ScrumMaster as a Coach

Author: Justyna de Jastrzębiec Wykowska

You can hear that Scrum Master is a team coach. But not many people asks what it means to be a coach. What’s the difference between coach and mentor, trainer, manager or other people who are influencing our grow? And what’s the difference between Agile and Personal coaching.

Do the web search and you will find a dozen of coaching definition. Most important for me was

„Coach is helping other to achieve what they desire without doing it for them or telling what to do

No teaching, no instructing, no replacing - so what is he doing?
Coach is a partner. He is inspiring coachee to use his own powers, showing ways to use creative thinking and pushing out of comfort zone. And most important - coach has no control or formal power over coachee. This is most controversial for new Scrum Masters.

In my work experience I have plenty of situations when I was sure to know solution of the problem but team that I’ve been working with has different ideas. Many Scrum Masters that I’ve met were asking the same question. “What should I do? Tell them to stop? Force them to change their mind? Wait and then tell them that I knew it will be a failure?” There is a fear that something will go wrong and it will be my fault that as a “coach” I haven’t prevent it, I haven’t fulfilled my role. Searching for the answer I found Milton Erickson guidelines. They gave me deeper understanding of coach role that I would like to share.

Milton-Erickson’s assumptions:

People are always responding, always communicating.

People have all resources and strengths to solve problems.

People make the best choice for themselves at any given moment.

Teach choice; never attempt to take choice away.

Change is constant and inevitable.

If I look at my team and realize that they have all required competences, good will and have just taken best possible decision from their perspective I know what to do. Coaching stand that I have taken is “Let  them proceed and change is inevitable”. I can assure that each of those cases brought a massive learning. In most cases I’ve learnt that others can have better ideas than me. When I feel fear of failure growing inside me I’m asking myself and my team “What we will learn today?”

So what is coach doing?

  • Listening what is said and unsaid
  • Observing from different perspective and talking about observations
  • Asking questions without judging
  • Teaching how to awake creativity

Is Scrum Master a coach all the time? Of course not. He is also teacher, trainer, mentor and facilitator. It’s important to distinguish those roles and select proper one in meaningful moments.

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