Tag Archive for: soft skills

Mastering Soft Skills for Effective Work: Your Path to Professional Excellence

Today’s economic markets are dynamic, and this means the workplace also needs to be. Fast problem solving, decision making and collaboration with colleagues and customers play an important role. To be successful, employees need to bring more than just technical expertise alone. The ability to effectively navigate complex interactions, communicate with clarity, and collaborate effectively with others is essential. These abilities, often referred to as soft skills are critical to boost collaboration and to develop workplaces that enable people to work effectively and with ease.

In this comprehensive guide, we will examine ten essential soft skills that can transform your professional journey more closely. Whether you’re an HR professional looking to enhance your company’s capabilities or an individual eager to boost your career, this article offers insights and actionable steps to work on your soft skills. 

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Navigating the Storm: Overcoming Teamwork Challenges Together

Teamwork is an indispensable element for achieving success in any organization. However, the path to effective collaboration is not without its challenges. From conflicts and communication breakdowns to poor management and a lack of trust, teams often face numerous obstacles that can hinder progress and the realization of business goals. But don’t worry, because in every challenge lies an opportunity for growth and improvement.

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How to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace

Turning Tides: An Agile Coach’s Journey through Workplace Conflict and Resolution

It was a Thursday afternoon, just like any other in the bustling, open-concept office of Swift Software Inc. As an Agile Coach, I was overseeing multiple teams, all engrossed in their tasks. Amid the usual hum of industrious chatter, a sudden sharp exchange of words grabbed my attention. It came from Team Phoenix, known for their remarkable synergy and usually seamless operations.

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42 Expert Tips for Hybrid and Remote Work

What is hybrid work?

Hybrid work, in essence, refers to a flexible model of working that allows employees to work from various locations. At its best, it is a supportive model that empowers teams to choose the working arrangement that is most suitable to them. At its worst, it’s a rigid form of pseudo-flexibility that’s more hassle than it’s worth. 

The definition of hybrid work, ultimately, is going to depend on the individual organization. For many companies, it means working from home some days in the week, and working in the office the other days. For us, at agile42, it means working remotely most of the time with occasional onsite days, which are carefully planned and facilitated. On our onsite days, we do not simply proceed with our day-to-day work. We use these opportunities to workshop problems, share knowledge, plan and execute new innovations, or test hypotheses. Importantly, we also use this time to connect socially.  

Need help adjusting to a hybrid setup? Contact us for coaching, mentoring, facilitation, and consulting services. 

It’s about people, not place

In our line of work, we have helped hundreds of companies to create meaningful change, including configuring their remote work arrangements. We have noticed that many people are starting by asking the question, “Where should people work?” This seems like an obvious question to ask, when dealing with hybrid working scenarios, but we would argue that a better question is “How can we humanize our workplaces to better unleash our people’s potential?” 

It is helpful to shift your focus to the people that work for and with you, and to be curious and open-minded about how best you can support them. This is a far more beneficial approach than trying to work out a rigid schedule dictating where and when people must work. 

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Is hybrid work really new? 

While some companies, agile42 included, have been offering hybrid or remote working arrangements for as long as they’ve been around, for the vast majority of businesses this is unchartered territory. If this is all relatively new to you and you’re feeling unsure, you’re not alone! agile42 has coached and trained hundreds of businesses through this transition. It comes with a unique set of challenges, but once companies get themselves properly set up for hybrid work, the response – from managers, HR, employees, their families, and even their pets – has been overwhelmingly positive. Reach out to our team if you want to chat about how we can help you. 

Hybrid work vs remote work

Many people use the terms remote and hybrid interchangeably, but they are in fact quite different. Remote work takes place in a location other than a centralized office, such as home, coffee shops, casual workspaces or hubs, or wherever the person happens to be. On the other hand, hybrid work refers to any of a broad range of configurations, in which remote work takes place some of the time but onsite work is also included. 

Benefits of hybrid work

83% of workers prefer a hybrid work model, according to the Accenture Future of Work Study 2021. The same report found that hybrid workforce models are embraced by 63% of high-revenue growth companies.

Hybrid working arrangements have a huge range of benefits. These include: 

  • Cost saving, both for the company and individuals 
  • An increase in efficiency 
  • Higher levels of productivity 
  • A better work-life balance 
  • Improved physical and mental health 
  • A reduced carbon footprint
  • A wider talent pool 

42 tips for hybrid work from personal experience

1. Choose the right reasons to meet in person 

One of the complaints we hear most about hybrid work arrangements is that people feel their time is being wasted. “Hybrid workers complain that they go to the office only to log on to Zoom or Teams only to spend the rest of the day with their headphones on,” explains Regina Martins, director of agile42 South Africa. There is very little benefit to this sort of arrangement, and it’s usually a sign of a leadership team that values control over effectiveness and output. 

A great alternative is to plan onsite days in which all hands are on deck, and the team has a clear goal to achieve. “Sprint change days are perfect days to be in the office”, suggests agile42 coach Birge Kahraman. If you use Scrum, hosting your big Scrum Events such as Retrospectives and Sprint Planning events in-person is a great use of time together. 

Photo by RF._.studio on pexels

2. Agree on the rules of engagement  

“Hybrid introduces the challenges of meeting with people physically and remotely at the same time”, according to Agile coach Giuseppe De Simone. “This may confuse the rules of engagement and make some not feel included. This is why it is extremely important to make rules of engagement explicit and agreed upon by everyone”, he says. In particular, it’s important to focus on rules that ensure everyone has the space and time to share their perspectives equally. This means that we need to have good facilitators that can communicate these rules and make sure that feels safe and included.

“It is also very important to implement a safety protocol that can be ritualized with some gestures so that everyone feels safe to interrupt the conversation and express their need for better rules or more respect for those already in place”, explains De Simone.

Recommended for you: Watch our Humanizing Hybrid Work Webinar

3. Have cameras on 

“Open cameras are good for non-verbal communication”, shares coach Birge Kahraman. It’s a great idea to agree to have cameras-on meetings regularly. But make sure you’re cognisant of how this can affect people too. “It may drain your energy pretty quickly”, continues Kahraman. “Don’t forget to take regular breaks between meetings in order to prevent Zoom Fatigue”.

4. Take regular breaks and make them meaningful 

The importance of breaks is not new: even in traditional office settings it’s crucial to enjoy frequent breaks. For many people, though, it’s much easier to neglect breaks when working remotely. In an office setting, the cadence of the day makes for a natural rhythm, with periods of focus intermingled with breaks. Walking between meetings, stepping out for coffee, or even making small-talk as you pass a colleague’s desk provide your brain with pauses that are extremely beneficial. 

In a home office or remote setup, you have to be much more deliberate about it. Even when people do take breaks, sometimes this means switching to different tabs or rushing around to attend to a family responsibility or housework. While these sorts of disruptions and distractions are inevitable, try to avoid thinking of them as breaks. 

Director of agile42 South Africa, Regina Martins, shared her style of taking breaks, which we think is a great way to ensure you actually allow your mind some downtime. “I’ve created a ritual for taking regular breaks around coffee”, she explains. “ it is a whole-body experience with specific anchors: visual (I’ve set up a coffee station with colorful cups, a milk frother and different types of coffees); auditory (the sound of coffee dripping into the cup); olfactory (the smell of the coffee makes me happy) and gustatory. I love coffee!” 

Photo by Goran Ivos on Unsplash

5. Have daily standups or Scrums 

“I find our 15 minute daily calls invaluable”, shares Amy Bridge, agile42 operations manager. “It’s great to connect as a team as well as iron out any issues or questions”. 

Our social media marketer, Emily Stapylton-Smith, agrees: “I regularly check in with my colleague that I work closely with. These catch-ups can help us to understand each other’s priorities and how we can best support each other. They don’t have to last long, but they are a great way to keep us aligned to our goals and working together.” 

It’s a sentiment also shared by Sofia Svanbäck, agile42 Business Relationship Manager, who says “I have found the daily syncs with my team very helpful, and very needed so that you do not feel as alone while in the home office”.

6. Remember that we’re all human 

“What always delights me are team members’ pets or children crashing meetings and giving us an unpredictable, fun, off-topic moment”, shares Agile and Design Thinking coach Dennis Büscher. “Have coffee talks, make jokes and smile when having online meetings and video calls”, he continues, “and create space and time to also talk about the best series you recently watched on Netflix or the hangover you had after the wedding on Saturday”. It’s more important than ever to humanize the workplace, and to find joy in seeing one another as people with rich and interesting personal lives. 

7. Create an environment for asynchronous communication 

“Not everything is urgent”, explains Ebru Yalçınkaya, coach for agile42 Turkey.  “Try to create an environment for asynchronous communication, especially for things that don’t need an immediate reply”. If you can replace a meeting with an email, do so. This is especially important when you’re working across multiple time zones.  

8. Prioritize connections with colleagues  

“When working remotely, we miss out on those quick catch-ups over coffee and other lighthearted conversations that happen when we are in the office together”, explains agile42 social media marketer Emily Stapylton-Smith. “Setting aside some time on a Friday to discuss our weekend plans is a great way to ensure we don’t lose this, or it could be posting a picture of your pet on your Slack channel. These moments matter and can help us feel more connected with one another”. 

9. Solve complex problems onsite 

There are many advantages to working remotely, and many people find it much easier to focus in that environment. However, there are times when onsite collaboration can be an advantage. Coach Lothar Fischmann explains, “I’ve experienced that people talk more to each other when everybody is in the same room, both when coaching clients and internally at agile42. For me this means that meeting onsite is pretty important in all areas where we rely on collaboration, especially when it’s about solving complex problems or interpersonal relations”. This is something we’ve observed many times. As Fischmann notes, “the feedback is always more or less the same: we wouldn’t be able to create so much progress in such a short time as a team, if we were working remotely!” 

Of course, collaboration is entirely possible when working remotely, but if you’re looking for a good time to schedule onsite days, look for opportunities to solve problems as a team. Don’t use onsite days to carry on with day-to-day work. 

10. Set up the best possible workspace 

“Home offices are not real offices and for many people that is a challenge,” explains agile42 CEO Marion Eickmann. But the solution to this is not always to force people into an office. It takes a measured, thoughtful approach from leadership, in which you listen to your teams and come up with solutions that will empower them to do their best work. For some, that may mean having a workspace such as an office available. For others, it could mean flexible working hours to accommodate childcare and other personal responsibilities. 

Leadership should provide as much support and infrastructure as possible. Supply teams with the tools they need for productivity, as well as the equipment they need to do their jobs. If the company is saving costs on office space, consider investing some of that in good quality chairs, headphones, desks, screens, or any other equipment that can make home offices more accommodating. 

11. Unplug after hours 

Another challenge we hear about a lot is that remote workers have difficulty putting boundaries between work and their personal lives. This can have serious consequences, like burnout. “If I leave my PC switched on and logged in, it makes me think that I need to continue working”, shares Ebru Yalçınkaya. “After the office hours and weekends, I sometimes simply turn everything off, pack my laptop away and close it totally, so I understand it is my time to relax”.

Photo by Elle Hughes on Pexels

12. Move often

“Move!” suggests coach Martin von Weissenberg, “Get out of your chair as often as possible”.  

Developer Santiago Gomez agrees: “For me it is very important to get up from my seat and stretch and walk or look through the window to rest my eyes. Going to the kitchen and drinking a glass of water also helps; if I have the bottle on my desk I tend not to stand up too often”. 

13. Structure your day and create rituals

Suzanne Daly, Team Assistant at agile42, believes that structure is key.  “While working from home, structure your day like you would in the office”, she suggests. “Start at the same time, take frequent breaks (including a lunch break) and finish at the usual time. Personally I find the Pomodoro method works well, particularly while working from home”. 

Coach Ninja Granzow agrees: “build habits to structure the day”, she says, “go for a walk in the morning, have lunch, and find an activity to close the workday”. 

14. Think about how collocation will improve productivity 

“The winners in hybrid working will be those who really think about how – and when –  collocation will improve productivity”, muses Peter Hundermark, mentor at agile42, “Just saying ‘you need to be in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays because that’s our new rule’ is not going to cut it.” 

“The main purposes of collocation”, he explains, “are (1) to build and maintain human connection and (2) synchronous collaboration where having the whole human system in the room is important. When planning the collocated part of hybrid working, you should be working to achieve these purposes in each aspect, including who is there, when they are there, and how you use the space”.

Photo by Fox on Pexels

15. Use your calendar to block out time 

When you’re working with colleagues who are scattered, having some transparency and visibility around your calendars is important. But this doesn’t mean that any gap in your schedule is up for grabs. A simple trick to avoid finding yourself overbooked in back-to-back meetings, without any real productivity time, is to use your calendars to reserve time for yourself. This could be as simple as setting your working hours, or you could book an entire day every week as a day for focus without disruption. Regina Martins, director of agile42 South Africa, says, “I find it useful to create space in my calendar for lunch. I book it out as a daily recurring appointment called Sit in the sun and smell the roses.  This makes sure people don’t book meetings during that time. And I actually try to sit in the sun. I don’t have any roses at the moment because it’s winter in South Africa, but the sentiment applies. It’s also a bit of an inside joke with my fellow coaches”. 

16. Do something innovative when you have all hands on deck

At agile42, we host monthly Coach Camps. These began as a knowledge exchange specifically for our coaches, but have transformed into all-hands days of innovation, workshopping, knowledge sharing, and getting to know one another. We do this every month virtually, and once a year we come together in person from all over the world. “Our Coach Camps are completely enlivening”, shares digital marketer Lauren Edwards, “It’s a huge injection of passion and energy: we drop our day-to-day tasks for a day or two and just dedicate ourselves completely to collaboration and innovation. I only see most of my colleagues about once a year in person, and I am so grateful that this is how we use that time together”. 

Sofia Svanbäck, agile42 Business Relationship Manager, agrees: “I have also appreciated that we meet with the whole company at our internal Coach Camps – they bring us together as a group”. 

Need help planning or facilitating collaboration days? Get in touch, we can help! 

17. Make sure everyone is remote (or onsite) but not a mix 

“Having some people together in a room and others joining remotely creates a big disconnect”, shares Berlin-based coach Simon Sablowski. Sablowski has years of experience with facilitation, and some of the key principles behind facilitation shed light on why this is the case: 

  • Help people move through a process together
  • Include all participants and ensure equal participation
  • Never take sides and always maintain neutrality

These simply don’t work in a hybrid setup, says Sablowski: “Usually one of two things happens: Either the discussion takes place in the room and individuals joining remotely are disengaged and at best listening to the conversation, or the people joining remotely compensate for not being present in the room by trying to dominate the conversation. A hybrid setup hinders people from moving through a process or reaching their goal together. Equal participation is almost impossible. It takes a lot of willingness, discipline and practice to make it work. Facilitators struggle with maintaining neutrality because it’s more natural to take sides with those that are not included in the conversations as much as others. Therefore, we should stick to the principle: If one participant joins remotely, all join remotely”. 

18. Accept that people’s home lives might mingle with work more 

It can be frustrating when distractions from people’s daily lives creep into work. In an office setting, everyone is dealing with the same circumstances. But in remote or hybrid setups, there may be someone with a screaming child, another person with a cat in front of the camera, someone dealing with a neighbor’s drilling, and yet another person with connectivity issues. “Keep calm if there is some family noise or background noise in Zoom meetings”, suggests Sofia Svanbäck, agile42 Business Relationship Manager, “because they are a part of our new normal when it comes to remote work”. 

19. Assign clear ownership of tasks 

“One tip I would give is clear ownership of tasks”, advises Team Assistant Suzanne Daly, “Our team regularly reviews our workflow and decides who will take care of what tasks. This ensures each member of the team knows their role and responsibilities. It also ensures that I know that the tasks assigned to other team members are taken care of and I don’t have to worry about them. For vacation, we then decide who will take care of tasks for those who are away so they can relax while they are out of office and know the tasks are taken care of during that time”.

20. Build relationships 

“No real teamwork is possible without building true human relationships”, cautions coach Giuseppe De Simone, “Having a group of people truly working elbow to elbow requires meeting in person from time to time, just to build those connections”. And while the occasional offsite holiday-style meetup is great, it’s not enough. This form of in-person meetup creates an artificial environment, says De Simone, “Working on real stuff, collaborating and maybe even fighting… This will help create the relationships that will allow every individual to recognize that face behind the camera not as a stranger, but someone they had a shared experience with”.

21. Ensure trust exists among your team 

Trust occurs when team members are able to be vulnerable with one another and are willing to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help.  Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible. This is even more important when working remotely. It’s very easy for people to become isolated, to avoid asking for help, and to let problems build up until they become unmanageable. 

Need help building trust and fostering a safe-to-fail culture? Our OrgScan tool is the perfect starting point to help you understand the status quo, and then make meaningful changes. 

22. Focus on outcomes not hours 

If you’ve installed time-tracking software on your team’s PCs, you’re definitely doing it wrong. Time and again, we see managers and leadership teams counting the hours worked, as if this means anything. It simply doesn’t, in the modern workplace. Focusing on the number of hours spent at a desk has proven negative effects, like presenteeism (working while sick or otherwise impaired) or the so-called “quiet quitting” (employees doing the bare minimum to meet the requirements of their roles). In our years of consulting, training, and coaching, we have seen immense improvements in productivity, work-life balance, and job satisfaction when the focus is on outcomes instead. 

Some industries have billable hours, like legal firms and consultancies, and in this instance time-tracking is necessary. However, outside of this, there is no good reason to focus on how many hours your employees are putting in.  

23. Lean on your company culture

Hybrid and remote working arrangements are a sure-fire way to expose problems with your organizational culture. The problems created by a bad company culture are exacerbated when you’re not all in the same room. 

This is a great time to adapt, and to introduce Agile frameworks that can carry you through with great success. For instance, leaders who are adaptable and have experience with various leadership styles will notice that they don’t really need to make drastic changes when switching to remote. Leaders who previously got by on control, on the other hand, will notice things falling apart fairly quickly. 

In a culture of trust, autonomy, and respect, where teams feel safe and confident to make decisions, remote workers can truy thrive. If the culture is such that the team is afraid to make decisions and take initiative, on the other hand, there is likely to be a lot of confusion and delays.

Want to measure and improve your organizational culture? That’s what our Organizational Scan™ is for. 

24. Have frequent retrospectives 

“Frequent retrospectives (especially initially) can help to ensure everyone in the team agrees with the workflow, and more importantly their personal workload”, says agile42 Team Assistant Suzanne Daly. Retros are always important to make sure everyone’s on track, but in a remote or hybrid setup, they are more important than ever. They give everyone a chance to share the issues they are struggling with. 

25. Reduce waste 

Hybrid and remote work offers many opportunities to reduce waste, and you should take advantage of these. If you’re part of leadership, consider whether you can save costs on office rental, perhaps by renting a room once a week or once a month instead of every day. 

Consider the way you schedule meetings, too. It might be tempting to meet more often when colleagues are not in the same room, especially if there is a lack of trust or structure in the team. But this shouldn’t be necessary and can cause a lot of wasted time. 

Commuting can also be attached to waste. If you’re commuting less often, you are saving plenty of time and money.

26. Adapt your leadership style

Agile leadership is the ability to be flexible, use different approaches, and adapt to the context and the people involved. Because of this dependence on context, expectations and relationships, there are no leadership behaviors that are inherently positive or negative in and of themselves. Rather, there are leadership behaviors which are more or less appropriate within the context. 

As an example, some leaders might try to make sudden changes to their leadership style when teams aren’t onsite. They may begin to be more directive, hoping to hang onto a sense of control. For teams who are used to having more autonomy, this can be highly frustrating. On the other hand, leaders may suddenly be less involved, and let teams get on with their work without interference.  For teams who are accustomed to being told what to do, and when, this can be a very stressful change. 

When leaders understand their teams and use leadership behaviors that align with the needs of their teams, this is known as coherent leadership. 

27. Support one another 

A Stanford study showed that workers are 13% more productive, on average, when working from home. This is attributed to a lack of commute and distractions. However, it comes at a cost, and loneliness is a very real challenge for many people. It’s much harder to recognize when people are struggling when they’re not in the same room, so it helps to make a point of checking in with one another regularly.


28. Invest in tools and support structures

In a hybrid work environment, there are different priorities and your budget should shift accordingly. Invest in making it easy for your teams. Listen to your team’s needs, and then invest in the tools, infrastructure, and resources that will meet those needs. The tools should work for you; you shouldn’t work for the tools. 

29. Reap the benefits 

There are many benefits to hybrid working, so remember to take advantage of them. “I am grateful every day for how much time I get to spend with my elderly dog, and how I can use the time I used to spend commuting for exercise instead”, shares Digital Marketer Lauren Edwards. “It’s been important to make sure I log off at the end of the day and enjoy the improved work-life balance hybrid work offers me”. 

30. Let go of control 

Many leaders have struggled to adjust to hybrid working arrangements. In most cases, this is a result of leaders being accustomed to control over their teams. Hybrid is a great chance to work on letting go of control, managing flow rather than people, and encouraging teams to self-organize. If you need help with this process, agile42’s coaches have decades of experience and can coach, mentor, or train your leaders and teams. Contact us to find out what we can do for your teams. 

31. Bring new people on board onsite 

“Onboarding is easier face-to-face”, explains CEO Marion Eickmann. When you bring on new team members, try to do so in-person. It helps new team members to settle in and meet their colleagues, in a low-pressure way. If this isn’t possible, try to set up “coffee chats” to meet new colleagues, or arrange an in-person day for the near future. 

32. Nurture talent 

The popularity of hybrid and remote setups has put us in a unique position. Many barriers have fallen away, giving companies access to top talent like never before. Location is no longer as much of a barrier, so the pool of candidates has expanded. More accessible workplaces also reduce barriers for those with health issues and disabilities, resulting in more diverse and more inclusive workplaces. This makes it possible to find and accommodate the best possible talent for the role. 

33. Limit context switching 

Context switching, very simply put, is switching between tasks. This is something that is required in most jobs: you have to be able to change between meetings and different kinds of tasks. But many of us have felt the negative effect of too much context switching: when you’re flicking between tabs so much it feels like you’re getting nothing done, or when you’ve jumped from meetings to tasks and back so many times you’re completely exhausted. Our brains simply aren’t capable of this degree of context switching, and this can lead to burnout. “Have regular short breaks”, advised coach Ninja Granzow, “and make sure you balance appointments, interactions, and things to do alone”.

34. Invest in training and development

If you’re finding that the budget stretches a little further without paying for daily office space, consider investing this in the people that make up your company. An Organizational Learning Program is a great way to help your teams learn new skills that they can bring to the table. 

35. Make use of freed up time 

Many people have found that spending less time in an office has brought them greater work-life balance, and opened up a great deal of free time. Our advice is to use this time doing things you love, or spending time with the people that matter to you. Don’t be tempted to work longer hours or get stuck in front of your screen, Log off on time, and do things that bring you joy outside of work. 

36. Give feedback 

In person, it’s fairly common to walk over to someone to handover a project or submit a piece of work. This means we’re more likely to get regular, consistent feedback. When communication switches to virtual platforms, it can be easy to lose this. If using platforms like Trello, handovers and submissions can begin to happen almost wordlessly, with only automated notifications. Try to schedule regular feedback sessions and make time to give and receive feedback. Sprint Reviews fill this role well if using Scrum.

37. Communicate well 

“Clear and consistent communication with team members is so important”, says Team Assistant Suzanne Daly. “Having multiple ways to communicate is useful so your Team always feels accessible. But make sure you have working agreements on how to use certain forms of communication, so that information is not lost”.  

38. Work on a synchronous schedule 

These days, it isn’t uncommon for teams to be working from various countries. If your business has a global footprint it’s a huge advantage to have a presence across time zones. However, it can make collaboration difficult. Try to ensure that team members overlap, at least by a few hours, where possible. In most cases, even an hour or two is enough to make sure there is frequent communication.  

39. Meet in person occasionally even if your work is fully remote 

“Over the pandemic this was not possible”, says Office Manager Suzanne Daly, “but meeting in person even infrequently is good for team members. It’s a chance to socialise and talk about non-work things”

40. Make mentorship accessible 

One thing that comes more naturally in an office setting is mentorship. It can be much more challenging for younger, less experienced team members to reach out for help if they have to do so through digital communication. Acknowledge this, and try to set something up that works for your teams. Perhaps you could do monthly or weekly workshops or knowledge sharing sessions, or you could set up a formal mentorship programme. 

Photo by nappy on Pexels

41. Make your workspace work for you 

“Music!” says  Regina Martins, director of agile42 South Africa. “I work well with music… so I do!” 

And it’s not just about music. Choose to make your workspace work for you! On your remote days you have the chance to make your workspace whatever you want it to be. Maybe you like the temperature set low, or loud music, or maybe you prefer absolute silence. It’s a unique chance to set up the space that works for you, without having to consider colleagues. 

Photo by seyfi durmaz on Pexels

42. Don’t replicate existing bad practices 

If you’re just adjusting to a hybrid setup, or even fully remote, it’s a good time to take stock and improve. Ask yourself if there are redundancies, waste, too many meetings, or other factors curbing productivity and causing fatigue. And if there are, take the chance to do something about it.  

Panel Discussion | Humanizing Hybrid Work

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, trends like “The Great Resignation” have kicked off a long overdue conversation about hybrid and remote work, and how to do this well. For example, some hybrid workers complain that they go to the office to log on to Zoom or Teams only to spend the rest of the day with their headphones on because the rest of their team is at home. A lot of people feel disconnected from their teams and that they are missing out on the human element of work.  agile42’s coaches recently discussed this in the Humanizing Hybrid Work webinar.

Watch now | Humanizing Hybrid Work

At agile42, we’ve worked in hybrid and remote setups for over 15 years, and we specialize in helping to build more effective and resilient teams. In this panel discussion, our Agile coaches, Regina Martins, Debbie Hishin, and Daniel Lynn offer a different perspective by focusing on the human element of hybrid work and by using the four Agile values as an anchor point for this discussion. Watch as they unpack the complexities of this conversation, delving into the pros and cons of various working arrangements, and share the innovative solutions they’ve come up with to make things go more smoothly. 

Stay in the loop about upcoming webinars by joining our mailing list 

Five key takeaways from the webinar

1. Make use of goal setting and team agreements

According to coach and director of agile42 South Africa, Regina Martins, goal-setting has helped her and her teammates communicate effectively. In fact, goal setting can be used for organizational change. They are very explicit about their goals and co-created them to make sure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same things. Being face-to-face is not a prerequisite for being more effective. Virtual interactions and the value obtained from these interactions can be as effective as those that take place in person if you’re aligned on agreements and goals. 

2. Be intentional about hybrid working

We discovered through this discussion that people have many different definitions of hybrid work. For some people, it means going to the office some days, and for others, it means that some people are together while others are at home. While there are varying instances and definitions of hybrid work, our coaches agreed that we should be intentional about it. Collaboration that requires lots of creativity and constructive conflict benefits from being in one room. So, things like design, strategy, and goal-setting could be good opportunities for people to meet in person. Another option is to hold your Scrum events (excluding the Daily Scrum) in person. Make sure that your in-person days are centered around building connections rather than going about your day-to-day tasks. 

3. Human connection is key 

What a lot of people seem to lack in hybrid setups is human interaction and connection. There are many ways to overcome this, such as team-building activities or using tools that encourage collaborations, such as a virtual whiteboard or Miro. Agile coach, Debbie Hishin, also shared that a camera-on policy is a good idea to make sure we are picking up on non-verbal communication. Some other ideas could be to use a team notice board or a kudos channel. As a leader, make some time to check in with colleagues and see how they are feeling.  

Just because there is no office doesn’t mean there can’t be any office banter.  Get creative with ways to connect. Debbie Hishin suggests trying a GIF Friday where you can only reply with GIFs! 

Lastly, when you do meet in-person, make sure these sessions are geared towards human connection. So that we can build trust and make sure relationships are intact for when we work remotely. 

4. Always come back to your why – understanding people’s needs 

Many companies are asking employees to return to the office which has been met with mixed responses. If you are unsure about new policies or what will work in the long term, it always comes back to your “why”. Ultimately it should be about meeting the needs of our employees. Are these needs being met in the office or at home? Just like companies need to think about why clients would buy something, they should also think about why their employees would buy into working from home or at the office. What are the selling points for people, and then try to work around that.

Leaders in remote and dispersed environments need to understand these needs and make sure they are creating a safe environment for people to perform their best. This is where Agile leadership can make a meaningful impact.

Recommended online course: Agile Leadership Foundations

5. Know your boundaries 

US-based coach, Daniel Lynn, shares that empathy is very important in remote settings, and this means understanding people’s boundaries. Zoom fatigue is a very real thing, so make sure you are regularly taking breaks. Often, to make up for the lack of face-to-face connection, people get bombarded with meetings. In this case, it’s important that people feel empowered to say no and have boundaries.  

It’s also the case that not everyone wants to participate in work events after hours, and that’s okay too. Just because we are working in hybrid settings doesn’t mean we should over-commit or feel that we have to prove anything. 

Browse the agile42Agile Certifications

agile42 offers Scrum courses, as well as:

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Daniel Goleman was the first to popularize the idea of emotional intelligence and demonstrate evidence of its impact within organizations. He passionately argued for recognizing the relationship between someone’s emotional state and the actions driven by it, and how those actions in turn impact others and the organization (essentially the people they work with), whether positively or negatively.

Emotional intelligence consists of four fundamental skills 


Emotional intelligence is the ability to read and understand your own emotions as well as recognize their impact on work performance and relationships. It also includes the ability to realistically evaluate your strengths and limitations.


It is the ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses under control, consistently display integrity and manage yourself and your responsibilities. It also includes the skill to adjust to changing situations and a readiness to seize opportunities.

Social awareness

 It is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, understand their perspective, and take an active interest in their concerns. It is also the ability to read the currents of organizational life, build decision networks, and navigate politics.

Social skill

It is the ability to inspire, influence and develop others, for example the ability to de-escalate conflicts and facilitate resolutions. It includes skills of listening and sending clear, convincing, and well-tuned messages, as well as cultivating and maintaining a web of relationships.

Emotional Intelligence in leaders

These are all essential qualities for leaders, even though not everyone seems to realize it. Many organizations still use a fundamentally wrong metaphor to describe how work works. We keep thinking of our organizations as machines, where defined inputs are transformed into defined outputs, through defined processes and well designed connections of cogs. Is this the real nature of our organizations? How can such a machine adapt to ever changing circumstances and market needs? 

Recommended reading: A Complete Guide to Agile Leadership

We will have better chances at building agile and flexible organizations, which are more equipped to succeed in the world today, if we start describing them as living organisms. Organizations are networks of people, and human beings are not interchangeable and programmable machines. It is impossible to force things on people, but good things can be achieved by leveraging people’s natural talents and their intrinsic willingness to do a good job.

Effective leadership is more of a social activity than an engineering task. 

How do you increase your Emotional Intelligence?

 Here are some simple tools I recommend if I am asked for a suggestion by the leaders I coach:

  • Journaling, self-reflection and peer feedback can be very useful to spot our red flags and understand their impact on work performance and relationships, as well as learn how to keep disruptive emotions under control. 
  • 360-degree feedback is, feedback from many peers, leaders, and colleagues, rather than a single manager in a top-down approach, and it can be very helpful. It helps you learn how to sense other people’s emotions and understand their perspective.

Recommended for you: Learn the skills to help you develop your emotional intelligence online course on Agile Leadership Foundations 

Servant leadership

The future of work has arrived faster than we could have imagined in our post-pandemic world. One of the defining characteristics of this modern workplace is a shift away from traditional decision-making hierarchies. In today’s workplace, it makes more sense for decisions to be made by those individuals closest to the problem at hand. Teams are self-managed, meaning they decide what to work on, when to work on it, and how to best achieve the requested outcome. This shift comes with new demands on leadership, and effective leaders cultivate the values of servant leadership. 

Expectations on leaders have shifted alongside these changes. The very best leaders are not telling anyone what to do. Instead, they are removing impediments, aligning stakeholders, building trusting relationships, coaching, providing feedback, developing people’s skills and building the capabilities of the organization. They basically create the conditions for individuals and teams to perform at their best.

What is servant leadership? 

Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy and set of practices in which the leader puts the needs of the employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Robert K. Greenleaf first popularized the term “servant leadership” in The Servant as Leader, an essay published in 1970. 

The term might sound like an oxymoron the first time you hear it. You may think that the teams are there to serve the leaders, but in fact, organizations can benefit more when things are the other way around. A Servant Leader should be asking themselves, “Do my actions help those I lead grow as persons? Do they, because of my actions, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become leaders?”

Recommended reading: A Complete Guide to Agile Leadership

The principles of servant leaders

According to Greenleaf, servant leaders cultivate 11 key virtues. These virtues are maybe even more essential now than they were in 1970. In the current world, leaders can’t be effective without trust from people they are supposed to lead, and these virtues ultimately build trust.


They have a keen sense for what is happening around them. They know what’s going on and will rarely be fooled by appearances.


They are willing to sacrifice egocentric interests for the benefit of others. They have a natural calling to serve, which cannot be taught.


They believe that an organization needs to function as a community. They instill a sense of community spirit in the workplace.


They have the ability to conceptualize the world, events and possibilities. They encourage others to dream great dreams and avoid getting bogged down by day-to-day realities and operations.


They understand and empathize with others’ circumstances and problems and have well-developed emotional intelligence.


They are able to anticipate future events. They are adept at picking up patterns in the environment and seeing what the future will bring. They can anticipate consequences of decisions with great accuracy.


They believe that all people have something to offer beyond their tangible contributions. They work hard to help people in a number of ways..


They have appreciation for the emotional health and spirit of others. They are good at facilitating a healing process of relationships, when necessary..


They are receptive and genuinely interested in the views and input of others.


They are able to convince others to do things, rather than relying on formal authority. They never force others to do things.


They show a desire to prepare the organization to contribute to the greater good of society, making a positive difference in the future.

Recommended for you: Learn how to be a servant leader in our online course on Agile Leadership Foundations 

How to build trust as a servant leader

I learned that one of the most effective ways to build trust is to demonstrate that you truly care about people and you are committed to their growth. Most people want to feel they are valued as individuals; that they are heard and not judged. Ultimately, it is about making the workplace more humane and fit for human beings. Servant leadership is necessary to build leadership as a diffused organizational capability, or in other words, to make everyone a potential leader. 

Build trust as servant leader

The challenges of servant leadership

It is really difficult for managers who have learnt all they know in a traditional environment to change their fundamental leadership beliefs. They might be scared to let things go, or insecure because they don’t yet know how to contribute in a new and different way. They might be afraid to become useless or redundant, and they might feel lost since they might never have seen a real example of servant leadership before. A lot of the feedback they receive is what not to do, but there aren’t always great resources to help them find what to do. Finally, managers might be so used to pushing their ideas and instructions on their teams, that they end up pushing and forcing these new ideas too fast, with the unintended consequence of frustration and dissatisfaction of the people involved. 

How to practice a servant leadership approach

By coaching dozens of leaders, I learned that the following behaviors can help leaders understand and practice a servant leadership approach:

  • Listen to your employees’ fears with compassion and offer them support in trying different behavioral patterns, one at a time.
  • Help them visualize the benefits of applying those patterns, for example collecting feedback from people, through storytelling
  • Take action to build mutual trust between management and developers: for instance, encourage leaders to be present where the work happens and practicing MBWAL (Management By Walking Around and Listening) instead of MBSR (Management By Status Report)
  • Encourage peer support and peer feedback among leaders: things are less difficult if done together.

Want to learn more about leadership? 

Companies are investing more than ever in leadership development, and highly trained, skilled leaders are indispensable to the modern workforce. Agile42 offers a number of training, coaching, mentoring and other services. You could start with the Golden Standar d for Agile leaders, namely Certified Agile Leadership Essentials for Team and Organization Leaders (CAL-E+T+O) training, which we do in-person and remotely, or contact us for information about our other services.

50 Ways to Wreck Collaboration and What to do About it

What do chickens, defensiveness and collaboration have in common? I think that was a question which certainly peaked our audiences interest. Our latest webinar on “50 Ways to Wreck Collaboration and What to do About it” was a great success. Regina Martins, Mariet Visser and myself, were so pleased to see so many join the session!

As you heard in the last webinar of this series, collaboration is not a team sport - initially! Effective collaboration is key to building strong relationships & navigating the working landscape. Let’s recap what collaboration is. Regina referenced researchers' Vreede, Briggs & Kolfschoten (2008) definition of collaboration as “collaboration is making joint effort towards a goal”. It sounds simple but it is deceptively so. In reality it is not so easy to get right.

Regina explains in her blogpost why she believes collaboration isn't just a learned skill, instead it requires an intimate knowledge of our own defensive behaviours. By being self-aware we can recognise when our behaviour is creating blockers to forming collaborative relationships. During her presentation, she tapped into 50 of these defensive behaviours. Regina ran a poll with the audience on some of these behaviours and it was interesting to learn which of these behaviours were the most common:

  • withdraw into deathly silence
  • sarcasm
  • high charge of energy in the body
  • fast breathing/heatbeat
  • wanting the last word

I think many of us can certainly relate to these.

As a guest in this webinar, Mariet delved into techniques & tips to improve collaboration. She mentions that collaboration is a skill we constantly need to work at and is something which evolves over time. As our context and the people with whom we work shifts, so does how we collaborate.

Our way of working together is not constant and is heavily influenced by our surroundings. For many of us over the past year, our surroundings have shifted from mostly in-person collaboration settings, to having to collaborate virtually. This has subsequently changed how many of our teams operate. - Mariet Visser

It is important to have a good collaborative environment, but how do we create one? Now more than ever before, Mariet thinks it comes down to being really explicit about how important collaboration is to the organization and to the team. These suggestions could act as a good starting point in creating a sound collaborative environment:

  • By creating transparency around what we do and what we want to achieve.
  • Having a shared vision, a shared goal, and collectively planning and executing the work that needs to happen in line with that goal.
  • Co-creating a working agreement with the team.
  • Frequently reflecting with the team on how we're working together to allow for continuous improvement.
  • Pairing on work where possible - this adds perspective & diversity.

You can read more tips and tricks from the blogpost & video of Mariet published prior to the webinar.

We shared some useful links with you during the live session, and I would like to share them again with you here in this post. Let’s start with our upcoming and past webinars, which you can find here on our website. Feel free to share around the recordings with friends/colleagues who missed the live sessions with us. 

We also mentioned our ICAgile Team Facilitation Certification (ICP-ATF) training designed to equip you with the necessary skills to create environments of high collaboration, passionate engagement, and where self-organization thrives. Mariet will be running the next remote training in May - we hope to see you there!

ICAgile Team Facilitation Certification


Stay up to date with all things Agile by following us on LinkedIn and subscribing to our monthly newsletter (scroll to bottom of page to sign up). As mentioned during the webinar, we’re launching our free agile42 Community! Join over a thousand agilists from around the world with a huge diversity of experiences, backgrounds and culture. Expand your toolbox within this unique, remote learning community.

If you missed the live session, don't panic! The recording is available online.
Feel free to watch it again and share with your network.
It is also available on YouTube.


Below you will find the slides. Please also feel free to share around.

We hope you enjoyed the session and that we see you in our upcoming webinars. If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact us at any time!

The best way to collaborate effectively: Part 2

Up next in our “collaboration” series, we have agile42 coach & trainer, Mariet Visser. Mariet is passionate about helping teams & organisations grow & succeed in their Agile journey. Being an ICAgile Authorised Instructor and trainer of our ICP-ATF classes, she is well versed in teaching how best to design meetings/workshops for better collaboration and to enable stronger focus on decisive outcomes. As such, we were keen to hear her take on the new collaborative environment we are finding ourselves in.

You can watch the full interview here:

What can you tell us about collaboration?

It’s a skill we constantly need to work at and is something which evolves over time. As our context and the people with whom we work shifts, so does how we collaborate. Our way of working together is not constant and is heavily influenced by our surroundings. For many of us over the past year, our surroundings have shifted from mostly in-person collaboration settings, to having to collaborate virtually. This has subsequently changed how many of our teams operate.

Do you think collaborating is more difficult now?

Absolutely. I think collaboration heavily relies on trust and our ability to be open & honest with one another; something that can be much more difficult to achieve in a virtual setting. A year ago, most of our collaboration happened in-person, now we need to collaborate virtually and that’s another skill we need to learn and hone. We need to adapt and find new ways in which to collaborate. In my experience it’s really our social relationships that help us to succeed in collaborating, so maintaining them virtually is a challenge. 

How do we create a collaborative environment?

Now more than ever before, I think it comes down to being really explicit about how important collaboration is to the organization and to the team. 

  • By talking about it.
  • By putting structures in place for collaboration.
  • Exploring ways in which we can collaborate.
  • By modelling the behaviour we want to see as leaders.
  • Leading by example.
  • Making it a part of who we are.

We often today see organisations designing their physical spaces for improved collaboration, having huddle spaces, colourful relaxed and less formal spaces for individual or group use etc. We need to be equally conscious about designing our virtual space for improved collaboration. For instance using a tool that enables variance in how we’re able to engage at a communication level, such as Zoom with it’s breakout rooms, offering us the ability to chat as one large group, or split out into smaller groups and/or have pair conversations when necessary.

From a work perspective, it’s important to make use of tools which enable synchronous collaboration between colleagues. For example, Google Suite or Miro are great online visual collaboration platforms which we at agile42 make use of internally as well as with our clients.

Watch the recording of Mariet's webinar on "50 Ways to Wreck Collaboration and What to do About it".

*Click here to read Part 1 blog post* 

The best way to collaborate effectively: Part 1

ICAgile Team Facilitation Certification

This month, we will be launching our new monthly themed approach. Each month we will pick a hot topic where you will be treated to videos, blog posts & webinars from our awesome agile42 coaches. 

Up first for March is, all things "collaboration". Effective collaboration is key to building strong relationships & navigating the working landscape. If you have a burning topic you would like us to cover, please do get in touch!

Our South African based coach & trainer, Regina Martins, kicks off the first of a two part video style interview. We asked her a couple of questions, giving you a sneak peak into what our March webinar has in store for you. But first let’s recap what collaboration is. In our first webinar on collaboration, Regina referenced researchers Vreede, Briggs & Kolfschoten (2008) definition of collaboration as “collaboration is making joint effort towards a goal”. It sounds simple but it is deceptively so. In reality it is not so easy to get right. Collaboration is about:

  • Having a win-win mindset and staying focused on mutual gains
  • Creating an environment where people feel safe to deal directly with problems
  • Taking responsibility for the choices one makes
  • Being aware of yourself and others

As you can see from the points above, successful team collaboration is first and foremost about the individuals in the team.

Regina explains why she believes collaboration isn't just a learned skill, instead it requires an intimate knowledge of our own defensive behaviours. By being self-aware we can recognise when our behaviour is creating blockers to forming collaborative relationships. She will be tapping into 50 of these defensive behaviours in her webinar.

Lastly, we asked her what she felt the connection was between defensiveness and collaboration. When we're defensive, our IQ drops by 20 points and the last thing we want to do at this point is to collaborate. You may want to retreat, shout at the person, or engage in conflict – ultimately collaboration goes out the window!

You can watch the full interview recording below:

Watch the recording of Regina's webinar on "50 Ways to Wreck Collaboration and What to do About it".

We hope you found this video valuable. Stay tuned for Part 2 later this month!