Podcast Ep. 65: Developing Manager Inclusion Habits in the Virtual Workplace

May 25, 2021

In this episode of The Forum Podcast, Kathy Kacher (Career/Life Alliance Services; The SMART Workplace), Latoya Burrell (Anderson Foundation), and Anu Mandapati (Talking Talent, Inc.) explore ways your organization can “up-skill” its managers to create excellent team cultures regardless of where managers and the team are working from.

Subscribe to our podcast on Apple PodcastSpotifyStitcherAnchor


Developing managers has been challenging organizations for decades. Often companies are so wrapped up in the urgent work of the day that they haven’t made the time or taken the time to help managers develop the competencies they need to be inclusive and competent in the ever-changing workplace. During the pandemic virtual and dispersed work has leapfrogged ahead at least 5 years and managers are doing their best to make this work, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at it. During this interactive session we will work through an assessment of your organization’s management skills, identify gaps and create actions that every company can take to begin up-skilling managers to not just lead, but to create excellent team cultures that enable their teams to succeed no matter where they are working.

Learning Outcomes
  • Define what manager inclusion habits looks on a dispersed team
  • Examine how the lack of good inclusion habits impact the employee experience in a remote workplace
  • Develop actions you can take to develop manager’s inclusion competencies in the new workplace

Sponsored by

black text spell best buy with a yellow price tag on the lower right side


The Forum on Workplace Inclusion 2021 podcast series is sponsored by Best Buy. more diversity in tech means more ideas that can change the world. Learn more@bestbuy.com slash more of this. Did you miss the opportunity to join us live at the 2021 forum annual conference, or maybe you’re hearing about the US largest workplace dei conference for the first time? Well, for the first time ever, we’re offering our complete 33rd annual conference workplace revolution on demand. The on demand package includes access to our workshops, book readings, half day featured sessions, art and wellness workshops, our marketplace of ideas exhibitor showcase, half day, higher education industry session, 16 trend talks, and five General Sessions. That’s the forum 2021 annual conference on demand visit Forum on Workplace inclusion.org. To get access today, we get to engage people advanced ideas, and ignite change because of the generous support from our community. If you find our resources meaningful or valuable, please consider supporting the forum today, visit Forum on Workplace inclusion.org slash donate. That’s Forum on Workplace inclusion.org slash donate. Thank you very much for your support and generosity. With that, I’d like to say thank you to all our listeners and subscribers, you help support the growth of the podcast and reach new listeners. If you like what you’re hearing on the forum podcast, please consider writing a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you’ve already written a review, thank you. Please consider sharing our podcast with a friend or family member or a colleague you think might find value in the content. Word of mouth is the best way the form grows. So thank you very much for listening and sharing. Thanks again and enjoy the show.

Ben Rue 01:45
Hello, and thank you for tuning in to the Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast series brought to you by Best Buy. I’m Ben Rue, program associate here at the forum. We’re looking forward to today’s podcast developing manager inclusion habits in the virtual workplace with Kathy Kacher of Career/Life Alliance Services: The SMART Workplace. Latoya Jones Burrell of the Anderson Foundation and Anu Mandapati of Talking Talent. Developing managers has been challenging organizations for decades. Often companies are so wrapped up in the urgent work of the day to day that they haven’t made the time or taking the time to help managers develop the competencies they need to be inclusive and competent in the ever changing workplace. During this pandemic, virtual and dispersed work, leapfrogged. I had to at least five years and managers are doing their best to make this work. But that doesn’t always mean they’re doing a good job at it. During this podcast, Kathy, Latoya and Anu will define the manager inclusion habits look like on a dispersed team. examine how the lack of good inclusion habits impact the employee experience in a remote workplace and will develop actions you can take to develop managers inclusion competencies in the new workplace.

Ben Rue 03:02
Kathy Kacher, president of career life Alliance services and co founder of the smart workplace as a workplace transformation expert with a focus on workplace flexibility, open workspace change management and work life integration. She enables organizations to successfully manage and innovate through complex and structural cultural chains, particularly skilled and conducting organizational diagnostics, leading cultural integrations, branding and change initiatives. advising and coaching leaders, employee engagement and leadership development processes were successful track record focuses on partnering with senior teams and key talent to create competitive advantage through people.

Ben Rue 03:44
Latoya Jones Burrell is the executive director of the Anderson Foundation. She leads and manages the activity of the foundation with continued involvement and support from the family. She is also Xin pro corporations Global Diversity equity inclusion, dei champion, working with the leadership team to help provide experiences and resources to advance enpro on its dei journey, Latoya has extensive higher education and legal experience. She is the she is a licensed attorney in both the states of Minnesota and Louisiana, and a published author recently writing a book on harmonious racial reconciliation and titled The Bold how to prepare your heart and mind for racial reconciliation.

Ben Rue 04:28
Lastly, Anu Mandapati is the VP of inclusion with purpose North America at Talking Talent, a global coaching firm that inspires inclusive cultures that allow people and organizations to thrive. She works with leaders and organizations globally to create behavior shifts that accelerate the business performance. Anu has 20 years of diversity, inclusion, leadership and organizational experience and as a certified executive team and well being coach. She is purpose driven to create more connection, empathy and inclusion in the world so we can solve important problems together.

Kathy Kacher 05:07
Thank you so much, Ben. You know, it is been an honor to be a part of The Forum on Workplace Inclusion, I’ve been a volunteer. I’ve been a presenter at the forum for many years. Now, I’ll tell you what, this year I missed our in person event, you know, always so many wonderful people to connect with. But hats off to everyone at the forum for creating a really amazing event. And, yeah, and also a very, very, very special thank you to a new and Latoya who have graciously made time in their busy schedule for this important discussion around developing manager inclusion habits in the virtual workplace. Right, we have been in this space for 12 months now. So my name is Kathy Kacher. And I think it’s especially important as we move into that return to work mindset that we really continue to develop these habits. Because I think we can all agree that the workplace that we’re going back to, it’s, it’s not going to be the old workplace, right, there’s going to be a lot more hybrid, there’s going to be a lot more blended working. And what I mean by that is, you know, teams will be more dispersed, some people will be on site, some people will be working from home a few days, some people will never, ever meet their colleagues. And before the pandemic colleague, my colleague, Trina hoefflin, She’s the author of working virtually transforming the mobile workplace, her and I had been talking about distance bias before the pandemic. And that’s simply a feeling of, you know, missing out of not being heard when you join the zoom meeting. And most of the team is all in one room and you’re in another, but you’re joining remotely, there was always this out of sight, out of mind syndrome that went along with working away from your team, where colleagues would say, you know, odd, you know, Bob’s working from home today, so you may not be able to reach him. But then the whole world stopped. And suddenly, all of us became dispersed, which I believe, has really put a spotlight on how very challenging it is to build, or even maintain that strong sense of being a part of something being included, of belonging. So during our time together, Anu, Latoya and I, we’re going to be talking about how all of us can develop stronger inclusion habits in this very, very remote workplace that we’re all experiencing. And as we think about the employee experience, I think we can all agree that it really does begin with onboarding. And this is a coincidence, but both of you Anu and Latoya, you have just started new positions. Congratulations to both of you.

Latoya Burrell 08:07
Thank you.

Anu Mandapati 08:08
Thank you.

Kathy Kacher 08:09
So this puts you in a perfect position to talk about what really good inclusion habits look like on a dispersed team. You know, it’s got to be hard to connect with a brand new company and a brand new team when you can’t get together in person. So Anu I’m going to start with you. And I want you to share what’s been your recent experiences. What is it taught you about manager inclusion habits? And what what are those good habits look like?

Anu Mandapati 08:38
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Kathy. So interestingly, for me, I’ve actually worked virtually worked remotely since 2015. So this has been my norm. And I’ve really looked at what are the ways that I want to show up as well as how are those around me showing up to really have that sense of connection. And in the current organization, which was just something really thoughtful and has really helped me create a sense of belonging that I wanted to share? It really is that that personal connection to feel like someone’s part of the team and I had someone reach out, and let me know that she wants me to feel included, and she’s going to reach out regularly to ensure that. So just knowing the intention of her actions, and then seeing her actions, that obviously makes me feel included, and it definitely increases my sense of belonging at work, because I am meeting everyone virtually.

Kathy Kacher 09:29
Thank you. And what a good point is that, you know, onboarding is an interesting experience because they say what they’re going to do. But then once you’re done with your onboarding, do they do it? Latoya, how was your experience and what have you learned?

Latoya Burrell 09:45
Sure. Thank you so much, Kathy. I think one thing for me personally, is yes, I did begin a new role six weeks ago. And so I had to go through onboarding in the middle of this pandemic, but I personally had it from my previous job where I watched other people on board during the pandemic, some of whom were interviewed and hired at the beginning of the pandemic, and just watching how we had to be intentional to ensure that they felt that they were a part of a team. So it was different for us on the team, who we already were a part of a thriving team. And then we were thrust into the virtual space. But how about these new people who are having to adjust to a new culture, a new team and a virtual space? For me personally, at my new position, one thing that they did, and I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but I find so much value in it. And I’ve given feedback to ensure that this is something that continues to happen as we onboard people in this pandemic, was I intentionally had these one on one meetings that were scheduled. And I know some of the feedback in my first week was, I know, you’re probably exhausted with these constant one on ones. But I personally felt that those one on ones made me have a sense of belonging, because I got to dig deeper with people we would have, I had these 45 minute one on one schedule. And we talked about the job, they told me about their role. And often in those meetings, we went into personal where they told me about their families. And I was able to make more of an intentional connection early on. And so then when I began to attend zoom meetings, or webinars, in a space with multiple people, I could have that connection point with someone who I had a one on one with, so that that has been a good experience for me.

Kathy Kacher 11:40
Awesome that yeah, that is that was really, above and beyond, because it seems these days, especially during the pandemic, people are working harder than ever before, the clients that I talk with their employees are working more hours than ever before everybody’s hair seems to be on fire. So it really takes a special commitment to carve out that specific time where you can connect one on one with your new with your new team members. And right now, you know, everybody’s working from home, right? But that doesn’t mean that we’re all doing it well. And I do. I do a training called staying visible and connected in the virtual workplace. And I asked one question, I said, you know, what are what are the greatest challenges for you when you are working from home? And I give them a list of options. And it doesn’t matter who I’m talking to how big the group is? The number one answer is always socialization. People are missing the impromptu conversations that used to happen in the hallway and the cafeteria and the meetings. So what are in that not just in your new brand new roles? But what are some of the challenges that you two have been seeing as a result of this work from home mandate when it comes to leading those remote teams of just identify some of the practices that are not working so well? And Anu let’s go start with you.

Anu Mandapati 13:10
Yeah, I mean, it’s something I’ve just I’ve observed for several years. I mean, all of this is about intentionality. And so for example, yeah, well, we’ll have a meeting. And, you know, there’ll be an ask for opinions or ideas. And it’s very, you know, we all have a lot of things to do. And we’ll jump to the next topic. And, and sometimes some people they process it at, you know, but just a different processing time. So one of the things that I see is how do we give people enough of that processing time, so everybody in that meeting can actually feel heard. So a suggestion I would have here is asking everyone for their opinions and ideas, acknowledge that people have different processing times. And if the team has moved on to a new topic, that’s okay, let people know that they can contribute at any point in the meeting. And so this is really giving an opportunity for everyone to to share their reflective, reflective thinking and know that their voice also matters to.

Kathy Kacher 14:03
Oh, that’s such an important point. And it’s an especially challenging environments, kind of, um, it’s the, it’s the perfect and not so perfect place for an introvert. I’ve talked to many people who identify themselves as being more introverted, who are loving working from home, and they get to that meeting, and they don’t turn on that camera and they don’t respond. And so it really is up to the leader as you say, and I think it’s the word of the day to be intentional about you have to pull people in. And and I didn’t consider that giving people the time though to say, you know, if you don’t think of anything now, we’ll come back and hear what your thoughts are. I think that’s such an important invitation to include. Latoya, what are your thoughts?

Latoya Burrell 14:50
I know absolutely agree that the word intentionality or intentional is definitely something that has to be factored into this equation. So I think one of the things that we saw or we still see happening a lot is the do you turn your camera on? Or do you not turn your camera on and not taking into consideration different factors. So for me in my previous job, I was in higher education. And we would have these discussions about students who are attending class via zoom and not turning their cameras on. And then we begin had a discussion about what about the background, or maybe they have Wi Fi sensitivity. So they have the camera off to reduce the bandwidth that’s being used. But also I’ve been in, in these meetings where the idea is you can kind of set a few ground rules, and I’m not talking about a ground rule that says you have to have your camera on. But a ground rule that says, you know, I’ve heard people say, if we were in person, I can follow your body language, and know when you’re about to snap, and so I’m not cutting you off. So we’ve said Little things like, even if your camera is on having your microphone muted, and we’re paying attention, if the group is small enough to when someone comes off of mute, that might be an indicator that they have something to add. And then I’ve also seen people use intentionally models similar to like the restorative justice model, where is this understanding that everyone’s going to have an opportunity to talk, so no one feels that they’re left out, but at the same time, no one feels that they’re forced to speak. So we might say, in a meeting of five, we’re going to go around to make sure intentionally to ask everyone that you have something to add. And even if they say nothing, nothing to add, is the point that they had the opportunity without feeling that they were cutting someone off, or just not speaking up, because they’re unsure if their voice is welcome at that point.

Kathy Kacher 16:47
And I want to ask both of you as you bring that up, because really, it’s all about meeting facilitation. And I think in this, what will be blended, but currently is a remote workplace. Meeting facilitation agendas, I don’t know is their word called meeting hygiene. I don’t know if that’s the right thing. But it feels like, that should be a very big priority. And so many of the meetings that I go into, I just, you know, I enter the room, I turn on my camera, and then you know, we just kind of start a conversation, Anu, What have you had experience, you know, with, with just kind of missing that agenda, it feels like it needs to be there in this kind of squishy virtual place.

Anu Mandapati 17:33
I think I think the agenda is really important. And it’s interesting, because, you know, Kathy, you were just talking about people are missing socialization. And so having that agenda, knowing what we’re all here for, how do we include everyone’s voices? And how do we also get that dedicated? And I’m gonna say, optional, personal connection time, and because again, maybe we have, you know, maybe someone’s introverted or maybe they’re just not able to show up in that way. How do we build that into the agenda to so that way, it could be at the beginning or the end? It’s an a dedicated space for people to, to come and just connect and replicate that. I’m going to, I’m going to use the phrase the water cooler talk, right?

Kathy Kacher 18:10

Anu Mandapati 18:11
And, you know, it’s just it’s, it’s making sure that we’re getting out of we get that balance, I think about no feeling do we’re really great at what do we want people to know, what do we want people to do? And I think a question that’s missing is, is how do we want people to feel in this meeting? do how do we want people to feel you know, and maybe it’s connected? So what do we want to do to help increase that connection?

Kathy Kacher 18:34
Yes, excellent point. Thank you for that. Latoya. Do you have any anything you’d like to add to that?

Latoya Burrell 18:41
You know, I think, again, going back to the word that we said was the word of the day, intentional on the team that I’m on now we have these Friday, roundup calls, and they’re only 30 minutes. And they are optional. But it’s an opportunity just for you to get an update on what’s happening in the different so the broader team, but the different subgroups, sub functions, if you will. And the call has been so casual. It’s been announcements of new babies, in just announcements of vacations coming up, just casual talk, you know, when one Friday and it’s only on Fridays, one Friday, the theme was bring your pet to Work Day, right. And people had their animals on camera with them. And interestingly enough, what I have observed is most people have their cameras on for that meeting, because it is just a casual opportunity to connect. Now there is business if you will be conducted because you’re seeing the updates of what’s happening on your teams. But it’s also personal connection that’s happening and for me, also someone who is newer to the team. I’ve learned so much about others, just from these informal meetings I’ve gotten to see personality. traits come out as people are making jokes. You know, I can see whoever humor, humor minds. Are you more brains on the team? And I just think that that intentional connection point is helping people who miss and crave the interaction that they got on a daily basis before the pandemic?

Kathy Kacher 20:11
Yes. You know, and that I think my experience, before the pandemic was, online meetings were just a little bit more formal. Right. And now we’re starting to have a little, we’re having some very genuine, you know, he’s showing up in a very genuine way, seeing people’s animals, seeing people’s children. I think that makes such a big difference. And I don’t know if any of either of you have thoughts on that before I jump into the next piece? Because I know, and I’ll pause anyone, I mean, do you feel the same way?

Anu Mandapati 20:49
Yeah, absolutely. And I think you know, on teams, I’ve been on that we’ve had a standing rule have come as you are. So it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to get all glammed up to come on to a zoom or WebEx, call it just Come as you are and feel comfortable. And if one of one of your kiddos walks by we all wave. You know, it’s it’s just a very comfortable feeling. And I agree. So I think it is much more relaxed now.

Kathy Kacher 21:12
Yeah, I agree. So you know, there’s some really, really amazing outcomes that we have seen as we’ve gone through the past 12 months. But now as we prepare, to go back, in whatever way we’re going back, I think that every organization has to prepare, prepare, in a very strategic way for the return to work, to focus on dispersed teams to focus on the skill sets that their managers must have in order to build and then maintain those inclusion habits in whatever this new world of work is going to look like. Right? We have people who are going to be petrified to return to work, even, you know, if they have the vaccine, I think a lot of us have been, you know, kind of curled up in a ball hunkering down. And it’s going to take a while for us to unfold, and to come back into the mainstream to build a new way to belong. So I was wondering, and Latoya, I’ll start with you. What are what are the top two or three, I mean, critical actions that you recommend that any manager can take today to be more intentional about how their teams are going to work together in the future? Yeah,

Latoya Burrell 22:42
That’s a great question. Thank you for that one, Kathy. And, you know, I’m not going to quote him verbatim, but the gist of the idea. So Peter Drucker has a quote that basically says, the greatest danger is in a time of turbulence is for us to aquis today’s logic. And I think that if a manager, or any leader for that matter goes into this post COVID office return, no matter if an office decides to go back in a hybrid format, or if offices decide that people are going to need to report back full time, the understanding is you cannot think that we’re going to return to the way things were before March 1 2020. So again, you’re going to have to be intentional, you’re going to have to respect boundaries, and you’re going to have to be flexible, and figure out what that specifically means for your specific teams. You know, I think that managers are going to have to listen, and be open and open minded to understand that if your company was able to thrive in the last year, still thriving, survive where people were working at home remotely, you have to understand that now people have been exposed to new possibilities. And you know, you might have someone who may have discovered, you know, what, I’m a lot more productive with the opportunity to be at home because instead of following this strict nine to five schedule, I’m able to start working at 6am. Or I find that I work best in this climate because I’m not distracted by the coffee, the coffee stand breaks are the bathroom breaks, etc. So I would say respect boundaries, be flexible, intentional listening, just be willing to be open minded.

Kathy Kacher 24:26
Right. Thank you so much for that. And also, I think the other thing that teams or managers especially are going to have to think strategically about is their technology and how they’re going to use technology. I am sure many, many organizations have recently adopted office 365 teams, right? They’re moving away from Skype, they’re getting into teams. So again, these past 12 months have also impacted how they have to think about And use technology different? And how can we, you know, continue to adopt and adapt to these new and different ways of communicating, Anu what what are your thoughts on what managers should do to help reinforce a good culture going forward in their teams?

Anu Mandapati 25:21
Yeah,absolutely. One of the things that I’ve worked with, with teams on focusing on is a team agreement, how do we want to show up? So as a team, we all get together and talk about how do we want to co create our team culture, because team culture is created by all of us, not just the leader, and we’re all responsible for it. So asking that question of how do we want to create that culture to and then, you know, filling in the rest of it? Is it to ensure all voices are heard people feel like they belong? They have allies support, etc? And then follow that question up with how do we hold each other accountable to that?

Kathy Kacher 25:55
Oh, how important?

Anu Mandapati 25:56
Yeah, I mean, because, like what you said earlier, it’s great to have that awareness, but what are the actions that are going to follow that to? So how? And then how often do we check in to assess how we’re doing? So this has to include awareness and action. And another one too, is, you know, as a team, having each individual share, what are their what are the top three things that the team needs to know about them, so everyone can work in the most effective way. So this can include communication, learning, thinking preferences, how we like to receive feedback, recognition, etc. And when we take this in, and let it really inform our interaction, people that they feel heard, seen included, and their sense of belonging increases. And obviously with that, you know, so can their productivity, morale, the overall retention rate. So to me, it’s really it’s the Platinum rule, not the golden rule. So don’t treat them how you want to be treated, treat them how they want to be treated.

Kathy Kacher 26:53
Oh, I love that. And I think you brought up such an important piece that we talk about it, accountability, performance management, you know, whatever, however, you frame it inside your organization, we talk about it. We can talk about it all day long. But I don’t know how well anybody’s doing it. Right. I think sometimes, especially in this remote workplace. And we’ve all heard this before, it’s getting less true. But at the beginning, there was a lot of fear around managers who managed by sight by seeing those individuals saying, How do I know? How do I know they’re working? How do I know they’re working? And my my, my tip to them was the same way you knew they are working when they were in the office, it’s the that no criteria has changed. So Latoya, let me I just want to lean on you a little bit and say, What do you you know, what are you? What do you think of that? Any special insights into how we can help leaders move away from site management and focus on outcomes?

Latoya Burrell 28:05
Yeah, I think that’s a great point. And the thing that Anu just mentioned, when she talked about, you know, you treating someone how they want to be treated, and not how you want to be treated? I think this relates a little bit to, you know, do you need oversight for you to complete your job? And if so, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone needs someone over their shoulder for them to complete their work? You know, I think this can be looked at from two different angles. My first is, again, we’ve been in this space now for a year. The question is, have their jobs been done? Have there been any shortcomings? Are they have they met their goals? And if the answer to all of the above is yes, yes, yes. And I think that answers the question that they are working, even if you can’t see them working, right. And so if the answer to that is no, then there are questions that you can of course, ask to figure out if there is a problem where it’s, it just all boils down to a lack of trust, it’s like you don’t trust that people are actually working when the results suggest that they are, and it may be just an opportunity to just to overall evaluate the processes that are in place.

Kathy Kacher 29:19
Absolutely. And I think what you brought up about the about the manager or the leader, I think, especially now, managers have got to be way more fluid. And like you said, you know, does this person need oversight? Or maybe this person really needs a lot of feedback, and I don’t know how to how to help managers move forward in that in that area. It almost seems like you know, either they they’ve got that skill set or they don’t have you seen any, any practices that really helped managers or trainings, that that really helped managers. I move step out of their traditional, you know, leader role. And into that I want to, you know, I want to lean in, I want to understand I’ll adapt, I’ll change so I can be responsive to the needs of my team. And Anu I don’t know if you have thoughts on that.

Anu Mandapati 30:19
Yeah, I mean, and I want to go back to also what Latoya just said, because I think trust like that’s, that’s what’s flashing, you know, in red for me right now. And it’s something that I think of is you clearly trusted them to the trust existed to hire somebody. So this is just a continuation of that extension of trust, because that hasn’t changed. And I think as far as just that the checking in piece, right, I really think about just emotional intelligence, that is a skill that all successful leaders have. And so when I think about that, I mean, in everything we’ve been talking about today, the intentionality, that personal connection, I mean, it really is. There’s the work aspect. And at the end of the day, though, we’re managing people, right, we’re leading people. So how do we check in with them? And I mean, in what I shared earlier about what are the top three things that I need to know to work with you in the most effective way? And here’s what you know, and then I would share that, too. So it’s, it’s a two way dialogue? And I think, continuing those check ins of just, you know, how’s it going, where are you now, you know, what do you need from me? And you know, you’re in, I think it’s always about a two way feedback conversation of, you know, what, here’s what I’m seeing you do? Well, what, you know, how are you seeing it? And so that way, it’s not just, you know, it’s it’s, it’s I’m feeling, I’m feeling that someone’s asking my opinion, I’m feeling that people care about me that they appreciate me. So I think just really focusing on the emotional intelligence, that connection piece is going to be the difference maker for leaders.

Kathy Kacher 31:47
Yeah, I totally agree with that. Thank you so much. Latoya. Any other thoughts on that?

Latoya Burrell 31:52
Yeah, I think I would have said is spot on, I don’t really have anything to add, again, beyond just the point of maybe they have to examine themselves to figure out where these thoughts are coming from what causes there to address.

Kathy Kacher 32:07
Right, right. And I, when I always say trust is the operating system of any team. You know, I think there’s a saying out there it says, a team isn’t a group of people who work together a team is a group of people who trust each other. And as managers are moving forward into this, you know, dispersed and unique, you know, changing workplace. I think that’s a very good starting point, a very good place to stick the, you know, put a stake in the ground there, Stephen M R Covey wrote the speed of trust. That’s, you know, that’s a good book about trust, there’s trust assessments out there. But I think that is the best place to start for leaders is to look in the mirror first, and say, you know, how am I how am I affecting other people? What do I need to do, and just get really clear on on where they can grow and where they’re amazing. And, and then I love the conversation, Anu, you know, what are the three things here’s the top three things you need to know about me, and having that be a conversation across the team. So all good ideas. Now, if we, as we as we wrap up our podcast, I thought it would be interesting for listeners to hear about an experience that you have had from this past year, that really shows that no matter where you work, you can still connect, and you can still belong. Latoya, let’s start with you.

Latoya Burrell 33:40
For sure. So thank you, I want to share a story about a colleague from a previous job who she was interviewed via zoom in March. So as soon as the pandemic hit, she, we had an interview scheduled for her and we shifted it to zoom. So she interviewed and was on boarded during the pandemic, and we will work in really, we were working closely with one another. And she’s not a person who I had known I had not met her ever before. But it got to a place where once she began, maybe she began in early May. And we would talk every single day because of work. And it got to a place where our team had, you know, ongoing group chat. So at this point, we have one another’s phone numbers. And I remember my first time seeing her in person, it was months later, and we had something on campus, but we were mass, you know, we had our mask on, and I had been used to seeing her without her mask, and I’ll never forget she took her mask down a little bit and she was like, you know, hi, Latoya. It’s me. And she said her name and I was like, and it was just this odd moment like we like gave one another a hug. We would it was just a genuine. We are friends. We are colleagues and despite the fact that I have known you broke Six months and we’ve not met in person before, I truly felt that there were there were no barriers to our relationship. Despite us having, you know, over the course of now I’ve known her for a year. And we’ve maybe been in person with one another three times with mask on, but I still feel like I genuinely knew her. So that Oh, that story. And that example allowed me to see that relationships can be developed and nurtured over a virtual space.

Kathy Kacher 35:27
Mm hmm. Oh, wow. I love that story. And, you know, it just reminded me just for a moment, when you, you know, when you said our faces lit up, and we saw each other It was like, when it goes back to using the video, when you’re meeting people for the first time or tuning in for a meeting. But I just wanted to share this best practice with the listener is, as you are joining meetings, and maybe you don’t want to put your video on, or you’re leading a team, and you know, that your people don’t want to turn a video on, I always encourage everybody, and I do this, in some trainings that I do, too, that you know, big training, they come on, and people are like, I’m not gonna turn my camera on. And I turn on your camera and just turn it on for five minutes, and suddenly need just five minutes to see your faces. And it’s so interesting that when in the groups that I practice this with, they turn on their camera, and people’s faces light up, they go, Oh, my gosh, I haven’t seen you in so long. So I think it’s so true that, that the ability to connect whether you’re in person, or virtual, you know, can be very, very successful. So thanks, that’s a great story. Anu, How about you?

Anu Mandapati 36:46
Yeah, I’ve, we’ve done this a couple times, with with various teams. And every single time, it’s always just, people just feel so appreciative and grateful and happy to participate. And so it’s about sharing one thing that you appreciate about everyone on the team. And it can be verbal or written share about a specific quality, or even an experience that you had. And you know, you give people enough time to reflect and prepare to do this. And, you know, we all move so fast, we’re always on to the next thing that’s due, and so really slowing down taking time to tell people what we appreciate them. And even the impact to maybe it’s the impact it’s had on me or the team or, you know, even in a larger impact than that. And every single time I mean, we get an overwhelming positive response. And it’s, you know, it’s, it’s what they say that, you know, if if we appreciate something about someone, and we’re not telling them, it’s a present that never gets to be unwrapped. So we want to unwrap it, right. Yeah. And so me and I think of emotional energy, too. I mean, we, you know, there’s so many things we’re trying to navigate right now from physical energy, mental energy, you know, with everything that’s going on in our lives. And when someone tells you, you know, that they’ve, they’ve, they’ve noticed something that you’ve done or said and the impact that it has, this is a bumping up our energy, our emotional energy, specifically, of the person that’s saying it as well as the person who’s receiving it, and it’s just, you know, it’s, it’s just, it’s a great way to connect, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to do this at all.

Kathy Kacher 38:21
No, no, and I love that it’s just such a, it’s such a nice reminder, and what a either a great way to start a team meeting, or or wrap up a team meeting. And just to turn it into, you know, don’t make it any event, turn it into a practice, that happens over and over again, across, you know, across the span of time. So wonderful. Thank you both for those stories. And I’m I was trying to think of some of the, you know, the good ways of connecting, that have happened with with the people that I’ve worked with, and one was a really an accident, we were a team of five, and we were kind of going on, teams back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And so I just said, I opened up a team’s meeting, and I invited all these five people. And for that afternoon, we sat in the team’s meeting and worked. And we weren’t necessarily working synchronously, you know, together, we didn’t have to have a meeting or discussion. But there was something very connecting about being in this little virtual room together, and we can chat, and we could talk, turn our videos on when we wanted to. So so that was that was an interesting way to try to emulate that, you know, in person experience that I thought was successful. And as I look across and talk with different organizations, one of the, one of the overarching themes that is coming out of this pandemic is how much more connected, people are feeling to their leaders. Because for the first time in ever, leaders were coming to you live from their kitchen with their children with their pets, they were all you know, it just what I’m hearing is that everything felt a little more human. And everything felt a bit more transparent. And it was through that humanness and transparency, that people were connecting on a different level to the executive leadership in their organizations. And I don’t know if either of you have seen that. But there, I definitely hear as I talk with different organizations that people are feeling a little bit more human around each other, especially their leaders. Anu or Latoya. I don’t know if you have thoughts on that, or

Anu Mandapati 41:00
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s that humaneness that leads to even greater connection, right? And so what are you having for lunch? Oh, I’m eating a bagel, or I’m eating this, they’re here. And you’re seeing it, you know, and just like you said, with, you know, whether it’s, you know, roommates, you know, you know, family members, you know, walking by and just, and even, you know, they, you know, just kind of walking by and waving Hello, and it’s just, it’s, it’s bringing that connection back. And, and something to have just, let’s say that pre COVID, maybe you would have walking meetings with your leader and I, what I’m seeing now is okay, well, let’s grab, you know, get on our phones. And we’ll still go walk and talk just like our respective neighborhoods. So you can still recreate some of those experiences that we were having before when we were face to face.

Kathy Kacher 41:44
Mm hmm. Yeah, very good. Latoya thoughts?

Latoya Burrell 41:48
Yeah, again, I just think that this is a new opportunity for us to be able to be innovative and creative about ways that we can connect. And I’ve heard a few people say that, ironically, they feel that they’ve connected with people more in this virtual space, who they otherwise maybe couldn’t connect with. So think about teams now who have people in different cities. And now it’s become the norm for their teams to be able to connect via zoom and its people who otherwise would not have had FaceTime with. So I just think that this is kind of an opportunity for, for people to have face time with leaders who they otherwise may not have gotten the opportunity to on a daily basis.

Kathy Kacher 42:31
Absolutely. Anu and Latoya, I want to thank you both so much for joining me today for this discussion. I’m so grateful for your time and your wisdom and sharing your best practices. Latoya any final thoughts before we sign off?

Latoya Burrell 42:47
Yes, thank you so much. I just want to thank you and Anu for the opportunity to share this space. It’s been a great discussion. And I also want to thank The Forum on Workplace Inclusion for the opportunity to be able to speak to the listeners thanks to all of the listeners for listening as well. I really appreciate it.

Kathy Kacher 43:04
All right, and Anu final thoughts?

Anu Mandapati 43:07
Same as Latoya, a big thank you to everyone and also just a parting thought, you know what all of this is about increased awareness and practice. Inclusion is not about perfection or an endpoint. It’s a journey.

Kathy Kacher 43:20
Excellent. Thank you so much. And if you are looking for any additional information on staying connected in the virtual workplace, you can visit my website, the smart workplace dot com. Where you can visit our Knowledge Center, and there’s lots of assessments and resources that will help you improve your own practice on staying connected, no matter where you’re working.

Ben Rue 43:42
Thank you to all three of you for sitting down for this wonderful conversation. Thank you to our listeners for joining us, and a special thank you to our sponsor Best Buy. To learn more visit www.clalliance.com. The episodes of the forum podcast are available at Forum on Workplace inclusion.org forward slash podcast. You can also find our podcasts on Apple podcasts, Spotify, anchor and Stitcher. Thank you again for listening. Have a great day.

Thank you again for listening to the Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast to get updates and latest episodes. Also, tell us what you think by reviewing our podcast we’d love to hear your feedback. For more information visit us at Forum on Workplace inclusion.org or search workplace forum on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Thank you very much and have a great day. The Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast is recorded at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, one of the most diverse private colleges in the Midwest. Augsburg University offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and nine graduate degrees to 3400 students of diverse backgrounds at its campus in the vibrant center of the Twin Cities and nearby Rochester, Minnesota location. Augsburg educates students to be informed citizens thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers and responsible leaders in Augsburg education is defined by excellence in New liberal arts and Professional Studies guided by the faith and values of the Lutheran Church and shaped by its urban and global settings, learn more@augsburg.edu

The Forum on Workplace Inclusion®
2211 Riverside Ave, CB 54
Minneapolis, MN 55454
(612) 373-5994

Photos by Sarah Morreim Photography
Privacy Policy