Coaching advice for Scrum Masters (Part 5): Trust is the Glue holding your practice together!

A Coaching Scrum Master uses the strongest pulling energy in the world to keep the team and the entire coaching work together: Trust, But where does it truly start?

Trust is initiated and projected from within. That means as a Coach you should Trust Yourself (trust your abilities, experience and knowledge), and this should be genuine enough to radiate from your behavior and have a positive influence on your Scrum Team.

This is very important if you have just started down the path of Coaching and have not yet gone through a ton of experience to rely on.

But how are you supposed to trust your own abilities if you are a newcomer to the world of Coaching?

The answer is to Trust your training, Trust your watchfulness over staying neutral to their cause and Trust your ability to focus on asking questions that will motivate your team to question their assumptions and create their own insight on the problem they are facing.

Trust your commitment to help them find their own answers.

To establish that Trust, you need to look within yourself and promise yourself that you accept the fact that you are a beginner, and accept the fact that you are building experience as you move forward, but at the same time you are maintain the belief in your capacity to stay on the path and keep checking yourself against your own training!

Now that you are radiating Trust and maintain a firm and strong position on your training, it is time to expand this to your relationship with the Scrum Team.

  1. Do not judge them (not even secretly in your mind) as they will feel it and that would close them up!
  2. Do not let them judge themselves (personally or among themselves) as this would paralyze their mind and freeze their creativity and ultimately waste everyone’s time and energy.
  3. Show you are completely trustworthy and would not break the confidentiality of your conversations. This would help them open up soon and feel safe about working with you.
  4. Do not push them to come up with instant victory (it is okay for them to come up with as many wrong answers as they could, as long as you are on the right path to finally find the answer).
  5. Give them some space between your questions to explore for answers (a pause between your question can help them with that).
  6. Detect any signs of fear or doubt hidden in their response or body language. If you sense that, change the direction of your questions to root out what is the main reason behind their hold-back or confusion.
  7. Question your questioning; Every now and then check with your client if they are happy with the direction of the questions and feel confident it is going to help them and assist them in generating their insights and solutions. Re-align your questions with the feedback you receive.

So, you know you are the Coach, but does your Scrum Team also know that?

It is great to know you are going to be the coach of a team, but in many cases, the team may have never asked for a coach, nor had any idea they are going to have one.

In such cases, building Trust with your team becomes even more important. It would also help to let them know upfront, what coaching means for you and them and what each side is going to expect and what is each side’s responsibility and ownership.

You would also need to leverage and official introduction to the team – as a coach – by a manager that the team reports to, so you will have an official starting point.

Your relationship with the team can benefit from you sharing with them why you wanted to become a coach and what do you hope to achieve together.

You would now need to learn as much about the team as every team members, as you can. This would help you understand each individual’s context and background, and to improve your understanding of their aggregate behavior and reactions.

Show them you and the team are actually just a slightly larger team now, collaborating together to find solutions (through getting them to break through their status quo and find new ways).

As it is in fact all about them, you might as well keep showing it to them through channeling your questions towards their insights and their solutions. (you may even directly tell them that).

You are their competent confidant! Show that you can carry your weight and help them carry theirs, and show them what you talk about during your sessions, stays in your circle and never leaks out.

Remember to ask questions that gets them to visualize their problems and create the resolutions.

For example, instead of asking “How may I help you?” which you suggest that we are there to give them the solution directly, ask “What is on your mind?” and get them to put the spot light on what is keeping their mind busy.

Get them to recall the lifespan of the issue that has been bothering them: “How long this has been a problem?”

Then get them to gauge the importance of the problem: “What would it mean to you if this problem was not bothering you?”

And move to fishing out the feeling associated with the problem that is brought to light: “How does this problem make you feel?”

And trigger some insights: “What do you think is keeping you from solving that problem?”

And continue them on the path of opening up even further: “Can you elaborate a bit more?”, and “What else would be bothering you?”

And now

“What have you tried in the past to resolve this?”,

“How effective do you believe it has been?”

“Why else have you tried as a resolution?”

“What would you think is the reason for the outcome?”

and keep them down the path of self-discovery and solution finding. Also make sure they understand that this is an incremental success and they do not need to find their final solution immediately.

We continue this conversation in the next article.


Arman Kamran (The Agilitizer)