The fine art of listening

In this blog post, I want to write about an important aspect of communication – listening.  I think listening is an art! ScrumMasters can benefit enormously from listening. The biggest benefit from listening is learning.

Learning is an ongoing process throughout one’s life. I strongly believe in life-long learning. So, it’s important to inculcate the fine art of listening. ScrumMasters should practice active listening to improve the craft of being a ScrumMaster. Listening is a subtle yet powerful form of communication.  It is important to be SILENT to LISTEN ???? (both words have the same letters)!

 Why is listening important?

In my opinion, listening improves the understanding of what the other person is trying to convey and is a natural way to learn. You develop trust when you genuinely listen to someone. As you know, it is very important to build mutual trust with your Scrum Team. Active listening creates a mutual trust and respect with your team.

Listening helps you understand the team’s challenges and allows you to build better relationships with everyone.

When you listen, you get the full meaning of what is being said.

How can you improve your listening skills?

Make the environment safe and comfortable for the speaker to express themselves.

Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking. Listen attentively to what is being said. It may be tempting to provide a solution or finish their sentence. Stay silent and let the team figure out the answer. It’s ok to make suggestions but don’t influence them by providing answers or a solution.

First, listen to the entire thought rather than impatiently trying to provide your perspective. Stay focused on the conversation.

Be genuine! Don’t judge the person or what the person is saying. This will create a mental block to understand him.

Show empathy, imagine yourself in their place. This will channelize you to think from their perspective.

Don’t readily provide a solution or try to solve problems. If you do, you will run the risk of the team members just waiting for you to solve their problems every time. Let the team come up with their own solutions.  This will provide a chance for the team to learn.

Good opportunities for a ScrumMaster to improve the art of listening

Although every interaction and every day conversations provide an opportunity to learn, listening skills can be improved by a ScrumMaster in some of the Scrum events.

Since the Development Team conducts the Daily Scrum, the ScrumMaster should listen attentively for any impediments that the team brings up. This is a great place to improve your art of listening. This will improve the ability of the team to become self-organized.

Sprint Review provides opportunities to listen to different perspectives from stakeholders, Product Owner and the Development Team. This will provide opportunities to better understand the challenges/problems of the business.

Sprint Retrospective provides a great opportunity for a ScrumMaster to hone their listening skills. Many points that I have mentioned above are relevant to conducting a great Sprint Retrospective while improving your skills as a ScrumMaster.