Scrum Masters, ask yourself – Are you a natural servant leader, or do you struggle to be the inspiring coach that creates high-performing teams? If you have a real desire to change and are ready for some tough self-reflection, this article may inspire you, and give you hope that you can influence major changes, by starting with things that are within your control.
You might find that focusing on how your own behavior is impacting others can change the emotional climate in your team – and positively impact your career. (Do you secretly think the issues on your team are all about the Product Owner? Share my Emotional EQ for Product Owners article.)
The following blog is inspired by Scott Watson’s work, an emotional intelligence speaker and trainer. I hope they will complement what you are already doing well and help you create a tactical plan to improve your own emotional intelligence and the emotional climate in your team.
1. Physician, Heal Thyself
WE TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO TREAT US
As a leader, you must overcome any of your own emotional insecurity and speak up, even if you might have a personality that shies away from conflicts. It’s not about standing up to others; it’s about finding your voice. If you cannot speak up for yourself, how can you defend your team?
An easy practice to check-in with your emotional self, is to track the amount of times you re-run your memory of a particularly uncomfortable scenario that occurs on a regular basis.
For example, you might have a friend or teammate who consistently shows up late to an appointed meeting, abusing your efforts, or those of your teammates, to arrive on time. They might slide in, late again, and say something like “Oh, so sorry I am late. I ran into traffic.” Do you find yourself asking them to honor your time by planning for the traffic, or do you give them an easy out with the casual “Oh, that’s okay. It happens.” And then re-run the scenario in your head with the prefix “I should have said ….”
If your team does not witness you standing up for yourself, or for them, when the stakes are low, imagine how they might anticipate your ability to confront a more difficult scenario.
2. Create a safe environment
BUILD EMPATHY WITH EACH OTHER
If your emotional climate needs some warming up, the empathetic Scrum Master will notice this and immediately spring into action. They know to ask good questions, get some rapport going, perhaps some laughs, then get the team focused on the event.
If you are not a natural empath, it’s okay. Empathy is more about you than your team members. You will know when you are an empathetic leader if your team wants to work with you, rather than against you.
Don’t confuse empathy with sympathy. Empathy is the ability to listen and understand with thoughtful consideration. Empathy can be done assertively. Those of you who may be command and control may be getting complaints. Use these as opportunities to improve your nuances in language. Often, particularly if people are upset, it’s not what you are saying – it’s what the person hears.
Bookmark this easy 20-minute team exercise that can help build the emotional intelligence in your team by learning about themselves and their teammates. Even if your teams have been working together, it’s still a good idea to pause to reflect and adapt at a personal level.
EVALUATE THE STRESS IN YOUR TEAM
Stress interferes with the ability to learn, therefore it impedes the ability to innovate and solve problems. When team members get stressed, it manifests with negative emotions. The team can actually stop looking for solutions and start to withdraw from participating in events. Take note of disengaging behaviors.
ENGAGE COLLABORATION AND INVOLVEMENT WITH INTERACTIVE EXERCISES
Ever heard the saying that “the worst you can be is wrong?” Use www.tastycupcakes.org for a large variety of games and interactive sessions you can share with your team to get them talking.
LEARN TO ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
When people are upset, don’t just ask ask, “Why are you upset?” This will just make them more upset. Try phrases like:
“Why did this happen?”
“What can I do to resolve this matter so you can return to the team and get on with our event?”
Practice replacing the direct, and possibly intrusive phrase “What are you thinking?” with these nuances:
“What are your thoughts on this? Please share them with us.”
“May I share my thoughts and then hear yours?”
People respond more openly to requests than demands. Small nuances in our language can help the tone feel more collaborative. My favorite source to increase emotional EQ with open ended questions is the book “Coaching Questions” by Tony Stoltzfus. Each chapter has scenarios you can practice with a friend and a variety of techniques to use to achieve different outcomes with your audience. This is a natural for some, but can be a learned skill for those of us (myself included) who need this regular practice.
Wait 8 seconds!
According to scientists, the human attention span is so short that goldfish can pay attention longer than we can. The results of a Canadian research study showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 (around the time we all started reaching for our smart phones) to eight seconds.
Goldfish, meanwhile, can focus for nine.
However, most facilitators just do not give people time to think. They ask a question and want an answer. Your job is to resist the temptation to jump in. Switch off your brain from “I need to speak” to “let me listen.”
Give your team 8 seconds to give them time to think and understand. Even better, give them time to problem solve: “I’ll come back to you in two minutes.”
Pause now and write this down as a prompt that you can see when you facilitate next: “Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said, right now? Does it need to be said, right now, by me?” It takes me 8 seconds to say those three phrases with a slight breath in between. How long does it take you?
- Write out one scenario that you will script out and practice to be comfortable delivering next time it comes up.
- Pause here and write down the names of three people on your team who appear disengaged to you in some way.
- Write down three ideas to show them support in a collaborative manner.
This blog is not about not trying to change anyone. It’s about helping others to explore different ways to behave or communicate that is more effective for them as individuals and their team. If you show your vulnerability and willingness to improve your emotional EQ, perhaps others will too. Everyone on the team should be invested in furthering the safe environment that fosters innovation.
I’m interested to know… what will you do differently as a result of reading these 3 tips? How did waiting 8 seconds change the emotional climate in your team?