Scrum Master Coaching Tips

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Young female economist or coach making presentation of financial chart

The terminology ‘Scrum Master’is one that has never ceased to marvel me. It is like the word “parent” which conceals the various responsibilities that is all balled up into that one term. The Scrum Master role is truly unusual as it is dynamic and itcarries multiple responsibilities; being a coach, servant leader, mentor, educator, and others. However, amongst all these roles I consider the coach to be one of the most powerful roles. The Scrum Master coaches the scrum team in fulfilling their roles and in effective adoption and use of the scrum framework. General coaching enhances our ability to learn, make changes and achieve desired goals. It is a thought provoking and creative process that enables people to make decisions and empowers themto become leaders in their own lives.

Some of the coaching tips that I have learned over the years include:

Pay attention to intrinsic motivations

Employee paying attention

This takes some level of emotional intelligence and ability to truly pay attention. Our values drive our behavior and interaction. Hencethe ability to identify what someone else values is a powerful coaching tool. Many presentation coaches quote the landmark studies by Albert Mehrabian, PhD, that identify communication as 55% Visual, 38% Vocal, and 7% Verbal. Hence as scrum masters, it is imperative that we should lean heavily on what our team members are communicating through their body language and the tone when they speak to us or other team members. The context of the speech (specifically the vocal tone and body language) provides a lot of insight and if we are not paying attention, we may fail to understand the true message.

Focus on the needs of your team and find alignment with the organization

This is what we need to focus on now

When you spend some time understanding what each team member is striving for, then you get a better view of how to support their desired outcome. The way I practice this is to listen to enablers while conversing with them. Some people want guidance, some want autonomy, and I utilize these intrinsic desires to help achieve these outcomes.A dear friend of mine who is a Professor of Economics also tells me, everythingin Economics is driven by incentives. Well I have not yet come across this economic theory, but I have found it to be useful in leadership. I believe that you should not ask or expect anyone to do anything without giving them an incentive to do it. Hence, when I am opportune to get a clear idea of what drives a team member, I am on a steady roll after that. I adjust my approach around this and help them stay true to who they are while finding common ground and alignment with the goals of the team, our stakeholders, and the organization at large.

Lead from behind

Rear View Of Female Tutor Leading Discussion Group Amongst High School Pupils

Remember I said in the beginning of my rant that the Scrum Master role is quite unique. Well you are not the manager, not just a fellow colleague, not a team member but definitely a servant leader. You are responsible for making sure that the Scrum framework can be properly applied to maximize business value, help the team achieve self-organization, support the product owner and the organization.So, when you are wearing your hat as the coach, remember that it is not about you, you don’t set the agenda, you support their agenda and help them navigate it successfully. The belief and approach that you ultimately know what your team needs to do, why their results are not effective, and the solutions they need will leave you weakening their morale and undermining their potential to self-organize.

Create a “No Judgment Zone”

Top down view of a statue of Justice

It is your responsibility to ensure that you team has a safe place where they can all communicate without fear of blame and retribution. A powerful coaching relationship requires a foundation of trust and judgment quickly erodes trust. As humans, to some level we will filter life through our experiences and beliefs. We may judge because we assume that others thing the way we do, or our perspective is the “normal” or “right” way. Even with the best of intentions, we may judge because we do not understand the behavior and are trying to analyze and make sense of it. However, keep judgment out of your team meetings at all cost! If you go into a coaching session already judging the person’s action or beliefs, the other person will sense it through your tone of voice and your body language. Even your words may betray you no matter how much you attempt to sound open minded. This will decline the progress you have made over time and the person will be less likely tobe openwith you again. As in most relationships in life, trust once broken is hard to regain so be cautious in your approach.

I got this advice from a colleague who said to create a positive and safe environment devoid of judgement, then always assume positive intent and truly foster that culture. Try to commit to an attitude and belief in the best of intentions even in the face of wrongdoing. Most people do not set out to ruin your day or undermine your team. You have to remind yourself of this and even when you have reason to think otherwise, remember to think about how a negative mindset will do more harm to your team than choosing to keep a positive mindset that fosters the ability to think and operate in an agile environment.

Be positive yet Assertive, Kind yet challenging

She is a positive trainer

My mentor taught me this and it was truly example. The Scrum Master role is not so touchy to where you are afraid to challenge people and teams. Challenge their limiting beliefs, excuses, and assumptions. As a servant leader, you are in the right position to enable and reach for more than they think they desire. Help your team get past their comfort zone and find their core competencies as a team.

Develop your capacity to serve others

Business people, programmers cooperating at IT company developing apps

Although this is not a requirement to any Scrum Master job description, a great coach continues to develop the propensity to lead and serve others. Important skills like self-awareness and self-management are essential for you to display as a model to your team and it goes without saying that you should never stop developing yourself. Expand your range, get out of your comfort zone, stretch yourself and your ability to serve others.

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SFB Developments is a family of Agile thinkers, Problem Solvers, and Value Creators. Our commitment to the Agile mindset leads our daily practice and process regardless of the project, process, and industry.

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