Professionals taking the Certified Agile Coaching Skills (ACS) exam, face a progression of advanced coaching and mentoring scenarios where they need to involve decision-making abilities to help individuals & teams become self-managed, cross-functional, and adaptive.
80% passing score
English or Spanish
Digital Badge through
Candidates should demonstrate the following competences to be granted the Certified Agile Coaching Skills (ACS) certification:
By understanding the differences between coaching, consulting, psychotherapy, and mentoring, agile coaches can ensure they provide their clients with the correct type of support based on the situation at hand. They can also refer clients to other professionals when needed, such as directing them to a therapist if they require emotional support or counseling or referring them to a consultant if they require specialized knowledge and expertise other than agile. This ensures clients receive the appropriate support and guidance to meet their needs.
- Overstepping boundaries: Agile Coaches who are unaware of the differences between coaching and consulting may unintentionally cross the line and start providing advice and solutions to clients instead of guiding them to find their solutions. This can create dependency on the coach and undermine the client's ability to develop their problem-solving skills.
- Ignoring emotional needs: Agile Coaches unfamiliar with psychotherapy may overlook or dismiss the emotional needs of their clients. This can be detrimental, as emotions can significantly impact team dynamics and individuals' well-being and interfere with their ability to achieve their goals.
- Lacking expertise: Agile Coaches unaware of the differences between coaching and mentoring may fail to recognize when their clients require specialized knowledge and expertise. This can result in ineffective coaching, as the coach may not be equipped to address the client's specific needs or provide them with the necessary resources.
An Agile Coach should be able to discern when to implement training, consulting, coaching, mentoring, and facilitation because each of these approaches has a different purpose and outcome, and each can be effective in different situations. The wrong approach can lead to ineffective coaching, a lack of progress, or even adverse outcomes.
Agile Coaches should be mindful of the differences between these approaches and choose the right approach for each situation to ensure that they are providing effective coaching that supports the team's goals and needs.
- Using the wrong approach: Using the wrong approach can lead to ineffective coaching, a lack of progress, or even adverse outcomes. For example, if the Agile Coach provides training when coaching is needed, the team may not develop the skills or insights they need to improve their performance.
- Creating dependency: If the Agile Coach consistently provides consulting or mentoring, the team may become dependent on the Agile Coach's expertise and may not develop the problem-solving and decision-making skills they need to work independently.
- Not adapting to changing needs: If the Agile Coach doesn't adapt their approach to changing circumstances or the team's evolving needs, they may provide ineffective coaching or fail to address the team's current challenges.
- Lack of skills development: Coaching alone may not be enough to develop new skills or improve existing ones. Without training, team members may not learn new techniques or approaches that can help them improve their performance. This can lead to a lack of progress or even stagnation in the team's performance.
- Failure to address knowledge gaps: Coaching may help team members identify areas for improvement, but it may not be enough to address knowledge gaps. Without training, team members may not have the foundational knowledge they need to apply their insights effectively.
An Agile Coach needs to demonstrate competence in knowing when to quit coaching an individual or agile team because coaching is a partnership that requires the coach and team to work together towards a common goal. If the coach is no longer effective or the team is not receptive to the coaching, it may be time to end the coaching relationship. Additionally, coaching can be time-consuming and require significant resources. If the coach is not able to make progress with the team or the team's needs have shifted, it may be more productive to end the coaching relationship and focus resources elsewhere. Furthermore, coaching is not always the best solution for every situation. If the team needs specialized knowledge or expertise from the Agile Coach, switching to a consulting or mentoring service may be more effective.
Moreover, Agile Coaches need to maintain professional boundaries and avoid becoming too emotionally invested in the coaching relationship. If the Agile Coach is too emotionally involved or finds it difficult to remain impartial, it may be time to end the coaching relationship. Ultimately, coaching aims to help the team develop their skills and knowledge to work independently. If the agile team has reached a point where they no longer need the coach's guidance, it may be time to end the coaching relationship and allow the team to work independently.
Demonstrating competence in knowing when to quit coaching an individual or agile team is crucial to ensuring that coaching remains productive, respectful, and effective.
- Wasting time and resources: If the coaching relationship is no longer effective, continuing to coach the team may be a waste of time and resources. This can divert attention and resources away from other areas where they could be more productive.
- Creating dependency: If the Agile Coach continues to coach the team even when they no longer need it, the team may become overly dependent on the Agile Coach for guidance and support. This can create an unhealthy dynamic hindering the team's growth and development.
- Ignoring changing needs: If the Agile Coach does not recognize changing conditions or shifts in the team's focus, they may continue to serve in a no longer relevant or valuable way. This can lead to a lack of progress or even regression in the team's performance.
- Burnout: If the Agile Coach continues to coach a team that is resistant to coaching or not making progress, they may become demotivated and burnt out. This can impact their ability to coach other teams effectively and can lead to a negative experience for both the Agile Coach and the team.
- Ignoring mental health needs: If the Agile Coach is not trained or qualified in psychotherapy, they may overlook or dismiss the individual's mental health needs. This can be detrimental and may exacerbate existing mental health conditions.
- Overstepping professional boundaries: Agile Coaches are not trained or licensed to provide psychotherapy, and attempting to do so can be considered unprofessional and unethical. Agile Coaches who try to deliver psychotherapy may be overstepping their professional boundaries and may face legal or ethical consequences.
2. Coaching Agreements
An Agile Coach needs to create clear agreements with individuals and agile teams to ensure adequate coaching relationships. Clear agreements clarify goals, build trust, establish accountability, avoid misunderstandings, and measure progress. By setting clear roles and expectations, the Agile Coach and the team can work towards the same goals, build mutual respect and trust, and promote ownership and responsibility among team members.
Clear agreements also establish accountability for the Agile Coach and the team, ensuring everyone is responsible for their actions and contributions. Misunderstandings can be avoided by defining the coaching relationship and expectations. This helps to ensure the coaching relationship remains productive and effective. By determining coaching goals and measures of success, the Agile Coach and the team can evaluate progress and adjust the coaching approach as necessary.
- Unclear goals: Without clear agreements, goals may be vague or ambiguous, making it difficult to achieve desired outcomes. This can lead to frustration and a lack of progress.
- Misaligned expectations: Without clear agreements, expectations may be misaligned, leading to misunderstandings, conflicts, and unmet needs. This can create tension within the team and undermine the effectiveness of the coaching relationship.
- Lack of accountability: Without clear agreements, accountability may be unclear, leading to a lack of responsibility and ownership among team members. This can undermine the effectiveness of the coaching relationship and prevent the team from progressing toward its goals.
- Poor communication: Without clear agreements, communication may be poor, leading to misunderstandings and ineffective coaching. This can result in a lack of trust between the Agile Coach and the team, leading to a weak coaching relationship.
Maintaining coaching agreements throughout coaching sessions is essential for Agile coaches to ensure that the coaching relationship remains effective and productive. Coaching agreements establish clear goals, expectations, roles, and responsibilities for the coach and the team. Maintaining these agreements helps to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and that the coaching relationship remains on track. By retaining the coaching agreements, the coach can promote accountability, establish ownership and responsibility among the team members, and track progress toward the coaching goals.
Regularly reviewing the coaching agreements and evaluating progress can help ensure adjustments are made to the coaching approach as necessary. This helps promote an effective coaching relationship and ensures the team progresses toward its goals. In summary, maintaining the coaching agreements throughout coaching sessions is critical for Agile coaches to ensure that the coaching relationship remains effective and productive. It helps establish clear goals and expectations, promote accountability, track progress, and ensure the coaching relationship stays on track.
- Losing sight of goals: Without maintaining coaching agreements, the coach may lose sight of the purposes of the coaching relationship. This can lead to confusion and a lack of focus on the team's goal.
- Failing to hold team members accountable: Holding them responsible for their actions and contributions can be challenging without maintaining coaching agreements. This can result in a lack of ownership and responsibility among team members, undermining the coaching relationship's effectiveness.
- Disengagement: Team members may disengage from the coaching relationship when not maintaining coaching agreements. This can result in a lack of commitment to the coaching goals, undermining the coaching relationship's effectiveness.
Agile Coaches and teams should not treat coaching agreements as set in stone. While they provide a framework for the coaching relationship, Agile coaches need to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances to ensure the coaching relationship remains effective and productive. This may involve revising coaching agreements to reflect changing circumstances or goals, such as when the team's priorities or needs change or when the coaching approach is not working as expected.
Agile coaches should be open and flexible in their approach to coaching, willing to adjust coaching agreements as necessary to ensure they are meeting the team's needs and providing value. By having the flexibility to redefine coaching agreements, Agile coaches can help ensure the coaching relationship remains effective and that the team is able to achieve its goals. Ultimately, Agile coaches should approach coaching agreements as a starting point rather than a fixed set of rules, remaining open to adjusting them as necessary to ensure the coaching relationship remains effective and productive.
- Sticking to outdated agreements: If Agile Coaches are not flexible when it comes to redefining the coaching agreements, they may stick to outdated agreements that are no longer relevant to the team's needs or goals. This can hinder progress and undermine the effectiveness of the coaching relationship.
- Failing to adapt to changing circumstances: Agile Coaches may only be able to adapt to changing circumstances when having the flexibility to redefine coaching agreements. A lack of it might lead to poor progress toward coaching goals and frustration among team members.
- Ignoring team feedback: Without the flexibility to redefine coaching agreements, Agile Coaches may ignore the input from the teams, such as changes in priorities or needs. This situation can lead to a lack of engagement and buy-in from team members, undermining the coaching relationship's effectiveness.
- Developing a rigid coaching relationship: Without the flexibility to redefine coaching agreements as team context changes, the coaching relationship may become rigid and inflexible, leading to a lack of creativity and innovation. This can hinder progress and prevent the team from achieving its goals.
3. Being Present
3.1. Having the ability to prevent external factors from getting in the way of the conscious presence and attention to individuals and agile teams.
Coaching agile teams requires the Agile Coach to be fully present and engaged with the team, actively listening to their concerns and providing support. External factors, such as distractions or competing demands, can prevent the Agile Coach from being fully present, undermining the coaching relationship's effectiveness.
By being fully present and attentive to individuals and Agile teams, Agile coaches can build trust and establish a strong rapport with team members. This can help to create a safe and supportive environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their concerns and seeking guidance from the coach. When external factors influence the coach's conscious presence and attention, team members may feel like their concerns are not being heard or that the coaching relationship is ineffective.
- Missing important information: An Agile Coach must be fully present to understand the team's concerns deeply. Not being present can lead to missing important information, a lack of progress toward the coaching goals or an ineffective coaching relationship.
- Misunderstandings: If an Agile Coach is not fully present, they may fail to understand the team's concerns and provide an inquiry that is not relevant to the situation, leading to broader misunderstandings and a lack of trust between the coach and the team.
- Lack of engagement: If an Agile Coach is not fully present, team members may feel that their concerns are not heard or that the coaching relationship is ineffective. This can lead to a lack of engagement and buy-in from team members, undermining the coaching relationship's effectiveness.
- Failure to provide adequate coaching: If an Agile Coach is not fully present, they may fail to provide effective coaching or support to the team, preventing them from progressing towards coaching goals or achieving their objectives.
3.2. Having the ability to use intuition, self-knowledge and hunches without assuming them as correct.
Agile Coaches can benefit from intuition, self-knowledge, and hunches, but they should only assume that they are sometimes correct. Intuition and hunches can be valuable tools for Agile Coaches, allowing them to identify patterns and make connections that may not be immediately obvious.
By using intuition, self-knowledge, and hunches, Agile Coaches can bring a unique perspective to the coaching relationship. They can help identify underlying issues or concerns that may not be immediately apparent and guide the team toward new insights and perspectives.
However, Agile Coaches must use these tools grounded in evidence and observation rather than relying solely on intuition or self-knowledge.
- Confirmation bias: Assuming that intuition, self-knowledge, and hunches are always correct can lead to confirmation bias, where the Agile Coach only seeks out information that confirms their beliefs and ignores contradictory evidence.
- Overconfidence: If the Agile Coach assumes that their intuition and hunches are always correct, they may become overconfident in their ability to guide the team, leading to a lack of receptiveness to feedback or new ideas.
- Limited perspective: Relying solely on intuition and self-knowledge can limit the Agile Coach's perspective, preventing them from considering alternative viewpoints or solutions and narrowing focus on specific issues which may not be the most effective for the team.
When team members experience intense emotions, such as anger, frustration, or fear, it's crucial for the Agile Coach to remain calm and composed, providing guidance and support to help the team navigate the situation.
By showing confidence, the Agile Coach can help create a sense of safety and stability for team members experiencing intense emotions, making them feel more comfortable sharing their concerns. Additionally, when the Agile Coach is confident and composed, team members may feel reassured that the Agile Coach can help them navigate the situation effectively.
In addition, when the Agile Coach shows confidence, it can help model healthy emotional regulation for team members and encourage them to develop their emotional regulation skills, which can benefit the team's overall emotional health and well-being.
- Insensitivity and Lack of trust: If the Agile Coach is not confident in working with intense emotions, they may show insensitive to team members' emotional needs or concerns, making the teams lack trust in the Agile Coach because they believe the Agile Coach is unable to provide them with adequate support.
- Emotional escalation: If the Agile Coach is uncomfortable dealing with strong emotions, they may overreact and unintentionally exacerbate team members' feelings, making the situation more difficult and complex.
- Reduced team morale: An Agile Coach's inability to deal effectively with strong emotions can avoid addressing emotional issues or concerns altogether and have a detrimental impact on the team's morale, motivation, and working environment.
3.4. Taking advantage of the ideas and suggestions made by individuals and agile teams to build new possibilities.
Team members may feel more invested in their goals and objectives if the Agile Coach encourage them to contribute their ideas and suggestions, boosting motivation and engagement.
The Agile Coach will foster a sense of ownership by utilizing the thoughts and recommendations expressed by the members of the team. As a result, members might feel free to express their thoughts and ideas, working more cooperatively and supportively.
The Agile Coach can also assist the team in coming up with original solutions to challenging situations by integrationg the ideas and suggestions of team members. The team may then become more productive, more effective, and more efficient.
- Failing to follow through: If the Agile Coach does not follow through on the ideas and suggestions made by team members, it can lead to a lack of trust and motivation among the team. The Agile Coach should ensure that the team's ideas and suggestions are taken seriously, and that action is taken to implement them where appropriate.
- Dismissing ideas: If the Agile Coach dismisses ideas or suggestions made by team members, it can lead to a lack of engagement and motivation among the team. The Agile Coach should encourage all team members to share their ideas and suggestions openly, even if they may not initially seem feasible or practical.
- Allowing groupthink: If the Agile Coach allows groupthink to occur, it can limit the diversity of ideas and suggestions within the team. The Agile Coach should encourage team members to share their ideas and suggestions openly, even if they may be different or unconventional.
3.5. Distinguishing between words, tone of voice, and body language of individuals and agile teams' members.
An Agile Coach must distinguish between the words, tone of voice, and body language of individuals and agile team members because each element can provide valuable insights into the team's emotional state and well-being.
Words alone may not convey the whole meaning or emotion behind a message. The tone of voice and body language can provide additional context and insight into the speaker's emotional state, helping the Agile Coach to interpret the team's communication more accurately. By paying attention to the team's nonverbal communication, the Agile Coach can demonstrate empathy and understanding toward the team members, building trust and a sense of safety within the coaching relationship, as team members feel that the coach is genuinely listening to and understanding their concerns.
In addition, an accurate understanding and interpretation of the team's communication can help the Agile Coach provide adequate support.
- Misinterpretation: If the Agile Coach misinterprets the team's communication, it can lead to misunderstandings and ineffective guidance. For example, suppose a team member is speaking in a monotone voice. In that case, the Agile Coach may assume they are disengaged or uninterested when in fact, they may be experiencing anxiety or stress.
- Lack of empathy: If the Agile Coach cannot interpret the team's emotional state accurately, they may appear uncaring or unsupportive, undermining the Agile Coach's effectiveness and damaging the coaching relationship.
- Overreliance on words: If the Agile Coach focuses solely on the words being spoken by the team, they may miss important nonverbal cues such as body language or tone of voice.
- Assuming emotions: If the Agile Coach assumes they understand the team's emotional state based on their biases or assumptions, it can lead to ineffective guidance and support. It's essential for the Agile Coach to remain open-minded and to seek clarification from the team when necessary.
4. Meaningful Inquiry
An Agile Coach must possess the capacity to ask questions. Agile teams and individuals can explore new concepts, identify presumptions, and challenge their thinking by asking questions. The Agile Coach can assist the team in developing a deeper knowledge of the problems they are experiencing and in identifying potential solutions by asking the right questions.
Instilling a feeling of exploration and interest among the team members might help them think more imaginatively and take into account other viewpoints. The Agile Coach can assist the team in generating fresh ideas and possibilities by posing queries that test presumptions or challenge the team's thought processes.
In addition, Agile Coaches can use questions to help team members learn and grow. By asking questions that encourage reflection or self-awareness, the Agile Coach can help team members to identify areas for development and to set goals for personal or professional growth.
- Making assumptions: If the Agile Coach does not ask questions to gain a deeper understanding of the team's issues or challenges, they may make assumptions that are not accurate, leading to ineffective support and damaging the coaching relationship.
- Lack of exploration: If the Agile Coach does not ask thought-provoking questions that encourage exploration and reflection, team members may not fully consider alternative perspectives or generate new insights. The lack of exploration prevents the team from identifying the best solutions or approaches to achieve their goals.
- Limited learning: If the Agile Coach does not ask questions that encourage self-awareness and reflection, team members may not be able to learn and grow.
Topics like personal or professional difficulties, team dynamics, or other subjects that team members may feel uncomfortable discussing can be considered sensitive regions. With the right authorization, an Agile Coach needs to be able to delve into private matters because doing so can reveal hidden problems or worries that can affect the team's productivity.
The Agile Coach may contribute to creating a secure and supportive atmosphere where team members feel comfortable sharing their problems and seeking direction by probing sensitive areas with the appropriate permission. Team members will feel as though the Agile Coach genuinely understands and is listening to their concerns, which can deepen the coaching connection and assist in establishing trust.
However, it is essential for the Agile Coach to approach sensitive areas with sensitivity and respect and to obtain proper permission before probing into these areas. This can help ensure team members feel comfortable and respected and prevent the Agile Coach from overstepping boundaries or causing discomfort.
- Creating discomfort: Team members may feel uncomfortable or disrespected if the Agile Coach probes into sensitive areas without proper permission or sensitivity. Creating discomfort will ultimately damage the coaching relationship and prevent team members from being open and honest with the Agile Coach.
- Overstepping boundaries: If the Agile Coach probes too profoundly into sensitive areas without proper permission, they may overstep boundaries and create a sense of intrusion, breaking trust and damaging the coaching relationship.
- Missing important insights: If the Agile Coach avoids probing into sensitive areas, they may miss important insights or issues impacting the team's effectiveness, limiting their ability to achieve their goals.
5. Raise Awareness
5.1. Demonstrate expertise in evoking insights in individuals and agile teams from the unspoken, their underlying concerns and mental models.
Unspoken concerns and mental models can be hard to spot because they might not immediately appear in the team's actions or conversation.
The Agile Coach can assist the team in developing a better knowledge of the underlying challenges affecting their success by evoking insights from the unspoken. By doing this, the Agile Coach may assist in identifying the underlying causes of issues and creating better solutions.
The team may be able to uncover mental models or assumptions that may be restricting their effectiveness by pulling out insights from the unspoken. The group can produce fresh ideas and opportunities that could result in better outcomes by challenging these assumptions and considering alternative viewpoints.
- Addressing surface-level issues only: If the Agile Coach does not evoke insights from the unspoken, they may only address surface-level issues that are readily apparent, preventing the team from addressing deeper problems that may be impacting their effectiveness.
- Failing to identify mental models: If the Agile Coach does not evoke insights from the unspoken, the team may not be aware of their mental models or assumptions that are limiting their effectiveness. This situation can prevent the team from generating new insights or considering alternative perspectives.
- Demotivation: If the Agile Coach does not evoke insights from the unspoken, they may not address the underlying concerns or issues, demotivating teams, and individuals and ultimately damaging the coaching relationship.
6. Actionable Outcomes
6.1. Clearly ask individuals and agile teams for actions that will move them toward achieving agreed goals.
The team may struggle to progress and achieve its goals without specific and actionable steps. Clear and specific actions help to focus the team's efforts and provide a sense of direction, making it easier for team members to understand what they need to do and how to get there.
Furthermore, clear actions help to create a sense of accountability and responsibility among team members. When team members are clear on what steps they need to take, they are more likely to take ownership of their responsibilities, which can help to create a sense of commitment and motivation.
- Lack of focus: Without specific, actionable steps, the team may lose direction and attention, making it harder to accomplish their objectives and resulting in frustration and a lack of motivation among the team members.
- Limited responsibility: Lack of specific actions may prevent team members from taking ownership of their tasks and responsibilities.
7. Accountability Fostering
7.1. Promoting self-discipline in individuals and teams, as well as their ability to take responsibility for results.
Team members are more likely to be dedicated to their job and take ownership of their duties and responsibilities when they are self-disciplined and accept responsibility for their outcomes. Encouraging self-discipline in people and teams may boost team members' motivation and engagement, which can result in better results.
An Agile Coach can also develop the talents and capacities of the team by encouraging responsibility and self-control. Team members are more likely to spot opportunities for improvement and take action to address them when they accept accountability for their performance. The team's performance may eventually improve due to greater learning and development.
- Lack of accountability: If the Agile Coach does not promote self-discipline and responsibility, team members may not take ownership of their tasks and responsibilities, leading to a lack of accountability.
- Limited learning and development: Without self-discipline and responsibility, team members may not identify areas for improvement or take steps to address them.
- Lack of motivation and engagement: Without self-discipline and responsibility, team members may lack motivation and attention, as they may not feel a sense of ownership or commitment to their work.
8. Agile Team Systemic Coaching
The Agile Coach may adapt their approach to fit the unique demands of the person or team by being aware of the distinctions between individual and team coaching.
For instance, when teaching a single person, the coach may adopt a more individualized strategy, concentrating on the requirements and goals unique to that person. While working with teams, the coach may adopt a more cooperative approach, helping them to define common objectives and create plans for accomplishing them.
- Applying an individual coaching approach to team coaching: If the Agile Coach adopts an individual coaching method while working with a team, they could place too much emphasis on individual objectives, convictions, feelings, and requirements rather than shared objectives and team dynamics.
- Failing to recognize the unique challenges and dynamics of team coaching: Coaching a team differs from coaching an individual in that it calls for distinct abilities and methods. Agile coaches may not be successful in their coaching roles if they do not recognize the particular difficulties and dynamics of team coaching.
9.1. Being able to differentiate between sharing experiences and debating suggestions, and imposing guidelines in mentoring relationships.
An Agile Coach taking a Mentor stance is there to guide and support their mentees, but it is essential that the mentee feels empowered and supported in their learning process.
A mentor imposing guidelines or solutions on their mentee without considering their input or perspective can undermine their sense of ownership and investment in the learning process. On the other hand, if a mentor only shares their experiences and ideas without engaging in a dialogue with the mentee, it can prevent the mentee from developing their insights and perspectives.
- Imposing Ideas: Not considering the mentee's input or perspective while imposing their own answers and ideas can reduce the mentee's feeling of ownership and involvement in the learning process.
- Unidirectional sharing: concentrating just on exchanging their own thoughts and experiences without having a conversation with the mentee, which might inhibit the mentee from coming to their own conclusions and points of view.
- Too hands-off: a mentee may feel lost or unsupported in their learning process if the mentor is too detached and don't offer enough direction or assistance.
9.2. Be clear about the importance of developing a personal relationship before a mentoring relationship.
The mentee's aims, interests, and difficulties might be better understood when mentors take the time to get to know the mentee personally. As a result, the mentor may better customize their advice and assistance to the mentee's unique needs and objectives, and the mentee may also feel more at ease and supported during their learning process.
Also, mentors may build a foundation of respect and understanding between themselves and their mentees by getting to know them personally before they begin a mentoring relationship. This can assist in guaranteeing that the mentee is responsive to the mentor's counsel and support and can also help to prevent misunderstandings or disputes from emerging throughout the mentoring relationship.
- Wrong direction: Failing to understand the mentee's goals, interests, and challenges on a deeper level can lead to generic or ineffective guidance and support.
- Unsupported feelings: Jumping straight into the mentoring relationship without building rapport and establishing trust with the mentee can make the mentee feel unsupported or uncomfortable in the learning process.
- Conflicts: Failing to establish a foundation of mutual respect and understanding can lead to misunderstandings or confrontations during the mentoring relationship.