Thursday, February 17, 2011

ScrumMaster as Coach: Mentoring & Drawing Out

In my Implementing Agile Teams trainings and Certified ScrumMaster classes agile training classes we discuss the various roles that the ScrumMaster plays. One of those roles is Coach. Although we usually have a good discussion, there's been a nagging sense that it wasn't complete or as deep as should be. 

I had some insight today from Leadership Coaching. Essentially, you, the ScrumMaster/Coach, are tasked to impart, strengthen or correct certain skills and practices. For example, making sure teams have daily stand-ups, but also tweaking and optimizing how it's facilitated, or explaining to others why daily stands-up are powerful and effective tools for collaboration. Perhaps you're helping coach on test-driven development or continuous integration. All great, valuable skills and practices. I think this type of coaching is Mentoring.

But coaching is not just imparting skills and practices, coaching is helping people become someone they were not before. We want, no, expect those on teams to be Open, Courageous, Focussed, Respectful, Committed. We want team members to trust, have healthy conflict, hold each other accountable and attentive to results (to borrow from Patrick Lencioni). We want them to ask powerful questions, collaborate effectively, be servant leaders. But my experience has been that I can't just walk up to a hardcore power-ogre team lead and say "Go forth and be highly collaborative!" or go wave a wand over a 15 year command-and-control PM and say "I bless you with the gifts of Facilitation, Listening, and Service. Go and empower someone today!" These things are not that easy. These involve people changing, not just learning. So, how do you help people change?

It Starts with You
"Becoming a transformational coach starts with being transformed." There are disciplines, skills and heart involved in helping people change, but we'll focus on the heart. As Tony Stoltzfus writes, coaching begins with a heart that radically believes in people. For example, in my training classes, I talk about three levels of listening. Although those are good to know, if you as coach don't value people, it won't matter. It won't work for you. Per , "Coaches don't listen because listening is a good technique…A coach listens because to listen is to believe in you."  My sharing about listening skills will only help those who are becoming someone who cares about others. We can not treat coaching as a set of techniques over being - style over substance. If you are just after results, than "technique without heart is manipulation."

I'll share in a later post about some of my practices in trying to become more and more of someone who has this kind of heart. For now, let me encourage you that believe the change we want to see in others already resides in them in some for. The preferred way we'd like to see them collaborate on the team has happened somewhere before and we as coaches help draw out what's already in there. We don't need to prescribe solutions and advice in the area of personal growth. Keep that to the skills and practices. 

Mentor coaching is giving what we know. Transformational coaching is drawing out what's already inside.

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