What is an agile worker, and what does an employee get out of developing agility?

Among the many skills that agility imparts, a keen eye for competition and disruption is key. Agile workers recognize their autonomy and can take initiative to manage everyday decisions in the workplace. They are adaptable and flexible, even when faced with challenges. Finally, given that agility now spans five generations of workers around the world, they can network and connect you and their organizations with relevant stakeholders and hit the ground running on new endeavors. 

With the rapid changes to modern workplace dynamics, demographics, and expectations, agile workers are a critical asset. They possess the core emotional and social intelligence that allow for creative problem-solving, teamwork, and success in such an environment. These include active listening, self-awareness, empathy, impartiality, and confidence. 

Emotional intelligence is itself a popular subject today, and its components are indeed the building blocks for an agile worker. The connection between these characteristics has not gone unnoticed. Wiley’s Agile Organization survey showed 97 percent of executives, managers, directors, and supervisors identifying an emotionally intelligent workforce as necessary for agility.

So, what are the correlations between agility and emotional intelligence?

A person’s emotional intelligence represents their capacity to understand the relational or emotional energy of a given set of circumstances and then act accordingly. Agility is more or less the same thing in a professional context, even when it presents a challenge to do so. Of course, everyone is adaptable to some degree. Agility, though, defines the ability to adapt beyond one’s own comfort zone. To give one example, it may be easy for an adaptable person to adjust when a big change occurs. However, if this change is ill-planned or poorly conceived, only someone with agility would know when and how to push back. Agile workers know how to stretch themselves to their limits and rise to difficult challenges, giving them the most available moves. Not only does this make them more valuable to any organization they’re working for, but it gives them the confidence to promote themselves and remain calm and collected in any situation. 

This kind of emotional intelligence does more than simply improve workplace productivity. It also makes for a more coherent team, reducing the kind of emotional wear-and-tear that has come to be expected from work. When a situation calls for assertiveness, a confident employee might rise to the occasion. But the same worker may feel stifled or confused when the circumstances require vulnerability. Learning to take on these many different mindsets allows an employee to to avoid the stress and immobilization caused by that confusion—or by a new manager, a new job description, or any of the other pivots that may occur. This employee will be happier and see greater job satisfaction, too.

To see a hypothetical example in the workplace, consider a typical day for Marlene:

  • 8:45 am – Marlene runs into a project lead on the walk into work, quickly pitching him a new idea and letting him know she’ll e-mail him the details. He’s impressed by her initiative.
  • 9:00 am – Marlene is having coffee with a member of the marketing team and is impressed by their ideas. She asks the coworker to lunch, expanding her office network.
  • 10:00 am – A teammate of Marlene’s seems to be struggling with the acquisition proposal they’re working on together. She asks him about his concerns, listens intently, lets him know she understands how he’s feeling and asks him some questions about how to proceed. He’s energized by her attentiveness.
  • 1:00 pm – At the monthly budget meeting, Marlene discovers that the money isn’t available for a new hire she’d requested. She’s frustrated, but she voices her support for another team’s expansion. The budget director recognizes her as a team player.
  • 3:00 pm – Marlene gets a call from a client, who is enthusiastically pitching a total overhaul of the project. Marlene is patient and receptive, but she doesn’t delay in reminding the client that the plan has already been in motion for some time. She recommends paring things down to a few key ideas. The client is reluctant at first, but he concedes that she’s right and thanks her for her time.
  • 3:30pm – At the team meeting, Marlene presents the plan she’s created to update their workflow, making it more efficient. As she feared, people are adamantly resistant to change. Instead of feeling defeated, Marlene takes the opportunity to remind her team of the problems they are facing, and how her plan addresses them. They begin to see things her way.
  • 4:30 pm – Before she leaves, Marlene gets called into the boss’ office. “Marlene, I need you to get that presentation done over the weekend so we can workshop it Monday,” she says. Marlene responds firmly. “I’m afraid that’s not possible for me. It will be done early next week with plenty of time for revisions. We’ll make it great!”

Some of these moments may seem trivial, but altogether, Marlene is demonstrating considerable agility. She is self-assured, outgoing, confident, empathetic, objective, and compassionate all at once. These are the sorts of skills that contribute to an agile workforce and an agile workplace. Marlene is an employee who can be trusted to take initiative, identify competition, pre-empt disruption, and grow a customer base, with energy left over.

Of course, this is an ideal hypothetical. No one can be all of these things all of the time. But by aiming for these ideals, and recognizing that we have these competencies, we set the stage for the growth that is critical to the modern agile work environment. 

In our next article, we will discuss The Value of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace.

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Lastly, if you’d like to watch an on-demand webinar on how to develop the EQ necessary to support your thriving agile culture with Everything DiSC Agile EQ, learn more here: https://carverassociates.com/on-demand-webinar-agility-starts-with-developing-eq/

Ty Miller is a Leadership Strategy Consultant at Carver & Associates. He Helps Leaders Cast A Vision, Align Their Teams To It, And Drive Execution Of That Vision.

Connect with Ty on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tymillerco/