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5 tips for dealing with tough conversations in agile teams

5 tips for dealing with tough conversations in agile

Hello developer pal!, glad to see you here.

Have you ever been working in a team, and suddenly a tough conversation with your team mate(s) is around the corner?, if you have, welcome to the team!, if you have not, be patient!, it is waiting for you!

One of these days, I was listening to a podcast, and I bumped into this topic, Dealing with tough conversations; I heard it and it caught my attention the fact that most of the items mentioned by the speaker match in agile teams, therefore I wanted to shared the episode, some principles and the similarities that came to my mind.

Show Me The Topics

The topics to be focused on are:

Disclaimer: In this post, I share my thoughts and make a summary down to 5 main points, not looking for a transcription from the episode, instead I unified some of the bullets which I think should be together for agile teams purposes.

Podcast Episode

You can find a direct link clicking in the link below:

Spotify: John C. Maxwell


Note: Not sponsoring this podcast, just wanted to share the episode in case you want to hear it before reading along.


Whether you heard the episode aforementioned or not, let me summarize it in 2 words: Care and Candor

In agile teams, the relation with your teammates could be established with these 2 principles in mind

  • Care: values the person; he/she is not only a team member, is a valuable person, someone you could end up interacting with on a daily basis even more than you do with your family and friends, and guess what?, it goes also the other way around, so let's value our teammates in the same way we want them to value us.

  • Candor: values the persons potential; aside of value your teammates for what they currently are, let's value them for what they could become, as a team, we all have a big responsibility, to reach our clients expectations, and after reaching them, go beyond!, alone we are not enough, but as a team we are, we can grow, learn more, expand hard/soft skills.


I found these next 5 points as the more important ones when working on agile teams:

Meet privately...NOW!

In agile teams time is everything!, time for plannings, time for understand the business expectations, time for developing, time for testing, etc. When having a disagreement, discrepancy, misunderstanding, the best time to aboard it is NOW.

The golden rule is to reach the other person(s) out ASAP in private, doing so, the scope of the conversation will be open for discussion between the parts of interest and close for outsiders.

Assume Good Motives

Giving the benefit of doubt is a MUST, when you are reached by a teammate, have a good attitude, it is good to remember that your teammates are a very important part of your life now, sometimes you interact with them even more than with your own family!, so it is better off to think that there are good reasons behind a meeting, a call, a chat message.

Offer-Receive specific and tangible observations explaining the consequences of certain things for the team

This is a tricky one, when you are the one reaching, keep in mind what is it that you have observed that could impact the team, and the negative impact of keeping that along; for instance, you schedule planning sessions, though you notice that your teammates are not participating, what could it be an approach?:

Observations =>

  • Lack of participation of a key member(s) during the planning session
  • Lack of opinions in topics related to certain critical functionality
  • Committing to a delivery with some gaps not discussed
  • Business thinking everything is "crystal clear"

Negative impact =>

  • Blurry requirements when starting the design/dev/qa phase
  • Misunderstandings since the creation of User Stories
  • Unplanned calls/meetings for clarifying requirements
  • Pressure on all areas right before end of sprint
  • Client upset for not reaching the commitments

This could be the hardest part of the conversation, some people or even you could not like that much to me questioned about your work, just keep in mind that feedback is an improvement opportunity, good or bad, no harsh feelings!

Look for common ground

I really like this sentence, look for common ground.

It seems like just words, but think about it, look for something, for what?, common ground, it means, let's look where we are more equals and less different, lets look for a common goal, for something beneficial for both or all of us.

Think it this way, we are a team, we are on a boat, as long as this boat keeps floating, we all keep floating, when it sinks, we all sink!, so let's leave aside our differences, let's wear each others shoes, be emphatic, and now let's look together for a target, a way to not repeat the same behavior and grow up as professionals.

Let's size us up and give our help accordingly

The more worth I see in you, the more help I express, and vice versa.

This is tricky, but see that the previous steps are a block-chain(pun intended) for end up in here:

  • if we talk as soon as a difference arise, it is because we care
  • if we assume good motives from each other, is because we care
  • if we flag each others points of improvement, is because we care
  • if we look for common ground instead of looking for who is right and who is wrong, it is because we care
  • then we can say we value the teammates(Care) and what they can become(Candor)


When treating another teammates as we expect to be treated, the tough conversation is less tough and more a conversation; maybe you could have another thoughts, let's discuss in a thread below!

Thanks for reading!

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