In every Agile development process there are certain roles that must be filled in order to fully optimize the project. For instance, within typical project management methodologies there might be a team leader and then developers that report directly to them. Whereas, with the Scrum methodology, there is a product owner, Scrum team, and the most important – the Scrum Master.

The Scrum master is essential to the success of the project, not because they make all of the major decisions, but because they facilitate an environment where the best decisions can be reached. With this article, we aim to help you hone your skills as a Scrum master. While there are other parts of the Scrum process that can help you to optimize development, having a capable Scrum master at the helm can take your project to the next level.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at 6 simple steps to hone your skills and become a true Scrum master.

1. Listen first

The first step toward becoming a better Scrum master starts at the very first planning meeting and that is to listen first, talk second. Most good leaders will tell you that in those moments after a complicated question or through-provoking statement it will be difficult, but worth it to keep your cool and encourage your team to think through the issue. Instead of jumping in with a solution, let your team talk through it.

Not only will this lead to a better decision-making process, but as the team works together to solve problems, they will become more adept and efficient. It’s been reported that Agile teams are more satisfied with their work, continue this trend by getting your team involved in multiple aspects of the Scum process. As Scrum master, the benefits you will reap cannot be overstated.

2. Establish a habit of checking in

Now, of course, in order to listen, your team needs to be talking with you. Often, without a nudge in the right direction, some team members will keep to themselves. This is why you need to establish a habit of checking in with your team through the Scrum development process to ensure that they are on the same page and that their concerns are being addressed.

Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you should micromanage your team. Checking in simply means finding out from your team where they are with their tasks, what impediments stand in their way, and how you as the Scrum master can aid them moving forward. If you come across as judgmental or controlling, you will not be able to facilitate the open communication that a Scrum team needs to be successful.

3. Showcase the team

Along with checking in with your team, you should also do everything in your power to showcase the diverse talents and expertise that a Scrum team affords. In the same way that members of the team choose items off of the product backlog to work on, you should choose members of your team based on their skillsets. Then, within the project, you should showcase those skills whenever you can in order to get the most out of your team.

However, showcasing your team members goes beyond just their skills, it also means celebrating victories along the way and working together through challenges. Again, we cannot stress enough how vital it is as a Scrum master to create an environment wherein your team can work to the best of their abilities. This is best done with open, honest communication and continuous encouragement.

4. Be the Scrum Master your team needs

So far, we have mainly talked about how to encourage your team in order to push them forward for best results. However, there will be times when what your team needs for success is a Scrum master that sticks to the rules, even if it’s unpopular. Scrum, like all Agile methodologies, is nothing without the rules that make it work so well. Although it may not be fun, sometimes you will have to be the Scrum master that your team needs, even if that means being a hard-ass.

Whether you are simply having trouble keeping your daily meetings to 15 minutes or you’re dealing with a difficult team member, as Scrum master you will need to adapt to the circumstances and fit into the role that is necessary. Unless you can be unflinching and rigid when necessary, your team will actually not have the flexibility required to create the best results within the Scrum framework.

5. Know your stuff

If you have been working as a Scrum master for a while or are just getting started, it’s always important that you know your stuff as a leader of the project. Like software development, Scrum is always changing and evolving into something better. You will need to stay up to date on your knowledge in order to best serve your team.

However, just as important as knowing your stuff is realizing when you don’t, and taking steps to learn from your team. What is needed here is known as ‘servant leadership,’ where you lead by example. If you, as the Scrum master, are open to receiving feedback and growing your own knowledge, so will your team, creating a better experience for everyone involved.

6. Lead without taking over

Our final step to hone your skills as a Scum master is advice that all leaders should strive for – to lead without taking over. As a test for if you are accomplishing this, avoid using the phrase “because I say so” or “because it was decided.” Each decision you make should have reasoning behind it that that encourages the team to move forward without being pushy. Ideally, you and your team will be on the same page and decisions will be reached together.

Although the role of Scrum master sounds like you are in control of everything, your job is not to command, but to facilitate. Having one leader choosing the direction of the team goes against the basis of the Scrum methodology and should be avoided at all costs. If it helps you, let your team know that it is ok to call you out if they believe you aren’t acting in the best interests of them or the project.

Further skill development

As we stated earlier, being the best Scrum master that you can be is a continuous process. With this in mind, there are a few ways that you can further your skill development. Such as:

Follow the Snyxius newsletter: We are constantly exploring how to work better within Scrum development and optimize projects large and small.

Meet with other Agile professionals: Whether you are getting together in-person or online, having a network of Agile professionals to bounce ideas off of and work together with will give you knowledge you likely won’t find anywhere else.

Brush up on Scrum knowledge: There are many places you can find great Scrum knowledge online in order to keep your mind agile and alert. Consider downloading an ebook or two in order to maintain relevant knowledge and expertise.

We hope that this article has been helpful in further developing your skills as a Scrum master. As you move forward, remember that it is your job to help your team succeed and for the project to be a success. There’s no room in Scrum for egos, so make sure to leave yours at the door.