Agile Coaching Skills are Essential LinkedIn

Why Agile Coaching Skills are Essential in the Evolving World of Work

Recent reports highlight the challenges faced by organisations recruiting people who not only have technical, agile, or product-related skills but are also good problem solvers, who can resolve conflict, and collaborate.

As the demand for multidisciplinary leaders grows, organisations now need people who can blend technical know-how with empathy and emotional intelligence – key attributes required to collaborate with others to solve problems. 

Humane attributes like empathy and emotional intelligence are the bedrock of great leadership. They empower leaders to nurture the growth of others, stimulate critical thinking, and foster genuine engagement in the workplace. These skills are the building blocks for establishing relationships, forging connections, and cultivating trust—all essential elements for creating the psychological safety needed for rapid innovation at scale.

Consider the following scenarios and determine which approach would be most effective for you in your workplace.

Scenario 1: Team Lead

Imagine a busy office setting where a team lead, Julia, is known for her decisive and directive leadership style. One day, a team member, Sam, approaches Julia with a problem they’ve encountered while working on a project.

Sam: “Hey Julia, I’ve hit a roadblock with the client’s requirements. I’m not sure how to proceed.”

Julia: “Okay, here’s what you need to do. First, revise the project outline to align with the client’s specifications. Then, schedule a meeting with them to get clarification on any ambiguous points. Finally, update the team on the changes. Simple.”

In this scenario, Julia provides a quick solution to the problem without delving deeper into the root cause or considering Sam’s perspective. The communication is one-way, with Julia taking charge of the situation.

Scenario 2: Product Manager

Now, let’s shift to a different environment where Alex, a Product Manager, leads his team with a collaborative and empathetic approach. A team member, Fred, approaches Alex with a problem they’ve encountered during the development phase.

Fred: “Hey Alex, we’re facing some unexpected challenges with integrating the new feature. It’s affecting our timelines.”

Alex: “I appreciate you bringing this up, Fred. Let me make sure I understand the issue. The integration is causing delays. Can you share more about the specific challenges you’re facing?”

Fred explains the technical difficulties, and Alex listens attentively, playing back key points to ensure he grasps the situation. Alex then follows up with open-ended questions to encourage Fred to explore potential solutions.

Alex: “It sounds like the integration is more complex than we anticipated. What ideas do you have for overcoming these challenges? How can we work together to find a solution that minimises the impact on our timeline?”

In this scenario, Alex engages in a collaborative dialogue, allowing the team member to share their perspective and actively participate in problem-solving. The leadership style is more open, and decisions are co-created through effective communication and shared understanding.

Which is the right approach?

As you can see, both scenarios will result in an outcome, each with its own set of benefits. 

For instance, the directive approach appears more efficient due to rapid decision-making and clear instructions. Team members are aware of what needs to be done without ambiguity. However, this method may leave team members feeling disempowered, since their input is not sought.

This could limit innovation and creative thinking as team members could overly rely on their Team lead for answers and solutions. This dependence may lead to a disconnection from the “hive mind” that emerges from healthy co-creation and collaboration.

When we look at Alex, the product manager, it’s clear that this approach would stimulate their team member to actively participate and contribute to problem-solving. This fosters a creative and open environment, enabling innovative solutions and promoting a sense of teamwork and shared responsibility. However, if Alex lacks certain skills, this approach may become more time-consuming overall and could potentially introduce ambiguity without clear direction. There is also a risk of a lack of action if an agreement is not reached, potentially leading to delayed decisions, particularly in time-sensitive situations.

The Cornerstone of Emotional Intelligence

So how could Julia take a less directive approach, and how could Alex ensure that they come to an agreement without ambiguity?

Competency in coaching, mentoring, and facilitation form the cornerstone of highly sought-after skills like emotional intelligence, empathy and problem-solving.

When you learn about coaching and mentoring, you also learn about active listening — hearing the words of your teammate rather than planning the next question you’re going to ask. This then allows you to ask the right questions back, rather than the question you wanted to ask. Which do you think might yield a better outcome? 

A coaching and mentorship stance could help Julia, who may prefer a more directive leadership style, to help her build stronger relationships by offering advice as options and gaining agreement first.

Increasing Your Own Self-Awareness

Learning how to coach and mentor others also helps you increase your self-awareness, which lays the foundations for building one’s emotional intelligence and empathy. When we are empathetic to the concerns of our teammates we make them feel heard and our answers feel authentic which builds trust.

Facilitation, on the other hand, helps build your capability to adapt your presence and tone of voice to what is going on around you. This means you can foster better collaboration and engagement from your teams. Seeing how your colleagues react to activity or instruction and adapting in the moment, rather than blindly following your plan, isn’t just one of the key agile principles. It’s essential to fostering the healthy collaboration needed for creativity and innovation. Effective facilitation skills also help managers agree on action plans and outcomes in a way that feels co-created rather than directed.

In scenario two, Alex could lean on both coaching and facilitation skills to come to agreed outcomes and accountability for those actions.

As you can see, by learning these complementary skill sets, you can adopt the sought behaviours that are needed by employers globally.

How can I learn these agile coaching skills?

Agile Coaching differs from Professional Coaching, because it blends the complementary competencies of teaching, mentoring, coaching, and facilitation. This unique blend, empowers you to sense, respond and serve the right approach depending on the needs of your team member in the moment. By attending agile coaching training, you can learn about these competencies as well as the skills mentioned above. This knowledge enables you to leverage these skill sets when collaborating with your teams, fostering the co-creation of innovative solutions, and addressing complex problems collaboratively.

Acquiring these skills for your toolkit naturally enhances your ability to navigate problem-solving, resolve conflict, and foster collaboration. As a manager or team leader, these are essential leadership qualities needed in the evolving world of work.

Develop your agile coaching skills

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. We offer training to develop these key skills and help you find the best approach for you and your workplace.

  1. Agile Team Facilitator Training (ICP-ATF)
    Equip yourself with a range of tools and techniques to design engaging meetings that lead to agreed outcomes.
  2. Agile Team Coaching Training (ICP- ACC)
    Learn how to foster psychological safety and collaborative environments that enable teams to thrive in the evolving world of work.
  3. The Art of Professional Coaching: Unlocking Human Potential in Business
    This experiential and transformative professional coaching program is led by accredited industry experts. Gain the knowledge, skills and mindset to connect with the individuals you work with on a human-to human level, to sustainably unleash their learning and creative potential.

Curious about Agile ways of working? We answer your most frequently asked questions here.

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