My colleague and friend, Daniel Mezick, posed the following hypothetical on LinkedIn in September 2019 –  

You are an independent Agile coach, visiting a potential client with 1500 employees. It's obvious that the intelligent, well-meaning executive that is interviewing you does not really understand that employee engagement is essential to success in transformation. His org wants to "roll out" imposed Agile practices. They plan to use this big, huge framework. They already decided.

With all the training and everything else, it's looking like about 200K coming your way over the next 8 months if you get this account. But you are 100% sure it's the wrong approach. And if you say so, you figure there is a 60% chance your concerns will be lost in translation. And you know you have no more than 45 minutes with this executive. So, you sit there, intently listening to his story, and pondering what it means to "do the right thing." There are 25 minutes left at this meeting. And you know some other consulting firms who are good at marketing will also be interviewed as service providers for this engagement. You realize it's now or never. And you are not too happy about this... 

Link to the post -

As of September 29th, the post had received +20k views, 189 reactions, and 132 comments. Which is astounding to me.

Clearly, it’s created a buzz and generated reactions, which is probably why Dan posed it in the first place. I’m thinking he wanted to post a hypothetical that was open to interpretation and representative of a common agile coaching dilemma.

I wanted to weigh-in. Not as a way of directly responding to the scenario. And not, to the more than 100 comments. But more so, just from my heart. You see, I think the answer is quite simple.

The Answer is Simple

There are three things to consider in this response. And I’m proposing these based on how I would personally respond to this scenario if I encountered it (and I have…)

First, Check your Principles

The first thing to do is to check the scenario against my personal principles and my business principles. Does this engagement align with who I am and what I’m trying to be? Does it align with my core competencies? Does it align with my business goals? And do I think I can partner with this client to co-create positive outcomes?

If the answer is no, then I respectfully move on.

Second, It’s NOT about the money, nor the competition

To be honest, I don’t care much about money. The money is an outcome of the success of my partnership with each client. I feel that if I put money first, it skews my thinking. Of course, I care about the money, I’m in business. But I care so much more about client outcomes. 

I also don’t consider want the competition is going to do. Again, at some fundamental level, I don’t care. I can’t react to their principles and thinking. I can only react to my own. While I’m not naïve and am aware of the competitive landscape, I don’t allow it to influence my principles or my behavior.

I’m just as proud of saying no to a client as I am of saying yes. And when I say no, I do it respectfully and move on. 

Third, it’s about Honesty, Alignment, and Partnership

The most important part of any relationship is honesty. I would respond to this client with my honest and barely filtered thoughts and reactions. I think I owe that to all of my clients whether potential, new or long term.

I try not to pitch or sell clients. And I try not to go crazy with promises around what specific ROI I will create. Instead, I explain my capabilities and track record and check to see if I’m aligned with the client’s challenges and needs. I also explain that any ROI is shared between me as the coach and their organization and themselves. Point being – I can’t do it alone.

Instead, I try to figure out whether we’re aligned in our principles and goals. Does the client understand the potential for business agility? Are they open-minded and coachable? Are they willing to trust me and my recommendations? Are they willing to change their leadership style and approaches? Are they willing and able to handle the (no, that’s a bad idea or stop that) conversations?

But in the end, I think this is a simple situation and answer. I think many folks make it too hard for a wide variety of reasons. But I prefer to enter each engagement with these ideas in mind.

Wrapping Up

Back to the scenario, I’d encourage you all to read the comments. I know, I know, there’s a lot of them. But most of them are thoughtful and interesting.

And they’re all over the place. So, very diverse in reactions.

But I think the true answer lies within each and every agile coach or firm. Simply put—principles, partnership, honesty, alignment, and shared outcomes are the hallmarks of my practice.

What are yours?

Stay agile my friends,