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How we all become Agile: Techniques for achieving empathy

Agile and teamwork

What are the seven Agile skills you need to develop in a team to achieve effective work, develop emotional intelligence and improve the success of the company.

Agile - Effective teamwork is impossible without a dialogue based on emotional intelligence.

The seven skills you need to do this.

The idea for the Agile methodology came from software developers. The flexible methodology quickly conquers the minds of the business, becoming "a must" for a lively organization that responds quickly and accurately to tasks. Agile is used in corporations from various industries and is consulted by the "Big Five" (Deloitte).

But what is at the root of this methodology? It is obvious that it is not so much the intelligence of the participants, but a certain feature of communication between them, the very "teamwork" and "coherence", which saves energy and time in both strategic discussions and current tasks, management, control and distribution of tasks.

What is this quality called? In interpersonal relationships, this is usually called empathy. And this concept is no longer so "new" - empathy is playing an increasing role in the relationship between business and workers. It is the high level of empathy that allows us to "abandon" and "reduce" many of the cumbersome corporate rules and forms. Only an empathetic team can work in conditions of uncertainty, as understanding and coordinating actions occur at the right pace and rhythm. Agile specialists emphasize that without this feature of the team, careful adherence to Agile protocols does not lead to anything good.

One important thing needs to be emphasized. The basic unit of the new structure is the team, able to quickly formulate questions and make decisions, flexible, energetic and agile. Thus, Agile in the organization is based on Agile of individual teams.

And this in turn is based on the Agile of the individual members of this team. Therefore, it is necessary to develop an agile organization, starting with the establishment of empathic interactions in micro-management groups. To do this, you need to change the attitudes of team members so that empathy begins to play a major role.

So how does empathy help small group decision making? And how does the traditional group differ from the Agile group?

1. The transition from monologue to dialogue

Many people think that dialogue is people who just take turns talking. In fact, such talk often turns into an exchange of monologues. How does this work? The fact is that every animal, except humans, needs self-presentation at the beginning of communication. Animals do it easily: a sign that you will not fight is a short sniff and wagging your tail. The acquaintance took place. Unfortunately, people are much more complex and the stage of self-presentation is difficult.

Here is Mr. I., a lawyer. If we observe how he behaves at the beginning of the meeting, we will see a typical picture. He spends a lot of time to show that he is:

- competent,

- adequate,

- does not accidentally occupy this place,

- has comprehensive information,

- is in good shape, etc.

Not that Mr. I. in any way particularly likes to emphasize his virtues - just after starting a monologue, he comes out of it with great difficulty. Then comes the next client... As a result, there is no spontaneous transition to dialogue. And the longer a person talks, the more he feels that he already knows everything, and his interlocutors - that they are wasting their time.

What is characteristic of a team in which Agile is developed? Although this stage cannot be avoided, the self-presentations here are, firstly, short, as there is less tension in the group and there is less need to prove adequacy to confirm the initial position. Secondly, these maximally short presentations end with a kind of analogue of "waving the tail" - you need to quickly enter the zone of immediacy, for example, to joke, to allow yourself to be informal, non-trivial.

Such actions provoke the beginning of the dialogue, provoke in others a state of perception of the other, the ability to interrupt without irritation, to understand the process of presenting another participant. And the most important thing is that in the dialogue people, through their reactions, already add to each other confidence in their own adequacy and need. And now Mr. I. does not need to prove that he is competent.

2. Ability to speak the language of the interlocutor

But starting a dialogue is not enough - you need to be able to maintain it. In Agile teams, people feel the intonation, the pitch of the other's voice, the degree of tension. This rarely happens in traditional conversations.

For example, Mr. A. He speaks quickly, energetically, in a "ringing" loud voice. Empathic M. feels that the main thing in his words is not the meaning, but the tone and that his main task is not to react to the facts that A. expresses, but to relieve tension. M. does this by entering into a conversation in a calmer voice, with pauses and inserts hidden messages in his speech, which gives a clear signal to A. that he understands him well and accepts his position. This meeting was lucky - at least one of its participants managed to include empathy and neutralize the atmosphere in time, reacting properly to the interlocutor.

But here's another example, more typical of traditional, non-Agile meetings. Mr. F. has a meticulous, sharp character, he tends to speak, to explain and clarify endlessly, adding annoying notes to his every thought. And Mr. P. speaks quite differently - in short harsh phrases. They are very annoyed, they can't enter into dialogue because they don't synchronize, they don't contact each other. This lack of dialogue is completely independent of the content of the conversation, of their opinions - this is a pure result of a lack of empathy.

What to do? What Mr. M. does is to feel/understand that language consists not only of words, but also the way of speaking and what is born in non-verbal accompaniment. But it's hard for them to feel it because they're out of tune. It is very important to help people remember this property, which is quite natural for all people - to tune in to the interlocutor, and to give techniques for the development of this property.

3. Not only "What for?", but also "How?"

Assessing, formulating tasks, setting goals, abstract speaking - this habit must be abandoned in the past era. If we move on to Agile, we need to treat these learned and seemingly unshakable things with much less respect. The order is not as important as the flexibility, the situationality, which increases precisely due to the fact that there are fewer "crooked wheels" in the conversation and rigid fixations of meaning.

Example: Mr. E. did well in math school, solved all problems quickly, and then spent the rest of his time working on his own projects. He now uses this model in his communication habits. I judged - I understood - I gave a good grade - I'm leaving the dialogue. Why is this bad? Because when a person knows in advance that he has "received a good grade", he does not seek to solve additional tasks (or rather does not exceed the already set tasks!) And loses touch with reality, with the interlocutor. And he could have a live dialogue with him, extract additional value and pass on something new to the interlocutor.

True dialogue can lead to new meanings, not those we have already planned in advance. This is the essence of Agile: not to be afraid of uncertainty and to allow the situation to develop according to our own spontaneous logic. To achieve this, you must always be involved in the process.

4. Pace, rhythm and pauses

Here is an example of a team of telecommunications company executives consulting on strategy. It is very interesting to watch them: R. believes that she took part in the conversation when she was joking (she is joking). E. believes that he spoke when he announced that he understood what was said. T. believes that he spoke when he nodded in the affirmative. There is no dialogue. They start arguing and the arguments do not balance the system. The three continue to answer independently of the interlocutors, thinking only about themselves.

They will succeed, when in response to each statement of the interlocutor, each of them will reacts differently. For example, using the tone or timbre of the voice, the length or brevity of the phrases, to move away or closer, to ask a question at the right pace, to pause ... But R., T. and D. do not understand the dynamics - on the contrary, they begin to impose the conversation - they shorten the pauses, speak louder and use less intonation.

This increases tension and builds a sense of misunderstanding and uselessness. Like in a bad orchestra: "If it didn't bother me, I would play everything well now." The fact that each of us has our own character, our own secret needs that we meet in the dialogue, adds tension to the atmosphere. One of the group wants to be noticeable, to express himself; another - to rest, the third - to be offended that he was not noticed, and the fourth does not care at all, he is bored. Everyone is bored. Everyone has mentally withdrawn from each other. Everyone is wasting their time.

How nice it is, though, when people get a feel for the overall pace and rhythm. There is a magical, without exaggeration, feeling that the orchestra, which was playing "fake", suddenly started making music. We call this state the "pulsating ball stage."

5. Everyone is a moderator

And this happens because in the Agile group all participants are the conductors of the conversation, in other words, each of them constantly takes on the role of moderator and begins to control the attention of others, doing it easily and on time.

Example: Mr. K. is the undisputed leader in his group, but when his group became Agile, the need for constant reminders that he was a leader disappeared. Now at the meetings K. willingly transfers his leadership to anyone who at the moment can and wants to show competence. Everyone becomes a leader in a minute and a half, the leadership in his group is situational, transient. Mr. K. is much less tense, he calmly allows S. or N. to grab some of the audience's attention for a few minutes and he certainly knows that at this point nothing threatens his leadership. His subordinates now have much more freedom of expression and more freedom to exercise their competence, and as a result the general focus of their meetings has not diminished. We call this property of the Agile group "ripples".

6. Observation

For the Agile group, the ability to observe is very valuable. What happens in the group during the conversations is as important as the main goal, it is extremely important to be able to see and choose interesting little things and details of the dialogue. Thus, the team can come to an unexpected decision, together to find the answer to a difficult question.

Observation can lead to decisions. For example, during the discussion of the brand strategy, one of the participants constantly turned the keys with the keychain in his hands when another participant in the meeting noticed this and offered an interesting idea how to promote the company - a lottery related to supermarket storage space key locations, where bags of supermarket visitors are left.

7. Creative mood

Some people believe that creativity is not available to everyone and not everyone has the necessary qualities for this. This is absolutely not the case. Man is creative by nature. You do not need to be a born artist at all to be able to find non-trivial solutions in your field of activity. Therefore, creativity can and should be developed. In the Agile team, frequent jokes, the ability to be free, to pay attention to other people's ideas and the number of associations increase the "allowed" creativity. People are less afraid of being weird, the ban and immediate censorship have been lifted, as the group's general friendly tone helps them relax and think less about possible negative reactions.

Let's summarize some of the results. The main feature in forming the Agile team is emotional intelligence, which excludes monologue, treating people as functions, formal team relationships and affirmation, welcomes dialogic behavior, non-judgmental commentary, empathy and informal attitude. 

We wish you the necessary corporate and team culture to implement Agile. 


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