Skip to main content

The Scrum Master as a Coach

August 14, 2015


The role of a Scrum Master is one of many stances and diversity. A great Scrum Master is aware of them and knows when and how to apply them, depending on situation and context. Everything with the purpose of helping people understand and apply the Scrum framework better.

In a series of blog posts I will share the different stances I consider to be relevant for the Scrum Master. This blog post is about the Scrum Master as a coach. The Scrum Master is often considered a coach for the team, helping the team do the best work they can to reach the sprint goal.

The picture below shows the other stances of the Scrum Master, these will be described in more detail the upcoming period.


What is coaching?

There are a lot of good definitions available that describe coaching. My ultimate definition is: "Coaching is unlocking a person's potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping people to learn rather than teach them.[1]"

Other good definitions are:

  • "The ultimate goal of coaching is to help the client understand themselves better so that they can find ways to make the most of their potential[2]."

  • "Effective coaching is guiding without prescribing[3]."

  • "The art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another.[4]"

  • "Coaching closes the gap between thinking about doing and actually doing.[5]"

What is effective coaching?

Via Portia Tung's website 'Selfish Programming' I came across the 7 habits of highly effective coaches[6]. A Scrum Master can use these habits to check if (s)he is doing coaching in a way the chances of success will be the highest. The habits she describes are:

  • Lead by example. This means living by the values and principles they espouse as well as applying the tools and techniques they know to themselves and to their work.

  • Begin with the end in mind. A coach works backwards from the goal to figure out the most effective and efficient way of getting from A to B.

  • Set a sustainable pace. A coach stays calm when others around them lose their heads.

  • Think with your head and feel with your heart. A coach balances thinking and feeling. They apply logical thinking as well as empathy when solving problems.

  • Pull, not push. A coach waits and is always ready when someone asks for help. A coach creates and offers learning opportunities instead of thrusting their ideas, advice and views onto others.

  • Talk less, listen more. A coach postpones judgment on what they hear and lets others talk while they listen with care.

  • Flow like a steam. A coach is patient, pragmatic and present.

The Scrum Master as a coach

To describe the Scrum Master as a coach three different perspectives can be used, the individual, the team and the organization. Coaching the individual with a focus on mindset and behaviour, the team in continuous improvement and the organisation in truly collaborating with the Scrum teams.

Coaching the individual

  • Explain the desired mindset and behavior, help individuals see new perspectives and possibilities;

  • Influence the individual team members to use Scrum well;

  • Help each person take the next step on his or her agile journey.[7]

Coaching the team

  • Stimulate a mindset of continuous improvement, create a learning culture;

  • Support the team in problem solving and conflict resolution;

  • Coach the team to develop "to the point that members learn how to best learn from one another";

  • Change the attitude, mindset and behavior that restrict the team of doing Scrum well;

  • Coach the team in giving each other open and honest feedback.

Coaching the organisation

  • Help the organisation achieve astonishing results by delivering high quality, valuable products;

  • Coach the entire organisation in doing product management with a focus on continuously adding business value;

  • Support and encourage collaboration and cooperation with the Scrum teams.


By doing some research I've created a brief description of the Scrum Master as a coach. I haven't shared much of my personal experiences, but basically created an overview of the Scrum Masters coaching's role by studying some of the most interesting books and articles available around this topic. I hope you find it an interesting summary; of course feedback is always welcome.

[1] Sir John Whitmore
[2] The Coach's Casebook by Geoff Watts and Kim Morgan
[4] Effective Coaching by Myles Downey
[5] The Life Coaching Handbook by Curly Martin
[7] Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins


What did you think about this post?