How Scrum Masters Can Become Effective Leadership Coaches

A guide to unlocking your full potential
A woman sits at a laptop and leads a team meeting with other people at the table with her

People learning to use scrum and understand agile values rely on their scrum masters to show them the way. If you’re a scrum master, you may find yourself coaching not only scrum teams but the organization’s leadership as well.

When you take on a leadership coaching role as a scrum master, you can prepare yourself by developing competencies that will enable you to guide and support the leadership team effectively. Here are some key competencies and examples of how scrum masters can coach the leadership team:

Establish Commitments

Scrum masters can help the leadership team develop clear commitments to the agile transformation by facilitating discussions and workshops that help those leaders articulate their goals and expectations. You can also help leaders define success metrics and set up accountability mechanisms to ensure everyone is committed to their promises.

Example: The scrum master can facilitate a workshop where the leadership team identifies its top priorities for the agile transformation and creates a shared vision for success. They can then work together to define specific, measurable goals and establish a system of regular check-ins to track progress.

Engage in Conversations to Create Breakthroughs

Scrum masters can coach the leadership team on engaging in conversations within their teams that create breakthroughs and lead to continuous improvement. You can help leaders identify areas for their own growth and learning and support them in finding ways to overcome obstacles and challenges.

Example: As a scrum master, you can coach the leadership team on how to have open, honest conversations within their teams that promote active listening and constructive feedback. You can help the team develop skills for asking powerful questions and creating a culture of curiosity and continuous learning.

Designing an Invented Future

Scrum masters can help the leadership team design an invented future by facilitating discussions that help the team define a clear vision for the organisation's future. You can also help the team create a roadmap to get there, identifying key milestones and defining success metrics.

Example: The scrum master can facilitate workshops in which leadership team members work together to create a visual roadmap of the organisation's future state. Consider using tools like story mapping and value stream mapping to identify the key steps and milestones needed to achieve their vision.

Creating a Culture of Accountability

An effective scrum master, as a leadership coach, must create a culture of accountability within the organisation. It's crucial to encourage team members to take ownership of their tasks and work collaboratively with other team members. By holding themselves accountable, team members can create a sense of ownership, pride, and motivation in their work. This is where a scrum master can play a pivotal role in ensuring team members work together, are accountable, and promptly produce results. 

For instance, as a scrum master, you can leverage retrospectives to discuss challenges and celebrate achievements. During these discussions, team members can openly discuss their challenges and concerns and develop solutions collaboratively. This encourages transparency and accountability, leading to higher levels of engagement and commitment.

Promoting Openness and Vulnerability

An effective leadership coach needs to promote openness and vulnerability within the organisation. Leaders must be willing to share their vulnerabilities and failures to build trust and create a safe environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their concerns and challenges. 

Scrum masters can encourage leaders to adopt this approach by facilitating open discussions during meetings and encouraging leaders to share their experiences. For instance, you can start by sharing your own vulnerabilities and failures, which will help build team trust. This creates a safe environment for team members to share their concerns and challenges, which can be addressed collaboratively.

Challenging Established Thinking

An effective leadership coach must challenge established thinking and encourage leaders to think outside the box. This involves questioning assumptions and challenging conventional wisdom to encourage creativity and innovation. Scrum masters can be crucial in promoting this approach by facilitating brainstorming sessions, enabling leaders to share their ideas, and challenging established thinking. 

For example, a scrum master can facilitate a brainstorming session to encourage team members to develop new ideas and approaches to tackling challenges. By challenging established thinking, team members can develop innovative solutions that can help drive the organisation forward.

Facilitating Behavioral Change

Finally, an effective leadership coach must facilitate behavioral change within the organisation. As a leadership coach, nurturing behavioral change involves understanding the client's needs, active listening, asking powerful questions, providing constructive feedback, creating action plans, and accountability. By using these techniques, a coach can help clients identify and address the behavioral patterns that may be holding them back from reaching their full potential and help them become more effective leaders.

Grow Into the Role of Leadership Coach as a Scrum Master

Scrum masters can become effective leadership coaches by developing the competencies to facilitate agile organisational transformation. To sum up, here are some of the ways you can coach leadership teams:

  • Establish commitments
  • Engage in conversations to create breakthroughs 
  • Design an invented future
  • Create a culture of accountability 
  • Promote openness and vulnerability 
  • Challenge established thinking
  • Facilitate behavioral change

You can help to drive the organisation forward and create a culture of continuous improvement by taking these steps as a scrum master.


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