Agile is becoming more prevalent in the world across cultures, industries, and countries. And the Scrum Master role (within Scrum) is becoming more critical than ever to spearhead the innovation and quality needed to adjust and maneuver the constant bombardment of changes that we face each week.
Unfortunately, the Scrum Master role has become a commodity with so many training and certifications offered to create these roles. It is time that we go back to the basics of the purpose of a Scrum Master and how an amazing Scrum Master can leverage 5 critical powers to take your agile adoption to a meaningful and effective level.
Scrum Master Power 1: Emotional Intelligence
It is vital for a Scrum Master to master his/her ability to connect with others not only on a mental level but also on an emotional level. Emotional intelligence is that power. The good news — this can be learned and developed.
TIP: Check out these articles to improve your emotional intelligence: 14 Signs You Are Emotionally Intelligent by Dr. Travis Bradberry and What Is Emotional Intelligence? We Can Sum It Up in 1 Simple Sentence by Justin Bariso
Scrum Master Power 2: Observation
Another power of a great Scrum Master is the ability to regularly observe what is actually happening. This requires checking one’s assumptions at the door and looking for factual behaviours and actions that one can see and notice. This too is a skill that can be developed into a superpower.
TIP: Read these posts about observation to develop your power: The Art of Observationby Irene Baker and Combatting Observer Bias in Coaching with the Team Coaching Framework (TCF) by Daniel Lynn
Scrum Master Power 3: Experimentation
One of the most critical elements of a successful Scrum Master is the ability to try new things — to experiment. What works for one team may not work for another team. So, experiment with different approaches to obstacles, be open to new learning, allow your team members to offer ideas and solve problems, and expect that you will be wrong much of the time. Be ready for inspiration and be willing to try out new concepts and practices.
TIP: Watch this video to get into the experimentation spirit and take away simple practices: Why your Company Needs Rapid Experimentation (Quality and Quantity) byGrowth Tribe Academy
Scrum Master Power 4: Protection
A fourth power of a Scrum Master is to protect the team. This doesn’t mean insulating the team from any outside force. Instead it is about protecting the team from destructive forces and influences. It is all too common for those around an Agile Team to try to make them revert to old (non-effective) practices as well as subvert the flow of work to their whims. As a Scrum Master your power is to work closely with those around the team to help them into a positive and effective flow of work as well as protect the team from distractions that don’t positively support the team — sometimes referred to as creating safety.
TIP: Read this article to improve your team and organizational safety: Forget Building Trust, Focus on Psychological Safety byStephan van Rooden
Scrum Master Power 5: Be Awesome
This last power can seem somewhat elusive. How does one become awesome? Well, the simple answer is to ask the team. Find out what they would need to feel amazing, deliver amazing products/services, and work together in an amazing way. Those Scrum Masters that take it upon themselves to do whatever it takes to help the team crush its goals, deliver happiness to its stakeholders, and be the high-performance team — end up become awesome too.
TIP: Check out these articles to increase your chances for a high-performance team and become awesome yourself: Developing High-Performing Teams by The Center for Organizational Design and How to Be Awesome at Life by Justin Harmon
Some Concluding Remarks about the 5 Powers of a Scrum Master
As a Scrum Master, each person can develop the necessary powers to help their team and culture become absolutely amazing. It takes patience, plenty of humility, hard work, and the openness to be open to others’ suggestions and support. I have seen many amazing Scrum Master that take it upon themselves to be the servant leader for their team without asking for or expecting anything in return. These Great Scrum Masters create an environment for their teams to be healthy, effective, and happy.
I hope that each of continue on your journey towards kindness, humility, and service to those around you. I am on this journey as well in my role as an Agile Coach and Leadership Guide. Good luck!
Paul J. Heidema