Andrew works with individuals and groups, assisting them to unlock their true potential. He is passionate about the future of Agile Coaching, and is currently exploring several exciting opportunities in this space.
I attended a great talk and presentation recently, at the monthly SUGSA meeting, given by Karen Greaves and Sam Laing (of Growing Agile fame). They talked of the path they followed in becoming Agile Coaches. They presented in their usual interactive and fun ways. They delivered a great talk. But I was struck by a sense of anxiousness in the room…. And the questions asked by the audience gave a hint to me of what was behind this… There was almost a sense that the growth path from wherever many of the individuals in the audience were now, to where many would like to be (perhaps as Agile Coaches), was shrouded in mystery. Many of the questions were focused on which steps or courses should be taken.
Karen and Sam’s replies to these questions, (and there were a few of them), were full of the honesty and openness which always underpins their feedback: that there wasn’t one particular course or process they could single out or recommend, (except growing into the role over years, trusting trial and experimentation, and discovery through networking). This did nothing to alleviate the nervous tension in the room. It seemed to me that many in the audience were struggling to map out in their heads how they could transition from wherever they were today, into a role of inspiring leader and agile coach in the future. And all without being able to get a magic stamp of authenticity by some hallowed educational institution!
In my own journey to becoming a coach, my greatest discovery was finding out that being authentic about whom I was, and what I was capable of at any given time, was often preventing me from the growth I was so hungry for. This concept is explained so well in Herminia Ibarra’s excellent new book Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader. Herminia talks about how for many, trying to be authentic often prevents them from growing. She writes:
…authenticity is misunderstood and highly overrated when it comes to making the transition to new and unfamiliar roles. Because doing things that don’t come naturally can make you feel like an impostor, authenticity easily becomes an excuse for staying in your comfort zone. The trick is to work toward a future version of your authentic self by doing just the opposite: stretching way outside the boundaries of who you are today.
Simply put, if you keep on doing the things you have always done, and you keep on showing up in the same way, then you aren’t going to grow. Change happens from the outside in, not from the inside out. As management guru Richard Pascale puts it,
“Adults are more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting.”
So, just as Karen and Sam said: Get out there, and try stuff people! Push yourself!
Don’t think this challenge, and the feelings we are struggling with are unique to our industry. It’s certainly not, and in fact, in many fields, (such as the arts), it is possibly worse. Amanda Palmer speaks to this point beautifully in her amazing book, The Art of Asking. Amanda explains how as an artist, she constantly felt the fear that she was not legitimate… That she wasn’t “a real artist”. She constantly battles what she describes as “the Fraud Police”:
“When you are an artist, no one ever hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit yourself over your own head with your own hand-made wand, and feel stupid doing it!”
There is no correct path to becoming an artist. You might think you gain legitimacy by going to college, getting published, doing more courses, etc… But it’s all bullshit, it’s all in your head. You are an artist when you say you are. And you are a good artist when you make someone else experience, or feel something deep or unexpected.”
Think about that for a moment… Press the pause button. When was the last time you felt like that at your work?
Importantly, she comments on the importance of “winging it”:
“Everyone out there is winging it, to some degree. Of this, we can be sure. In both the arts and in business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple: The professionals know they are winging it. The amateurs pretend they are not.”
So… What’s the answer?
There is a way around this problem – think about your own authenticity, and your growth into who you want to be as a process… It’s a journey, not a state. If “being authentic” is something that you are rigid about, then it is hard to see how you can change, because to change means becoming something that you currently are not.
Step forward into the person you want to become. Don’t be afraid to “wing it” a bit. As Craig Lambert wrote in his book Mind Over Water:
“Edges form outlines. If our boundaries determine our identities, then we learn who we are by finding our limits.”
I would love to discuss what came up for you when reading this at the next SUGSA meeting!
Until then, keep growing!