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Coaching in the Time of Pandemic

Coaching in the Time of Pandemic

The Conversation Flowed Photo by Ahmed Avais, sketchnoter.

Guest posters: Allison Pollard, notes, and Ahmed Avais, graphic.

Organizations have demonstrated extraordinary agility in 2020 as they’ve adapted to working remotely, yet many agile teams need more support in reaching their target Fluency zone. Our community of licensed Agile Fluency facilitators came together to exchange ideas on coaching in the time of pandemic.

Shifting the Energy

Michael Tardiff kicked off the session with a fun check-in and then shared his thoughts on creating the virtual team environment. We acknowledged that the challenges of coaching go beyond adapting to remote work; as people may be more fearful, overwhelmed, and fatigued during the pandemic. It’s easy for teams and coaches alike to feel pressure to go from virtual meeting to virtual meeting, but does that mean we’re delivering with high quality?

Asking wacky questions as check-in questions can provide energy to groups and create human connection. Michael’s goofy facilitation of our discussion demonstrated how a group can feed off the unexpected. We found ourselves laughing together and taking breaks to stand up or spin around, which kept our engagement up. Two of the biggest takeaways from our community discussion were to keep it human and model goofiness with our teams.

Teams and Tools

One of the biggest difficulties is knowing how teams are functioning now—finding out involves scheduling a meeting and asking questions because we are not able to observe it as coaches. Teams might not realize what they’re missing in working collaboratively now that they are distributed.

The goal is not to replicate working together physically; working well in a distributed environment needs new ways of achieving the outcomes we want. Additional tools and configuration may be needed to visualize the work, support communication between team members, and ensure that product health and alerts are visible to the team. Creating virtual learning environments for teams could mean going back to their leadership to clarify the goals for the team and level of investment needed.

Leave Room for the Cream

Our final key takeaway was around self-care. We are human and feel pressure or fatigue working during a pandemic too. As coaches, we can serve our teams better by giving ourselves frequent breaks throughout the day.

Just as we leave room for cream in our coffee or tea, we can leave room in our calendars for us to reflect and recharge. Diana Larsen shared how a remote mobbing team held micro-retrospectives throughout the day and found it useful to make small adjustments to keep engagement strong. We can support teams, and ourselves, now by encouraging frequent pauses to reflect and try micro-retrospectives.