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How do I earn the development team’s trust?

In a scrum team, you have 3 roles. The scrum master, the product owner and the developers or development team.

The development team are the people who actually build the product, feature, or service.

They are a team of experts in their field and often they don’t speak the same business language as the product owner or individuals throughout the organisation. Their deep expertise and narrow focus often means that they are an entity unto themselves and it’s important that you gain their trust early.

So, how do you do that? How do you gain the trust of the development team when you are the scrum master or agile coach within the organisation?

The Trust Equation

I personally love the trust equation as a simple way of breaking down how you earn trust within an organisation and in doing so, improve your degree of influence and capability.

The trust equation is a formula, if you like, for what trust is and it will show you which levers you need to work with to build trust with others. The equation focuses on your credibility, your reliability, and your intimacy with others all under the umbrella of your personal orientation.


Credibility is centric to how credible you are to others within the role that you present yourself.

As a scrum master or agile coach, is it clear that you know what you are doing and do people believe that you have successfully done this before? Do they believe that you can deliver on your responsibilities within the role and that you are capable of doing a great job?

For someone like myself, with years and years of experience in both the scrum master and agile coach roles, it’s easy to establish credibility early.

I have the qualifications. I have the testimonials and letters of recommendation. And I have the confidence that comes with years of experience within the role.

For a new scrum master with no experience within the role, it’s a touch more difficult.

Difficult, but not impossible.

If you are a new scrum master, it is going to boil down to your learning. Your ability to speak to the history of Agile and Scrum, and to be able to effectively articulate why Agile is a great solution and framework given the context of your organisation and the challenges it faces.

In both my Advanced Certified course and the Certified Scrum Professional course, I teach the history of Agile and Lean. I actively teach the context within which these frameworks were developed and why they thrived as a way of delivering products, features, and services that truly delighted customers in complex, volatile, and ambiguous environments.

I do that to help individuals gain credibility.

As experts in their field and leaders within scrum environments, it is critically important that they understand the history of lean and agile and can speak knowledgeably and eloquently about its importance within the modern working environment.

Regardless of whether you are a new scrum master or a seasoned and experienced one, you need to know the key moments in Agile history, you need to have read the books which give you insights into the thinking and lines of reasoning of agile’s pioneers, and you need to be familiar with the papers and case studies of people who have helped developed these frameworks in some of the most battle hardened applications on Earth.

Being able to answer questions effectively provides you with real gravitas. It lets people know that you know what you are talking about and helps develop your credibility with others.

As you develop experience and a working portfolio, you’ll deepen your credibility with others and be able to actively point to the work you have done as a measure of your capability and competence.


Reliability speaks to your reputation for getting things done and honouring your word.

How often do you do what you said you would do, within the time frames that you committed to doing it?

Are you someone that honours your word? Do you have a reputation for being good with your word? Do others trust that you will get the job done when you have committed to doing so?

It is relatively straightforward to build a reputation for reliability.

When you have conversations with people and reach agreements or make commitments, simply make a note of what you have committed to and the deadline you have agreed upon to deliver the work, solution, or resource.

Then, ensure that you do it.


That instantly transforms you into a reliable individual who honours their word instead of someone who might get it done or will try their best to get it done. People learn that they can actively rely on you, and you build a reputation for delivering on your commitments.

If you stumble upon a roadblock or impediment, touch base with the people you committed work to and manage their expectations early. It’s common to encounter impediments and people are very understanding if you are open and transparent about the challenges you face.

In some cases, getting it done despite significant challenges and roadblocks will help you build a great reputation for reliability and credibility.

One of the things I recommend to people when they are starting out in their career is that they don’t take on too much.

If you are a yes man/woman and agree to take on everything, you’re going to find yourself overloaded and burnt out. Even worse, you will find that you can’t deliver against your promises and commitments and despite your best efforts, you develop a reputation for being unreliable.

Make sure that you take on the things that you know you can get done and ensure that you slowly build your capacity as your capability and competence grow.

‘Under promise and over deliver’ has been the secret to every great person’s success.


Don’t worry about this in the context of being inappropriate for the workplace. It isn’t that kind of intimacy that we’re speaking about here.

If you’re brand new to the environment, intimacy isn’t something that you can fake. It takes time to get to know people and it takes time to get to know them in a variety of contexts.

Intimacy is how well others know you.

In marketing, this is known as brand salience.

The depth and breadth of knowledge that someone has about you.

If you’ve worked within the organisation for 15 years and you’ve got deep relationships with people that prove you’re credible, reliable and a great human being to work with, you’re going to find that you get things done quickly and easily.

Especially if you are relying on other people to help you overcome obstacles or get things done.

If you are brand new to the organisation, people will not go out of their way to assist you in the same way they would if they had known you intimately for 15 years.

So, make sure that you are developing relationships whilst you are growing your network.

The quality of your relationships will determine the quality of your working life and the extent to which you succeed within your working environment.

It takes time to build relationships, but you can position yourself as a person of value and someone worth knowing and trusting early in the relationship by making sure you are consistent with your commitments and that you are someone worthy of trust.

In some circles, these are referred to soft skills but, in my opinion, your ability to develop strong and deep relationships with people is a rock-solid foundation from which your success will be built.


Self-orientation refers to how your intentions are governed internally and how they are perceived externally.

Are you seen as someone who goes out of your way for the team and has the organisation’s best interests at heart? Do people see you as being invested in the relationship and delivering as much value as you receive?

If your team perceive you as manipulative and out for personal glory, you’re going to have a hard time earning their trust regardless of how credible or reliable you are.

If you are known as someone that continually seeks personal favours and uses other people to get to the top, you’re going to develop a reputation as someone that should be avoided and will find it increasingly difficult to get help from others to achieve your objectives.

On the flip side, if you are known as someone who bats for your team and goes the extra mile for people within your network, you will earn trust from others with each engagement and interaction.

If your development team consistently see you delivering on your promises, achieving objectives and goals that really matter to the team’s success, and witness you developing solid relationships with people inside and outside of the team environment, you’re going to earn their trust with time.

They are going to see you as someone they want to work with and will become strong allies within the organisation that can help you get things done.

As a scrum master and agile coach, you will often need to work with people within the organisation who are not members of your team. People in different departments with different levels of seniority that are essential in helping you remove impediments for your team.

If you are someone that is credible, reliable, worth knowing and they perceive you as someone who has both the team as well as the organisation’s best interests at heart, they are more likely to assist you where they can and help you grow new connections that can assist you in your job.

Make sure that you earn trust outside of your development team while you are growing trust and relationships within the development team.

Both are crucial to your success.

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master, visit our Certified course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill, visit our Advanced Certified course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to both certify and validate your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional course page.

If you like the idea of mentored and coach-driven skills development, visit our Academy.

If you have identified coaching as a valuable skill to master, visit our on-demand Introduction to Coaching course.

For more information on John McFadyen, visit

author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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