What makes a ScrumMaster a “good” ScrumMaster?

I was recently asked to help form a job description for a new ScrumMaster (SM) position in a company.  So, it got me thinking about what qualities and skills make up a good SM.  I thought back on teams I have been on that had good and some not-so-good SMs.  Most of the skills that come to mind when I think of a good SM are more of the “soft” skills.  Here are the ones I came up with: 

Intimately familiar with Scrum.  Since the SM owns the process, they must be intimately familiar with how Scrum works and be able to guide a team to find solutions to help them succeed.  This takes experience.  Most SMs come fresh out of CSM training and jump into the role.  The challenge here is that they often do not have an experienced SM available to mentor and coach them.  If at all possible, hire someone with proven experience or get help from an experienced coach. 

Excellent facilitator.  SMs organize and facilitate several of the Scrum meetings.  This requires organizational and excellent facilitation skills.  If you are a SM today and are looking for help in this area, I highly recommend the Collaboration Explained class (see previous posts on this class).  Facilitation is very different from controlling meetings.   

Highly available to the team.  If your SM has a full time role elsewhere in the company and just runs in for the daily standup, they are not going to be very helpful to the team.  They need to manage impediments and be available as needed to the team to work through any roadblocks.  The SM should always know the status of the team and how things are going. 

Be quiet.  This is a tough one.  Often times, skills that make a person a good SM are the same skills that make it hard for them to keep their mouth shut.  I have seen several SMs that can’t help themselves and start telling team members what tasks to do in the daily standup or start questioning the team’s estimates during estimation sessions.  As a SM, you need to know when to keep your mouth shut and when to step in.  You are not a traditional project manager and you should not operate in a command and control style. You are a “servant leader.” 

All About the Team.  As a SM, you are always focused on the team, not on yourself.  You need to thrive in watching the team succeed and do whatever it takes to help them do so.  If you need a lot of personal recognition and praise, then a SM may not be the best job for you.