There’s nothing to stop an Agile coach from being a line manager, but I wouldn’t advise it.

They are 2 distinctly separate roles.

Line Management

A line manager usually carries a great deal of authority over an individual or team of individuals and it is their job to make sure that things are done.

They make decisions around performance, pay rises and how people are deployed to achieve organizational objectives and goals.

In most cases, the line manager is the person with the greatest amount of experience in a specific job role and now uses that experience and authority to determine how best to go about solving problems or creating new opportunities.

The relationship between a line manager and an employee can be fairly formal and it lends itself well toward mentoring rather than coaching. Mentoring in the sense that the line manager has experience in the role, understands what the best way forward is, and communicates that to others.

Coaching

A coach invests their time and effort into helping individuals and teams develop the best answers to problems and obstacles they encounter. They are invested in creating environments where teams and individuals can thrive.

Their role, as a coach, lies in helping people to understand what options are present, and become very clear about what specifically needs doing. They partner with people to help them achieve clarity in all areas of their working life and help them to investigate the best possible options to move forward.

It’s a very different relationship with an individual to that of a line manager.

It requires a great deal of trust, and it works incredibly well when it’s perceived to be a conversation amongst equals. The coach being the partner that helps the individual unleash their passion and creativity without fear of judgment, blame or losing any benefits within their current position.

The Challenge

The primary challenge lies in splitting your time between each role. When are you speaking and engaging people as a line manager and when are you engaging them as a coach?

It’s a difficult act for people and can become messy at times.

If you are acting as the line manager as well as the coach, you’re going to be addressing individuals as a line manager at times and then seeking to engage them as a coach from a completely different angle moments later.

It becomes confusing for individuals and teams to identify when they are engaging with you as a coach and when they are engaging with you as their line manager.

Oftentimes, individuals cannot make the distinction between manager and coach and will simply engage with you as a line manager out of fear of losing their job or any benefits associated with their job. They also won’t want to offend or challenge you in any way.

So, in my opinion, it’s ok if you are a line manager to other Agile coaches within the organisation but I wouldn’t advise that you are a line manager to the individuals and teams that you are there to coach or manage.

If you are interested in becoming an Agile coach, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master course page, our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master course page, and our Agile Coaching Academy course pages.

IC Agile have also created an Certified Agile Team Coaching course and certification you may want to explore.

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