Self-awareness and self-management are critical skills for any Scrum Master or Agile Coach. We need an awareness of our own emotional state before we can self-manage those emotions. Lack of self-awareness can lead to us not even knowing when we are being domineering, non-collaborative or biased about a topic. Therefore, as a Scrum Master or Agile Coach, that has the responsibility of facilitating, coaching, mentoring and teaching, we must be aware of what we bring and do not bring into each of our engagements with individuals, teams and outside of the teams — organisation.
“Coaching starts with you, but it’s not about you” as Lyssa Adkins states in her book “Coaching agile teams”. Being the kind of coach that the team needs most, doesn’t happen overnight. It requires constant awareness and practice.
It’s only through self-awareness that we can discover and reveal our true authenticity, and this is the secret ingredient that will gain the trust and respect of others.
“Do you know Yourself?”
This can be an annoying question and we feel that the answer is obvious. We’ve been with these personalities for our whole lives and have had the time to learn about ourselves and how we operate. But do we truly know what keeps us going, when we are ignorant and why?!
As Agile Coaches, our success depends on helping others succeed. Sharing our Agile expertise will help them achieve their goals, but first we will need to leverage our interpersonal skills in order to understand their goals and motivations.
A good starting point is by reviewing the four skills of emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to successfully navigate the muddy waters of human emotions. That includes self-awareness of our own emotional state, social awareness of the emotional state of others, self-management of our own emotional state and creation and maintenance of good relationships.
Self-awareness is a combination of paying attention to what is going on in our heads and considering how our emotional state and behavior play a part in the emotional state and behavior of others.
It relates to our ability to accurately understand ourselves either in the immediate moment or in general, for example our ability to interpret and describe our feelings accurately.
Our ability to express ourselves clearly, make decisions and know our own mind, demand us to be self-aware. Within coaching sessions, our ability to stay flexible is also related to our own awareness. For example, during the facilitation of a retrospective, self-awareness helps me understand my feelings: “I’m being controlling, I’m close to give them the solution. I need to listen more”.
Self-awareness will also inform us of our strengths, weaknesses and development needs.
Answer the following questions for yourself. Additionally, have someone whose judgement you value, answer them about you and then compare and reflect on the differences:
· What is it that people really value me for?
· How do people experience me generally, i.e. how might they describe me during coaching sessions or when facilitating different discussions?
· How am I different when I’m under pressure, e.g. during interactions or conversations with others?
· What three things could I stop doing that would make me more effective?
· What three things do I need to start doing, or do more often?
I believe this is a never-ending quest, since we always need to stay open to the possibility that there is more about ourselves, we may be blind to.
- One way to begin is to learn more about ourselves: strengths, weaknesses, character traits, motivations, values. Not simply how we are, but also why we are like we are. An assessment tool giving deep insights into your strengths, learned behaviors and weaknesses that I recommend is Strengths Profile.
- Complete a personality profiling exercise yourself, e.g. Myers Briggs, Belbin, DISC.
- Seek for feedback on a regular basis. But remember, feedback is just another person’s perception, it is no more valid than your own perception: what you choose to do with the information is up to you.
- Attend developmental courses that will help you reflect both on how you are now and how you might be. I remember the feelings I had when attending such a course somewhere in the Transylvanian Carpathian Mountains: intrigued but interested at the same time in the positive impact of who I am in the world.
- Keep a learning diary. This is a powerful learning tool over time. Reflecting on a regular basis help me focus on my experiences, thoughts and feelings. A powerful tool to derive effective interventions for Scrum Masters is the Scrum Master Diary.
- Read books and materials that relate to practical psychology or human behaviour. Reading helps us view ourselves objectively in comparison to the thoughts and ideas we are being offered, reading helps us reflect.
You can start with:
- Emotional Self-Awareness: A Primer by George Kohlrieser, Vanessa Druskat, Richard J Davidson, Richard Boyatzis, Daniel Goleman
- The Coaching Manual: The Definitive Guide to the Process, Principles and Skills of Personal Coaching, Second edition by Julie Starr
- Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins