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Some Very Old Pillars

Early last year, I sat down and wrote about a hundred index cards, each one naming a single coaching practice, like lottery learning or the double-dawg dare.

I sorted them most- to least- effective, and from this? A stack of cards, but nothing else. I numbered them anyway, in case I needed the order later.

The Feel Of A Coaching Practice

On a whim, I sorted the cards into groups that seemed similar to each other — not in technique, but in what I called ‘feel’. Some actions ‘felt’ like they were more about “making people feel welcome and excited”. Others were more about “deciding on the most important thing”, and so on.

Many of these actions had one primary feel, but still loosely connected towards one or more secondary one.

An example is “the visible coaching sort”: I often sort my coaching activity for the week in front of the team. When you do this, you’re identifying priorities (sorting), leading by example (modeling), and helping them interpret your behavior (situating).

Two Surprises

I discovered two very surprising things.

First, there were only about a half-dozen or so ‘feels’. Over a hundred practices grouping into a limited set like this is pretty interesting.

Second, and more importantly, I realized that the higher my effectiveness ranking, the harder it was to decide which ‘feel’ it belonged to.

In other words, the more ‘feel’ categories I could connect an action to, the higher I had rated that action in effectiveness.

Enter The Pillars

So I wound up formalizing the ‘feels’ as ‘pillars’. I shrank them to just five, because it seemed like I could:

Situating — which is connecting the team to the world around it;

Modeling — which is leading by example;

Inviting — which is making people feel comfortable and excited;

Sorting — which is deciding what’s most important and what’s not;

Releasing — which is freeing the team to find its own agility.

Every index card received the list of all the pillars it connected to, with the main one highlighted. There were a few outliers, but the general thesis held true: the more pillars an action could ‘belong’ to, the higher I’d rated in effectiveness.

A Highly Rated Technique

A great trial case is lottery learning. This is a magnificent technique. (A quick reminder: gather the team once or twice a week to look at random parts of the code and talk about how to make it better.)

So? What is this technique about?

I’d say it’s inviting, cuz it’s fun. It’s situating, cuz people learn about stuff. It’s modeling — when the victim is the coach — because people can see you really do it. It’s sorting, cuz the entire operation is one of choosing what’s important about the code on the screen. It’s releasing, because it is secretly a way for the team to establish its standard.

I’ll give you a day or two to decide, before I give my own answer. When we’ve done that, I’ll show you how I use the pillars in my daily coaching work.

Which Pillar Most Drives Lottery Learning?


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