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Scrum Master Studio : Frame# 4 -  Mastering your Conversation

June 21, 2018

I often start my Scrum training classes with this quote.

"Scrum Mastering is all about People and Conversation Mastery"


The world is becoming more technologically complex, interdependent, and culturally diverse, which makes building relationships more and more necessary to get things accomplished and, at the same time, more difficult. Relationships are the key to good communication; good communication is the key to accomplishing goals, and Conversation Mastery is good relationships. But, Conversations are not what we think they are. We ( at least I have witnessed this in my journey) have grown up with a narrow view of conversations, thinking they are about talking, sharing information telling people what to do, or telling others what’s on our mind most of the time.

Conversations are not always perceived right. We have always had this perspective: conversations always involve telling people what to do and how to do things. It is a common scenario in organizations when we have managers who micromanage our every move. The irony is that it’s so habituated in our system, we tend to do that when we become Scrum Masters too. In fact, it is no exception when we have people who are new scrum masters and from a non-managerial background to do the same thing; they are so used to doing whatever their bosses did.


So how do you begin that journey towards Mastering your Conversation mastery?  If you’re already on that journey, how do you get better at what you do?

When i started my journey as a Scrum Master back in 2013, i was no different from others. I was also more of a telling “Scrum Master”. I used to ask endless questions,


Why are you not holding Daily Scrum?

Where is the DoD?

Why have we not updated our burndown charts? And so on ...


Then the more i started learning, the more i understood and constantly reminded myself that there is a benefit of asking than telling. The silence in me helped the team come up with solutions on their own, and that is when i started doing it consciously and on a need basis. Even though i cannot always be silent, i have still explored and practised “Conversation Intelligence”, which i call C-IQ, over these many years. My C-IQ thought process was inspired by Judith, the author of Conversational Intelligence. I often need to remind myself that there is a benefit in “Humble Inquiry”, which  I call “Conversation Mastery”.

What is Conversational Intelligence [C-IQ]?

Conversational Intelligence is what separates, Great Scrum Masters from Good Scrum Masters. I always enjoyed conversations that were meaningful and which created an impact. What helped propel the thought was my first seminar back in college when i was 21 years old.

My passion for making sense of conversations was sparked when I started working as a Scrum Master.  Without healthy conversations, Scrum Masters shrivel up and may not be successful in their journey.


“ The premise of C-IQ is to get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of our culture, which depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations. Everything happens through Conversations!” - Judith


One of your responsibilities as a Scrum Master is to enhance transparency, which is a path and doesn’t happen overnight. This article especially focuses on creating a conversational space that creates deeper understanding and engagement rather than fear and avoidance to enhance transparency. As you read and absorb the wisdom garnered from my several years of client engagements, I will ask you right up front to “prime your pump” as you read this and also remember the below mentioned things.


Conversations have the ability to trigger emotional reactions:

Conversations carry meaning - and meaning is embedded in the listener even more than in the speaker. Words either cause us to bond and trust more fully, thinking of others as friends or colleagues, or they cause us to break rapport and show resistance. You will learn how to create a healthy Organization through your conversational rituals if you open your mind to see the connection between language and health.


Without C-IQ

We didn't have any action items in the last Sprint retrospective. So that's the reason for all these problems.

With C-IQ

Do we think retrospectives will help us deal with these situations better as a team?

Are you sending a persuasive or abrasive message? When you are aware of the meta-messages that you send while talking to someone, the probability of you positively Influencing someone through your conversations will be more, can create a safe culture that allows all parties to Interact at the highest level, sharing perspectives, feelings, and aspirations and elevating insights and wisdom.


Remember -Conversations are rarely neutral:

Knowing how you project meaning in your conversations will enable you to connect with others and, in so doing, let go of much of the self-talk that diverts you from collaborating effectively.

By understanding how Conversation Mastery helps you trigger different parts of the brain and stimulate certain habits and behaviours, you can develop and grow your Conversational Intelligence to build healthier, more resilient Organizations in the face of change.


Enjoy Conversation Mastering! Happy Scrum Mastering!!


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