2020 Retro: My personal journey as an agile coach

In this week’s agile Philippines meet up we had a topic about doing a retro on your 2020. It struck me that I never really took time to sit down, think and process all the things that happened on my journey this year. I think it’s healthy to do that and so here we are.

Like any retrospective some context is important so let me provide some. 2020 is the first full year of me leaving the industry I grew up in, know and love. I went from the tech industry to working in a *gasp* bank. Yes the anti-corporate, coffee sipping, hoody wearing start-up loving developer ended up working in a bank. While I did start working there in 2019, 2020 is the year where it sunk in that this is my reality now. Hope that’s enough back story, lets get to the retro.

What went well?

It’s easy for a lot of people to look at 2020 and say it was a complete wash and that nothing good happened. Yes a lot of bad stuff happened and not just because of COVID-19, we also were hit by wicked typhoons and a volcano that almost erupted. Amidst all this some good things still happened. I finally got to coach and facilitate for individuals who are higher up in the organization. I got more experience in coaching the whole organization versus just a team, I got to see what it was like to be part of and work with executive level. It’s experience I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else and I’m thankful for it.

As a coach I also explored new concepts this year. I grew in my understanding of what discovery is. Someone who I look up to made me realize that a lot of frameworks focus on delivering value sooner but not discovering what value means. That hit me hard because I was the same. This year words like “assumption” and “validate” became more common in my vocabulary. I was made aware of when I jump to solutions before validating the problems. A whole new world of thinking was unlocked for me and it made me better.

In the year before 2020 the term “container” was reserved for when talking about devops or tupperware. Now though I see containers as meaningful containers. Who are people who have shared context? Shared goals? Shared work? That’s a container. I learned that identifying this and being deliberate in approaching it is valuable. In fact containers is what allowed me to coach at scale. This was a big thing I learned this year and I intend to be more deliberate about it next year.

Another thing that went well is my discovery of what I stand for and what makes me happy as a coach. With all the experiences I had this year, the different levels of coaching I’ve performed it became clear to me what makes me happy. I am a team coach, I love being with teams, forming connections and improving the way we work together. I love seeing people go home earlier and have more time to do the things they like. I love being there for teammates who want advise so that we can figure things out together. Those things spark joy in me and this year made me realize and appreciate that.

What didn’t go well?

This was the year where I stopped writing. Writing has always been a way for me to process what I’ve learned or discovered, it gave me peace. I stopped doing that. It sucked.

I discovered this year that working with higher-ups in the organization was a completely different experience from working with teams. It was scary and as a coach this was the first time I felt absolutely terrified. I felt small, scared and unworthy of being in the same table as these people let alone coach them. I had to fall flat on my face before I was reminded of what I was there to do. I was there to be a coach, there to own the process, there to facilitate the conversation. I might not have their experience in the content of the work but I sure knew what I was doing. I was just too scared to access my own brain.

Of course what went wrong wouldn’t be complete without the elephant in the room. COVID 19 brought about an abrupt change in how we work and I had to learn how to be an effective coach through a laptop screen. This change took a toll on my overall stress level, I was suddenly stripped of so many tools and techniques I rely on. On top of that I also had to be there and support my part of the organization as they figured out how to work remotely. We figured it out, we figured it out quickly but not without the long hours and countless deep sighs of frustration.

What’s next for 2021?

I don’t know exactly what I want to do or want to achieve in 2021 but I have some ideas. I want to write more, in the past hour I spent writing this piece I’ve felt so much relief and happiness in processing my thoughts. I want to grow and be awesome at coaching at a higher level and working with the big shots. If someone has some books or affirmations you tell yourself to get better at it, I’d love to hear from you.

If you’re still here at the end of this article let me say thank you. I wrote this for me, so I can process what happened this year. I hope that you picked up something from the time you spent reading this or at the very least been amused by my writing. Thank you again and I hope 2021 is better year for all of us.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash