Don’t Leave Relationships to Chance, Design an Alliance
Don’t leave relationships (mentor/mentee, coach/coachee, team) to chance. Design an alliance to ensure a strong foundation of how you will work together as a team. This is similar to setting up working agreements with teams. An example item in the agreement might be that we will be respectful (don’t interrupt) and stay present (no multitasking). Below are some questions that can be used to help kick start the development of an alliance.
Questions to design the alliance*:
- What would have this be a powerful relationship?
- How will we know if itʼs working?
- What can we count on from each other?
- When we are challenged, how do we want to be?
- How will I know when you are stuck?
- What intention (plan or aim) are we out to fulﬁll?
- What values will we hold together?
- Whatʼs the tone of the relationship we are creating?
- What does “our space” feel like?
- Do I have your permission to practice these skills with you?
* Credit: Agile Coaching Institute for Questions above.
I am part of a bi-weekly Agile Coaching Circle hosted by the Agile Coaching Institute and this was the first exercise they had us conduct. As a homework assignment we had to create an alliance with someone or a group in which we operate. I choose to design an alliance with my boys. It was a fun experiment. “Play Tablet” landed on ours. It doesn’t quite fit but I thought it was fun to have on there.
The sequence of steps the coaching circle walked through to design the alliance went like this.
- Questions above were sent out ahead of time to think about.
- Then the facilitator kicked the workshop off by setting the stage. Where the first exercise was to write on stickies what a worst nightmare meeting and/or team might be. That got thoughts flowing and was fun.
- Then the facilitator re-framed the stickies to the positive and the questions were reviewed.
- Another round of sticky notes were generated by each member that expressed how a meeting and/or our coaching circle (team) would work well.
- These were reviewed and the first draft of an alliance was created.
This may feel a little on the touchy feely side but in my experience if you go in with confidence and own it, the group will see the value and get a lot out of it.
Once an alliance is created, it isn’t set in stone. It should be revisited often to make course corrections. If one or more of the items gets broken, it happens, pause and review the alliance and ask if we need to make adjustments.
A good example of this would be if the team identified that they would start meetings on time (arrive couple of minutes early) and some people are starting to arrive late. Maybe in the retrospective or an offline after the daily would be a good time to have a review of the alliance and see if an adjustment is necessary. You can have each person read an item out loud. This is a good way of not shaming anyone and usually has the desired effect.
Here are some good posts on designing alliances and working agreements:
- Norms, Values, Working Agreements, Simple Rules
- Creating a Team Working Agreement
- Agile Working Agreements How to Guide
Don’t leave this to chance. Consider creating an alliance with many of the relationships you have.
What are some examples of items in your alliances and working agreements?