Coaching advice for Scrum Masters (Part 8): ICHI-GO ICHI-E

One Time, One Meeting …

It is a Japanese phrase that points to the fact that we can live in any moment only once, so we better treasure that moment and make the best use of it.

In another word, when we are present in a meeting – or conversation – we must be truly “present” in there.

A Coaching Scrum Master should practice “presence” in interactions with the Client through complete and undivided attention on Client and everything he / she says or does during the conversation.

When the Coach shows “presence” through solid focus and complete attention to the Client, a raised sense of focus and awareness will be created in Client’s mind as well, opening the door to a wealth of hidden insights and locked-up talents that Client may have never been aware of.

The “presence” also allows the Coach to capture any information that is being communicated, or embedded inside the body language or tone and feeling that is shown, and use it to enrich the conversation and better calibrate the trail of questions in order to excite and prime Client’s willingness to open the mind and participate in the session.

Start with Quieting your own mind!

Your brain, regardless of your assumed capacity for multi-tasking, cannot perform its best focus if you have an internal conversation going on while you are Coaching the Client.

Besides, your brain will have a very hard time separating your internal conversation from the one you are having with your Client and will negatively impact your attention, line of thought and trail of questions you are following during the session.

Your inner silence will also adds to your ability to sincerely acknowledge the Client’s thoughts, feeling and experience as they are revealed by their expanding trust in your attention and commitment to their cause.

Only through that you will achieve ICHI-GO ICHI-E

Every conversation that happens, every word that is exchanged, every spark of insight that comes to the surface, is like a wave in a fast flowing river that once gone, you will never get that wave back to reinvest further into it with a second chance at asking your a better question within a better state of mind.

Your pure, calm and reflective presence in the conversation acts as mirror for the Client to see their stated problems and to gauge their proposed solution from a new perspective they never experience before.

Your inner silence also helps you catch the faintest of cues from your Client’s body language and tone during the conversation. If you see the slightest of pause or signs of withdrawal in their stance you can re-assess the path the conversation is going.

If you carry yourself through the session with a busy mind and ongoing inner chat, you may very much miss such cues and end up accepting what they say at face value without assessment, leading down the wrong selection of questions, helping the Client try to resolve non-existing issues, or less important ones that have been mistaken for the root problems.

In order to maintain your focus, once you have silenced the inner conversation, pay attention to your breathing. Everytime you feel your mind is trying to drift away from the session, take a deep breath and become aware of your breathing. This immediately brings your focus back and your Client can see it reflect in your eyes.

Another useful technique is to imagine you are talking to this Client for the first time. This would artificially excite the mind about the conversation and raises your awareness towards your presence in the conversation.

Your extended awareness is contagious and would help your Client to respond to the question with an attentive mind as opposed to simply reacting to your questions with automatic – unprocessed and simply memorized – answers.

It will also help the conversation to stay in this moment and in this place and do not fly away into a future or past time frame or another location. This would help the Client to focus on his / her existing and present issues free from the pains of the past or fear of the future (i.e. freezing in the moment for the fear of what “might” be coming, versus resolving what is burning now and putting mitigation measure for what can be reasonably expected to happen later).

As a Coaching Scrum Master, try your best to avoid these traps:

  1. Not paying attention to silencing your inner chat and its damaging noise to the process.
  2. Forcing your own belief system on the conversation to get to the solution section, and depriving your Client from the benefit of your neutral presence during the conversation.
  3. Not catching and addressing your own counterproductive behavior (as being disruptive to the process or rushing it forward).
  4. Not catching and addressing Clients counterproductive behavior (such as offloading their accountability as a participant of the Coaching session or throwing the blame at another team member instead of owning and resolving it.)
  5. Not paying attention to the unspoken information that your Client is revealing through the pause, tone and body language.
  6. Not addressing Client’s revealed feelings and the hidden pain they are trying to tiptoe around. (i.e. ignoring the elephant in the room to avoid the bringing up the pain that the Client is hiding, for the fear of not being able to handle the session if it proves very strong.)
  7. Allowing the Client to skip from one topic to another without proper amount of assessment and analysis that is required to ensure we are not leaving behind true unresolved issues.
  8. Trying to fix the future without addressing the present problems.
  9. Forgetting that the Coaching session is about the Client and the Client only! (it is not about you shining as the most knowledgeable person in the room or savior of the day.

You may find these questions useful when tracking hidden pain or fear in your Client’s responses:

  1. Did you notice the pause when you were answer my question about ….? Can you look back at that moment and tell me what went through your mind in that moment?
  2. Did you notice that your tone changed and you (raised / lowered) your voice when talking about ….? Can you share your feeling in that moment?
  3. That is a very interesting perspective into that matter, can you elaborate a bit more?
  4. Did you notice that you mentioned – a few times – that Jack / Jane was to be blamed for this situation? Can you explain why you feel that way?
  5. [When you notice what they say contradict what they show as feeling]: I noticed when you mentioned you were anger about … you laughed about it. Can you share with me why you would feel angry about that situation?

We will continue this discussion in our next article.


Arman Kamran (The Agilitizer)