Coaching during Coronavirus—Take it Easy…

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Coaching during Coronavirus—Take it Easy…

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“Lighten up while you still can
Don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand

And take it easy”

From the Eagles – Take it Easy

I was talking to my Agile coaching colleague and friend, Leon Sabarsky, the other day and he shared a shift in his coaching that has been influenced by the COVID-19 Pandemic and all of its impacts on our lives.

He said that he was simplifying, slowing down and “softening” his coaching. He used “encouraging stretch” in sprints as an example. In his before pandemic coaching, he might try to push his teams more to stretch in their sprint delivery efforts. But now, he’s backing off on all of that as folks are working remotely while tired, stressed, worried, sleep-deprived, fearful, and simply overwhelmed.  Not to mention having new coworkers (kids, pets, spouses) who are not always contributing to focused work and productivity.

This REALLY resonated with me. First, it’s because it’s not something folks seem to be talking about. Most people in the online Agile community now are pivoting towards: 

  • Providing virtual training (masses of online training)

  • Sharing how to work effectively remotely

  • And scrambling to keep their jobs/revenue streams flowing

But not many are talking about the psychological impacts and what leaders, coaches, and Scrum Masters can do to help.

Here are some ideas that Leon and I came up with to pivot from getting more shit done or recovering revenue, to simplifying things and being kinder to one other.  Please consider them in these really challenging times.

  • Empathy on Overdrive – All of us need to put ourselves in the shoes of others. That’s not just towards your teams, but also towards your leaders.

  • Emotional field will be low – Be more aware of the emotional field around your teams and individuals. Read it in their tone and body language. Then, meet them there and extend a hand up if they need it. 

  • Be less P-cubed (Perky/Passionate/Pushy) and be more Patient.  I’m guilty of sometimes letting my passion get the best of me. I know, imagine that. But now I need to throttle it back a bit. 

  • Try to focus on appreciations & positivity – It’s amazing what “Thank you’s” can do in times like this. Look for little things that make a big difference and extend thanks and appreciations. Emphasize it more in your stand-ups and retrospectives. And certainly, whenever something is “done”. Appreciate…everything! 

  • Listen more, become a great listener – To everything – to what’s being said, how it’s being said (tone), body language, and what’s not being said. This is particularly tough in this virtual environment, so sharpen those ears and really listen! 

  • Create space for “depression” and “quiet” – Allow space for people to be down. It’s normal. Let them know you’re there for them, but don’t try to artificially make things better. Sometimes we just need time to internalize everything. 

  • Encourage random acts of kindness – Lead the way with grace, displaying random acts of kindness. Wherever you can. This is a time when your role model can really make a difference to people.

  • Leaders are even MORE stressed – So extend them understanding, empathy, and kindness – This is a particularly tough time for your leaders. And they rarely get consideration. Well, change that. Reach out to all of your leaders and check-in with them, sharing these responses with them as well.

  • Introduce LESS Change and be (even more) aware of change fatigue – Let’s face it, in Agile the name of the game is…Change. Well, let’s try to do less of that for a while. Take a breath, pause and stop changing things, as everyone is experiencing enough change right now.  As an alternative, focus on the “one most impactful change” and deprioritize others until later. 

  • Less is More – focus on value in everything we do. Not on doing more or doing more with less. Just one valuable feature might be “good enough” for a team to deliver. 

  • Encourage the team to under-commit – see the Less is More point. And don’t mention “stretching” at all. This is not a time to be pushing your teams for more. Inspire them, yes. Encourage them, indeed. Push them, no! 

  • Just be there – be more present. Be a quiet presence for your team to lean on. Share your contact information freely. Then, make sure you’re available. 

Tough times call for soft people. They call for empathy, grace, kindness, patience, and understanding.

Meeting everyone where they are and just extending your hand.

Leon and I feel like COVID-19 might be a blessing in horrible disguise. One that will make us better humans than before. Something that might just bring out the very best in us.

Be safe, take care, and stay Agile our friends,

Bob & Leon





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