Five characteristics to be the scrum master your team needs

Culture · Jan 31, 2019

Since the rise of agile development teams, more and more software companies have turned to Scrum Masters for leadership. But while the role is often likened to that of a project manager, a successful Scrum Master’s duties encompass so much more. 

Whether you want to be a Scrum Master yourself, or you’re looking to hire one, know that all great Scrum Masters should possess the following five characteristics.

1. Practice servant leadership

In the purest form, practising servant leadership means helping others flourish. This includes listening, appreciating, respecting, and supporting those whom you are leading. Focus on serving team members for their own good, not just for the good of the product or the organization.

2. Ask the right questions

Part of being a Scrum Master is knowing how to ask leading questions. Leading questions are deliberately designed to make your team think in a certain way or point them in the right direction for the answer they are looking for. 

A leading question is not about tricking your team members to get a certain answer.  Instead, leading questions can be thought of as a more focused way of questioning with the goal of helping the team member realize for themselves what the right answer is. This will help guide them in the desired direction, without just giving them the correct response. The result is higher team satisfaction and, hopefully, the fostering of a deeper level of critical thought for all involved.

3. Find and encourage your champions

When you are in a leadership role, there are times when you have to do or make unpopular decisions or have tough conversations with team members. When you are in the middle of a meeting, and you read the room, your champions are the people who are actively listening - which means they’re off their phones or laptops. When presented with a decision they don’t agree with, your champions are constantly engaged by asking questions. Essentially, these are the people you can rely on to always put your team’s best interests first. 

Be sure to spend time promoting the efforts of your champions because when the going gets tough, they’re the ones you’ll need to turn to. 

4. Know when to give, take, and share accountability

Who’s responsible for X? What about Y and Z? If I need X, who can get that for me or where do I go to get the right answer? These are the questions your team members will ask during a daily standup meeting or other sprint ceremonies. 

As a Scrum Master, it is my job to answer these questions and remove the roadblocks that come up on a regular basis. When I do this, I know that there are essentially three possible outcomes: 

  • I can get what is needed for the team (take accountability) 

  • I can help them do it (share accountability) or,

  • I can pass it on entirely to them (give accountability)

As your team grows and matures, they will become more comfortable taking accountability themselves, without the help of the Scrum Master. But for them to get to that point, they need assistance from their leaders. Know when your team can and should take responsibility, when they need help, and when you need to step in and get the job done.

5. Don't forget - these are your people

Being a Scrum Master is all about the people. The people are what make your team what it is. They create your workplace culture and are ultimately responsible for your success or failure. When the going gets tough, and the processes or technology around you fails, it’s your people who pick up the extra slack to get the job done. Don’t forget that they are human. They need meaningful relationships, they need days off, they need to be fed, and they need to have time to joke around and have fun. They should also care about the work that they are doing! 

I’ve learned that someone in a leadership role should not forget the human aspect of leading and managing a team. This means not working to a grind every deadline or having the expectation of working overtime or extra hours. As we say at TELUS digital, we want to make something awesome - and awesome comes from our people!

Do you think you have what it takes to become a Scrum Master on #TeamTELUS? Apply today and reference this post in your application. Click here to apply!

Authored by:
TELUS Digital Team
TELUS Digital Team
Leading the digital revolution at TELUS
We enable our customers and team members to do what they want easily.