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The Secret to Being a Great ScrumMaster or Agile Coach: The People Chip

The Secret to Being a Great ScrumMaster or Agile Coach: The People Chip

By Angela Johnson   |   Certified Scrum Trainer & Agile Transformation Coach

Catch Angela’s presentations “Are you a Credible Agile Leader?” and “Is your Daily Scrum Dysfunctional?” at the virtual Agile and Scrum conference on May 4th.

Why do Agile or Scrum trainers seem to walk in “off the street” and immediately pinpoint the people problems?

Clients and students repeatedly ask, “How do you know that?” “Who is giving you this information?” They are dumbfounded when the response is, “Nobody gave me this information. I picked up on the issues right away.”

How have I cultivated this “people chip?” Is it because of Certification as a Scrum Professional or Trainer? Am I psychic? Hardly!

I simply pay attention. I am not “tuned out” looking at a device or taking notes. I am actively employing the Scrum values of Focus and Respect – giving full attention to the conversation and interactions at hand in coaching or training sessions.

This means being present in the moment. The people chip becomes calibrated because Scrum is the way to do the work – not something viewed separately from the way the work has traditionally been done.

Looking directly at people in coaching conversations reveals far more from their facial expression, their body language, etc. in addition to the words that they use. Actively listening means not talking or waiting to talk – but hearing what the person is saying. Sometimes that involves what they are not saying verbally.

Coaching may result in paraphrasing what was said to ensure that I am understanding the true nature of the problem trying to be solved and not making incorrect assumptions. Asking a number of questions can also help get the person “diagnosing” their own issue and help them brainstorm a list of possible next steps to take or next conversations to have in their team or organization.

Want to begin calibrating your People Chip? Try these two tips:

  1. Stop being the Product Owner or Team’s Secretary

    Do you feel like you have to be writing or typing in order to add value? Are you updating charts, tasks, typing into some sort of tool? What are you missing because your Focus is elsewhere? You could have been asking a question to get things moving in the right direction, observed body language that let you know everyone was not in agreement on what Done looks like, or picking up on any number of things.

  1. Stop being the Authority on the Product or Technology

    As the ScrumMaster, or certainly as a Coach, you are neutral. This means that you do not assert an opinion on the Product or the Technology. If you do that you are enabling the wrong behavior. Hand someone a fish and they have food for today. Teach them to fish and they have food for a lifetime. Your job as the ScrumMaster is to cultivate and enable cooperation, collaboration, and teamwork to lead the Product Owner and Team to consensus. You do this through planting seeds, asking questions, and getting the right people together to work on the problem at hand – not by being the authority on any technology or product attribute.

More insights await at the virtual Agile and Scrum conference, going live on May 4th. 5 keynotes and 20 sessions to choose from, plus networking and PDUs/SEU®s.

About the Author

Angela Johnson, PMP, PMI-ACP, CST is passionate about changing the world of work. She seeks to help people and organizations to break down their barriers and work together in a collaborative way. Angela facilitates the PMI Minnesota Agile Practitioner Community and serves on the Scrum Alliance Trainer Approval Committee.

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