An Agile Coaching Certification Journey

“I really am sorry.”

Pretty regularly, I mention to people that I have this blog,  “So Agile it Hurts Sometimes,” but I have to admit that I have been a negligent blogger. An absentee landlord of this page. A loser.  You know the part of the title “it hurts sometimes?” Neglecting this blog has been one of those times. I am sorry.

But I do have a reason, . . .



and it is kind of a good one–an exciting one, really. 

Those of you who know me, know that a pretty major part of my life is helping Agile teams. In that effort, “Agile Coaching” has loomed larger and larger as a direction for me. Over the last few years, I had spoken with people who had tried to get their Certified Team Coach designation through The Scrum Allaince and failed. One said she had spent 3 months filling out the application and had been quickly rejected.  One didn’t even make it through the initial interview; another failed twice and quit; yet another failed twice but finally completed it. All those who didn’t finish complained that it seemed like trying to get a Master’s degree in Agile Coaching–that it was too hard and too selective. That, to me, seemed like something daunting and intellectually challenging, and a little bit scary. So I did what I tend to do with challenges like that. I applied. 

I started the process about a year ago, and it has turned into a journey. The CTC is a 3-part certification, with part 1 being focused on background information, experience in coaching, involvement in the Agile community and direct work with mentors, mentees, and other professionals. It’s a series of 150-200-word essay answers about . . . well. . .everything you hold to be true about Agile and the way you think about helping others. At first, I found the word-count limitations and the somewhat vague questioning to be maddening, but after settling into a rhythm, and while working with a colleague, Leigh Griffin, on his own application, I began to see the method to the madness. In a number of other Agile coaching certifications, you simply pay a large fee, take a 2-3 day course, and you get “certified” as a coach. For example, during 3 days of this year-long CTC process, I got certified from IC Agile as an ICP-ACC (Professional Agile Coaching Certificate). I felt like that course just scratched the surface of what the CTC process required in great depth.  In the ICP-ACC’s defense, there is an expectation that a person continues down all of the paths mentioned in the 3-day course. The CTC journey, on the other hand, is a process that forces the applicant to really dig down and define his or her coaching mindset AND demonstrate knowledge of the rest of the world of coaching.

Why do you want to be certified as a coach?

image from

I came to the realization that stopping and applying for certification for activities that I strive to practice on a daily basis was a great, structured way for me to take stock of my viewpoints, my strengths,–and my weaknesses– as an Agile coach. The CTC certification itself is valuable to me in that it signifies to others that I am qualified to work with them to build a coaching engagement. For my employers and or the teams with which I work, the CTC certification is shorthand for me having a focus and dedication to a coaching mindset. It lets them know that I am on a continuous quest to both build on my Agile coaching expertise as well as empower them to improve as Agile teams. It’s a solid, positive thing to add to one’s world.

So where do you intend to take this?

My coaching goals are in-sync with my life goals: I want to be more deliberate about introspection and more actively engaged in my self-awareness. Yeah, I know that’s a little touchy-feely, but the bottom line is this–when you grow up a little isolated from the rest of the world with a pit bull as your best friend and mentor, you come to the self-awareness game a little late. At the same time, I will be continuing to seek out ways to develop my emotional intelligence–cuz, yeah. . . it’s a work in progress. The funny thing is that I used to beat myself up over those things, but now I’m realizing that because I am being very deliberate about developing myself in those areas, my coaching work with teams is more deeply felt–by me and my clients. Those traits will help me further develop empathy and the ability to ask open and powerful questions–foundational stones for great coaching.

Because creating a safe, inviting and participatory space is a cornerstone of Agile coaching, I will also continue to push myself in learning and developing new facilitation techniques. There are hundreds of books on the subject and numerous courses, but ultimately, it is practice that will help me hone my craft. Meeting that challenge, particularly with distributed teams, will build on my competencies within the Agile Coaching Framework and make me a stronger coach.  Heck, it might even make me a better person. 

It’s like a coaching snowball–they just keep layering and building. . . well hopefully without rolling out of control. . . .ok. That might not have been the best metaphor, but you get my point; things keep building off of one another.

So here’s the exciting part. I got accepted through part 1, which means I can now knuckle down to the work of part 2. There, I’ll have to write out short, very precise responses, and demonstrate my coaching mindset in various scenarios in Agile software development.  I hope to get back to blogging again, but know that if I go silent again, it’s because I’ve gone heads down again on my journey.

Jozef Israëls “An Old Man writing by Candlelight” from

For anyone thinking of taking this journey, I highly recommend finding someone with whom you can go through the process together.  I had Leigh. We worked hard, and we kept each other pressing forward. We gave each other feedback, and we encouraged each other when the path got frustrating. I seriously doubt I would have made it through part 1 without his help. Thanks Leigh.

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2 thoughts on “An Agile Coaching Certification Journey

  1. Many thanks for your honest insights. I think working together with someone towards a shared goals is really helpful. Enjoyed reading about your journey!

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