Coaching advice for Scrum Masters (Part 10): When the Curiosity Actually Saves the Cat!

Coaching Scrum Masters allow their live and engaged curiosity to drive the session and instigate Clients’ curiosity through getting them to questions their pre-cast assumptions and breaking through their “auto pilot” way of doing things.

This ultimately leads to much better clarification of Clients’ real problems at hand and results in a more effective Coaching practice.

This would allow you and your Client to maintain proper alignment during the Coaching session (i.e. You will be following an efficient and to-the-point trail of questions and the Client will maintain focus on the subject).

This leads to raising Clients’ confidence on were this practice is going as they can see options are developing in front of them as more certainty on understanding the issue is forming up and the visibility into the problem improves, one question at the time.

The shift in Clients’ view of their problems (i.e. their perspective) would allow for new understanding of their most pressing issues, and opens their eyes to re-assess their previous assumptions.

Your well structured questions would lead the Clients to confirm the break away from status quo to a new angle.

Questions like:

“It appears to me that this case is more [something] than what we initially assumed to be [something else], wouldn’t you agree?”


“It looks like we have come to recognize the difference between [some situation] that we started with, and this later identified [some other situation], which one would you believe we would like to investigate further?”


“You said [something] when you were explaining [something else]. Could you elaborate a bit more on that so I can better get a better understanding of your perspective on that?”


“Can you please tell me whether what you just explained about [something], is more like [this thing] or [that thing]?”

Remember: Your instinct in choosing the newly discovered vision as the next step is based on your expertise, but you are not there to give them the answer! You need them to find their own, by your assistance. You are pushing away the fog from their view and raising their awareness of new options showing up in the horizon and let them make the choice.

Resist the urge to make their choices for them, even if they seem tired or getting frustrated!

If you are sure the Client is just about to break and run then let them know that you can change your Coaching hat to a Mentor’s hat – temporarily, and only for that specific case – to help them as a Mentor.

Make sure to get their confirmation that they are okay with you switching to Mentorship for that situations, and it is clear that you are doing it because they asked for it.

As a Coach you should try to avoid these anti-patterns:

  1. Entering the session with your own assumptions and preset mind, and even worse, trying to set the Agenda for the session. (As we talked about this before, Client should set the agenda for the session, not you the Coach!).
  2. Avoid putting the spot light on newly discovered issues because you are tired and need to wrap up the session.
  3. Injecting your own solution into their mind because they seem unwilling or lost during the session. (In such cases revert back to the starting point of the session to find out why they got out of alignment with your line of questions, and then set the path to help them come back on the path).
  4. Allowing Clients’ venting to take hold of the session and invite the chaos in their world to the conversation. (Clients have a natural tendency to nag and try to drag you into their self pity mess. In such cases allow them to vent a bit but let them know upfront that the session is taking a “venting out” break for [certain number of minutes] and after that it will resume in alignment to the purpose, vision and mission of the session.)
  5. Allowing Clients’ excuses – their subconscious attempt to avoid a painful subject – to derail the conversation from its effective path and lower its impact on the problem. Be careful to stay at “understanding this is a painful subject that needs to be resolved” and not allow yourself to sympathize with them to the level of avoiding the subject completely. When you see they are tiptoeing around a subject, ask them “I noticed that you change the topic everytime we [some subject] comes up, can you tell me why?” or “If I can share my observation with you, I noticed whenever you mention [something], you [use humor / change the topic / go quiet right after / or any other noticeable behavior]. Have you noticed that? Can we take a look at what is going on with that?”
  6. Not maintaining the balance between “Open” and “Close” questions. During the session both types are needed. The “Open” questions allow for Client to brainstorm and toss ideas at the issues under discussion, while the “Close” type – which need specific, many times just a “Yes/No” answer – would allow the Client to solidify their figured steps and turn them into anchoring points for the rest of the conversation (i.e. you get them to confirm the next step that they have suggested and selected and register it in their mind as the conquered hill which would now become their staging spot for attacking the next hill).
  7. Trying to dissect a Symptom instead of using it as a lead to the real issue behind it. Regardless of the level experience a Coach has, sometimes it feels overwhelming challenging to identify whether we are looking at the actual problem or its outcome.
  8. Not digging deep enough under the first row of issues that are identified. You may have found a certifiable issue – and not a symptom – but that issue may well be the child of a deeper issue in your Clients world, which can produce other offspring if it is allowed to stay unresolved.
  9. Not assessing whether the resolution that the Client has come up with for the identified root problem is adequate to eradicate it completely or is it going to be a band-aid fix that would create a temporary relief and ease the current pain but would build up again in time and will come back for more damage. (To assess the resolution, either you should be an expert in the field, or ask help from an expert to help you assess the effectiveness of the resolution found).

Back to the beginning of this article, curiosity is key in keeping the Coach’s and the Client’s mind active and engaged and productive!

I have seem Coaches that are in constant pursuit of Coaching Best Practices to the level of finding the Golden Formula of Coaching that would give the exact step-by-step process to implement with each Client and get the 5-Star outcome everytime.

This “Robotic Approach” to Coaching may give some Coaches the confidence that are they are equipped for what they need to do to serve the Client, but at the end of the day we are dealing with humans and their non-linear world that goes in numerous different way and creates thousands of different scenarios and stories that are not alike.

Maintaining an awake, aware and actively thinking mind with great appetite for discovery and understanding is the key factor in succeeding in Coaching and helping the Clients succeed through that.

We will discuss more in the next article.

Arman Kamran (The Agilitizer)