This is the first in a series of Coaching Secrets posts, inspired by my self-guided online course Coaching Skills for Impact.

We all want to help. 

Unfortunately, acting on the desire to help is usually where many Scrum Masters, Coaches, and Managers can make a mistake (including myself).

When we see people struggling, we want to help them.  We want them to feel better.  We want to help solve their problem.  We want to remove stress or suffering.

Because we are human.

Often when we act on this desire to help, we take one (or all) of these three actions:

We quickly move towards action.We offer advice.We take on more responsibilities.

Coaching Secret:  Stop being so helpful.

(Or learn to help in the right way.)

We have good intentions, however, we may actually hurt more than we help.  If our goal is to best serve the person’s or the team’s highest needs, a coaching approach may be best.

Moving towards action too quickly limits learning.

The power of coaching includes deepening the learning of the person or the team we are working with.

If we jump too quickly towards taking action, we are limiting the amount of learning for others.  The learning could be about what is important to them, what they want, how they feel, how they assess their progress, or exploring other perspectives.

There is an abundance of learning available if we hold that focus for others.

Offering advice limits creativity and ownership.

When we jump into giving advice, we are likely shutting down idea generation by others.  If we are viewed as an expert or an experienced leader, this is even more likely to happen.

People are creative and resourceful and fully capable of solving problems.  When we are coaching, we want to create the environment to enable them to come up with their own solutions.  They can then assess their progress and change course if their solution did not have the desired impact.

Coaching is about enabling others to make conscious decisions and empowering them.  People are much more likely to take ownership and feel accountable when they come up with their own solutions.  This feeds on itself, creating empowered people and self-organizing teams.

Beware of offering advice disguised as a question.  Yep, we all do it.  Someone comes to us with a problem.  And we say, “Have you tried….”  That’s advice, people.  That is not a powerful question.  Instead we can say, “What have you tried?” or “If you could do anything, what would you try?”

There may be times when sharing advice is good.  Just ask yourself if it is the right time, or if it is the best way to serve others right now.

Owning the actions creates overwhelm for us and limits growth for others.

How often do you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list?  How often do you feel irritated and exhausted?  Are you hesitant to meet with people because you always end up with a bunch more things on your plate?

When we take ownership of the actions, we can fall into the trap of being a “rescuer.” This can lead to us feeling resentment.  This can lead to others feeling like “victims.”  When we are overwhelmed, we may lose sight of the big picture and how we can best fulfill our role and serve others.

Furthermore, this limits growth opportunities for others.  With coaching, we want to empower, support, and challenge others in service of their learning and growth.

When people do something they’ve never done before or something that pushes them a bit past their comfort zone, the learning is deeper.  They build their confidence.  They grow and expand their range.

In conclusion, we need to redefine what it means to be helpful.  We can best serve others by helping them deepen their learning, tap into their creativity and resourcefulness, and own their commitments.

Put This Into Action

Step 1:  Take 3 minutes and reflect on this question:

In the past week, what things have I done that perhaps someone else could have owned?

Step 2:  Take 3 minutes and do the following:

Look at your calendar for the upcoming week.  Identify any meetings (individual or team) where you want to intentionally practice the coaching tips in this post.Set a reminder, make a note, or do whatever will help you remember this intention at the time of the meeting.

Step 3:  During the next week, track your progress in an electronic device or notebook:

Keep track of the number of times you catch yourself wanting to give advice and are able to instead help others deepen their learning or come up with creative solutions.Keep track of the number of times you catch yourself wanting to take on a new action item to help someone else and instead allow them (or even challenge them) to own it.


If you are ready to get a solid foundation in Scrum Master coaching skills, register now for my self-guided video course Coaching Skills for Impact

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