Please Don’t Rescue Me!

2 minutes

Rescue
Please Don’t Rescue Me!

Scrum Masters rescue their teams, coaches rescue their charges, we rescue our peers all the time. Its just what kind and decent people do isn’t it? Some one asks for help, or perhaps doesn’t ask, but definitely needs help, and we use our skills to assist.

How could this ever be a bad thing? 

Here are 3 (over-simplified) scenarios to help explain why it might be:

Scenario 1)

Lets suppose I want a cake and I can’t bake. I know you can bake, so I ask you for help.

Solution 1)

You bake the cake because I asked, because you enjoy baking and because you know you can make great cake.

Outcome:  I have cake, and you have my thanks. We are both happy.


Scenario 2)

Suppose I want a cake and see you walking by. I ask you for help as I want cake as soon as possible, and 2 heads are better than 1 after all.

Solution 2)

As you know how to make cake, you do so quickly and efficiently.

Outcome:  I have cake, and you have my thanks. Again, we are both happy. 

Now, here’s the interesting one:

Scenario 3)

I want to bake my first ever cake but I don’t know how. I find out who I know who makes the very best cakes. This is you, and I ask you to teach me to make cakes.


Pop Quiz:  Which is the right answer here?

Solution 3a)

You bake the cake because I asked, because you enjoy baking and you know you can make great cake.

Outcome:  I have cake, and you have my thanks. We are both happy

Solution 3b)

You know how to make cake, you do so quickly and efficiently.

Outcome:  I have cake, and you have my thanks. Once again, we are both happy.

Solution 3c)

You ask how much I know about baking.  You then ask whether I want to learn to bake cakes, or just to HAVE a cake (an important distinction). You find out I want to learn to bake, and that I know absolutely nothing about doing so right now.  You teach me each step of how to bake. We discuss methods for teaching me to bake – for example I start by watching you make a cake.  After that we make a cake together, followed by me making a cake alone, with you watching me to help out if I get stuck.

Outcome:  I am now able to make my own cake to a really good standard as I have been taught by someone with expertise.

In the last solution (3c) notice that you never do any steps for me that I can do myself. This means that solutions a) & b) above are both the wrong ones – even though we both are happy at the end of it. This seems very counter intuitive. After all, everyone is happy, the cake is made, what’s not to love?

The answer to this is that only in the last solution did I get new skills to be self-sufficient.  I am now able to go on and make further cakes for my self in the future.


When coaching, you need to work out which one of these scenarios you are currently in.

If you are a coach or a scrum master, and someone comes to you for help, or you see someone you work with needing help, you already know you are in scenario 3 here.  Your responsibility is to move them towards self-sufficiency. This means that solution c) is the only viable choice as a good coach or scrum master.


Rescuing your team because they are stuck does not help them in anything other than the short term. Doing something difficult for them does not “help them out” either. Your job is finding creative and imaginative ways in which you can nudge them towards building good practices . This includes building confidence to learn to do something difficult for themselves.  I also means that they are more self-sufficient, and less dependant on you in the future.   

Your job, is to coach yourself out of a job!

So how do you feel about being rescued?  Can you think of a time when you rescued someone else?  How did it make you feel in each situation?

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