How the Pandemic enriched 1:1s with Leaders

Good Relationships create a sense of Belonging

The pandemic has been hard on all of us. Those of us that love in-person & serendipitous conversations have missed out on a lot. Those of us “people people” have missed out on the energy we get from everyone around us. I have had several conversations with friends in the agile community who felt disconnected from their work colleagues over the last 2 years.

My experience has been a little different.

Since March of 2020 my connections with work colleagues have deepened. Why is that?

I joined my current organization (Paciolan) a few months before the pandemic. We valued in person collaboration and practiced it often. We were fortunate to have 85–90% of our team collocated. This is a luxury in today’s times. Us PACs (if I may call us that) love collaborating. So, just like the rest of the world we were faced with a challenge when everyone was rapidly asked to work remote.

As a new coach in the organization, it was important for me build relationships at all levels, especially within product engineering since that is who I served primarily. This is my sweet spot since I enjoy relationship building, but how was I going to do this effectively in a remote setting?

Creating a System for Connections

I needed a way to sense the needs of individuals, teams, and the collective organization. I had to meet with engineering managers/leads, product, engineering leaders and some business leaders occasionally as well to do this right.

Here is how I started:

  1. Set an intention: My intention was clear. It was to build relationships and trust.
  2. Created a structure: With the intention set, I then created a structure for our discussions. I wanted to understand how the leader was doing, what struggles they were facing, how they were growing & if their team needed support.
  3. Setup a Cadence: Finally, I picked a cadence of how often we will meet — starting with a bi-weekly connect since we needed it early in the pandemic & then gravitated to a monthly connect after we settled into a rhythm with conversations.

So, nothing extraordinary so far. Yet, there was something different about these 1:1s. What was it?

Creating a Structure for Conversations

What made these 1:1 conversations special? No interruptions.

It seems like a simple factor, but it’s not. When there are no interruptions in a conversation, you can get into a state of flow. Both parties are present in the conversation — connecting, brainstorming, or co-creating a way forward. It’s a beautiful state to be in. Most of the 1:1s since March of 2020 have felt like this. There was an occasional ping on slack or email for something urgent during some 1:1s, and if it was an urgent issue that needed attention we just re-scheduled to a better time.

If we had been in person at the office, having a discussion in a meeting room or sitting in the café next to our kitchen — someone would invariably walk by, want to grab your attention & interrupt the conversation. Since this was over zoom, it was a private conversation & there was no chance for anyone to interrupt. What an unexpected gift of a virtual meeting! This aspect of no interruptions made the quality of our conversations stellar.

Here is what we touched on during 1:1s:

  1. Space between: What has transpired in the time between the last connect? What did we need to share with each other?
  2. Impediment/struggle as a leader: What challenges was the leader facing that I could support? What perspective could I add that would help?
  3. Team support: What support does the leader’s team need from coaching that I need to be aware of? Is this an organizational gap or something specific to this team that needs attention?

What this is Evolving into

Like anything, this system needed to be fine-tuned as time went on.

  • The communications in 2020 started because of a need to understand the leaders in my organization & to belong.
  • 2021 was more of the same with some shifts in cadence based on individual needs & sensing organizational needs.
  • In 2022 things are shifting again. We are going to be faced with challenges with our lives getting back to some normalcy, transitioning back into office work, our kids going back to in person school etc. There will be some ripple effects. It will cause the structure of our day to change, we will have new constraints, and maybe the need to connect will not be as strong as we will start to see people again! Or will it?

What I Reflected on

Regardless of what the shifts will be, it will be for the best. I have enjoyed making deeper connections & I hope most will last as we transition back into a different pace in our lives. Maybe the communications will not be as often, but when they do happen, I believe they will still be meaningful. The connections that matter will last.

After all, if our intention is true the universe will see it through. What I reflected on is that during the pandemic, I did not let the lack of in-person communications affect me, as much as I missed people’s energy. I found another way to sense & tune into energy. I listened more intently; I paused in conversations & followed my intuition to deepen the connections.

What I focused on is — having the intention, making the time & creating a structure for meaningful connections. The gift of a virtual meeting created a space with “no interruptions” and enhanced the conversations. It helped us belong during a time when everything was uncertain.

How was your experience during the pandemic? Did you notice how it affected your connections?

The best way to create #belonging is together; collectively, collaboratively & consistently.

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Lakshmi Ramaseshan

Lakshmi Ramaseshan

45 Followers

I am passionate about growing people, building “psychological safety” within teams and organizations.