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Follow up with FEELING

30 January 2014

As I described in "CREATE New Thinking with One-on-One Coaching," using the CREATE model with someone on your team whose thinking is unclear helps them have useful insights. They can then commit to undertaking specific actions that will bring these insights into reality. However, if we don't follow up, those actions may not have the long-term impact on performance that they could have.

Our main job as ScrumMasters revolves around enabling people to use Scrum well. Sometimes this means reinforcing a practice or helping someone see how Scrum solves a situation they struggle with. Often it means exploring how people feel about their work or their role on the team. Human relationships are at the center of the Agile Manifesto. (Expect that as you coach people well, they will start to open up and tell you about their whole selves -- their work and their lives.)

Making sure an action is done is only a small part of the value of the follow-up process. The big reason to follow up after creating new thinking is to support the creation of new long-term habits that will improve people's performance.

As coaches, our job is to give people new attention maps and positive feedback, whatever has happened since they had their initial insight. One way we can do this is to use the FEELING model.

FEELING stands for:


The first suggestion I can give is to try to remain emotionally neutral in this phase. Just get the information about what was done compared to what has been planned. Get people to be specific here. One upside to getting the facts is that people see what they've done, which is often more than they give themselves credit for.

It would be easy for us to go straight to "What got in the way?" yet this pathway rarely adds any value to anyone. Most adults don't need to be made to feel bad when they don't keep a promise; they do this well enough by themselves. What they need are dialogs that help them learn.

Ask questions like, "Did you get this action completed exactly as you had planned?" Again, get people to be specific. If the answer is, "I got it basically finished," ask for clarification. Find out what percentage of the action has been finished, as compared to how it fits into an action plan.

So the first part of the FEELING model is to get the facts, focusing on the facts of what can be observed: what was done, not on what wasn't. Doing this takes a little awareness and practice; for new ScrumMasters and team members, it can be a completely new habit.


Once you've got the facts about how far someone went with an action, the next step is to see how they feel about what they've achieved.

A useful question to ask here could be, "How do you feel about how you did with this project?" By distinguishing a team member's emotions about what he did, as ScrumMaster you are giving the new circuits being created even more attention, in an entirely different way. You are also harnessing the power of emotions, which are believed to be a key resource when it comes to creating a long-term memory. We remember things we feel strongly about.

Another reason for taking on people's emotions early in the conversation is to address any strong emotions that might get in the way of useful conversations. If they had a difficult time, you can help them put their emotions aside to allow more useful conversation to follow. If they had a good experience completing the action, you deepen their wiring by focusing attention on those positive feelings.


When you use the CREATE model, you help people think differently, and then get them to do things they hadn't thought of immediately by themselves. Therefore you're stretching people, getting them to use different parts of their brains. Given that people are being stretched, it's important to encourage them generously, to help make the experience a positive one. You might acknowledge their efforts, appreciate what they had to do differently, or identify the challenges they faced and surmounted and validate these.

Yet it's even more important to encourage others when they don't complete something. To encourage people who didn't achieve an action in full -- or at all -- focus on what they did do, not on what they didn't. Find out about their thinking time, the energy they put into the action in other ways, and encourage them for having done this.

When you follow up, find ways to encourage people, and you will be helping them turn their delicate new circuits into long-term habits.


Finding out what people are learning is the central element of follow-up. We want to help identify any new wiring people are developing and new habits in the early stages of formation. And not just identify new wiring but name it, understand it, hold it in our hands, see it from many angles. We want to give it lots of attention.

By focusing your attention on new habits rather than details, you're focusing other people's attention more sharply on these new circuits. Questions you could ask to deepen people's learning include:
  • What was your big insight this week?
  • What did you find out about yourself?
  • What other insight did that then open up?
  • What did you discover about your thinking or habits?
  • What new habit did you notice starting to emerge?
Focus on the learning when you follow up. It's the best way to improve people's thinking.


Once you have uncovered the facts, checked in on emotions, encouraged them, and identified what the big learning was, you want to explore the implications of what someone has learned. Asking about the implications of what someone has learned means you are giving their new wiring even more attention, more focus; and you're helping establish links to other parts of their brain. You're further embedding these new circuits.

Questions you could ask to define the implications of what someone learned include:
  • What are the broader implications of being able to do this now?
  • What impact has this learning had on you?
  • Where else might this new skill be useful?
  • Can you see any other applications of what you've learned here?

New Goal

The final part of the FEELING model is to identify the next goal to focus on. You can start with a new dilemma to work on, a more interesting and useful dilemma than the one you started from.

In summary, the step after a coaching session (one-on-one or at the team level) is following up with people to help them recognize and therefore further embed the good habits they're developing. By doing this in a positive and supportive way, we give people the encouragement they need to turn their delicate new thinking circuits into full-blown hard wiring.

It's not a difficult process, it takes just a few minutes -- but it can make a world of difference.

References and suggested resources

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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