Andi, the onsite consulting Scrum Coach, had seen it all in her three-month engagement with the client—from lack of product owner involvement to teams that weren't effectively bought in to the process and managers who were struggling with roles. Because of working through these challenges, Andi had developed quite strong relationships with the ScrumMasters in the organization, and had frequent one-on-one talks with them regarding all things agile.
One day, after a round of multi-team demos and retrospectives, Manuel, the newest ScrumMaster, pulled Andi aside. Pensive and appearing a bit sad, he asked an intriguing question: "Sometimes I catch myself feeling down. I've been coaching my teams as best as I can, and while I see incremental progress, the sense of accomplishment belongs to the team. That is, someone feels better because he learned how to split user stories, somebody else feels a sense of achievement when giving a product demo to stakeholders. So what is my accomplishment, exactly? How do I get recognition?"
Andi immediately recognized Manuel's concerns, as they had been voiced to her many times before by those thrust into this new, modern translation of management; being a ScrumMaster, among other things, means to embody the "servant leader," as coined by Robert Greenleaf some twenty five years ago, ensuring that "other people's highest-priority needs are being served." Andi asked Manuel to explain a little more.
"I feel like a silent shadow, brushed aside when the team is successful. I used to get the credit when I was a project manager because I was the one handling, controlling, or directing the team. While I get Scrum and think it is a superior way, I can't help but feel that I've faded into the background." Andi empathized with Manuel; she remembered feeling like this at one point in her career.
Manuel mentioned that some of the other ScrumMasters also felt this way. He recommended getting the ScrumMaster team together to talk about the issue; they agreed to set up a meeting for the first of the following week.
Andi went to work to prepare for the meeting. She knew that the ScrumMasters needed some new thoughts with which to identify. She remembered some quotes by Harry S. Truman and the book Level 5 Leaders by Jim Collins. Both Truman and Collins mention that leaders look beyond their own interests when credit comes due. She also brought along Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to illustrate that a ScrumMaster, like any other human, has a need for esteem and self-fulfillment. Andi felt that sharing this and other leadership concepts would help the ScrumMasters validate their feelings and move into a constructive discussion. She also prepared a flipchart with a printout of the ScrumMaster team's wiki page-the page that houses their individual impediment backlogs. She was amazed by their progress and felt that there was never a better time than now to let them
The discussion that followed with the ScrumMasters concluded in some interesting revelations:
The team also came up with two actions:
Andi wrote in her journal that evening: "I was never as impressed with such an introspective group of people as by the ScrumMasters today. Their collective need to know, to understand, and to be courageous enough to express a basic human need-to be accepted and revered-shows me that a higher level of leader does exist within them. This leader struggles, but with perseverance and questioning they will all pull through this unknown territory in corporate existence. I am dedicated to helping them succeed in this journey."
How do you reconcile rewarding someone who leads (not manages) others? Can you tie this to performance of the teams?
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