A guest post by:  Ilmari Kontulainen
I have been hosting Agile finland Helsinki coaching circles from last spring. Coaching circles are monthly meetups where people can present and discuss different topics that revolve around coaching as well as practice the actual coaching. The most essential practice that we have is an actual coaching exercise. In this blog post I’m going to cover how to organize a coaching exercise, so that the same thing we do, can be expanded beyond the coaching circles.

The setup

Coaching exercise requires at least three people. If there are more than three, multiples of threes are most suitable. This is because there are three roles in the exercise:
  • the coach
  • the coachee
  • the observer
The roles are pretty self descriptive. The coach acts as a coach. The coachee is a person who has a real problem to be coached about. The observer is a observing how the coach coaches the coachee, listing down what went well, what went not so well and what could be improved. The problem needs to be real in order for the practice to be effective. If we don’t have a real problem, then there’s no need for coaching. Everything that happens during the exercise is 100% confidential, and this needs to be mentioned beforehand.

The exercise

The exercise itself happens in the groups of three persons who have taken roles defined above. If there are more than three persons in the group the rest act as observers as coaching is best done between two persons. The exercise has three phases:
  1. coaching
  2. feedback
  3. retrospective

In the coaching phase the coachee tries to find a solution the his/her problem with the help of the coach. There are so many ways to do the actual coaching, that it is out of scope for this post, but for example the GROW model can be used.In the feedback phase the observer(s) give feedback and comments how they perceived how the coaching went. The coach and the coachee can clarify any ambiguities, and hopefully all three (or more) come to mutual conclusion about what worked, what didn’t, and what could be done differently.The retrospective phase is only applicable if there are more than one group of three in the exercise. In the retrospective phase groups can share experiences to other groups about the exercise. This allows inter-team learning and is especially fruitful when people who are unfamiliar with the exercise are present.The phases should be time boxed because it enhances structure to the exercise. In Agile Finland coaching circles the coaching phase takes typically 20 minutes, the feedback phase takes 5 minutes and the retrospective somewhere between 5 to 10 minutes.

Conclusion

Using these instructions you can organize a coaching exercise in your organization. One hour should be reserved for this kind of exercise (at least in the beginning), as the structure of the exercise needs to be explained and choosing the roles, etc. take time. I hope this information sparks future coaches in organizations and I would love to hear any experiences how the exercises went.

Ilmari Kontulainen

Ilmari Kontulainen is the CEO of software production platform Deveo, a lean thinker and continuous improvement fanatic. During spare time Ilmari organizes Agile Finland’s coaching circles at Helsinki, reads and does variety of sports.

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