The Enterprise Coaching Journey

Reflections from Professionals on the Journey Forward

Elisia Choi
Sep 2, 2020 · 18 min read

Earlier this year, ICAgile released a set of competencies for the ICAgile Certified Expert in Enterprise Coaching (ICE-EC) certification, an industry-leading designation representing the advanced standard for capability in Enterprise Coaching. These competencies were developed by international thought leaders at the fore of agile learning, depicting the rigor and breadth of practical skills required in the discipline of Enterprise Coaching. As ICE-EC is the culmination of one of ICAgile’s most advanced tracks — ICAgile’s Enterprise Coaching for Agility Learning Track — we recognized the challenge of designing a program that would help professionals build competencies across a wide range of fields, including leadership, organizational change, professional coaching, among others.

One of the thought leaders who collaborated with ICAgile on designing the expert certification for Enterprise Coaching, Michele Madore of Trans4mation embraced the challenge of creating and launching the first cohort-based program aligned to ICAgile’s ICE-EC competencies. We sat down with Michele and 15 professionals who recently completed the cohort program to hear their reflections on their enterprise coaching journey.

October 7, 2019, in the beautiful Azores islands, we launched the first Enterprise Coaching for Agility — Master Cohort Program , as a pilot for ICAgile’s Expert Certification in the Enterprise Coaching track. This group of 15 incredible human beings, who happened to also be in the role of an Agile Coach, spent the last 10 months on a journey as CoHearts in discovery of self, and self in relationship to their work. It was a journey of building new capabilities — new muscles — to move into a new way of being as an Enterprise Coach advancing Agility in organizations. Ultimately, it is our integrity with our work, our relationship to that work, and our openness to what emerges through us, that allows for our gifts to bloom. This is the place from which we can co-create with organizations to deliver outcomes that matter. It truly is a human relationship, not a relationship between an expert and a problem.

“It’s a human relationship, not a relationship between an expert and a problem.” - Rachel Naomi Remen

As we wrote about this topic “Becoming an Expert in Enterprise Agility,” most of us came into deeper inquiry about this word “expert.” There is no question that this was a lot of hard work and challenged each Cohort member to develop more capability in the areas of: Developing Self as Leader, Coaching Range, Developing Leadership in Organizations, Guiding Organizational Agility and Guiding the Change Process. And, we know that being a true ‘expert’ at anything takes years and years of practice; therefore, we use this word carefully, with awareness that it is through ongoing experimenting, learning and much practice that one truly comes more into a place of expertise. It is also through our personal journey of self as an instrument of change, that we are able to step into a higher level of capability to be of more service to our organizations.

As I worked with the ICAgile committee over the past couple of years to develop the ICE-EC Competencies, Evaluation and Criteria, one thing was always present — the enormity of this task. This role as Enterprise Agility Coach, in its most developed form, brings together competencies from many fields of study including professional coaching, organizational design (OD), organizational change, Agile business and technical masteries, and leadership development. One can spend years just developing expertise in one of these fields. The question became, how do we make this certification achievable, credible, sustainable and how can we assess these competencies with the evidence to support it? This is what we set out to do with the pilot!

We call ourselves the “Pioneer Cohort,” which they lovingly renamed the “Pioneer CoHearts.” Using our Integral Agile Transformation Framework (IATF) as the foundation for embodying and developing the competencies needed, we started the journey with each Cohort member doing the Leadership Circle 360 Feedback, to understand how they were showing up as Coaches and Leaders. This became the basis for their “Developing Self as Leader”, understanding their current way of being (its strengths and limitations) and developing their goal for the new way of being (bringing forth their current strengths) and developing new capability desired. This came alive for them through the use of metaphors, which we had a bit of fun with, and more importantly, gave them a way to objectively see their way of being in the moment in order to make new choices from awareness. As we worked on all of the ICAgile competencies, we introduced many new tools, techniques and approaches to work at all levels of the organization, with the IATF as the meta-map and meta-compass to help them see the complexity more clearly in order to act more effectively.

As I thought about writing this article, I had a sense of wanting you, the readers, to hear not only from me, but directly from the voices of those that were on the journey. Here are their stories.

“Every new beginning starts with taking a first step forward. Wanting to learn more, improve myself and help those around me I started on a journey. Taking the Agile Transformation Leader class in 2018 was the first step in becoming an Expert in Enterprise Agility and Transformation. As I immersed myself in learning about Integral Agile I quickly realized that the Pioneer Cohort is not about a single method or framework, it’s about integrating all possibilities. Enterprise Agility at heart is about the world around us and being able to decipher the complexity. Having this new lens through which I see the world is what the Pioneer Cohort has provided. As an Expert in Enterprise Agility I am more creative in problem solving, can identify new complexities, hold conflicting points of view and have added many different tools and approaches to my toolbox. My focus while working with leaders at the enterprise level is to create great outcomes for companies, employees and customers.” — Aldin Merdzanic

“I started this cohort with the desire to learn more tools and techniques on how to lead change on an Enterprise level. Being a coach for many years had given me the confidence to lead teams and leaders, however, the approach was mostly me trying to find the right tool when a situation would come up. With the Enterprise Agility Cohort I found more than a structured approach to leading a change. The program helped me learn a lot about myself, my style, my blind spots and then gave me tools to get to a better place. Seeing myself as an instrument of change makes me look first inside and prepare to be that core ingredient an Enterprise needs during a change, a leader that can build up leaders with empathy and knowledge. We had sessions with coaches and with each-other which helped go deeper into certain topics and clarify with examples what initially might sound just “buzzwords” but are helpful to bring different perspectives on how to see, approach and solve complicated circumstances on an Enterprise change.” — Ardita Karaj

“Definition of agility (from Merriam-Webster): the quality or state of being agile: NIMBLENESS, DEXTERITY; Aren’t we humans born agile? Makes me wonder why then this struggle in staying agile, at a personal level and particularly enterprise level? This quest for the provocative question was the seed for my Journey of becoming an Expert in Enterprise Agility. And it started with a trip to the Azores and meeting other members of the Pioneer Cohort; A Cohort that became a Co-Heart; in-essence, we are sharing one heart! On the personal front, I was delighted to meet with people from across the globe, exchanging diverse learnings, ideas with respect for each other. We ended up trusting each other to the extent that we didn’t hold back sharing challenges both professional and personal. Tears from one member will result in a soft moment resulting in more pairs of teary eyes. I knew that if I fell, I would never hit the ground, Co-Heart was there to hold me before I hit the ground. If I must start this journey all over again, I wouldn’t think twice, and I didn’t think twice the first time either. On the personal-professional front, the journey enabled self-discovery! I realized that I am capable of extending my personal values and mindset to my professional self; I am now a human and a professional making a difference in a world where Individuals get acknowledged and appreciated for being “Professional”. Realizing that in the context of Enterprise Agility, the term Expert could mean bringing the human emotions into a professional setting, while creating a safe space for others to be human and agile from an enterprise context — with respect for self and others.” — Arun Chinnaraju

“This cohort for me originally started out as a quest to deepen my skills and toolkit as an Enterprise Agile Coach so that I could more effectively impact cultural, organizational, and transformational change. What I didn’t realize, was the deep work that we would do over the course of this journey that led to my own personal growth, healing, and transformation. Through inflection, the gift of pause, and speaking my truth, I learned to acknowledge and honor my current way of being while emerging into a new metaphor that included and transcended into my authentic self. I have become so in-tuned and aware of how through self-as-instrument, we truly can become a catalyst that enables transformation in others. When the student is ready the teacher appears, but you have to be willing to show up and do the assignment. The work is hard, often unforgiving, and at times a very lonely path. Having the deep wisdom, humility, and belief that what we bring as Enterprise Coaches can be far greater and impactful than any framework, practice, and implementation altogether, connects us at our core. We have the ability to create a major shift from traditional ways of coaching to embracing an integral experience and way of being that is both human and heart centered. Our practice has purpose and it’s about how we choose to show up, open and hold space, and the art of invitation that allows others to become part of this journey. When you create a campaign for your cause and enroll others through your passion, you no longer have just an initiative, you create a movement. How honored I am to have shared this space and time with my amazing co-hearts as part of the first ever Pioneer Cohort. I will forever be grateful for this experience. Our journey has only just begun.” — Diana Weber

“Being a part of the Enterprise Agility expert cohort has been an insightful journey focused on self discovery. I’ve become more consciously aware of the impact my thoughts, biases and emotions have as a coach, and in the space of transformational change agent. During these past 9 months, this amazing tribe has shared personal experiences and led with compassion in a deep and profound way. We have challenged and supported each other to be more self aware and uncover truths that block us from reaching the next level. For me, this work to understand Self as Instrument has resulted in a more meaningful self discovery which in turn has become a beacon of light for myself and for my clients.” — Kerri Sutey

“The Enterprise Agility Cohort provided me with a deeper belief in my abilities as a leader and change agent. In the nine month program, I recognized an unhealthy ambition existed within me; one that strived for perfection and often left an emptiness and exhaustion. We cannot tackle complex challenges on our own and require connected partnerships. This realization allowed me freedom to appreciate where I am right here and now in the process, while offering the ability to let go. The Cohort also revealed areas to refine and polish; such as confidence in 1x1 coaching and provided the time and space to enhance skills. Above all else, I discovered a tribe of like-minded individuals where I feel a deep kinship. In our collective experience, I am not alone and a part of a leadership team striving to bring grace and unity to our volatile world.” — Lisa Bradburn

“Self as instrument is a deceptively simple phrase that is the heart of the cohort’s work. From the moment we met as a group through the moment we shifted from the formal structured meetings we’d signed up for originally, and probably through the rest of our lives, our cohort has been intensely impacted by focusing on our own personal way of being as leaders, coaches, and even as human beings. The self as instrument lense has opened the door to a deeply connected community with the cohort and significant positive impact in our professional and personal lives. This was supported by Michele and Phillips’ way of holding space and being personally invested in the cohort members and the group as a whole. The interweaving of self as instrument with the competencies needed to become an Expert in Enterprise Coaching is allowing me to create a personal growth roadmap that is more enduring and meaningful than other programs have done. The work is hard, intense, challenging and transformative, if you are willing to engage with it. I am already seeing a positive difference in my engagements with leaders and others, and even in my personal life, which results in far better outcomes than I would have seen before engaging with this cohort. I am profoundly grateful for this experience and for each of my fellow co-hearts that are on this journey with me.” — Mac Ward

“Transformation is a journey. A journey that begins with you. You start from where you are and you start the way you have been. With your personal goal in mind, you set foot on the trail of change, and follow it step by step. Every step offers a new perspective, a new experience or a new insight. And not every step you take, is in the right direction. Not every perspective offers a beautiful scenery and not every insight that you gain is pleasant. But as you move closer toward your own goal, you learn to grow through this. On the trail, you sharpen your senses, your awareness and competences to stay on the path. And every experience you make becomes part of you. Eventually, and no matter where the path takes you, you will arrive in your destination in a new way of being, and as a master of your own change. The Enterprise Agility Coaching Mastery Program Cohort offers a variety of tools and practices to use or bring into organizations to foster change on the enterprise level. Yet, this program is much different from many others: It lets you experience and grow through your own change process in context with your own way of guiding change in organizations. The program opens new perspectives to look at organizational agility in an integral way: It is about the way you are bringing change into the enterprise and about the way you guide and coach Leadership in organizations to lead transitions. Integral is about interacting with the organization systemically and individually on all organizational levels. It is about bringing all perspectives into one; and it is about forging all your competences and mindfulness to be the change agent the enterprise needs for a healthy change. Being in this cohort and being confronted with my own change process, and the way I guide transformations, has been a tough endeavor. However, with this cohort you are never alone on your trail. There are several companions, each on their own journey, that help you grow and find your way toward mastery — a network of change agents with deep knowledge and wisdom who are committed with all their heart to bring the healthy change this world needs. I am glad that with this Pioneer Cohort I am among the first to follow this trail, bringing Agile Integral thinking into the world, and I hope there are many more to come.” — Marcus Besch

“The Story of Adopting a Lemon: I would offer a beautiful story; it begins where I was looking for the next Agile course. Some time ago, I recall having a conversation with Shane Hastie talking about courses that had a profound impact on Shane’s journey. He shared a story where in one of the Agile courses, each team member adopted a lemon for a week. The result of the course had a deep meaning about the lemon and inclusion and diversity. I too, wanted to adopt a lemon for a week but found the course was no longer being taught and found myself envious that I couldn’t have that same experience. Then in September 2019, I saw a tweet about the Enterprise Cohort Course and the upcoming book Agile Transformation. The course was in the Azores and was a 10-month competency-based and required a review. I was looking for something that would separate me in terms of skills, but also something that would cause continued self-improvement. I felt deeply compelled to attend and be part of this course. Going through the journey was intense, and a beautiful life experience for me and I got my wish to Adopt the Lemon. During the cohort, I found out how to see the beauty in the lemon’s bumps and bruises. I learned the lemon was me. For those looking for a course, listen to your gut and GO if you feel compelled to be in the class and if you don’t feel compelled that is feedback too.” — Mark Boysen

“How often is the distinction between “doing agile” and “being agile” cited? How obvious is it to “everybody” , that true agility is a “mindset-thing”? This cohort took almost a year, because being agile and developing an agile mindset is a journey. And: this cohort will either initiate or facilitate a part of your journey. The journey will continue once the cohort ends,, because it is life-long. The relationships you will enter will be intensive and will last as well. I started my personal, conscious journey, before I joined this cohort. When I discovered the opportunity to join the Pioneer Cohort, I knew that this was the holding environment I needed to accelerate my personal transformation, learn from fellow experts and international thought leaders in the field. Organisational Transformation begins with oneself. If the leader’s mindset is not capable of “being” the change, no change will happen in an organisation. Things may even get worse, as additional “ballast” is added. As agents helping organisations and their leaders to go through transformation, it is an absolute imperative to be on the journey of personal transformation oneself. Leading leaders in transformation requires to know the pain one is going through, when unconscious shadows of one’s own past surface. Realising that the barriers of change are not “out there”, e.g. with the people not meeting my expectations, but within yourself. Welcoming unpleasant perspectives as part of the whole and considering them is key to find new solutions for ever more complex problems. Observing ones own development overcoming these “edges” — welcoming the “good” and the “bad” as equally necessary — is a source of personal satisfaction. Thinking of an organisation as a “living creature” the product of individual change is true transformation. It requires you to be ready to take a deep look into the mirror.” — Randolf Speigner

“Enterprise Agility is a level of consciousness within that enterprise: self consciousness of every member, team, leader and also the environment. How are we in this situation, what drives us, hinders us and how can we span boundaries for the sake of the purpose or goal. The enterprise breathes and feels where it is sick, where it needs healing, cure. It’s a living organism with ways of work, leaders, structures and culture. For the coach, he/she is an instrument for the change and as such he/she needs to transform also to be able to sense the organisation and guide the enterprise at any level in any developmental stage the organisation is. Transforming into “self as an instrument” means for me that if I am good with myself, can listen, sense and feel better. Consciously making choices about where to coach, advise, mentor… My personal journey was highly impacted when I took the ATL class in Brussels, two years ago, and when the Pioneer Cohort was announced I felt immediately that I had to follow this path. To broaden my repertoire of interventions and to find out why I at a certain point always get stuck and feel lonely in my coaching of organisations. That was what I thought then! I grew! Through a deep journey of discovering personal barriers, of above and below the line thinking, professional coaching stance, becoming a conscious leader, who is aware of her own role in the space of the organisation, and at the same time aware of what happens between people and teams -sensing — and the unspoken issues that want to be seen. And I learned that it is not about changing everything, but transcending and including: honouring what’s good in me and in the organisation. The Pioneer Cohort is a strong container of 15 people who are willing to grow together and to discover in a safe and honest way, the steps to create safe places for agile transformations.” — Sabina Renshof

“For me the journey of becoming an Enterprise Agility expert started with a good hard look at myself. At times this was very confronting and uncomfortable. The cohort started with doing the leadership circle profile. I created a metaphor around my reactive tendencies. Being aware of my ‘current way of being’ and consciously practicing to make the shift to my ‘new way of being’ — transcending and including. For me it was all about setting boundaries. This was such a powerful cohort that I soon started to see how much it impacted my personal and professional life. It increased both my leadership as my coaching skills. I learned to use myself as an instrument and that how I show up, impacts the system. I used to come into organizations with the pressure to perform and deliver. I really wanted to prove myself and sometimes my ego got in the way. This cohort teaches us that it is all about people and not simply an implementation of a framework. Entering a system mindfully, with an open mind, without judgement and honoring what is already there, helps me to see and hear what the system really needs. Instead of telling the system what I think they need to do, I now listen to what it really needs. I dance in the moment. Although it feels as if my journey has only just started, this cohort has already changed my life. It was worth every penny and all the effort put into it. This cohort digs far deeper than any other cohort I have ever done. I feel blessed to have been on this journey with a group of likeminded beautiful people. We built a bond that will last a lifetime” — Tamara de Wit

“To me ‘Becoming an Expert in Enterprise Agility’ is just as much about becoming an expert in self. The Pioneer Cohort has helped me become consciously aware of how my own emotions, feelings, behaviors and mindset impact my relationship with other people in both positive and negative ways. Over the last 9 months I have learned how deeper self-awareness can help me help individuals and enterprises in their own transformational work. As an added bonus, I have built strong friendships with 14 skillful coaches from around the world.” — Torsten Hansen

“As a learner from East, I deeply feel the transformation starting from self scaling up to enterprise level is not a whole story. The process of transformation is globe level triggered by COVID-19. The ability and awareness to transform has become incredibly important, especially in this incredibly exciting time. I do feel the power of start-with-in and integral thinking perspective after monthly enhancement has become a subconscious muscular reaction for me. And interestingly, I also feel that the strong connection between Pioneer Cohort carving in me a belief which is strong intimacy with everyone. I think the transformation begins with accepting current status. And the ability to be intimate with others is a great transformation gift for me. The New Way Of Being is a continuing process. It starts from myself spiraling up to this world. Looking forward to seeing every transformation catalyst cross this critical threshold. Enterprise Agility Coaching is must-have for every fearless Agile Coach. I can not imagine how much we can do for this world.” — Wang Yu

“As a co-designer and co-leader of this journey the inquiry held throughout was: “What does it mean to be ‘expert’?” And, “Who is the one that is being ‘expert’?”. That question was not just for the cohort, it was also an internal inquiry for my co-leadership. Inner critic aside, I found the journey deeply humbling. What an honor to co-share our experiences in service to uncovering what gets in the way of ‘expert’. What I uncovered in this journey of co-facilitating with Michele is that much of what we are “doing” is subtracting. Subtracting and shifting those habits that get in the way of ‘expert’. Expert in being human and expert in a role called ‘Enterprise Agility’. The two are intertwined and always are. What we co-labored and co-journeyed upon was the “how” of who we are in our roles. How we do ‘human’ is how we produce results and how we impact the world. The journey we all co-created was found in that statement. “Student”, “teacher”, “learner”, “facilitator” all roles that intertwined together for the uncovering, discovering and creating in service to ‘expert’.” — Phillip Cave

As you can see from their own writing, this Cohort had an impact on them that will no doubt last their entire lifetimes. In my own life, these life-changing opportunities have crossed my path since I was about 11 years old. Sometimes, the path was not clear, sometimes I went down the wrong path, and sometimes I chose a path that was life-changing. I didn’t know for many years where those paths would lead me, but one thing I know is that my life has prepared me for exactly where I am today. It is an honor to do this work and it is also a responsibility — to own my impact in the world.

Thank you ICAgile for your partnership — you were the example of Agility through the storm of Covid-19. Your way of being as an organization, co-creating to solve our challenges, enabled Trans4mation to remain in business.

Thank you Phillip Cave for your co-partnership in co-designing and co-leading this first Enterprise Cohort; you have truly been my co-creator of this Cohort program. Thank you for your way of being in joy and creation, in ease and flow, in labor and achievement, and in the dance of leading and in relationship with me, as we led and journeyed with this group of 15 beautiful souls.

Thank you to each and every CoHeart: Aldin, Ardita, Arun, Diana, Kerri, Lisa, Mac, Marcus, Mark, Randolf, Sabina, Tamara, Torsten, Trey and Wang Yu for being willing to experiment with this Pilot Enterprise Coaching for Agility Cohort Program, and for bringing your courageous and authentic selves to our journey together. Congratulations to each of you for your hard work and dedication to your personal and professional development!