Remote Connections

By Tom Henschel, Executive CoachBerta was struggling with working at home. As a senior leader she felt responsible for a lot of people. As much as she loved her family, she felt called to to do her work. Moving her workspace into her basement helped.

She was determined that working at home wouldn’t dull her blade. It was important to her self-image that she be a high performer. Her internal setting pointed naturally to ‘highly productive.’ From a young age she had turned out floods of work. It was how she had risen through the ranks of every company she’d worked at. She wasn’t going to lose her edge now. 

In our coaching conversations, Berta spoke openly about the dark side of that drive. She knew that people thought she was great with tasks but not so great with people. She didn’t dispute the feedback and wanted to grow that ‘people part’ of herself. 

Berta had begun exploring her ‘people part’ with some new behaviors during her days in the office. For example, upon arrival in the morning, Berta was used to making a beeline to her office. Now she consciously chose to stop, to chat, to maybe get a coffee. She wasn’t sure it was making a difference, but she understood why it was important. She continued doing it even though it made her uncomfortable. 

Then, the coronavirus struck and work shifted overnight to being remote. In one day, the world changed and all those ‘people part’ opportunities were taken away.

On the first full work-at-home day, Berta had a video call with her team. She’d prepped for the call and had a long list of priorities and actions in order to ensure efficiencies. But as the team members saw each other on their screens, they began to chatter happily. They were so glad to see each other. Their pleasure in each other’s presence stopped her. 

For some time she just watched and listened. When she finally chose to speak, she ditched her list and told them how happy she was to see them. And how glad it made her that they were happy to see each other. 

Then, an idea floated that the team should start every day this way. Yes! said another person on the call, the first half hour of each day! And no work talk, just social! suggested someone else.

Telling me the story, Berta screwed up her face. “I thought, ‘Are you kidding me? Half-an-hour every day?’” she said. “But that’s not what I said. I thought about the people part of me and I thought, yes, of course, it’s the right thing to do. So I said yes. And it’s been great.” 

She went on, smiling fondly, “I think we actually are more productive during the day because of that half hour. Since all our doorway moments are gone, this is a different way of making those connections.” 

She said, “There’s a lot in the news about this – how important it is to stay connected during this isolation. I think this proves it!”

Berta and I are continuing our coaching conversations – by video, of course. She is finding that, with attention, her ‘people part’ can continue to grow, even remotely.

To learn more about leadership and the power of connecting with people — remotely or otherwise, schedule a consultation with Tom.