Agile Coach Camp Canada 2012 in Ottawa, ON was a great experience! I’m not at all surprised by this as it’s all about the people!

At the Camp I hosted a session on personality types. We took the discussion outside to the ZenGarden which is ironic given the title of the session “Physcopaths amounst us”. In the true spirit of OpenSpace … whatever happens is the right thing … I wasn’t quite sure which direction the conversation was going to go. I didn’t have a strong plan for the session, nor do I profess to be a deep expert/student of personality and behaviours. However, I thought this would be a cool discussion amongst my peers.

Before I document the behaviours from the discussion, Agile Sue was good to point out we should be very careful not to flip the Bozo bit on someone. If we flip this bit we will travel with preconceived notions about someone, and likely not give them fair consideration any longer. We need to focus on observed behaviours and look to coach people with regards to those behaviours.   (Thanks Sue I think this was an important point for all of us to keep in mind in our quest to be effective coaches).

We discussed three behaviours during this session, the characteristics and our experiences and thoughts on dealing with them:

Behaviour: Two faced


This is someone who says one thing but does something different. They don’t necessarily think of their behaviour as a problem or have an awareness of what they’re doing. These people exist at all levels of the organization but can be very difficult to deal with if they are a manager above your level. As you observe this behaviour you will find it difficult to trust the person which makes coaching difficult.

Strategies for dealing with them:

  • Don’t get caught up in the dynamic they create. The group consensus seemed to be that it becomes easy to get all caught up in their dynamic.
  • Hold a mirror up for them. We believed in some cases these guys don’t even know what they’re doing. Helping them to see their behaviour might often help them correct it.
  • Look for the underlying reason for this behaviour. If the person is finding the need to behave this way perhaps they are afraid, threatened, or in some other way being influenced
  • Provide the person with meaningful feedback. Be specific as they will need the specifics to understand their behaviour and the impact it is having on themselves, the team and organization. Although the discussion group didn’t like documenting the actions of a person, we agreed this might be a situation where it is warranted.
  • If the feedback above doesn’t work you could move to providing more systemic feedback.
  • In some cases you may not be able to find a way to help this person change their behaviour. The person just may not be able to see or rectify the situation they find themselves in. In which case you may need to move the person off the team to change the dynamic for both them and the rest of the team.
    • IDEA! Moving someone off your team can be a bad experience for the person, your team and the team they will move to. So why not make the person a part of the experience and provide them the opportunity to choose the team they will move to.
Behaviour: Heros


If you’ve seen the movie The Incredibles you will remember the character Buddy who wanted to be a super-hero side kick.  This might be the analogy for our heroes, who seem to have a strong desire to be recognized as a hero but really don’t have the demonstrated abilities to deserve the label. They volunteer for everything, they stay long hours, they exhibit behaviours which seem to be about making themselves visible as a hero. 

 Strategies for dealing with them:

  • They might be displaying high confidence to hide low competence. Spend some time to get to know them better and drill into it further. Try to find these underlying gaps and coach them in developing strategies for dealing with them more appropriately
  • They might be trying to climb the hierarchy and see this as a means to making this happen. Perhaps some coaching is in order and helping them with finding a path forward will fulfill their activities of climbing in a more productive manner.
Behaviour: Lost


As organizations and teams adopt Agile many managers are being left behind. We focus on the practitioners and teach them better ways to develop, test, work together, etc. We often ignore the managers though.

Strategies for dealing with them:

  • Help them develop a development plan for themselves. We felt for managers this is an often overlooked item. They work to ensure their people develop while ignoring their own development.
  • Many managers may simply not know how to be a servant leader. Provide them resources and coach them in making this transition
  • Check out the podcasts on for a useful resource to help the managers around you
  • Check out Management 3.0 for Jurgen Appelo’s book & course on being a manager with Agile teams

Do you have more thoughts or strategies (or perhaps a correction to my notes from the session)? Please reply to this post with your comments!

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