Coaching advice for Scrum Masters (Part 7): The Secret behind having Two Ears and only One Mouth.

Coaching Scrum Masters know that Listening is their greatest tool and their gateway into the Clients’ universe. They are also aware that Listening is not just about the words that are spoken, but also the collection of the tone, feelings, nuance and the body language that carry the non-verbal communication.

Coaching Scrum Masters are in relentless pursuit of mastering the art of “Reading between the Lines” and “Reading behind the Lines”, to help extract Clients’ true concerns and pain point, beyond what Clients are able to articulate on their own.

The term Active Listening is used by many trainers and coaching advisers.

As per Wikipedia:

[Carl Rogers and Richard Farson coined the term “active listening” in 1957 in a paper of the same title …

They write: “Active listening is an important way to bring about changes in people. Despite the popular notion that listening is a passive approach, clinical and research evidence clearly shows that sensitive listening is a most effective agent for individual personality change and group development.

Listening brings about changes in peoples’ attitudes toward themselves and others; it also brings about changes in their basic values and personal philosophy.

People who have been listened to in this new and special way become more emotionally mature, more open to their experiences, less defensive, more democratic, and less authoritarian.” ]

What is often confused by Coaches, is to think that Active Listening is just to listen to the Client with the intention of remembering every word they say. While In fact what makes the Listening the Active (and Fusing) is your context of mind and the frame of reference that you are using during the Listening.

Coaching Scrum Masters should strive to shift their paradigm from their own frame of reference to the Clients’ frame of reference and through that move their subconscious mind from

I Listen so I Can Respond


I Listen so I Can Understand

This will move the Coach from “Pretending to Listen” to “Being empathetic when Listening” and incorporating emotional identification, compassion, feeling and insight in the conversation.

It is also critical to understand that the Listening does not need words to float in the air all the time!

The information that is being communicated can also have moments of SILENCE embedded in the conversation, that would convey rich information about the emotions, the need for a reflection or to cool down the receptors right in the middle of your Active Listening.

Coaching Scrum Masters should allow the silence to happen and bring it in as another piece of information to help then understand Client’s world, case and the problems to solve.

This is called Silence Management.

Do not fear Silence!

Resist the urge to jump in and fill it with your next question.

Give your Client some room – a breather – to come back and not be rushed to cut short their needed moment of reflection or cooling down!

Allow the silence to go on until it becomes uncomfortable, and then continue with a more generalized question to remove the pressure from the topic you were talking about.

The combination of Empathetic Listening and Silence Management would help your Client to feel safe and appreciated and make it a lot easier for them to share more about their situation and concerns.

Silence management would also help your Clients to better collect their thoughts and articulate their concerns with you, which would make your role as a Coach a lot easier and far more productive than before.

You should also try to avoid these common mistakes:

  1. Trying to interpret your Client’s silence as it is happening! Do not assume anything until you can get the conversation back on the rails and develop an insight behind their words.
  2. Trying to follow a Systematic approach instead staying adaptable to the flow of the conversation and where it moves to! (Do not force the conversation to follow certain steps; instead be ready to improvise as conversation moves forward).
  3. Trying to win by imposing your perspective on the Client just because you are absolutely sure you know the answer! (Coaching is not about you or how perfect you feel about your skills as a Coach! It is about them.)
  4. Trying to use Client’s words independent of the rest of the valuable information you have gained through observation of their body language, tone and feelings. (As difficult as this aggregate approach may come to you at the beginning, if you do not factor them in, you can very well miss the point and help them down a wrong, at least ineffective path).

Remember, you are given two ears and one mouth (which is also accompanied with your eyes and your past experience as a human being in deciphering human feelings and their reflection in their tone and body movements).

We will continue this conversation in the next article.


Arman Kamran (The Agilitizer)