rather than what is. As a result, many people want to follow them because of their mission, vision, legacy, and inspiration.

Coaches who follow this stance will encourage and motivate their clients to achieve more. They help them understand what they have to be to achieve their goals.

This stance only helps with growth.


When teams or individuals need information or guidance about a specific topic, scenario, problem, or query, the coaches take the Adviser stance. In this situation, the Agile Coach will provide solutions, options, insights and analyze or refer to their previous experiences. Then, the coach needs to say something and give the reason, justification, and motivation behind it.

As choice and interpretation play a prominent role in making it successful, providing examples or offering multiple ways to address the same topic or issue is very potent advice. This way, the group or person can refer back to this new knowledge and use it similarly or differently in the future. This approach includes teaching, mentoring, and expertise.

This stance only helps more with results but less with growth.


There are times when the Agile coach notices a lack of knowledge or that reinforcing already known principles and practices is needed. In those situations, the Agile Coach takes on the role of Teacher.

There are many ways to teach, from presentations and classroom-like activities to group activities and one-on-one assignments and exercises. A teacher knows how to use a lot of different ways to teach and learn, both in a formal classroom setting and at improvised events.

This stance equally helps improve results and growth.


Together with the Observer stance, this is the most common method of operation for the Agile Coach. Coaches believe that the person they are working with has the knowledge and skills to solve their problems. The goal is to get this knowledge out, help people organize themselves, and grow. People show this by acting as role models and asking powerful questions. They also allow people to be accountable for their promises and commitments (by highlighting and setting goals) and challenge negative trends, status quo, and behavior.

An Agile Coach often draws from their own experience and knowledge, not just in the Agile world, but also in previous roles and personal learning, to support or challenge their coaches's story.

This stance is frequently displayed in one-on-one sessions, team meetings, or individual interactions and helps clients grow rather than achieve results.

Agile Expert

You need to have a lot of experience with many different "Agile" frameworks and a lot of knowledge about how they work. Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, Lean, LeSS, SAFe, Crystal, XP (extreme programming), Spotify model, DevOps, and so on are just a few examples.

Another crucial distinction to keep in mind when coaching under this stance is that the focus is always on the outcome, i.e., a shift in mentality to align with the new culture and organizational direction, rather than the individual's goals and ambitions.

Coaches use this stance when questions about frameworks, techniques, and practical questions about Agile adoption and usage emerge. Therefore, this helps more towards achieving results.


As part of the mentoring process, two people share information. One person is the mentor (the person giving the information), and the other is the mentee (the person receiving it). Usually, the Agile Coach takes a mentoring role when a more in-depth understanding of a common topic is needed, or they need to explain the underlying principles more. Coaches do this through discussions, stories, anecdotes, advice, examples, or any other way that works for you. They also do it through hands-on demonstrations or by working together, similar to an apprenticeship.

The Agile Coach coaching a junior Agile Coach or Scrum Master is a typical example of this stance. Thus, improving the growth.


Often, when the Agile Coach steps into the Partner role, it is for long-term results. Taking all other stances and working with different people in the organization makes people aware, increases their power, and works with internal partners important for a successful Agile journey and better results.

The goal is to build long-term relationships with important people and groups and help them with different tasks and goals. Collaborating well with the Coach increases trust, credibility, and encourages more ideas. This allows the Coach to change direction, help with different projects, and learn new skills.

The way strategic partnerships work is similar to how this stance works. First, the Coach provides specific skills and helps the organization with a particular need. Then, in turn, the organization gives the Coach different tasks and helps them become better at their job. Thus improving both the growth & the results.


Though there are many stances a coach can take, a coach should always analyze the situation well before taking a stance. By taking a stance that is appropriate with the case, the coaches will be able to help their clients more effectively.

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