Best agile coaches and good scrum masters are rare breed to find now-a-days in the Australian work environment. Unlike usual type they are less noisy, less animating in front of others, less limelight hoggers. They reflect silent leadership traits, work behind the scenes and credit team for success. They are also inquisitive to build team collaboration by supporting and challenging the teams instead of always on front foot as a warriors to protect the teams from business challenges. It often reflects parents or guardian relationship to some extent between team and coach / scrum masters where team learn – how to become self-organized, self-manage and stand on its own to face all weather business conditions. Lets group major personality characteristics under few meta-tags:
Positive thinker: They always assume every business and technology decision is for team good. Never blame team or business for bad incidents. Often keep 2 kilo of “virtual” ice bar on their head to always keep cool in listening and nearing upstream and downstream members equally and never loose temper in emergency situation. When going gets tough, they go motivating teams in right direction. Again they never chicken out in asking thought provoking question, it’s not always sweet talking “Mr. Nice guy” or team darling and being good to everybody makes you “cool” positive thinker.
Action oriented: They always follow “practice first – preach later” approach. Often ready to experiment ideas and take calculated risk when idea or approach in in enough shape. They don’t waste time on finer details and wants to calculate thousand failure scenarios before actioning new ideas, instead they follow “learning while doing” approach with their actions. Be it lean principles, devOps, design thinking, TOGAF and test automation, good agile coaches are ready to try them with positive attitude rather shooting down ideas with “if’s” and “but’s”.
Listen, Learn and Silence: They believe in learning at every moment and jotting down mindmaps or scribbling on sticky notes quickly in every formal or informal discussions inside or outside workplace. Active listening follows concrete actions and using feedback loop they pivot actions to benefit team and business. Sharing cool and practical ideas, techniques, tricks helpful in day-to-day work besides ensuring non-interference in developers, testers and other team members’ relationships. They live in moment and get actually excited in every positive moments of business and technology progress. With judicious use of using two ears and one tongue proportionately they reflect silent leadership and servant leadership characteristic.
Communicator and articulator: With curious mindset of asking question they are often filled with WHY questions and ready to challenge old paradigms for team betterment. By not following cowboy agile approach of “no articulation” they embrace any/all modern and traditional mediums such as mural.ly, slack, office communicator, Skype and other tools for knowledge management they ensure that knowledge and information is captured and used effectively to benefit everybody. With crisp and clear articulation, use of right choice of words and no foul language they push for transparency, greater collaboration and less confusion. However that doesn’t mean they are afraid to ask tough questions. Good coach always practice President Abraham Lincoln & poet John Lydgate quote: You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time” and push boundaries for business value generation.
Moral grounds: There are aware that their every move reflect and define morality in team culture building so they set their own high moral standards for honesty, collective team leadership instead of projecting individual hero’s and celebrity cult culture. Coach celebrate every positive and risk taking traits from each team members in every demanding situation as team celebration. They also and always focus on doing right thing instead of quick fix and Band-Aid solutions.
Balanced team and organization culture: good coach are always aware that their team is agile and organization is not agile yet so they equally respect organization hierarchy and flat team work norms and give priority to agile mindset rather than mere agile ceremonies and toolset. Instead of bullying about organization operational processes they contribute with lean, ITIL and project management processes to develop conducive work environment. Don’t get me wrong mate focus is on business and technology agility and not on pure agile or agile cult following blindly.
So far I rarely found agile coach and scrum masters with limited list of above characteristics truly (including myself no exception). We all have some limitations, may be some are strong in communication and lack creative and critical thinking skills or risk taking attitude. As per anonymous saying “mindset is an improvement journey and not destination in itself” henceforth after 14+ years of agile journey I am still learning and pushing my mindset boundaries. Team culture success with transparency, collaboration, high moral ground rules, business value generation, positive mindset and motivating conducive work environment certify true agile coaches and weed out good coaches from bad ones and not merely commercial certifications can justify your coach titles. Coaching doesn’t require titles my friend however it truly require upstream management support, hardworking team, autonomy, empowerment and clear mandate else you end up like n number of “agile gospel” speaking symbolic coach with minimum or no respect from your team.
Your thoughts please and feel free to share your embraced best agile coach and scrum master characteristics.