Leadership Coaching: Sam’s Story

Key Benefits of Leadership Coaching:

Build self-care and self-management skills for high performing technical team member. Improved morale and reduced the chance of burnout or attrition of an emerging important leader within the organization.

Strengthen communication as well as strategic and tactical team building skills. Built capacity and strategies to allow important ideas to gain traction effectively (navigating complexity and uncertain with greater skill and ease). These skills proved to be key influencers to the successful adoption of Lean and Agile practices within the organization.


“Simply, I could not have survived without Caroline. I had a tendency to put my head down and just get the job done. I’m quite adept at tunnel-vision. It wasn’t until I started working with Caroline that I really understood working intelligently; that is, deriving success not just as a function of my individual hard-work, but maximizing success in others. Caroline and I have worked in subsequent sessions as well – and in all cases her mentorship was instrumental for my professional and leadership growth. I cannot recommend her enough.”

  • Sam**, senior developer working within enterprise scale Agile / Lean organization

The Story:

Caroline was connected with Sam by his manager in an effort to help him get through a rough patch that he was going through at work. Sam was already an intelligent, engaged and passionate developer – always eager to learn more and very invested in the success of his team and of the business and its clients.

In short, Sam had all the makings of a good leader. But he struggled in spite of his efforts and was becoming exhausted and discouraged. Sam had been working long hours and taking on more than his share in order to make his team successful and saw no end to these efforts moving forward.

He shared that team wasn’t working well within the Scrum framework. The backlog content and priorities was out of the team’s control completely. The Product Owner and Scrum Master rarely consulted with the team of developers when grooming work for upcoming Sprints, which meant that the team was given little time to respond to work presented to them on an iterative basis. There were regular Demos and Retros, but when the team spoke of their struggles they were forced to acknowledge that “delivery of features” was very important to the business. So the team’s concerns grew into silent resignation over time.

Sam’s approach towards all of this was to work harder, supporting his more junior team mates to deliver on their work and – knowing that the next sprint would be no better than the last – worried that the quality work items on his mind (e.g. design, refactoring, testing and testability) would drop off the list in a continued effort to deliver.

In our sessions, we started by focusing on Sam. It was important for him to take care of himself in this situation. We worked out ways for him to take breaks and developed ideas on how we could approach building responsibility with his team mates so that they were not so dependent on him to deliver on their work. In short, for anything to improve – Sam’s ability to think through the hard decisions required by the team was important. He needed to restore himself to a point where he could remain steady in the face of stress.

We then worked together to discuss the work delivery process and roles on the team. From this we explored Sam’s ability to give a strong voice to his concerns and how to approach key people on the team in order to make strategic and tactical improvements to the team’s situation.

The outcome of this coaching was that Sam was able to establish himself and his leadership role more deeply within the organization. In turn, he became a key decision maker on the team when it came to work prioritization and the improvement of process on the team. His leadership created the example by which his fellow team members could model themselves.

This was not the end of Sam’s adventures and his toughest battles were still ahead of him – but that’s another story. His coaching and mentorship accelerated his capabilities to address the oncoming stress and to help grow and improve his team, the business and the work delivered to their clients.

** Name changed in order to protect identity of the client.