The Secret to Being a Great ScrumMaster or Agile Coach: The People Chip

We are seeing a trend in our classes and coaching engagements.  We walk in “off the street” and immediately pinpoint the people problems.  Clients repeatedly ask “How do you know that?”  “Who is giving you this information?”   They are dumbfounded when we say “Nobody did.  We picked up on it right away.” “What is the secret to being a great ScrumMaster?”


How has Collaborative Leadership Team cultivated this “people chip”?  Is it because of Certification as Scrum Professionals or Trainers?  Are we psychics?  Hardly!

We simply pay attention. We aren’t “tuned out” looking at a device or taking notes.  We are actively employing the Scrum values of Focus and Respect – giving full attention to the conversation and interactions at hand.

This means we are present in the moment.  Our people chips have become calibrated because Scrum is the way we do work – not something we incorrectly view as a project methodology.

Whether we are teaching or coaching, we look people in the eye. We listen.  We observe body language, non-verbal cues such as reactions from people based on what is said.  And then we coach.  This includes asking questions, enabling conversation, paraphrasing, etc.

Want to begin calibrating your People Chip?  Try these two tips:

  1. Stop being the Product Owner or Team’s Secretary: Do you feel like you have to be writing or typing in order to add value? Are you updating charts, tasks, typing into some sort of tool? Get your hands of the P.O. and the Team’s work! What are you missing because your Focus is elsewhere? You could have been asking a question to get things moving in the right direction, observed body language that let you know everyone was not in agreement on what Done looks like, or picking up on any number of things.

  2. Stop being the Authority on the Product or Technology: As the ScrumMaster, or certainly as a Coach, you are neutral. This means that you do not assert an opinion on the Product or the Technology. If you do that you are enabling the wrong behavior. Hand someone a fish and they have food for today. Teach them to fish and they have food for a lifetime. Your job as the ScrumMaster is to cultivate and enable cooperation, collaboration and team work to lead the Product Owner and Team to consensus. You do this through planting seeds, asking questions and getting the right people together to work on the problem at hand – not by being the authority on any technology or product attribute.

Want to learn more? Click here to view our upcoming classes and register for our next CSM or CSPO course.

Author: Collaborative Leadership Team. Learn more about our coaches and offerings here