As a scrum master your success and at times, your sanity, depends on how well your colleagues and stakeholders embrace the goals of your project. This could equally be applied when working as a project manager, or any time you work in a team.
Recently, I heard about a scrum master correcting their product owner over a minor process issue during a grooming session in a less than constructive manner. While it is the scrum master’s role to uphold the process, in this instance the process was not clear, and the product owner had limited time to groom the backlog prior to the next sprint planning session.
The scrum master’s role is one of contradiction; master of the process but a primary tenant is “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.
In this situation it would have been more constructive to deal with the minor infraction of the rules later and privately, and focus on a positive interaction with the product owner. Doing anything else, the scrum master risks loosing the trust and engagement of a key business stakeholder.
If you are having trouble engaging with a stakeholder, here are a few ideas.
- Consider the project from their perspective. Are their goals the same as yours? How are they different? Try to find some common ground.
- Do they understand your perspective? What have you done to foster understanding between you? Do you only communicate over email?
- Do you think in different ways? Do they need all the facts before making a decision while you make a judgement call or vice versa?
- Listen more. Listen at least twice as much as you speak, try to let others have their say first.
- Monitor your interactions. How do you feel? Are you in a hurry? How do you/they behave? Is your body language open or closed? Try relaxing and giving yourself enough time to make interactions positive.
- Ask for their help. Permitting someone to help you recognises their expertise, and builds trust.
- Talk about delivering value. The process is a means to an end, prefer delivering business value than adhering to a process.
The scrum master is able to set the tone of interactions and should lead the team by example. The primary tenant of constructively engaging with people is respect. Any amount of effort you fall short in dealing constructively with your stakeholders, you will have to more than double to regain, if it is possible.
By all means, get the detail of the process right. But do not let it get in the way of building constructive relationships with your team and your stakeholders.