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A Crash Course in Low Pressure Test Coaching

I remember the first time I was about to be “coached” as a tester; I was scared; worried that someone would make me look stupid. I also didn’t like the idea of feeling “less than an equal” to the coach.

Fast forward a couple of years and I was put in the position to coach a colleague. This time I felt frustrated because I didn’t know what to do. I suddenly felt all the pressure was put on the coach and the whole situation just made me uncomfortable.

Today I have a format that helps me initiate low pressure coaching sessions which makes the sessions actually happen and that’s what I will share in this short workshop.

  • Check in (<5 min)Quick assessment of what the participants’ preconception of coaching is.
  • Exercise (~15 min) In this exercise I will basically “tricks” participants to run a very simple coaching session, finished with a short debrief of the experience. The purpose is to show that test coaching doesn’t have to be formal or scary.
  • What is test coaching? (<5min) Very brief explanation mostly to explain that what they just did (the exercise) is a perfectly viable example of test coaching.
  • Ways to initiate coaching (5 min) The way we initiate coaching and the expectations set on these sessions are an important part of creating a low pressure environment. I’ll talk a bit about the “spontaneous talk”, how to use these techniques in scenarios not dedicated to coaching and other ways to help create a safe setting.
  • Additional tools (15 min) This part is primarily based on work done by me and Helena Jeret-Mäe. The purpose is to provide additional tools to the participants. I’ll bring up things such as various forms of roleplaying, concepts from innovation theory and “generally powerful questions” the participants can use.
  • Exercise using the additional tools (~20 min) Similar to the one I’ll start with but with the added tools as well as awareness from the participants that this is actually coaching. Just like in the beginning we’ll end with a debrief.


Key takeaways:

  • Realization: Test coaching doesn’t have to be mysterious, scary or complicated
  • Practical tools they can use in any conversation to turn it into a quick coaching session
  • Actual experience of coaching another tester