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Three Key tips to Scrum Masters for becoming Effective Listeners

April 21, 2017


“He knew the precise psychological moment when to say nothing”

-Oscar Wilde, The picture of Dorian Gray

I am sharing the learnings from my recently read books which helped me improve my listening skills.

Inspired by one of the tools from the Book "People Tools" by Alan C Fox  here is the first Tool/Tactic for Scrum Masters.

1. “Have a Nonversation”

Before talking about Nonversation, lets talk a bit about conversation. What happens in a conversation? both parties that are involved converse over a particular topic, consider this example where during a conversation someone gives you a feedback to change something, you have two choices:

  • You can have an Intent to learn: Treat feedback as a gift and explore possibilities with a growth mindset, this leads to agreement, engagement, collaboration and good feelings between two people.
  • You can have an Intent to defend: Becoming defensive to the feedback and trying to explain with a fixed mindset. Our arguments only produce more anger and withdrawal, this may lead to no conversation or Fahrenheit 451 conversation that simply continues the problem. We need a better tool or mechanism “Nonversation”- Only one of the conversation partner talks turn by turn, other just listen.

In a Nonversation I listen, and I say nothing (no cheating by making faces, or looking at the watch, just listen). No answers, no promises, no expectations, just listening. I allow other person to talk and vent out everything. Sometimes, you can often get your messages across effectively in a Nonversation than in a conversation. At the least your conversation partner will feel heard, which is a great thing in itself.

As a lifelong learner I found that there has never been a downside when I had an intent to learn and there has seldom been an upside of having an intent to defend.

As Scrum Masters we encounter tough, unpleasant conversations from time to time. The key to successfully navigate them is truly listening to what other person has to say.

2. Acronym RASA

Second technique I learned after watching Julian Treasure’s ted talk

RASA is the Sanskrit word literally ‘flavour, juice (of food’).

And RASA = "Receive," which means pay attention to the person; "Appreciate," making little noises like “Yeah”, "hmm," "oh," "OK"; "Summarize" — the word "so" is very important in communication; and "Ask," ask questions afterwards.

I have found this acronym as a very powerful tool to practice listening genuinely .

3. Improve your Listening Attitude

My 2 cents from reading the book “ The Business of Listening” by Diana Bonet Romero.

What kind of a listener are you? Bored? Conscientious? Distracted? Thoughtful?

First step is to identify your listening attitude. Which attitude persona do you fall into?

Unconscious attitudes such as interrupting, getting distracted, jumping into conclusions, daydreaming or uninterested are barriers to becoming effective listeners.

Few things that could help you improve your listening attitude could be:-

Check your DQ (Daydream Quotient): We all daydream, many of us almost 50 percent of the time. Try this out, in your next coaching conversation, check your DQ by becoming mindful of how often you get distracted. Ask yourself, Am I thinking about what I’m going to say next? If the distraction rate is at least once per minute, chances are you need more attention and self-discipline in your listening.

Another tool to help succeed in becoming a good listener is use your DISC drive.

Desire: Listening is not a half-hearted process, it requires commitment and commitment comes from desire to listen.

Interest: According to the writer G.K. Chesterton, there’s no such thing as an uninteresting topic; there are just uninterested people. Develop interest to be an effective listener.

Self-Discipline: Helps in eliminating distractions and become more attentive

Concentration: Concentration is little different than being attentive: - Being attentive you juggle balls, and you concentrate when you juggle eggs.

Listening is a gift, as a Scrum Master this is the best gift you could give to your Scrum team so give it generously.

I know, you have been listening, I am looking forward to listening from you now.

Live with Passion...


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