After spending the last several years working with Agile teams, I had the opportunity to mentor different professionals with all types of educational background and experience in effort to find help them become effective Scrum Masters. Through this experience, I realized that there are basic traits that successful Scrum Masters seem to possess. This is based purely on my own lessons learned, so it’s quite possible that other opinions exist out there.
Trait #1 – Humble
Humility is one of those things that seem to be difficult to find these days, especially in a world of intense competition where we all want to showcase our best skills and try to impress someone so that we can get rewarded in some way. This will sound counter-intuitive, but the “perfect” Scrum Master will know that he/she isn’t perfect; he/she will acknowledge opportunities for growth and improvement, and is focused on relentless pursuit of furthering his/her skills to be even better.
Trait #2 – Understands people
An effective Scrum Master is usually someone how knows how people think, because he/she is a superb motivator. If you are considering moving someone into this role, ask yourself: “Can this person change his/her communication style depending on the situation and/or the person that he/she is working with?”
Trait #3 – Understands the principles but does not “flaunt” them
On more than one occasion, as I train and coach new Scrum Masters, they tend to cite recent readings (such as the Scrum Guide) in effort to convince others that they should be following certain practices. In my observation, this usually doesn’t go over so well when people are already generally reluctant to try something new, so it may not help the situation to refer to books that these people don’t really care about. A more effective approach is typically to help them understand the underlying ideas of “why”; what are the reasons and benefits for doing certain things such as a Daily Scrum? What do we get out of it? How does it help the team become more effective?
Next time you are looking for a Scrum Master, see if you can find these traits and explore whether they will help you find the right fit for your team!