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.


Alliance with my boys

The sequence of steps the coaching circle walked through to design the alliance went like this. They sent out the questions above ahead of time for us to think about. Then they kicked the workshop off by setting the stage. Where the first exercise was to have us write on stickies what our worst nightmare meeting and/or team might be. That got thoughts flowing and was fun. Then they turned it to the positive and we reviewed the questions and had another round of sticky notes written by each member that expressed how we would like a meeting and/or our coaching circle (team) to work well. We reviewed these and then had our first draft of an alliance.

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 we need to adjust. 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:

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?

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1 Response

  1. December 23, 2016

    […] person slowly changed his approach to help the team overall perform better. We mention the tool “design an alliance” for coaching based on Lyssa Adkins […]

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