In today’s Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast episode, host Dan Neumann is joined by returning guest and AgileThought colleague, Sam Falco. Sam is an agile coach and certified Scrum professional with an extensive background in leading agile development teams.
In today’s episode, they will be discussing coaching around resistance. Sam began developing this topic a few years back when he had seen some books and articles about overcoming and defeating resistance. It had always struck him as psychologically violent, very prescriptive and not too collaborative. When he thought about his own experiences with resistance—both when he resisted some sort of change and his experiences coaching change—he discovered that it should not be thought of as something to be overcome, but instead, as a useful red flag.
Sam further explains what coaching around resistance is, how to get people to talk about their emotions when they’re resistant, how to become an effective coach for leading changes or a transformation, and how to build the skills that are key to coaching around resistance. They also discuss the different levels of relationship that are important when coaching around resistance, the different types of inquiry you can apply in your coaching, and overall, what you should keep in mind while coaching.
- What is resistance?
- A natural reaction to an emotional process of adapting to difficult change
- What is coaching around resistance?
- It is when you act with empathy and help others to—not overcome or defeat something—but to work past what is blocking them
- Treat the underlying cause rather than ignoring it or bandaging over it
- How do you get people to talk about emotion (in regards to resistance)?
- Use humble inquiry (which is asking for information in the least biased, least threatening way which helps to build trust)
- Access your ignorance
- Ask in a neutral way
- Sam’s advice for being an effective coach for leading change or a transformation:
- Consider the relationship you have with this person (the four levels of relationship that Edgar Schein identifies are: minus one relationship, transactional relationship, personal relationship or intimate relationship) with the goal being personal
- Have honesty about the mutual problem or the experience that is happening
- Honor commitments and promises
- Find that level of comfort where you both trust each other to be open and truthful
- Share information (which can help foster that personal relationship)
- Use relationship/team building exercises such as The Line Journey or Personal Maps
- Model the behavior you’re expecting from them
- Build a rapport so they’re open, transparent and willing to share the true challenges that they may have
- Live by Scrum values (which helps to build the relationship to the right level)
- Use humble inquiry to build trust
- Use diagnostic inquiry, confrontational inquiry and process-oriented inquiry at your discretion
- How to coach around resistance:
- Make sure to ask more questions
- Leave more space for the other person to talk
- Go beyond the mechanics; which includes the values of Scrum
- How do you build these skills?
- Start by trying them on/practicing with someone who you already have a good, trusting, personal relationship with
Mentioned in this Episode:
- Sam Falco (LinkedIn)
- Paul R. Lawrence
- Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used, by Peter Block
- Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, by Edgar H. Schein
- Humble Consulting: How to Provide Real Help Faster, by Edgar H. Schein
- The Journey Line Exercise
- Mind Map
- Personal Map
- Managing for Happiness: Games, Tools, and Practices to Motivate Any Team, by Jurgen Appelo
- The Four Forms of Inquiry
- Scrum Values
- The Situation Behavior Impact Framework (SBI Model)
- Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 27: “Deep Dive on Scrum Values with Sam Falco”
- Nimble: A Coaching Guide for Responsive Facilitation, by Rebecca Sutherns
- Coaching Around Resistance Using Humble Inquiry
Sam Falco’s Book Pick:
- The Professional Product Owner: Leveraging Scrum as a Competitive Advantage,
by Don McGreal and Ralph Jocham
Intro: [00:03] Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought. The podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pay of the past to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.
Dan Neumann: [00:16] Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner. I am your host, Dan Neumann. And today Sam Falco and I are going to be talking on the topic of coaching around resistance and before we go too far into the content, let’s do the little disclaimer. These are your opinion and mine, not necessarily those of AgileThought or other companies or other people. So Sam, let’s talk coaching around resistance.
Sam Falco: [00:45] Yeah. Um, I came to this topic a couple of years back. I started developing it. I’d seen some books and articles about overcoming resistance or how to defeat resistance and it always struck me as just a little, um, a little violent language, kind of a psychological violence. It was very prescriptive and it really wasn’t collaborative. And I thought about my own experiences with resistance, both when I resisted some sort of change, uh, because resistance is not just an agile phenomenon. This is any, any change. And so I thought about my experience resisting change and I thought about my experience coaching change. And then I stumbled onto something that kind of crystallized my thinking. Paul Lawrence, who was a sociologist and a Harvard business school professor, and this was like 1969 article and this quote jumped out at me. When resistance does appear, it should not be thought of as something to be overcome. Instead, it can be best thought of as a useful red flag in the same way that pain is useful to the body as a signal. So it wasn’t something that should be ignored or bandaged over. You treat the underlying cause. And I thought that’s it. We’re trying to act with empathy so we’re not overcoming or defeating something. We are helping people work past what is blocking them.
Dan Neumann: [02:17] Yeah. So you’re getting some kind of signal from the body. So that metaphor, right? You’ve got pain. Maybe your, maybe you’ve been moving too fast. Maybe you’ve tired something out, maybe, you know, it points to some kind of cause and it’s something to be curious about is also what comes to mind for me.
Sam Falco: [02:32] Yeah. Yeah. Uh, I love the example of pain. I mean, I, I’ve just taken up running again after a long period of not doing it because I had injured my knee and I’m being really careful and I’m paying attention to how, how stiff does my knee feel after, do I need to ice it? Uh, what do I need to do to make sure I don’t put myself in trauma again?
Dan Neumann: [02:56] Yeah. And as a runner, I totally empathize with that. Today was my rest today for those same reasons I over did a few days worth of, of miles and today was just a day to, to unwind and pay attention to the signals that were coming through.
Sam Falco: [03:10] Right, right. And then Peter Block, um, he wrote a book called Flawless Consulting. Uh, it’s a really good resource for anybody in any sort of consulting relationship, whether that’s your job title or not. I mean we’re all in a way consultants, if we are trying to effect change in our organization or teach people to do things. And um, one of the things that he talked about was that resistance is, um, it’s a natural reaction to an emotional process of adapting to difficult change. So again, when we remember this and remember that we need to have empathy for the people we’re working with, then it’s not about defeating them. It’s about working with them.
Dan Neumann: [03:52] Yeah. And when, when we see that resistance, I think it’s easy to think that that person is a resistor. They like to make it that that is what that person is as opposed to that’s a human being who is exhibiting this behavior of resistance.
Sam Falco: [04:08] Yeah. I actually hadn’t thought of it that way before. I think you’re right. We label people and then, then we look only at the label instead of the person behind that label. So right. By reaching out to them as you know, some resistance is something you’re doing and let’s talk about why you’re doing that. Then we can get to the root of the problem and help them make that change. If, if, uh, if we can help them get past their own emotional roots. But, um, then so that they’re, there lies the problem. How do you get people to talk about emotions? A lot of people don’t like to do that and I seem to be able to draw that out of people. So it hadn’t occurred to me, but then I had an early version of a workshop I give on coaching around resistance. Said, what if someone just isn’t comfortable talking about those things? And I, I did not have an answer for that. Uh, and I had to go away and think about it and do some research and reading. And that was how I stumbled onto “The Concept of Humble Inquiry,” which is a, um, it’s a book by Edgar Schein and he also has one called “Humble Consulting”. And the idea there is that in our culture, we often use telling as a form of inquiry or mask telling somebody something in inquiry. And that doesn’t help. We need to actually come at people with a different mindset and approach.
Dan Neumann: [05:32] So maybe an example would be helpful as we talk about masking and masking telling with a form of inquiry. It like, so like a leading question. I’m trying to think of a really good example and maybe you have one top of mind.
Sam Falco: [05:46] Um, yeah, I mean a leading question is a perfect example of that. Um, don’t you think it would be helpful to do this? Okay. You’ve just told somebody what to do. You phrased as a question, but you’re not asking them, you’re telling them and that puts the other person in a one down position. You’re essentially exerting dominance over them, which is a psychologically violent thing to do. And if you put somebody in a one down position, well they’re going to back off. They’re gonna shut down. They might do what you say they might not, but they’re going to resent you either way and it doesn’t build trust.
Dan Neumann: [06:23] And so the opposite of that would be humble inquiry then.
Sam Falco: [06:27] Right. Humble inquiry comes from a place of sincere interest. Curiosity about the other person. Schein, uses the phrase accessing your ignorance, the idea that you really don’t know what’s going on in their head. So you’ve seen that they are resistant in some way to this change. You can make an assumption, oh well they just don’t like agile or whatever that may be. You don’t know. And so by asking in a very neutral way, makes it easier for them to, uh, break out and break past that.
Dan Neumann: [07:03] And so an example again along those lines, maybe a question of what’s happening for you right now, which is neutral. It’s not, um, it’s not a leading question or your example that was along the lines of don’t you think we should, maybe a question of what options would you like us to consider or what options come to mind for you as opposed to a leading, um, closed ended question.
Sam Falco: [07:30] Yeah. And that first example you gave where you say what’s going on with you right now is a perfect example of, of exactly that humble inquiry. You don’t know and you are asking. It’s, um, also, uh, it allows that person the option of whether or not to respond. And that’s another factor that we have to get into is what kind of relationship do you have with this person that you’re trying to coach. And this is another thing that I had never considered before and this comes out of Edgar Schein’s work as well, is that he identifies four levels of relationships that you have to consider where you’re at. And some relationships are more suited to being in a coaching role than others.
Dan Neumann: [08:16] So let’s touch on some examples of of those. Cause I think, yeah, right. So you have to have some relationship for the coaching to happen. I know I have been in a position where I’ve gotten um, advice, admittedly not humble inquiry, it may have been great advice, but I didn’t want it from that person for whatever reason.
Sam Falco: [08:35] Yeah. And that could be because you had a negative relationship. It could be that you just didn’t have the right level of coaching relationship. Let’s talk through the four levels that he identifies that Edgar Schein identifies. And the first one is he refers to as minus one relationships. And these are negative relationships. Essentially. He says minus one because these are less than zero. It’s below the baseline of expectation of human behavior in our culture. So this is, uh, situations where we don’t treat each other as humans at all. So master slave relationships, um, prison guard in prisoners is that kind of relationship, but also think of the way that some managers treat their employees. So if you go into a situation where that’s the environment, you’re not going to be an effective coach until you can change the negative relationships into something more positive.
Dan Neumann: [09:29] And so in that, with the negative relationship, when you refer to a manager are you thinking, who’s the coach in that scenario?
Sam Falco: [09:38] Well, if you, if, if I’m the coach.
Dan Neumann: [09:42] Yeah. In theory, who was the coach because it’s a negative relationship and it’s likely not to be effective. The managers coach?
Sam Falco: [09:49] Yeah. Well the manager could be the coach. Or if you go into an environment where you’re expected to coach and you see this sort of thing going on, you’ve got to heal a bunch of relationships because you have now come in, let’s say you’re a consultant or you’ve been brought in as a coach, even, you know, as a, as an employee of the organization and you see this kind of behavior going on. Well, you have authority, you have power because of the way you’ve been brought in. People are going to see you as part of the problem. And so even though you haven’t done anything to deserve it or to set off on that foot, you’re in a negative one relationship with these people because that’s the way they’re going to see you as the oppressor.
Dan Neumann: [10:30] It’s guilt by association in that context. Yeah. Yup. Okay. So negative relationship, bad and not a good place to have a coaching relationship form.
Sam Falco: [10:41] Right. And keep in mind all of these types of relationships are continuum. So we are talking about some like master slave and prison guard, prisoners really, really harsh. Uh, this is the kind of thing that paves the way for like ethnic cleansing. However, you can also have negative relationship that is just bossy manager who puts people down. Uh, it doesn’t have to be, you know, a life threatening sort of thing. The next level, what he calls level one is a transactional relationship. And this is, this is the baseline. This is normal human behavior when we don’t know each other. Um, it’s a degree of openness and trust based on just the cultural rules of civility. And an example of this is I’m in my car and I’m approaching a crosswalk and I see someone getting ready to step into the crosswalk and I slow down and stop for them to, to cross. Yes, there’s a law that says I have to do that. But I’ve also had people blast right through when I’m trying to get into a crosswalk, that’s a negative one relationship. A transaction relationship says, I see you, I recognize you as a human being and I’m going to obey the rules of our culture. Uh, so we expect civil behavior with level one transactional relationships, right?
Dan Neumann: [12:00] So it’s a nice, it’s we’re, we’re out of the negative. We’re back into at least a neutral, you know, we’re transactional.
Sam Falco: [12:07] Right. Customer shop clerk is a great example of this. Um, and, and a and a normal working environment where there isn’t a lot of hostility, but maybe there’s not a lot of trust yet that can be a transactional relationship where we’re moderately friendly towards one another. Uh, I mean, essentially when you join a new organization, that’s probably where you’re going to start, unless there’s some pretty bad hostility to begin with.
Dan Neumann: [12:29] Okay. So it’s a good place to start.
Sam Falco: [12:32] It is. But the problem is transactional nature of that level of relationship. It, um, it’s insufficient to dealing with the complex problems of an agile transformation. So we need, when we go into an organization or if we’re part of an organization where that is the norm, we need to find a way to bring it up into the next level, which he calls personal relationships. This is at a minimum, we start treating each other as people rather than as roles. So going back to customer shop clerk, when I go to my grocery store, there is one cashier whose name is Daphne and I ask her about her cats and we know each other just a little bit more than just here. You know, I swipe my groceries, I’m going to pay you and get out of here. And that’s a minimum level of personal relationship. It’s a broad category. So personal acquaintanceships like that. Um, maybe common interest in a TV show, uh, to various kinds of, of friendships.
Dan Neumann: [13:35] Okay. So, yeah, moving beyond, you know, starting to explore things that are maybe happening outside of that person’s daily work life and really trying to understand them as, as a person and um, multifaceted.
Sam Falco: [13:51] Right. And in a consulting environment that revolves around this mutual goal of giving help and getting help. Ideally if we go into an organization to consult, they are doing it because they want our help with something. And we were there because we want to help them. So you need to get some sort of personalization so that that can happen. So that there’s some trust, uh, some safety that will allow that to happen. And then a transformation environment, uh, that person has to feel comfortable sharing personal information around that joint task of adapting to change. And that is what I said earlier. This was the missing link that I had not noticed. I tend to form personal relationships with people very, very quickly and I hadn’t realized that it was maybe something that you have to work at.
Dan Neumann: [14:53] Yeah. And I think for a lot of people that yes, it, it has to be a more intentional, some people are gifted differently than, than what you have for, you know, ending up talking about cats with the clerk.
Sam Falco: [15:04] Right, right. Um, so for me it was less of a thing, but I have also noticed that there have been some places where I didn’t form those relationships and I didn’t really, um, I didn’t really know why. And so this gave me something to work towards. We need honesty about the mutual problem or the experience that’s happening. Information is volunteered when you need it and commitments and promises are honored at this level. So we have to discover the boundaries, um, of where that personalization begins and ends because everybody is comfortable with a different range of that. Um, we need to find that level of comfort where we trust each other to be open and truthful.
Dan Neumann: [15:52] And this is where I think sometimes sharing information can help foster that personal relationship. So whether it’s one on one sharing or activities that come to mind, like a journey lines exercise where people maybe are sharing about their professional career, the timeline, the highs, the lows, why things were high and low for them. Um, and they, they’re kind of course share as much or as little, um, personal details they want in that. But it’s an invitation to start sharing and fostering some of the empathy and some of that personal relationship.
Sam Falco: [16:26] Right. One exercise I did with one organization I went to and I was going to be Scrum Master for a fairly large team and they had no reason to trust me because I was new and they’d also had a succession of short term Scrum Masters who had come in, started issuing edicts. And then left, was I presented a personal map and this is something I found in um, Appelo Jurgen’s book, “Managing for Happiness,” I believe and it just has a series of categories where you can fill out as much or as little as you like. I did it as a mind map and I, I have one of those I updated every now and then cause I do this exercise from time to time and I just projected on a screen, here’s my map, ask me anything. And they had a half an hour to just ask me questions about what was on the map. And that really built some rapport very quickly because they saw that I was going to be open with them and I modeled the behavior I was expecting from them and some one on one interviews where I just sat down and said, I have no agenda for this conversation, but I want to hear your perspective on your work. And they could talk in as little or as much detail as they wanted. It was just information and none of it went anywhere else. But I built that trust by allowing them to see me in, uh, you know, get to know me very quickly.
Dan Neumann: [17:45] Yeah. Working, working that relationship away from your, your, the bobs in office space perception where people think you’re coming in there like you’re going to come in as re-org them or, or, outsource them or whatever the case might be. So building some rapport so that they are open and transparent and willing to share about true challenges that they have.
Sam Falco: [18:06] Yeah. And then just briefly to touch on the fourth level of relationship that Edgar Schein identifies as intimate relationships. These are relationships which have a lot of emotional attachment. That can be anything from best friends to lovers. Obviously this is not what we want in a, in a, in a work environment. Um, yeah, it’s great to have close friends, don’t get me wrong there, but as a change agent that can get in the way, especially if it gets too deep into a, into an emotional connection, um, because it can lead to problems like nepotism or corruption or favoritism or at least the appearance of that. So one of the challenges that some people have when they are leading a change is that they have to hold themselves back just a little bit from the people they’re working with. Not get too close because that can actually degrade the experience of working through transformation.
Dan Neumann: [19:01] So balancing that personal relationship with some professional distance as well. So those different levels of relationship, obviously avoiding the negative, getting beyond the transactional and really establishing some personal relationship. So you, that you have a nice foundation for a coaching relationship.
Sam Falco: [19:22] Absolutely. And one of the things to touch back on our last conversation about Scrum values is that those values help you if you’re living those values, that also helps build the relationship to the right level. And so a good Scrum adoption is really gonna accelerate that process.
Dan Neumann: [19:40] Yeah. A lot of, a lot of openness and respect. Transparency. It goes way beyond just doing the Scrum events.
Sam Falco: [19:51] It does. Yeah, it does. And so one of the techniques that you can use to build a relationship from negative one to transactional from transactional to personal is the use of humble inquiry because you are making yourself vulnerable. I mean, when you admit you don’t know something, you’re making yourself just a tiny bit vulnerable and that builds trust. Um, you’re asking for information in the least biased, least threatening way. So the example that you cited earlier of what’s going on with you right now, that is, I don’t know anything about what’s going on with you. Um, that might be too much for some people, especially if you’re at a lower level of relationship at first. But it is an example of a humble inquiry. Um, these things can be just go on is a great humble inquiry. Someone starts to tell you something and they pause cause they want to see if you’re listening go on or a question that I will use frequently. What else?
Dan Neumann: [20:53] Yeah. And it’s interesting to see, to offer that invitation really to continue on and to see what, what emerges. Because a lot of times people will talk about the safe stuff first and one of the things that comes out later is the real issue. The really sticky point that needs to be addressed.
Sam Falco: [21:10] Yeah. And so at first they’re just kind of testing the waters to see can they trust you? And when they see that you do trust them and that they can trust you, they’ll go off that, that next step and you can just keep it going that way.
Dan Neumann: [21:29] Diagnostic inquiry is also one of the types of inquiry. And I’m wondering if you can, uh, I often see a need to kind of move between humble inquiry and then maybe a little bit of diagnostic to dig in and start to pull out more of those details.
Sam Falco: [21:44] Right. There’s three other forms of inquiry that, uh, that he identifies and diagnostic is one of them confrontational inquiry and process oriented inquiry. And there’s not any sort of hard boundary between them. All of the other three can be a form of humble inquiry depending on how you approach it, as long as you are approaching them with that, uh, that aura of sincere interest and curiosity rather than trying to tell them things. So let’s talk about diagnostic inquiry. This is asking about a particular thing and it suddenly influences the other person’s mental process. So asking about feelings and reactions, uh, can personalize the relationship. This is a good way to start building a transactional relationship into a personal relationship, but you probably don’t want to ask about someone’s feelings when there’s a negative one relationship or a very, very weak transactional relationship. It risks pushing a little deeper than the other person is willing to go.
Dan Neumann: [22:42] And I think it also creates an opportunity for them just to give the, uh, the traditional, you know, hey, how are things going, Sam? Fine. You know, they’re fine. You know, um, you don’t get real answers. You get the, the scripted cultural types of answers.
Sam Falco: [22:58] Right, right. And so how, you know, how you’re feeling is not necessarily diagnostic unless you already have a good rapport, but how do you feel about that? Whatever they’ve just been talking about. So if someone’s saying this sprint retrospective isn’t giving us any value, well how do you feel about that can Open up an avenue of questions. Other forms of diagnostic inquiry can be, what have you tried? So someone comes to you with a problem rather than launching into it, here’s how you solve that, well what have you done? What have you tried to do to solve your problem? Because first of all, if you start off with stuff they’ve already tried, well you are now telling them that you’re an idiot because it didn’t work for you or you’re telling them that you’re not really listening. So let them talk about what they’ve tried, they may come up with their solution on their own through talking out what they’ve tried. Another example is to ask, why did that happen? If someone is telling you about an event, why did that happen? Let them let them talk.
Dan Neumann: [23:59] Yeah. The uh, the model you described where you ask some questions and by that person explaining kind of what they’ve tried and exploring other options, um, we refer to it as the nodding dummy. It’s kinda just by being there and being someone they can talk to and thinking out loud, they come up with the solution effectively on their own.
Sam Falco: [24:19] Yeah. Uh, one writer that I know talk to me about when he’s dealing with plot problem. So he’ll get one of his kids stuffed animals and talk to the stuffed animal about the plot problem and eventually the, the solution works its way out. Um, so yeah, just offering that ability for them to talk things through and continuing with diagnostic questions can help. You can shift gears. You can ask some of the other types of questions, but just to keep them talking until they’ve gotten a solution. It’s always interesting to have someone come to you with a problem and they get to the end of the conversation and say well that really helped. And you didn’t tell them anything, right?
Dan Neumann: [24:59] Yes, yes, for sure. So confrontational to me sounds quite the opposite of humble inquiry.
Sam Falco: [25:06] It does. Um, and this is the type of inquiry that inserts ideas in the form of questions. So it veers very close to that telling as inquiry that I talked about earlier. And these are close ended. They lend themselves to yes or no answers. Um, so shouldn’t you try this or did you do that because? If you approach them again with a sincere motive for helping and there’s a lot of existing trust, a confrontational question can be a form of humble inquiry and it can be just the thing you need right then. So maybe someone is telling you about, uh, an event they can’t quite put their finger on why they acted the way they did. You know, they’re troubled about, uh, oh I blew up at So-and-so, uh, right after the retrospective. Well, did you do that because he said this thing and maybe they’re not, they don’t even remember that because it went by so quickly, but it bothered them. So that kind of confrontational inquiry can be useful, can be humble inquiry. But again, it’s really, you’ve really got to have some trust already built up. This is where we have personal relationships already established. You don’t want to use that type of question to, to try to move from transactional to the next level.
Dan Neumann: [26:28] Yup. And I, I think it’s a good way to kind of nudge people into action where they are aware that they should, or maybe even want to take action, but it does need a little bit of encouragement or support or in a some validation that no, it’s okay to, to go do that activity.
Sam Falco: [26:48] Right. Or they’re having trouble putting their finger. Like in, in our culture, we’re really bad at talking about emotions and so some people may not have the vocabulary to identify what they’re feeling. So a confrontational question of did that make you feel a particular way? Do you know, did that make you feel happy is not really a great example I guess because people generally know when they’re happy, uh, but did that, that make you feel nervous. Did that make you feel anxious? Well maybe the person just didn’t have the vocabulary to put that on their end and that will help.
Dan Neumann: [27:22] Yeah. The, the framework, the situation, behavior and impact framework that we’ve talked about in a previous episode. The impact part, it’s really important to go find those feeling words. And I like one of the worksheets we got from, from Eckerd college on that. It has a nice, I don’t know, there must be 30 or so different feeling types of words, embarrassed to belittled. Um, you know, words that we often don’t use in kind of everyday conversation.
Sam Falco: [27:53] Right, right. And I like that SBI format though because that is, that is telling as inquiry I guess because you are telling the person what you observed and how it impacted you. And the unspoken statement there is do you want to do anything with that?
Dan Neumann: [28:10] Right. And it’s an opportunity then for the other person actually to use more inquiry. We’ll tell me more about that or tell me what else was going on or, or how could I, how could I have done that differently? Yes.
Sam Falco: [28:22] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And then the final type of inquiry that Schein talks about is process oriented inquiry, which are meta questions. They shift the conversation, the subject of the conversation back on to the conversation, the discussion or relationship that is unfolding. Uh, and these can border on the diagnostic. The diagnostic is building understanding of the total situation. The process oriented question is building understanding of the relationship or the conversation itself. And it’s really, really hard because our culture doesn’t support talking about emotions. It really doesn’t support this kind of thing as a normal part of conversation. So, um, what is happening is a humble inquiry question, but what is happening in this conversation right now can get you really deep and this is hard. Uh, these are for the really deeper personal relationships and you can see these in the intimate relationships as well, which again, not really what we’re looking for in a consulting or coaching environment.
Dan Neumann: [29:30] But definitely appropriate in a, in a personal relationship. And especially when conversations start to get that feeling like it’s going off track or it’s for unknown reason or at least an unexpressed reason, it’s getting unusually emotional for the actual topic you’re talking about.
Sam Falco: [29:51] Yeah. And in the Scrum values episode we did, I talked about an incident where an analyst and I kind of got into a heated remark or heated session and, and one of the things that happened was I said, what’s going on with this conversation right now? And that was when we realized we were starting to get angry and let’s turn to the whiteboard. That was, that was what, um, the inciting incident for, let’s go to the whiteboard and start drawing things so that we can start talking about the problem instead of getting into this, you know, feedback of anger.
Dan Neumann: [30:25] Very much. So we’ve talked about some different types of relationships in some different types of inquiry that can be used in a coaching relationship. Is resistance coming up maybe, maybe now help fit the two of those together from a, from a coaching around resistance standpoint.
Sam Falco: [30:45] Right. Um, so this, this is actually changed my coaching stance quite a bit. I, and it will continue to change it because I come from a culture where telling as inquiry is the mode, the primary mode of communication. One of the things I will go to frequently is just that prescriptive, here’s what you’re supposed to do. And as I have been reading about this topic and doing some research, I have made sure that I ask more questions and leave more space for the other person to talk.
Dan Neumann: [31:16] Yeah. And I think both have, I think in training, you know, when you’re, when you’re actually training somebody to do a specific thing telling may have an entirely appropriate place. But as we shift from training to coaching, so now how do we take those maybe new skills that we’ve learned and apply them in real world situation? Or where working with an organization to shift from one type of of behavior and mindset to a different type of behavior and mindset. That’s where the, the different types of inquiry and really having those relationships on which to base the coaching becomes really more, pardon. Yep.
Sam Falco: [31:56] Sure. Especially so you’re teaching people to use Scrum and maybe you want to give them space. What do you think about that? How does that make you feel when you’ve talked about how, how the daily Scrum will go. Let them open up themselves. Maybe you can build that rapport before the resistance begins because they’ll tell you right then, oh, I’m kind of an introvert. I don’t really want to talk in front of a group. That’s going to be really hard for me. And then you can continue that conversation with what would, what would help you be more comfortable.
Dan Neumann: [32:30] Beautiful. Yes. And so going beyond the mechanics and really into coaching, which includes the values and includes the way people feel about the values and the way they’re being expressed on a day to day basis.
Sam Falco: [32:43] Right. And that, that question I just asked, how, what would make you feel more comfortable? That is bordering on a confrontational, because I’m really directing the conversation. It’s more of a diagnostic question, but it is done in a, in a sense of really wanting to help, really wanting to know what do you want, not here’s how you should behave.
Dan Neumann: [33:04] So Sam, we’ve talked about the different levels of relationships as we went through here and we gave people some different types of inquiry that they might want to apply in their coaching, especially as they’re perceiving resistance. And so now how do we help go from the intellectual, okay, I’ve heard it to now it’s behavioral people, um, are, are built building that skill,
Sam Falco: [33:29] Right. And you, you do, you have to practice it. You have to try it. You have to try it in a way where you’re not going to get hurt if you don’t do it right. So my recommendation for anyone trying to build these skills is start with someone with which you already have a good trusting personal relationship and maybe write down some answers or questions in advance, uh, make up some scenarios or that sort of thing where you can practice this kind of thing. Role play it. I’ll be the guy who just really hates agile and is afraid for his job as a result of it. And you be the coach who’s trying to get me to talk about that, that sort of thing. And so what we can do is I’ve got some scenarios that I’ve used in some of the workshops that I presented, so we’ll put a couple of those in the show notes that listeners can print out, maybe take into work and get together with a group of their colleagues and say, hey, let’s spend a few minutes silently writing about questions that we might ask. And then let’s role play those out.
Dan Neumann: [34:29] Perfect. Yeah folks can find those, at agilethought.com/podcast and under this show. Yeah. Fantastic Sam. Well thank you. Any books that you’re reading that are inspiring you these days?
Sam Falco: [34:43] Yeah. I just finished reading “The Professional Product Owner,” Uh, Don McGreal is the lead author on that and I’m blanking on the name of the guy is the second author. This is the problem of getting second billing.
Dan Neumann: [34:57] It isn’t an, it’s an unfortunate position to be in.
Sam Falco: [35:00] Yes. Yeah. Um, this was a great book for me because I’ve never functioned in a product owner role. Uh, well I did once for a, uh, a situation where we were building an automated testing platform, but that was, uh, hardly scrum product ownership as I have learned through reading this book that it can be, and it actually helped me understand the product owner role in a much deeper way so that when I’m supporting product owners and then coaching them, I really can empathize more with what they have to do and it also gave me some tools to share with people I’m coaching.
Dan Neumann: [35:40] Okay. And I believe the other author’s name is Ralph Jocham. Yes. Okay. So hopefully we got that right. And for me, I am still working through the book, “Nimble,” it’s about facilitation. And we’re going to have Doctor Rebecca Sutherns on a podcast in the very near future to, uh, share about facilitation and especially being able to be reactive in the moment. So I’m a much slower reader than many of my colleagues, but I will have finished that book before we record that podcast. Okay, fantastic, thanks again, Sam.
Sam Falco: [36:18] Thank you.
Outro: [36:21] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner Podcast brought to you by AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips from this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.