Face to Face Coaching: More Than Words

Updated: Jan 20

Phone Call

We hear this countlessly within our Agile efforts that the most effective mode of communication is face to face. Yet increasingly the effort to minimize cost for having someone “in person” is utilized in companies around the world. Let’s visit the concept from a coaching perspective. Why does an in-person or on-site coach matter?

Certain conditions must be acknowledged in this effort:

  • Solutions such as FaceTime, Skype and countless other video conferencing tools are effective.

  • Relationships can be built in person and then cultivated through periodic check-ins through other communication mediums.

  • It is not possible in every circumstance to be physically present when crucial decision-making points are approached.

Why then should we insist on face-to-face when coaching is provided? Let’s take a look at a few situations.

A coach is sitting with you and your team, reading body language and hearing statements about the estimates for work to be done in the coming sprint. They notice when, as a ScrumMaster, you assert yourself as the “leader” and the collective eye roll occurs from the team that is trying to figure out how to commit to the right amount of work. Perhaps it comes because you are stressing the importance of cross-training and the technical lead has “nothing” he can work on during this sprint except for code reviews. The drooping of the shoulders, the turning of his eyes towards the ground as to avoid eye contact or confrontation with you when asserting your unnecessary power play. The team in turn tries convincing him that the value he adds is so much more than coding but in guiding the rest of the team to excellence. The coach notices the technical lead is having nothing of this discussion, all the while the technical lead reluctantly nods his head in agreement with the team. Who else notices the subtle hints that come from this interaction? What is then done in that moment to ensure that the voices and thoughts in the room are being heard? An observant coach speaks up at that point and acknowledges that it appears there is some concern with the approach being taken on the work to be committed to. She might even ask the technical lead to express their thoughts to help with openness in the team before shoving a commitment down someone’s throat. Discussion ensues amongst team members. The technical lea