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6 Coaching Tips for Scrum Masters

April 3, 2017

The Scrum Guide talks about coaching as a part of the Scrum Master role.  

  • The Scrum Master coaches the Scrum Team in fulfilling their roles and effective use of the Scrum framework.
  • The Scrum Master coaches the organization in its Scrum adoption.

First, let's define what coaching is.  You can find many definitions, and here is how I describe coaching.

Coaching enhances your ability to learn, make changes, and achieve desired goals.  Coaching is a thought-provoking and creative process that enables people to make conscious decisions and empowers them to become leaders in their own lives.

Sounds big, right?  

Well, it is!

Coaching is an entire profession.  There are many skills involved in coaching.  In this post, I want to share my top coaching tips for Scrum Masters.

6 Coaching Tips for Scrum Masters

Coaching Tip #1: Understand what matters most to people.

As humans, we each have innate values.  These values drive our behaviors and our interactions Values help us live our best lives and work productively in teams.

Being able to identify values is a powerful coaching tool.

Coaching Tip #2 - Focus on what people want.

In many coaching conversations, people tend to focus on the problems they are facing.  This can easily send people into justification or blame.  It can also get people ruminating on their lack of control or ability to influence the situation.

Instead, shift the conversation.  Get people talking about what they want.

Build out that picture of what their desired future state looks like.  The more visual and emotional this becomes, the easier it is to start taking steps to make it happen.  From this expansive place, it is easier to break down limiting beliefs and challenge assumptions.

Coaching Tip #3 - Remember that this is not about you.

It is important to not make coaching conversations about you.  If you go into a coaching conversation with your own agenda, with a belief that you know what people need to do, the results are not likely to be effective.  Here are a few potential issues:

  • You could be undermining self-organization.
  • You may be constraining the solution to your own experience.
  • You may not help the other person discover what they truly want, build a strong desire to get there, and take responsibility.

Coaching Tip #4 - Remove judgment.

This one is not so easy, but it can change your life.  Seriously.

A powerful coaching relationship requires a foundation of trust.  While there are many factors that contribute to trust, judgment is a powerful one.

It is human nature to judge.  Each of us filters everything based on our experiences and beliefs.  We may judge because we assume that others think the way we think or seek happiness and fulfillment in the same ways we do.  We may judge because we don't understand the behavior and try to make sense of it.

If you go into a coaching conversation having already judged a person's actions and beliefs, the other person will sense that.  It will come across in the words you use, your intonation, and your body language.  The person will be less likely to open up with you because there will not be enough trust.

The best way I have found to counter this part of our human nature is to assume positive intent.  I truly believe that people have good intentions.  Most people are not trying to ruin your day or undermine a team.   Sometimes I need to remind myself of this.

Stay curious.  Seek to understand and learn more about others.

Coaching Tip #5 - Don't be afraid to challenge people. 

The Scrum Master role is not huggy-feely.  And neither is coaching.

Don't be afraid to challenge people and teams.  Challenge their limiting beliefs, their excuses, and their assumptions.

Want more for them than they want for themselves. 

Help them get past their comfort zone to find their growing edge.

Coaching Tip #6 - Work on yourself to better serve others.

Similar to being a good servant-leader, a good coach must continue to work on themselves.  As you can tell from earlier tips, self-awareness and self-management are crucial skills for any coach.  This personal work is never finished.

Also, work on expanding your range.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Stretch yourself and your ability to serve others as a coach.

This is how you evoke transformation.

Are you ready to expand your coaching skills and amplify your impact? Register for my self-guided online course Coaching Skills for Impact.



Download the Coaching with the Scrum Values Mini-Guide

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