Executive Coaching and Building an Agile Mindset | Kumar Dattatreyan


Kumar Dattatreyan, an executive coach, shares his insights and experiences in coaching leadership and building an agile mindset in organizations. He emphasizes the importance of understanding and adapting to different leadership styles and the qualities of a good executive coach. Kumar also discusses the challenges faced in coaching and the benefits of hiring external coaches. He highlights the need for clear goals and metrics to ensure sustainable progress and the integration of coaching into the organization’s culture. The conversation explores the topic of coaching in organizations and the benefits it brings to employees and leaders.


  • Understanding and adapting to different leadership styles is crucial in executive coaching.
  • A good executive coach possesses qualities such as active listening, curiosity, empathy, and the ability to ask powerful questions.
  • Challenges in coaching include overcoming resistance from coachees and building rapport with the team.
  • External coaches can bring a fresh perspective and expertise to the organization, while internal coaches can provide ongoing support and guidance.
  • Clear goals and metrics are essential for measuring progress and ensuring the sustainability of coaching efforts.
  • Integrating coaching into the organization requires intention, training, and a shift in mindset towards a coaching culture. Coaching can be a viable model for organizations to develop their employees and leaders.
  • Finding the right balance between hierarchy and coaching is crucial for creating a coaching culture in a company.
  • Coaching companies like Better Up can provide a convenient solution for organizations to access coaching services.
  • Coaching helps individuals improve their leadership skills and navigate workplace challenges.

Connect with Kumar

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(00:00) Intro

(03:08) Experience as an Executive Coach

(05:10) Coaching Approach Based on Leadership Style

(10:44) Qualities of a Good Executive Coach

(15:52) Challenges in Executive Coaching

(19:01) Another Coaching Skill

(21:52) Delivering Feedback as a Coach

(27:10) External vs Internal Coaches

(33:52) Metrics

(36:28) Sustainable Progress after Coach Leaves

(40:52) Integrate Coaches into Continuous Education Program

(46:38) How to Connect with Kumar Dattatreyan

Transcript (Edited by Vit Lyoshin for better readability)

Vit Lyoshin (00:03.01)

Hello everyone.Today we have Kumar Dattatreyan with us. Kumar is a president and founder of Agile Meridian Company. They help businesses transform organizations and implement and establish lean and agile methodologies.

And, I had a pleasure working with Kumar a few years ago on one of the quite large project for modernizing technologies at one of the government agencies. He’s helped a lot with coaching leadership at the team level and leadership at the organization level. And he helped and coached me how to work with teams and become a better Scrum Master. So that was a huge impact on the team’s performance and execution.

So we’ve done it for, I think for almost a year, and then I moved on to another team and you stayed longer there. That’s kind of a quick background of how we know each other.

And today I specifically wanted to talk with Kumar about his experience with leadership and executive coaching, how to build agile mindset in an organization, and those type of things. 

Before we jump into the topic and questions that I have, I’ll let Kumar introduce himself a little bit and tell us what Agile Meridian is and what work they do and things like that.

Kumar Dattatreyan (01:48.409)

Yeah, thanks for inviting me on the show. Vitaliy, you did a great job introducing me. So I am a co-founder of Agile Meridian. I was formed about five years ago or so, just before the pandemic. And it was really me and three other guys that I’ve been working with over the past 10 years. We always seem to run into each other in the same circles, the same clients. And so we decided, hey, let’s put a company together, see if we can make a go at it, at delivering our brand of service, if you will, to our clients, because we all kind of think alike and we all do things the same way, so we put this company together. And mostly around agile transformation.

There’s lots of companies like us that do what we do, but what we try to do is take the buzzwords out of Agile and Scrum and all these frameworks that are out there and really focus on the results that we bring our clients. And so we really focus on, hey, what is it you want to accomplish through the use of Agile? And then we try to do that in a way that resonates with their leadership. So that’s what kind of sets us apart a little bit, I think.

Vit Lyoshin (03:09.17)

There is a lot of agile jargon flowing around and sometimes people get confused what it is. So that’s good to explain to people what this is.

So to get us started, do you have any sort of example or case study that you can share of a successful experience that you had being an executive coach?

Kumar Dattatreyan (03:36.957)

Um, sure. There’s many. Let’s see. The first one that comes to mind is when I was working in an organization, a large financial organizations that was too big to fail. So you can guess who that might be. And, uh, this was back in 2015 or so. I worked with the senior person there who was a VP of the data organization. And so I worked with him and his team. And that was a really great experience, not only for me, but also I think for the team that I work with. They were all very bright, obviously, bright people. And it helped me shape my approach to leaders, right?

So leaders are no different than anyone else. It’s just that they have a lot more responsibility on their shoulders. And so in this case, this particular leader, who I was coaching some of the time, uh, he was a champion for agile within the organization. So he brought me in and some others in. And so, you know, even though he understood what it took to bring agile to the company, he also relied on me and my advice and my counsel to help him think of ways to motivate his direct reports and his team. That was a great experience to work with that team. And we still keep in touch. He still checks on me every once in a while. So that’s always a good thing. You make friends and you hopefully stay friends with these people. Yep.

Vit Lyoshin (05:25.494)

Right. Okay, great. So. Working with, and you have a lot of experience with working with different people and higher ups in the organization and maybe just leaders in the team level, and they all have different leadership styles and how they do things and how they work with their teams.

So how do you apply different techniques maybe or figure out coaching approach based on the leadership style of leaders?

Kumar Dattatreyan (05:57.193)

Yeah, so you know, a lot of my coaching is, I’d say the majority of my coaching is group coaching. So I’m coaching multiple people, teams, whether they’re leadership teams or they’re delivery teams, it’s coaching teams. Some of my coaching is one-on-one. So I coach leaders, executives, one-on-one. When I’m coaching teams, leadership teams, it’s really about creating a harmonious team dynamic so that the individuals on the team can understand other individuals on the team better, so they can work better together. And so part of that group coaching or team coaching that’s different from individual coaching is helping people understand themselves first, and then help them understand the other members of their team that they work with, so that they can work with them better.

So as an example of this, you know, a lot of times I will encourage the team especially leadership teams, to go through an assessment, a emotional intelligence or a DiSC or an assessment that gives them a profile of their personality and use that as a way to say, okay, this is how your team looks personality wise. And especially with leadership teams, oftentimes all of the people on the team are type A, you know, sort of really driven individuals. So they start to understand, oh, okay, that’s why we debate about things forever. And that’s why we can’t come to an agreement about things. It also spurs this notion that maybe we need some other personalities on our leadership team, especially if the leadership team is small, they may bring somebody else in that balances them out, that provides a different viewpoint to theirs, right? So that they can make better decisions. So that’s the team coaching aspect of it. I try to help the team become more aware of themselves and aware of each other so they can function better together.

On the individual thing, getting to your question about leadership styles, that’s where it really helps to have individual relationships with the people on the team, right? To observe how they interact with others. What is their default style of leadership, whether they’re more authoritarian or democratic? And what style of leadership do they use most of the time? Because what I’ve seen over my years of experience is that good leaders, I mean, there’s no good in terms of people that are more flexible leaders, more resilient leaders, they vary their style of leadership based on the situation, right? There’s situational leaders.

So if say, you’re my leader, Vitaliy, and I’m brand new to the organization, you may take a more coaching or maybe even a directive style of leadership with me, so that I can get up to speed. And once I’m I get up to speed, your style will change to accommodate my newfound knowledge experience in the company. Well, not all leaders work that way.

Vit Lyoshin (08:56.931)


Kumar Dattatreyan (09:21.153)

They may be always authoritative and directive, no matter the experience level of the employee, which can cause a lot of conflict, right? And so in some cases when I’m coaching teams, I don’t get the one-on-one. And so I don’t get the time to do that enough. But when I do, that’s what I do. I try to observe and provide feedback to the individual to say, hey, I noticed that, you know, in that meeting you acted a certain way. Tell me more about that. What brought that response, right? To help them become more aware of their behavior. One more point I wanna make is I have some clients where I exclusively do one-on-one coaching with them. And in those cases, I spend a lot of time on understanding their style of leadership, their behaviors, their triggers, their emotional triggers to help them be more effective really as leaders or whatever their role is, be more effective at work.

Vit Lyoshin (10:26.73)

Yeah, I really like that remark about how some people change in their leadership style. And sometimes you need to be more pushy and tell people what to do. And sometimes you just want to delegate some of the responsibilities and trust them to do the best they can. So that’s very interesting. I see this at the team level as well, dealing with team leads and maybe like software developers versus junior developers. So that’s interesting how it doesn’t matter the hierarchy level, it still applies everywhere. Yeah, that’s great.

So in your opinion, dealing with all the circumstances, what kind of like maybe good qualities you can or just qualities you can specify for a good executive coach? Maybe just a couple of them.

Kumar Dattatreyan (11:19.425)

Well, for the coach, what should a coach strive for? I’d say that coaching is, um, is something that most people can do. I think with training, with guidance, I’ve been coaching my whole career. I didn’t really know it. Um, you know, I started in restaurants as a young, uh, in my younger days. And I was coaching then I just didn’t know I was coaching.

Vit Lyoshin (11:34.594)


Kumar Dattatreyan (11:48.669)

Um, it was only after I realized it, going to various certification programs and taking classes, uh, taking, um, you know, uh, yeah, classes, I guess, from the ICF, the international coaching federation that I realized that, Hey, I, I have been exhibiting some of these qualities for a long time. And the qualities are really the ability to listen, to suspend your own judgment, to be curious, to be empathetic. You may have an opinion about something, but when you’re coaching someone, it doesn’t matter what your opinion is. What matters is helping that individual reach some decision about whatever it is that’s holding them back, right? And so as a coach, it’s not your role or your job to tell them what the answer is.

Vit Lyoshin (12:27.244)


Kumar Dattatreyan (12:46.005)

And I used to do this. So when I was a younger coach, when I was an agile coach, strictly an agile coach, um, I used to do a lot of telling, Hey, you shouldn’t do that. Or you should do this or, you know, a lot of advice giving. And, um, I don’t do as much of that anymore. Of course, if people want to, you know, they come on, just tell me, you know, just quit asking me questions, just tell me what to do. Then I’ll do that. But the role of the coach isn’t to give the answer. The role of the coach is to ask a lot of questions because chances are the person that’s being coached already has the answer. They just haven’t reached into their brain to figure it out yet, or they already have figured it out, but they’re fearful of implementing that thing. Right. Uh, or it’s buried.

Vit Lyoshin (13:34.138)

Sounds more like a therapy.

Kumar Dattatreyan (13:46.005)

It is, it is in a way therapy, but, um, you know, it’s, it can be, when you tell someone what the answer is. And this is my experience anyway. So 10 years ago I used to do more telling and less asking. When you used to, when, when I used to do that, the results I got was, it weren’t as good, right? So people, you tell them to do something. Okay. They’ll do it once, but they’ll forget. They won’t remember why they did it that way or what the benefit was. They’ll just do it just becomes, yeah. Okay. Kumar said this, this will work. Oh, it does work great. And then they’ll forget the next time.

Vit Lyoshin (14:11.063)


Kumar Dattatreyan (14:16.121)

But when you have a conversation, a little bit longer conversation with them, and they come up with their answer on their own, it’s going to stick in their brains a lot longer, probably forever, because now it’s something they came up with. They have ownership of that decision. And so even though it may take longer, it might ruffle some feathers, especially people that are looking for a consultant and not a coach. I think it’s worth spending the time, developing those skills, empathy, curiosity, open-mindedness, being really unbiased as a coach, even though you may have biases, not letting those biases come through. Those are really most important, I think, in my mind.

Vit Lyoshin (15:00.926)

Yeah, there is a lot there. Yeah, it comes down to like you listen well, understand what they’re talking about, and then don’t tell them what to do, but rather ask more questions and listen more until they come up to the conclusion. It’s like sounds like a therapy or sounds like you just have to go through cycles and cycles until they figure it out. And when they do, it becomes like written in their minds and that’s it and they follow through.

Kumar Dattatreyan (15:29.653)

Yeah. And the key isn’t really to, you know, to make it long and drawn out. I can have a coaching session with someone in 10 or 15 minutes and be effective. It’s it comes with experience.

Vit Lyoshin (15:44.27)

That comes with experience. I wouldn’t be able to do that right away. So you have to cycle through many people and coaching sessions.

Kumar Dattatreyan (15:51.413)

Yes, absolutely. I mean I have grown as a coach and I’m continuing to learn as a coach. I’m not perfect. No one is, you know, and every coach has their own style. I would think, but it, if that style is underpinned by those qualities that I mentioned, I think they’re probably pretty successful.

Vit Lyoshin (16:10.974)

Yeah, yeah, that’s great. Okay, so now we talked about qualities. How about some of the challenges, maybe from your personal experience, something that you need to improve in yourself and you keep trying. You see a pattern there that happens all the time or frequently.

Kumar Dattatreyan (16:30.901)

Yeah. I think the biggest challenge is not necessarily with the coach. It’s with the coachee. A lot of times there’s a stigma associated with coaching, like, okay, I don’t need coaching. If I get a coach, it means there’s something wrong with me. You know,  why would I talk to this? What does he know about, or she know about my problems, my issues? I can figure this out on my own. I don’t need anyone 

And so when you encounter people like that, and you’re bound to, I think everyone has a limit to how much they’re going to share with you, especially in the beginning, when you start to work with someone, or start to work with the team, there’s always going to be a barrier. And so as a coach, the biggest challenge is overcoming the barrier. In some cases, the barrier is going to be really up there. It’s going to be high up and thick, right? And in other cases, it melts away almost immediately once they the person sees that you’re not a threat and you’re there to help them. It’s gone and it’s like this gush of information. Right? I think the biggest challenge though is with the folks that are more guarded, that are more resistant to the coaching that you’ve been brought there to provide, you know, from an agile coaching standpoint, that person that you work with  did not make the decision to hire you, someone else did. Some muckety muck that signs a check said, Oh, let’s do agile and, requisitioned, uh, work order and, you know, funded it. And there you are coaching.

You’re there, introduced us to coach, Vitaliy is your coach. And here’s all these people like, huh? Why do we need a coach?

Vit Lyoshin (18:41.833)

Yeah, yeah, we are on the line to get fired if we don’t do this. Right.

Kumar Dattatreyan (18:44.357)

Yeah, yeah. Well, do we do something wrong? What’s going on here? Why do we need a coach? And so I think the biggest challenge is overcoming that initial resistance and establishing a rapport with the person with the team with whoever it is that you’re there with you know forming some kind of relationship with them so that they know that you’re there to help them. You’re not a threat.

You’re just there to help them become a better team, a better person, a better employee, a better whatever, right? And if you can do that quickly, then you have a pretty good shot at having a good outcome with the team.

Vit Lyoshin (19:24.318)

Yeah, when you were talking, it hit my brain that it sounds like it’s a little shortcut. You basically hire an experienced person who can tell you a few things and you can jump over certain experiences, certain lessons you can just get for free and quickly and you don’t have to go through maybe painful experience yourself and that’s how you excel yourself and your team. It’s just some metaphor popped up in my mind.

Kumar Dattatreyan (19:55.349)

No, that’s I think that’s a great way to look at it. A coach is like a catalyst for a team, especially if they’ve had a shared experience with what the team has gone through before. And even if not, a coach, a good coach doesn’t have to know anything about what the team does really. I attended a coaching clinic with this person named Christian Simpson. He’s pretty famous coach out there. And he had us all in our tables, tables of five people. The exercise was to learn how to juggle. And we were supposed to teach the person next to us how to juggle. And then somebody was supposed to teach us, me, like how to juggle. Now, I don’t know how to juggle. Almost no one in that table knew how to juggle. But, almost all of us got better at juggling from the coaching that we were getting. Because when you’re coaching, you don’t have to know anything about what you’re coaching about. Honestly, you don’t. All you have to do is have an open curious mindset and, and observe, be able to observe what’s going on and provide feedback on what you observe, right? If you can do those things, then you don’t have to be an expert at whatever it is to coach. Now, of course, as an agile coach, they don’t bring anyone off the street to coach the team on scrum or Kanban or whatever. There is an expectation, you know, those frameworks and therein lies a dilemma for an agile coach because an agile coach is brought in as an expert. And so these people like, Oh God, another expert, we got to learn another framework. And so that creates a little bit of a barrier because these people, I don’t want to learn scrum, I’m fine doing my waterfall work, what’s wrong with it? Right? And so you have to overcome a couple of barriers. One, the reason you were brought there in the first place is because of a change in process or whatever. And then you have to build the relationships as well. So it’s, it’s fun.

Vit Lyoshin (22:14.994)

Yeah, something you mentioned is there is ability to give a good feedback to people and feedback is a tricky word. The way I look at feedback is always I look mostly for negative feedback because I think that’s where the most improvements live, but some people are afraid of the negative feedback. They are not critical of themselves or their teams and as a coach, how do you deliver negative feedback?

Kumar Dattatreyan (22:20.195)


Vit Lyoshin (22:42.53)

or some sort of feedback that people may not feel very comfortable about.

Kumar Dattatreyan (22:47.789)

Yeah, I think feedback is a gift really. Any kind of feedback is a gift. There’s actually a free course on my website on feedback. How do you give and receive feedback? And a feedback really, it can be stressful, especially if it’s given in a way that seems like it’s an attack on the person rather than a way for that person to improve some aspect of their behavior. So there is a skill in giving the feedback. And there’s also a skill that needs to be developed for people who receive it. It’s a two-way conversation. It’s not one way. So someone giving feedback, hey, Vitaly, do you have time for some feedback? I want to give you some feedback. And if you say, yeah, sure 

If I just talk without letting you speak, then that’s not feedback. That’s just me scolding you for something that I perceive as something that you did wrong and you’re not going to get anything out of it. However, if feedback is viewed more as a conversation between two equals, then it makes it a lot easier for the person receiving the feedback. Even if they’re initially want to hear this. If you present it the way that it’s a conversation, Hey, Vitaly, I’d like to give you some feedback on the presentation earlier and you’re like, Oh, what’s the feedback like? Well, I think you did a really great job. It’s just that some of the slides had too many words and not enough pictures. What do you think about that? So now I just turned it over to you to process it and think about it. So that becomes, it doesn’t become about me. And I’m speaking about something very specific and letting you respond. And so you might respond, you know, Kumar, you’re wrong. Uh, you know, I had to have all that data on the slides because, uh, my audience, they like it. And I would say, okay, well, uh, that makes sense. Just you know, just keep in mind that pictures can speak a lot more than words can, but maybe in this situation, that wasn’t the case, but thank you for hearing me out. Or it could go the other way. You might say, hey, that’s great feedback. I didn’t think about that. Maybe I’ll incorporate that in the next slide deck. So it can be a really fruitful conversation.

Vit Lyoshin (25:30.346)

Yeah, that’s a great suggestion and technique to try. There is always resistance when you try to push your feedback on people and especially professionals in this profession, people tend to know how to do things better and they figure it out by themselves over a long period of time. And when somebody comes in and tell them, well, you should do this and not that, they take it in the wrong way and coach should know how to present this feedback in a way that it’s not negative or it’s not pushy and it’s just suggestions and things like that. So yeah that’s great. This resistance even happens with like when in product management for example when customers may complain about some feature or something and some stubborn product manager may say it’s not like no you just don’t understand this and that i’ve seen people like that who push back to customers when they truly give you feedback that this is something maybe easier to use or what not. So yeah that’s a skill to learn for sure that’s a good one.

Kumar Dattatreyan (26:38.053)

It is a skill and on the receiving side if you’re receiving feedback, you know, it can be very stressful for that person. And so there’s techniques that you can use to make it less so. So rather than being just the recipient, you know, what I often tell people that are the recipient of feedback has become a participant, not just a recipient, right? It’s your feedback. Even if you don’t agree with it, even if you don’t agree with the feedback, find 2% 1% common ground between what they’re saying and what you think to what you perceive to be true, but if you can find just 2% to a truth between what they’re saying and what you perceive to be true then you have something that you can talk about something you can improve.

Vit Lyoshin (27:33.246)

Yeah, yeah, that’s great.

So the biggest resistance or challenges and issues may come from when companies are hiring external coaches. Lately there’s been this push to have internal coaches as well. And sometimes people say like, Oh, you scrum masters, you also coaches, or, Oh, maybe we don’t need agile coaches, let’s just have project managers do that, product managers do that. We all can coach and things like that. So what do you think, or what can you tell to those organizations and say, external coaches may be better in your case, for your case. What those situations could be?

Kumar Dattatreyan (28:23.981)

You know, I think this is a good question and always a struggle, right? So I’ll just say what I think I’ve experienced. So between external and internal, because I’ve been in both places. I used to work in a company where I was the internal coach. And here’s the problem. When you’re internal inside of a company, you are part of the furniture.

So if your role is to coach, people don’t see you as the expert. Right? I mean, not, that’s not always true. I mean, I think, you can build a reputation as someone that has expertise and you can do really good work and help people inside of a company, but it takes more effort. It takes more effort. Like it’s, it’s when I was an internal coach, I would always wonder like, Oh my God. This guy is saying the exact same thing I said five minutes ago, and people are listening to him. Why didn’t they listen to me?

Vit Lyoshin (29:30.41)

Right, it’s something with the words i use or what’s going on.

Kumar Dattatreyan (29:35.533)

It was exactly the same thing. Maybe a couple of words are different, but exactly the same. People are coming to me and say, oh, you know what coach blah, blah said? And they say whatever. And I said, I’m just like, okay, that’s good. I’m glad you find that valuable. But I don’t say I told you so or anything, because what would that solve? Right? So I think if you’re an internal coach and you see that kind of thing happening, it’s best just to embrace those external coaches, learn from them, use them, you know, whatever. Now to your question about what’s better or, you know, why are coaches not being hired anymore or why are other roles being placed in the role of the coach? Um, yeah, you know, the economy is being what it is. I think a lot of companies are cutting costs and, you know, interest rates being as high as they are. There’s lots of layoffs, especially in the tech, IT world, right? IT world, the tech world got bloated.

Vit Lyoshin (30:29.822)


Kumar Dattatreyan (30:35.513)

And then the pandemic hit and now the IT world, you know, the technology companies are starting to reduce that bloat, you know. Meta has laid off, you know, tens of thousands of people, Google, Amazon, you name it, every company is that’s a technology company has let go of a lot of people. Part of it is because of AI. Right? Honestly, because AI makes people more productive. And so and but part of it is just because they have too many people. Coaches are a luxury in this kind of economic climate, it’s a luxury to have someone that you can hire from the outside to help you improve the way you operate as a team as a company and all that stuff.

And so, you know, especially when it comes to agile coaching and agile has been around for a long time. And so I would say, I understand why companies are saying, well, why can’t the product owners do it or the product project managers do the coaching? Why can’t they do, um, the scrum mastering? Why do we have to have all these extra roles? You know, what purpose does it serve? And personally, I think it’s healthy. It’s healthy that companies question these things because it’s going to make the coaching profession better, ultimately, because right now this pendulum is swung one way. It’s going to swing back. And when it does, coaches need to be ready to serve the clients better, right? Not be dead weight and not pitch frameworks for the sake of frameworks. They need to come in with real business expertise to help these companies be better than they were before.

Vit Lyoshin (32:32.018)

Yeah, so if I think about earlier analogy with shortcuts, you just get strategic about this. You hire coach temporarily to work with you or your team, figure out certain issues, maybe assign some metrics, how you want to measure that success, have that goal passed on to the coach, and once that goal is reached, the contract ends basically and you move on. And if you need a coach in the future, you go through the same experience again.

Kumar Dattatreyan (33:02.039)


Vit Lyoshin (33:03.023)

So that may be something where we’re going with the current situation.

Kumar Dattatreyan (33:08.981)

Also, I think maybe just more, more true coaching rather than embedded coaching. You know, a lot of coaching between 2010 and 2020 was embedded. You’re at the client side, 40 hours a week with the teams. And that’s very expensive for companies to afford, you know, is it effective? Yeah, I think so. I think to a certain extent it is effective, but it’s difficult to sustain that for a long time. And so maybe more flexible models where the coach comes in and is there to observe and help the team. Being there embedded doesn’t necessarily help, especially if the coach isn’t that proficient, it may hinder the team’s development because the coach is there telling them what to do all the time, right?

But if the coach is not there, the teams have to pick up the slack and do these things that are expected of them. So maybe a more flexible model of coaching can be more effective.

Vit Lyoshin (34:18.75)

Yeah, that makes sense. So speaking of metrics, then, do you personally have some sort of metrics that you like to propose or is it on the client’s end? Do they tell you like, this is what we want and you’re here to help us get there? How does it usually work?

Kumar Dattatreyan (34:41.833)

Yeah, I mean, anytime you start an engagement with a client, it has to start with some kind of, you know, an agreement with the team that you’re coaching, what is it that they want to accomplish? Whether they know you’re coming or not, you have to have that conversation with them. Hey, I’m here now, you know, whether you knew I was coming or not, what are your biggest challenges, your biggest pain points? And, you know, you create a coaching agreement, a coaching plan with then that includes targets, goals. Okay, if you wanna improve productivity, what does that mean exactly? Oh, we don’t know what that means. Okay, so let’s get some baselines. Maybe the target initially is just to establish baselines for productivity, baselines for quality, baselines for whatever it is that they wanna improve. And then you can start to set some goals against those baselines to say, all right, we want to reduce our defect injection rate by 10%. And we want to improve our customer satisfaction scores by whatever percent. It really depends on where the team is as well, in the organization, and what kind of work that they do. I was with a product company that was developing web features, basically, for their website. And so the teams were very close to the customer because the interface was all that was between the team and customers using the services on the site. And so for those teams, the goals are very clear how they wanted to improve. They want to improve the user experience and responsiveness. They want to improve the conversion rates for these people that are coming to their site and browsing the different items that they could purchase and so on and so forth. But in many cases when you’re coaching a team, they may be far removed from the customer, right? And so you have to really dig into what are their metrics? What are they trying to improve? And how can you do that in the time that you have with them?

Vit Lyoshin (36:58.994)

Yeah, okay, makes sense. And then there’s a follow-up to this. So when you as a coach, when coach leaves the team or the organization. How do you ensure that the progress and the learnings are sustainable? And with all these positive changes that happen, how people don’t forget about this? Is there some sort of like before you go, you’re supposed to remember something like cheat sheets or whatever?

Kumar Dattatreyan (37:30.765)

Yeah, I mean, that’s the biggest challenge, especially with, I’d say with agile transformations, where the goal isn’t very clear from a company perspective as to what are we trying to do with this transformation? So what I would say is, and what I try to do is, as long as you have a clear agreement as to what the expectations are.

At Agile Meridian we use a model called DEEP. It’s an acronym. It stands for Discover, Engage, Educate, Produce. All right, Discover, Engage, Educate, Produce. And what we do there is in the Discover phase, we are observing, discovering where the challenges are, where the constraints are. How can we help as coaches to relieve those constraints. We’re creating agreements, you know, things like that to help the team or teams become more productive or achieve whatever their goals are. In the engage, we are actively coaching the teams. So we’re coaching, we’re mentoring, we’re helping them pick up new skills, new capabilities, whether it’s agile coaching or some other kind of coaching, it doesn’t matter. It’s always, you’re trying to imbue the team or the members of the team with new mindsets, new thinking, new whatever, so that they can be self-sufficient. Actually, I think it’s educate, then engage. So I got the acronym a little mixed up. The engage part is where, okay, now they have the education, they have the basics, and now you’re engaging with them, watching them do it for themselves. Like maybe it’s a scrum team. You’re just there to observe and provide guidance. You may just come to the planning sessions. You may only come to the retrospectives. And all you’re doing is providing an observation to the key members of the team that are really running the team, the product owner, the scrum master, the tech lead, whoever. And in the produce phase, you’re really disengaging because the teams are doing it all. They’ve got it, right? They’re demonstrating the mindset that you hopefully imbued in them, they are coaching their team internally, right? You have effectively handed the reins of the transformation to them. And so they’re acting in the capacity of a coach, of a product owner, of a mentor, of a teacher, all those things. And so we try to do that with all of our engagements, is follow the DEEP method, the DEEP model, so that when we leave, there’s we leave with the capability of the organization lifted. If we leave and the capability is still down where it was, then you haven’t done your job as a coach. You know, so that’s, that’s the, uh, of course you, you leave, you know, it’s not always a happy time, right? Because you make relationships, you make friends, but. That’s the nature of being a consultant, a coach consultant. So it is what it is.

Vit Lyoshin (40:57.798)

Okay, yeah, well, that’s a great approach. I never heard of a DEEP. I’ll have to Google and read more about that. That’s interesting.

Kumar Dattatreyan (41:06.721)

You will only find it on the Agile Meridian site.

Vit Lyoshin (41:11.372)

Ah, that’s your approach. Okay, got it. Well, that’s easier. Then I know your website. Okay. Yeah.

Kumar Dattatreyan (41:13.665)

It’s our approach. Yeah.

Vit Lyoshin (41:29.258)

For the organization to integrate the coaches into the overall enterprise leadership, like improvement program or continuous education program, is there any advice for organizations to do that or have you seen with your experience where they’re actually doing this and periodically sending leadership to some coaching sessions or maybe hiring coaches for certain things periodically.

Kumar Dattatreyan (42:00.213)

Yeah. I mean, I think it requires a lot of intention, right? So it’s not just, oh, let’s get some coaches for this agile transformation. And then we see them off, right? So to sustain it over time, of course, deep, if they engage with us, hopefully they’ll, it will sustain over time, but it needs to go beyond that. If the organization is trying to move into a more of an organization that supports coaching by leaders.

So, you know, middle managers are not directing, they’re really coaching, they’re servant leading their teams, they’re spawning new leaders, new people to come up, right? That takes a certain mindset, a very intentional mindset to say, okay, we wanna move from an organization that’s more directive to an organization that’s more supportive of the people that work there.

And there are companies that have done that and the companies that have grown up like that. Right. And so what do they do? It’s part of their DNA. It’s part of their, the way they think, they breathe their mindset. If you walk into a company like this they are agile, very nimble, very agile, even though they may not use scrum or whatever. Right. They operate in small teams. They operate on a cadence. If you look and see how they work with each other, they invariably follow the agile principles and values and principles, even though they may have never read them, right? And so for companies that want that, they have to be very intentional about it. They have to make it part of their values, part of the training that they provide the employees, especially the people in leadership positions. They need to provide them the tools so that they can be those internal coaches.

And then they need to change the reward structure so that people are rewarded for those types of behaviors. They should be rewarded by how many people they promote into positions of leadership, not how many widgets their teams produce. Right. If it’s based on productivity, then the equation is skewed. I’m being rewarded for how many people I can direct so they can produce more stuff. That shouldn’t be the case if you want a coaching culture.

Right. And not to say that that’s not a viable model. I mean, you know, hey, there are lots of very successful companies that are very hierarchical. Right. It really just depends on what balance of hierarchy and coaching do you want in your company. And there are a lot of companies that will hire external coaches for that, right? I work with an organization called Better Up. Have you heard of them?

Vit Lyoshin (44:55.732)


Kumar Dattatreyan (44:56.633)

So BetterUp is a coaching company and they, I work through them to provide coaching, executive coaching to people all around the world. I do it not for the money, but because it isn’t that great, but I do it because I love coaching. And so these companies around the world, they’re like, we wanna get some coaching for our people, our high potentials, our leaders, our whatever.

And so they, instead of hiring a bunch of external coaches and having to find and vet them, they just go to a company like Better Up because they do that automatically, right? They make sure they have a good cadre of coaches that represent Better Up And then they hire them out, you know, as, as coach consultants to the companies.

Vit Lyoshin (45:44.658)

Is it kind of like a freelance model?

Kumar Dattatreyan (45:49.029)

Pretty much, yeah. I don’t commit to any number of hours. People on the platform, they pick me and then I coach them for six months or so. I love it. Again, I’m not doing it for the money. I’m doing it because I love to meet these people, real leaders with real issues, real challenges in the workplace and help them through something, hopefully make them better leaders.

Vit Lyoshin (45:57.926)

Okay. Cool.

Yeah, that builds experience for you and for them. And also you can just use your free time for this type of work and help more people. Yeah, that’s great.

Kumar Dattatreyan (46:24.461)

Yeah. I don’t have any free time. I make time for it.

Vit Lyoshin (46:29.806)


Yeah, so that’s great advice. I think  building the coaching culture and organization is great. And also just in general building a culture of growing employees and giving them better place to work is always good because when people know that if there is an opportunity to grow, and they see the path, they will take advantage. At least most people will do that. And yeah, if organization can follow through this and with help of coaches, of course, that’s great to see.

All right, well, I think that was great. Thanks a lot for all your experience and answers. I think that’s great. I learned a lot.

Kumar Dattatreyan (46:57.741)


Vit Lyoshin (47:16.778)

And before you go, I just wanted to ask you to share some information, how people can find you and find Agile Meridian and check you out and see, maybe they can connect and do something.

Kumar Dattatreyan (47:31.205)

Sure. Yeah, I’m all over the internet. Just search for, you can go to LinkedIn, look up my profile, Kumar Dattatreyan the Agile Meridian, just go to AgileMeridian.com. That’s my website. I actually teaching our coaching class in March, so I’d love to see people, whoever’s listening, if you want to learn some of the techniques that I’ve spent most of my life learning, come to the class. I’d love to teach, I love to coach. So I’d love to see you in that class. What else? I’m on Instagram, I’m on Twitter. I’m not very active on Twitter, but I’m everywhere pretty much. You should be able to find me.

Vit Lyoshin (48:21.51)

Okay, that’s good. Yeah, that should be easy to find then. Yeah, and I’ll put links to the description and everywhere so people can also have shortcut there. So yeah, okay, and I’ll just ask everybody else if you have any other questions or any feedback or anything you want to say. Just let us know in the comments and share this video with your friends and whoever you think will benefit. So yeah, that will be great.

Kumar Dattatreyan (48:47.069)

Of course. Yeah. Thanks for having me on. It’s been a pleasure. All right. Take care. Goodbye.

Vit Lyoshin (48:51.518)

Alright, thank you very much. Bye.

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puravive February 27, 2024 - 9:49 am

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Vit Lyoshin
Vit Lyoshin April 9, 2024 - 2:18 pm

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