Who coaches and mentors the scrum master?
In John McFadyen's experience, unfortunately, nobody does. It's ironic because coaching is such a powerful methodology for discovering new opportunities and executing on great ideas
In my experience, most scrum masters don’t have coaches, agile coaches, or mentors.
It’s a pity.
It’s also ironic because a scrum master is a coach for the scrum team and should understand the value of coaching in the context of continuous improvement and skills development.
Experienced scrum masters should also act as mentors to newbie scrum masters and help them grow in their personal and professional capacity.
It doesn’t do our industry any good when scrum masters and agile coaches are out evangelizing the benefits of coaching without investing in a great coach themselves.
That rings some alarm bells for me.
If you went down the professional coaching route, such as ICF, you would realise that you actively need a coach as you move through your apprenticeship journey.
You actively need someone who is trained to get the best out of you. To help you explore your thinking and lines of reasoning. To help you gain clarity on what needs doing, why it needs doing, and how to do it most effectively.
In the world of professional coaching, it is common practice for a coach to have a coach. The industry passionately believes in the value of coaching and demonstrates that belief through coaching engagements that last many decades.
The professional coaching industry also encourages aspiring coaches to practice their coaching with other aspiring coaches as regularly as possible. Each coach takes turns to be coached and to coach the other in return.
It’s a great circle of practice that ensures that each coach has a safe place to practice and to receive feedback that is both pragmatic and actionable.
As you progress along your journey, it is invaluable to have someone who has already walked that road and has overcome a lot of the challenges and obstacles you have yet to face.
A mentor helps you in your practice.
Coaching is a practice of practices and having someone who has deep experience and expertise in your field to guide you is an essential part of your development.
Having a variety of mentors is essential to help you learn from the best minds in the business and learn from the experience of others.
A great mentor will also challenge your thinking and examine your lines of reasoning to help you fully understand the problems you face and guide you to the best solution available to you.
Agile coaching versus traditional coaching
As stated earlier, the majority of scrum masters and agile coaches don’t have coaches or mentors.
In the Agile world, we don’t have a regulatory body that defines when someone should be called an Agile coach and regulates what needs to be achieved before someone can provide services in that capacity.
Certified Team Coach (CTC) and Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) are rigorous certification pathways that require candidates to demonstrate deep knowledge and skill in both coaching as well as Agile methodologies.
Whilst the credential has gained a great deal of respect around the world, we still see people with no coaching experience punting themselves as Agile coaches despite only having a year or two’s worth of experience as a scrum master.
Given the complexity of the world we live in and the degree of expertise and experience our clients require to navigate that complexity, it is essential that agile coaches and scrum masters embrace a journey to mastery through a rock-solid apprenticeship that includes coaching and mentoring.
Who should be coaching scrum masters and agile coaches?
So, who do we want coaching scrum masters and agile coaches in our industry?
I truly believe that it should be experienced coaches that coach them.
I would recommend the best of both worlds. Have a coach who is a professional coach and have an agile coach who has deep experience in the agile industry.
Having someone who isn’t connected to the Agile world helping a scrum master and agile coach discover the best answers to their most compelling questions and problems is a great thing. It also provides a different context from which to learn.
Investing in a professional coach will help a scrum master work through a series of frameworks and models that are designed to help them clarify their thinking, articulate their line of reasoning more effectively and eloquently, and work through both opportunities and threats in a structured, proven way.
For a scrum master and agile coach to work with a deeply experienced and professional agile coach, in addition to a professional coach, is an even better opportunity for skills development and self-improvement.
Someone who has worked at the coalface and understands the blend of teaching, coaching, and consulting that is common to agile coaches is invaluable. Not only are you learning and growing through coaching, but you are also learning about the industry and how to overcome industry-specific challenges.
I also recommend that aspiring agile coaches coach each other.
Take turns to be the coachee as well as the coach and provide feedback to one another regarding the progress you are making. Choose real problems to work through and give your fellow coach an opportunity to practice working on live challenges and problems.
The Agile Coach Academy
The Agile Coach Academy is a result of hundreds of conversations between myself and Karim.
As we were growing our skill set and capabilities in the world of professional coaching as well as Agile coaching, we invested countless hours and thousands of pounds in courses, books, seminars, etc. that didn’t necessarily help us improve.
Yes, we found the absolute gold too.
But we wished that we had experienced agile coaches to guide us through the process and help us in our own career journey as Agile coaches. And so, we created the Agile Coach Academy to be exactly that for aspiring scrum masters and agile coaches.
A place where you receive active coaching, mentoring, and teaching in your journey to mastery.
It also connects aspiring coaches with a network of like-minded professionals who they can develop relationships with and practice coaching.
It also connects aspiring scrum masters and coaches with potential mentors that can help you evolve in your progression to mastery.
Visit our Agile Coach Academy for more information.
So, in summary, although many scrum masters and agile coaches don’t have coaches and mentors, I strongly recommend that you do invest in a coach and seek out a mentor.
It will help you progress so much faster than you could on your own. It will unlock heaps of potential and allow you to explore a great deal more options available to you than you would uncover on your own.
Mentoring and coaching is a multi-year engagement and relationship. Don’t think in terms of days or weeks, make it a part of your continuous learning and self-improvement journey. Connect with people who will play an enormous role in your life in the coming years, and you will benefit a great deal.
Reach out to me or Agile Centre for help if you can’t find a coach or mentor, we will definitely be able to connect you to an opportunity that will help you.
If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master course page.
If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master course page.
If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Agile Coach Academy.
If you have identified coaching as a valuable skill to develop, visit our on-demand Introduction to coaching course page.
For more information on John McFadyen, visit https://www.growingscrummasters.com