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Agility – the superpower of the modern employee

Superheroes have seen a rather big rise in popularity – whether they are from the DC or Marvel universes, their stories fill cinema seats and bring in big revenues. They are very different and have various skills – Superman can fly, Spiderman can weave, the Hulk is incredibly strong and green, Ironman is extremely tech savvy while Aquaman is exquisite in handling a trident. That’s only to name a few.

But all superheroes (and meta humans) have one extraordinary trait in common – they are fast. Since they are required to save the world on a daily basis, it’s crucial that they get where they need to be in due time. And with situations being rather hairy all the time, they need to be able to process a lot of information and quickly make the best decisions.

It’s no coincidence that all these extraordinary characters are first and foremost agile - it is the superpower all of us need in today’s rapidly changing world.

3 Steps in developing employee agility

Organizations need their employees to be agile and strive to provide the appropriate tools and training programs for this to happen. Here are the three basic skills necessary to develop agility.

  1. Listening

    It may sound simple. Students have to develop their listening skills from a very early age and most of them do so without a hitch. What’s important to keep in mind is that real listening is made up of three different levels and one must master all of them in order to become agile.

    • Listen to speak – this first level is the one everyone has mastered. It’s not as much listening as it is preparing a come-back to the conversation. Instead of taking in what the other is saying, we are thinking about what to say next and this is why very many misunderstandings arise.
    • Listen to hear – this is about actively paying attention to what is being said. People usually do this if they have some motivation – the subject is really interesting or there is something to be gained from the conversation. While this comes naturally on occasions, it can also be cultivated by self-motivation to pay attention to everyone.
    • Listen to understand – the deepest level of listening comes naturally to very few. Usually it takes both motivation and practice. At this level we are not only paying attention to what others are saying, but also to what they truly mean. People say things all the time but it often happens that their words don’t also convey what they feel or think.
  2. Being empathetic

    There is a lot of talk about empathy, what it is and how important it proves in interpersonal relationship. Yet for all its popularity, not many people manage to master it. There are a few things one can do to become more understanding of others:

    • Having multicultural experiences. There is no better way of truly knowing ‘otherness’ than getting immersed in a totally different culture. Travelling to non-touristic places is the optimal version for doing this but if that’s not possible, one can read books of exotic authors and watch movies or documentaries about various cultures. The key is not to judge but rather try to understand.
    • Understanding one’s own feelings first. The recommendation to “know yourself” dates back to Roman antiquity. While back then they didn’t dwell a lot in psychology, the Delphic maxim encourages introspection. In order to be able to truly be empathetic with teammates and work best with them, the individual must first be in sync with his own thoughts and feelings; mindfulness and meditation are good methods for achieving this.

    • Read more: Considering mindfulness training for increased employee productivity

    • Using emotional intelligence. The concept refers to the ability to recognize and understand emotions in oneself and others. It helps in making informed decisions, solve problems and ensure positive communication and collaboration. People with higher EQ scores have better social skills and are excellent team players.
  3. Navigating uncertainty

    Nothing in business is static these days. The key to not only staying afloat but also moving forward is being able to make the best of a situation one has volatile footing in. Apart from the obvious need for keeping one’s cool under pressure, there is a useful checklist of things to do in order to make the best of a hairy situation:

    • Identify the nature of the crisis and figure out what it needs – a different approach, more skilled people, resources;
    • Come up with an immediate response to it and communicate it to the team even if there may be modifications made along the way;
    • As the initial strategy unfolds, make a point of evaluating and adjusting it to fit the evolving crisis.

    Dealing with uncertainty is no easy task and though the items mentioned above may provide some structure to the approach, resilience is badly needed. It’s crucial to not only ‘hang in there’ but also move forward and work for a positive outcome. It is also compulsory to navigate uncertainty as a team, constantly listening to the input of others in order to find the optimal solutions.


Organizations can’t afford to be static and so every individual in them has to train for that absolutely necessary superpower: agility.

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