Coming together in the times of a Pandemic

Recently, while wading through the uncertain waters of the pandemic, I got an opportunity to go back to the Healthcare Domain where I had previously spent 6 years in GE. I had many reasons to plunge myself in, but most of all, I was excited to be part of the symplr family. And so, I did it.

The first few days were spent getting to know the wonderful people and getting familiar with the workings of the Provider Management I was going to be engaging with. Before I realized how time had passed, I was deep into the program execution and spending my days joining heads with the team.

After some more days, we had a chance to bring all the managers to office again, and while it felt strange in light of way these past few months have been, we were all very excited: the idea of being in the office—which used to trouble us alongside Bangalore’s traffic in the time before—now felt like bliss. There were some other changes too: it was only 7 people now in an office with a potential for 12, but we still had a great time being safe; and most importantly; together.

While planning for the visit, I thought about how delightful it would be to hold some sessions with the team, make our day more interesting, and drive meaningful conversations.

All of us in office meeting room

We started our day with Personal Maps (a management 3.0 practice), where I had people walk up to the board and making their own personal maps, which is something like drawing yourself and your journey on paper. It took everyone a while to figure out the best way to do this while maintaining social distancing, but it was great to see everyone expressing themselves and drawing things about themselves so heartily.

The Personal Map is a simple activity: you write your name in the middle, and then draw circles around it depicting details about your life and aspects of your personality. However, in effect it was much more than that, for people ended up expressing things they wouldn’t normally discuss at work—their love for Marvel, their attachment towards family—all of which ultimately helped us to bond and bring the team closer together.

But that is not all! The fun part came next, when I told people to go ahead and introduce another person using the map they had drawn. It’s always interesting to see how different people read each other’s maps: often, they emphasize things they believe to be most important about the person they’re describing, and in this process some people realize that they forgot to write those things. It happened here too, but I told them it was alright. For after finishing all introductions, we went back to our own maps and traced our connections to things that we had previously forgotten or later recognized. This part was even more fun: you see all these adults drawing big lines from the left side to the right and enjoy themselves, and it’s amazing to see how we all connect with each other—how very human we are; how much we have in common; how we are so diverse and yet so alike. In the end, we all looked at the big picture, and realized that there were more ways in which we connect than what we had known.

How it looked when we started
How it was worked upon
How it ended

The maps not only made us smile, they also unleashed our creativity in ways we rarely get to do any more. I have done this activity many times in so many different ways, but it never ceases to make me feel good.

With our smiles still plastered to our faces, we jumped into the next thing: A Value Mapping activity using Lego. As a Lego Serious 1.0 facilitator, I introduced the team to Lego and its usage in this session. We started with a fun foundation built of a tower, where we built the tallest tower possible. Some people were new to the concept of Lego; while others had fun as SMEs helping others—after all, a tall tower is always, always exciting!

After this warm-up, the team started the main activity. It made me immensely happy to see how clearly and confidently everyone had memorized the company values, and how quickly they could recall them—this is one of the things that exhibits how well the company ensures and prioritizes value-training their employees: whereas I usually see people having trouble remembering at least a couple of values, in this session people got everything right. We often talk about using our values in everyday life, and it made me feel great to see how his activity reinforced and reminded us of that.

As part of Lego formation build, I asked everyone to come up with a build which also exhibit how one or more values can be employed by their teams during real-life programs. This is where the teammates’ passion came out, and some were so engrossed in it that they put in extra time to ensure the perfect build. Now came the time for storytelling, which is something I personally always look forward to.

Usually, when people tell stories, they make them up as they speak, and find things to add from their memory. However, the 40 minutes we spent on storytelling on this day were the definite highlight of the day for me. Listening to people, I realized how we really connect those values to our products, to our teams, to our families, and to all aspects of our life and work. It was positively mind-boggling to see how as a boss, as a buddy colleague or even a close friend, we may have never thought of the ways in which people end up using company values in real life. Something about this felt so powerful and real; I could feel that each story had its message, each formation its colors and pieces which represented something unique and important. It was pleasing to see how most people had woven at least 2 or 3 values in their stories, and the passion with which they told them was truly gratifying to witness as a facilitator. It moved me, in the end, to do my own formation and tell a story as well. This was one of the best activities of the day and seeing the team’s passion and energy made me feel humbled and energized as well.

People working on the Lego Build
The winning foundation build
One of the value based Lego Build
Yet another Value based Lego build

The final activity we participated before breaking for lunch was the Moving Motivators piece, which is a management 3.0 practice. This piece involves a set of 10 cards which we give to each person, and ask them to arrange them in order of what motivates them the most (C = Curiosity, H=Honor, A=Acceptance, M=Master, P=Power, F=Freedom, R=Relatedness, O=Order , G =Goal , S=Status). I have facilitated this activity with over 60 people so far and usually arrange people by their motivators to get out the real stories. And yet, with this group, I saw a genuine outpouring of stories that described their motivations as people connected how their motivators and demotivators shape their work. We even proceeded with a storytelling session, where I asked the team members to talk about their motivating factors in terms of real-life experiences they have had, there were some AHA moments. Our boss, too, was extremely happy with the whole thing, and spoke about how she received some truly valuable insights from this activity.

Moving Motivators in Action

All in all, it was a day spent well—not only because we were finally back in office and accomplished so many things, but also because we were finally together as a team. Although we could only meet for one day, we will remember that day most fondly and more than often. There was also some novelty to this experience in following social distancing while working closely together, and I can assure you we only took our masks off while taking pics!

As for me, the biggest takeaway as a facilitator was the value-building exercise. It made me incredibly happy to witness how our values are not merely written, but also remembered and followed in real, normal life—something that makes everything we do worth the while. It was so refreshing to take part in these activities and talks, and to catch-up with friends and colleagues at the end of it all.
Although the pandemic has made our lives uncertain, I am glad we had such a wholesome day in the middle of it, for I will treasure and cherish this day for all the times to come.

One thought on “Coming together in the times of a Pandemic

  1. Again, anither great piece staring in the face of reality and our minds these days.
    This article has spoken a lot what those who has not have the privilege to be their colleagues have running in the backgrounds of their head.
    made me wonder how I would feel joining back.

    Liked by 1 person

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