As an agile coach I get the opportunity to have mentoring and coaching sessions with scrum masters who are in a rut. They usually have tons of potential but don’t know how to take the next step forward.
In order to facilitate these conversations, I use the popular coaching model GROW.
G – Gather Data
R – Reality Check
O – Obstacles and Opportunities
W – Way Forward
Throughout the conversation I shift from a position of mentor to a position of coach in order to help the scrum master gain perspectives, come to conclusions, and create a plan to move forward.
During the Gather Data portion of the session I step into my role as a coach. I ask them questions that will help us both understand how they see the role of scrum master and where they believe they are presently. We talk about where they think they are strong and where they think they are weak. We also talk about where they would like to see themselves in a few months and in a year.
This time is important because it causes the scrum master to think about things that they often have not considered prior to the conversation. In my experience, I find that when people are in a rut it is because they have no vision for the future and no plan to get there. They simply don’t know what to do next so they just keep doing what they’ve always done.
When we shift to the Reality Check segment I step into my role as mentor for a while and I give them my perspectives of their current performance. I point out areas of where they are doing amazing things that they don’t even realize are amazing. I tell them about the potential I see in them that they can’t see. I also point out areas where I see opportunity to move to the next level. I fill gaps in their understanding of the role and help them to believe in themselves so they will be ready to move to the next level. Then, I get their feedback on the things I shared and help them get clarity around where they believe they are and where they want to be.
I shift to coach again as we transition into the Obstacles and Opportunities part of the session. This is the part where the scrum master does some heavy lifting. One technique I use is to give them some sticky notes and a marker which are some of my favorite tools of the trade. I give them a time box and ask them to write down what they see happening with their teams that they, as scrum master, have the power to impact and help change. I also ask them to write down the things about themselves they want to change.
They hang these items on a wall where we can look at them together and I ask them questions to help them clearly define what things they have the power to impact and what the obstacles are that are standing in the way of change. We talk about ideas they have for helping the team grow and what success looks like in each of the areas.
When I see that the scrum master has created ideas about what they can do over the next couple of months to improve themselves and help the team become higher performing we shift to the Way Forward portion of the session. During this time, I remain in my coach role and ask more direct questions that will move them to action like:
- “Which options will have the greatest impact on the team?”
- “Which options appeal to you the most?”
- “What will you commit to in order to move forward?”
- “What will you do first?”
- “When will you start?”
- “How will you hold yourself accountable?”
- “Who do you need to help you implement this plan?”
- “Will this plan bring you closer to the place you define as success?”
At the end of a successful session the scrum master has a plan to work with over the next few months. They are invested in the plan because they develop a clear vision of where they are headed and how they will get there.
As a coach, I can have a vision for what success looks like but my vision isn’t what’s important. What’s important is helping those I coach understand how they define success. What is critical is that I support them and help them figure out how they can take practical steps towards their goal.
I can’t force people to see what I see or to desire what I desire. I can’t tell them what success looks like. I can’t make them do what I believe will bring them to what I think is success.
I have to help them discover what they really, really want and how they will get there. My role is to inspire them to imagine a different tomorrow. My job is to help them find the courage to change. My desire is my mission: To leave them better than I found them with each encounter.