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Become a Super Scrum Master 4 - the leader


In the first article, I provided a brief introduction to the Scrum Master (ScM) role and the typical areas of responsibility. Then, I delved into more specific tasks for a ScM and how to organize the different ceremonies to get the most out of them. After that, I discussed how you, as a ScM, can handle risks and obstacles that arise during the process. In this article, I would like to talk more about how you can evolve from being a traditional ScM to becoming a natural leader, in other words, a Super Scrum Master!

Super Scrum Master

Develop your leadership skills

In your role as a ScM, it is natural for many people to look up to you and your position. To build on this, it's important to further develop your leadership qualities. There are several things to keep in mind when working on this. Initially, it may feel a bit awkward because you might feel like you constantly have to think about these things and that they don't come naturally.

However, if you persevere and practice these aspects, you will soon discover that they become a more natural part of your daily actions and behavior.

The key areas I'm referring to are:

  • Building trust and confidence
  • Listening with empathy and listening actively
  • Allowing the team to become self-governing
  • Leading the way as a coach and mentor
  • Creating a positive work environment with an open culture
  • Managing obstacles and conflicts
  •  Leading by example

Trust and confidence

The art of building trust is not unique to a Scrum team but rather a fundamental part of human interaction. Some people naturally have the ability to quickly establish trust, while others may need to work harder to build it and prove their good intentions. Regardless of which type you are, it is equally important for everyone to achieve this.

I have discussed this before, but one of the most important things to address is trust and confidence. So, how do you, as a ScM, build a secure work environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up? I would like to describe some important things to consider.

A fundamental requirement is that, as a ScM, you are open and honest. It may sound cliché-ish, but the fact is that you can easily destroy the trust you have built by hiding something or having a hidden agenda that you don't share with the team. Even worse is if you lie about something and then get caught by the team. Repairing such a scenario is almost impossible, depending on the significance of the issue.

Yes, you might say, but isn't it easy to always be open and stick to the truth? Well, I can think of many situations where it is very difficult to be completely open with the team.

For example, what do you do when someone on the team confides in you about having significant issues with the team's PO but explicitly asks you not to say anything?

The only right way to handle such a situation is to have an honest conversation with the person experiencing the problem and either agree to advocate on their behalf or empower them to address the issue naturally with your support. Any other approach will quickly erase the trust you have built.

With this example, I just want to highlight the challenges of always communicating openly and honestly with the team. It is not always easy to be completely open and transparent, but of course, you should strive to be as much as possible. It's not always black and white; there are also gray areas.

However, it is clear that trust in the ScM increases when the team feels they have access to all relevant information about goals, priorities, risks, challenges, etc.

Active and empathetic listening

This is an area I have touched upon before, and in your role as a ScM, it is particularly important that you make a real effort to listen to those who speak to you. I have seen many examples of people who simply wait to impose their own opinions in a dialogue and become increasingly frustrated when the other person never stops talking.

Unfortunately, this frustration is also felt by the person speaking, creating a vicious cycle. It feels like the recipient is not interested in what you have to say, and one almost feels hesitant to stop talking because they know the other person is just waiting to take over the conversation.

In my previous article, I provided several examples of how you can force yourself to listen more actively. Take a look at those posts, especially the one about managing conflicts and addressing challenges. This can be particularly challenging for you as a ScM because you must balance listening with empathy and allowing conversations to take the time they need while also adhering to time boxing and facilitating various activities in your Scrum work.

The solution to this dilemma is simply to have certain discussions separately, allocate sufficient time, and avoid rushing through conversations.

Keep your promises and stay focused

In your role as a ScM, it is important that you keep your promises and remain reliable. It may seem obvious, but I mean both small and big commitments. It could be as simple as booking a time for a check-in meeting with a team member. Treat that time as 100% agreed upon.

It's not particularly pleasant for a team member who may have prepared for a meeting with you to suddenly hear that you had to reschedule due to something more important that came up. What I want to convey is that, as a ScM, you need to consider this and demonstrate through words and actions that the team members are important to you and always high on your agenda.

When the team sees that you keep your promises and live up to expectations, they feel secure and can focus on their work. This creates an environment where trust and collaboration can thrive.

Another aspect is maintaining a focus on the team. I fully understand that you have commitments other than being a ScM in your workplace, but try not to let your personal interests interfere with your work too much.

This is an important balance that you constantly need to consider. For example, if you are a parent with young children who often get sick, it's good if you can share some of the responsibility with your partner so that it's not always you who has to stay home.

If you are a single parent, it becomes a bit more challenging, but in that case, there is much to gain by explaining your situation to the team so that everyone is aware of your circumstances and understands that you mean no harm when you choose to prioritize other things over the team occasionally.

In this way, I would like to conclude my series on how you can develop in your role as a ScM, and I truly hope that you have found the tips and advice I have provided useful. I wish you the best of luck in your work as a ScM and that you become a true SScM!

Written by André Johansen