Vernon Richards | Quality Coach

Jan 8, 2022

How coaching skills can help improve quality.

"Quality Coach" - What does that job title even mean? Isn't it just some kind of glorified software tester?

Yes and no!

The key difference for me is in the word "Coach". The more I've learned about what coaching is and what it isn't, the more it's helped my work with delivery teams. The relationships and solutions are better.

How? Let me explain!

I got 99 problems but my tests ain't one!

For many testers, a typical day involves a mixture of looking for problems, telling people about problems, prompting people to fix problems and teaching people how to overcome problems.

Or to put it another way: instructing, convincing, persuading, selling, coaxing or cajoling.

That's A LOT of broadcasting! Being in that situation saps a lot of energy and doesn't empower your teammates.

Luckily there's another way!

Tell vs Guide vs Discover

Imagine a continuum with Teaching at one end and Coaching at the other. The teaching end is directive. That is, I'm best placed to solve the problem and you are not, so I must tell you what to do.

The coaching end is non-directive. That is, you're best placed to solve the problem and I am not. The only thing you need is a new perspective that will enable you to discover what to do next for yourself.

That's where coaching comes in. Using different skills, approaches and techniques a coach is able to help an individual or team gain that new insight.

In the middle of that continuum is Mentoring. That means I can offer guidance via teaching or coaching depending on what you prefer/need in that moment.

How does this help?

Doing a lot of broadcasting or telling doesn't build trust with your teammates.

We've all been on teams where a new hire joins the team and starts throwing their weight around. They start every sentence with "at my previous company we..." and then regale us with their (always successful) tales of projects that they've worked on.

Don't be that person!

It's not about using a directive approach being "bad". Rather we should be intentional about how we adopt a teaching, mentoring or coaching stance.

Now what?

Try coaching approaches like active listening, unconditional positive regard and powerful questioning to help the team figure things out with you instead of telling!

Vernon Richards | Quality Coach

Welcome to my blog! I write about: Coaching 📈 Software Quality 🕵🏾 Agile 🔁