How to be AGILE at Work: Stepping Up When Needed as a SKILL (Dec ’21, wk 3 Companion Article)

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Agility, while in the top 20 most annoying business buzzwords of 2021, really shouldn’t be one we take lightly (but we often do).

Truthfully, it’s often used in vague ways, creating vague commitments and therefore doesn’t produce the results we needed by ‘requiring it’ in the first place.

Buzzwords get a bad rap for one big reason: they are EUPHEMISMS. Pretty words, yes, but they’re actually just vague and harmless sounding catchphrases for things that are too blunt or too harsh to say outright.

Example A? ‘Downsizing’ or ‘Restructuring Event’ instead of ‘cuts’ or ‘layoffs’.

“We need you to be a more agile manager.”

“We are looking for people who are agile.”


Honestly, what organizations want are employees who can do more, accept change quickly and be ok with new challenges in support of the team or organizational goals.

There. Laid bare…. the blunt truth.

So why not just say that? Well, it means showing vulnerability on the part of the entire organization, which is often not the most comforting or confidence boosting action to take when asking a candidate to join your team.

Instead, we use words like ‘agile’ rather than saying ‘….So, listen. If things get crazy… and unexpected events impact our plan for success, we’re going to need you to be ok doing more. You know, working in other areas and possibly taking on more responsibility….ok? Oh, no, sorry… this doesn’t come with additional compensation.’

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Not the best speech, right?

Well, we won’t be using that lovely buzzword over and over. You’re welcome!

Instead, let’s think about what it really means and just call it what it is – stepping up.

It’s the reality we all live within at our jobs every day, so why not just look it straight in the face and deal with it? And, if we have to deal with it anyway, what if we could use it to our advantage? AND use it in the right way to empower, develop, promote. and ENGAGE others differently?

Let’s dig in.

In this episode (if you haven’t watched or listened, you can find the condensed video HERE and the podcast with more discussion HERE), Edward takes us through 5 easy steps you can take (or keep in mind) when:

  1. You, as a leader or elevated employee, need to get your team to STEP UP
  2. As an individual, you are asked to step up and need to remember that doing this is more often than not a GREAT OPPORTUNITY for you to use to your career advantage


First, before getting into these two breakdown topics, Edward walks us through a few things to think about.

Stepping up in the workplace can be looked at in many ways, and not always in the best light, honestly. The key is twofold. 1. is identifying the NEED to step up: is it for a promotion opportunity? Are you possibly filling a critical gap in your workplace? Or is it because you are invested in your job, are satisfied and great in the role you have and want to succeed/the team to succeed? And 2. understanding the reasoning behind why you may have been asked or told to step up: am I not performing at the standard or at my potential in my current role? Do I need development possibly for advancement?

As an individual, you can walk yourself through these questions as they apply to yourself.

As a leader, however, you must apply them to each member of your team… or your team as a whole.

Topic #1: How To Get Your Team To Step Up When Needed

The first thing to do is take a look at your team…. and ask yourself: ‘is everyone happy with their job? Have I given 100+ precent of my abilities to lead and develop this team? Am I the right leader or resource for individuals on my team?’

Asking yourself these question when you lead teams helps to keep you focused on your team and forces you to look at each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. By doing this, you are more able to do what is required to make sure each team member has the resources they needed to stay motivated.

1. Hire & Transition In other words: know your people! This is key when you are hiring new people onto a team you are leading. Ask yourself: will they be an asset to your team, are they the right fit to build upon a strong team or will they motivate a weak team? When you are transitioning someone out do not procrastinate, time is precious when you want your team to step up. You need to have a plan for those that are just not motivated. Knowing when to start the process of coaching up or coaching out is very important.

2. Empowerment is key: know your team’s skill sets – both strengths and weaknesses. Use the strengths to motivate and the weaknesses to develop.

3. Clear & Consistent Goals: Everyone needs to be aligned with the company and your expectation should be clear and easy to understand so that your team sees how they align with the organization. Are you showing them how what you ask of them aligns with the bigger goals of your location or organization?

4. Let them know ‘They Matter’: Making sure you team is able to connect the dots of their day-to-day tasks to the company’s goals gives them a sense of pride in the work they do. We all know that the more pride individuals have in their work place the more likely they will go above and beyond to show it.

5. Teach, Develop, & Promote: The best way to get your team to step up is to invest in your people. The best leaders in most successful leaders’ careers were those that taught new skills and helped to engage others to want to put those new skills into practice QUICK. Your investment will be a sure pay off when you start to see individuals on your team move forward their career path or, for those that are happy in the roles they currently have, will continue to identify and understand when there is a need for them to step up. It begins to happen organically!

Topic #2: How Do I Step Up?

1. Be Confident: knowing what you are capable of and knowing where you can truly show up and save the day due to your confidence in your skillset…that is a HUGE WIN for your ability to showcase yourself and advocate for your career goals. Supervisors notice those who are confident in their skills and cannot help but be drawn to those individuals based on their commitment to their team’s success.

2. Know Your Role & Be the Best at it: Knowing your role, the part it plays and being an EXPERT IN IT? That is a highly valuable individual! BUT if you step up and let your regular work slip? That might not be the best thing to do… for the individual and their career goals, or for the success of the team overall. In this case, it’s important that you are great at your initial job order to step up when needed. An individual that can identify the appropriate time and be able to dedicate the time to go above and be beyond can only do so when they have mastered the role they are in. Stepping up should not be an excuse to let other work slide. ….. (I am sorry that I couldn’t do ‘X’ in my job because I was working on ‘Y’ outside of my job duties.)

3. Think Clear & Be Kind when communicating: You are best marketing tool! A lot of times there may not be a leader or someone around to see you step up. It’s unfortunate but true due to the size and scope of staffing models out there today. Not because of your supervisor not wanting to be present, but they may have other things on their plate that limit their time with you face to face.  Being able to communicate your contributions to your leaders in a clear and kind way is important. Never come across as if you did someone a favor because you had to.  

4. Be Reliable: This is HUGE. Never over commit yourself! If you set a deadline stick to it! Show up when you say you will be there and be present!

5. Create Meaningful Relationships instead of networking: We are very familiar with being told that networking is important. However, the approach to the process of networking becomes more about someone’s title and their status rather than about how they can help your career. Most individuals that invest in a meaningful relationship with a mentor, more often than not, find that individual is someone who was on a similar path to one they wanted to be on. Look at the path they are on, if you can learn from them AND if you can find a way to give value back to them and help them along their path? Well, that’s a meaningful relationship that has career benefits for BOTH. Seek that, not a title.

This is not always your actual leader/manager.

But a good leader will push you towards building a meaningful relationship with someone that inspires you to be invested in your growth. This investment in return will motivate you in your current space to step up when needed. 

To review, “Being Agile”, although a euphemism for doing more and being ready to potentially be thrust into the unknown every now and then, DOESN’T NEED TO BE LOOKED AT SKEPTICALLY.

If you (as a leader or an individual) approach ‘stepping up’ the right way, it can be VERY beneficial to your career, your results and your satisfaction at work.

Now what about you?

How do YOU step up at work? How do YOU get your teams to step up when it’s needed?

Let us know if you have any other tips or actions that help YOU to step up (or help you engage your team to do so) in the comments below!

Next Episode: How to Set Realistic & Actionable Goals at Work (that ACTUALLY lead to success!)

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