Boost Growth and Learning Through Deepening Relationships in 2020

2020 was a boost for my personal growth and learning through deepening of relationships with friends, mentors, mentees, coaches and coachees. How can this be in the year of social distancing and being in the home office? By being much more aware and mindful of how and who I spend my time with and be there if I do.

Mentoring is like friendship: both learn and grow

One of Simon Sineks posts inspired me to start thinking about relationships and writing this blog:

“Mentorship is like friendship. It evolves over time, and it’s a two-way street.” by Simon Sinek on LinkedIn

To me this was an eye-opener. When I go through my most active and valuable present and past mentorships in- and outside of IBM, I consider them all as friends. And mentees come back and thank me for the time spending with them, I can only give it back and thank them. I always learn, get inspired and grow. In the exact way as being with friends. Thinking about this more, this equally relates to relationships with friends (of course) but I feel the same way with a lot of relations with people I work with. And I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with a lot of smart and nice people. The first prototype for an outdoor workshop with Martin is my great experience of both sides grow, learn, inspire each other and deepen our friendship,

Meeting people is the possible ignition of building a relationship

I thought I rely extremely on travelling, visiting the teams I collaborate with around the globe. Whether it is going to conferences, barcamps to meet people and build relationships. It is very easy to connect with people, get them to know and go back home with a backpack full of new connections and deepened relations of people I already have a relationship with. It feels very positive and what do I do with the content of my backpack? I usually deal with this very unconsciously, some of them I loose some of them I keep in contact and with some I keep working together and we deepen our relationship. One of the great example filling the backpack was the edaBarCamp that we hosted in February in our IBM Lab. EDA stands for Electronic Design Automation and encompasses tools and methods that allows us to build complex chips.

I met a lot smart and skilled people from the academia and industry joined to show, exchange, discuss and debate about open Hardware, Continuous Hardware/Software Engineering AI for EDA and EDA for AI. A great opportunity to build relationships especially with the ability to meet in person. Now we don’t meet anymore – how do we meet?

Building Relationships through multiple channels

Social Networks

On serving as a coach for technical eminence, I am learning as well so I started watching my social selling index (SSI). And just as a reminder years ago I wouldn’t even open a page like this since I do still consider myself as a developer and not as a seller. However, I am getting older and more open to think about this differently and I have to admit I am proud about what is important to me. This is about building trust and strengthen the relationship with people inside and outside of the company I work in. And it starts interacting with people that have the same interests.

25 out of 25 in the LinkedIn social selling index

Asynchronous communication

Getting in contact

If I would keep talking with everybody I interact with being at home my day would be too short. Relationships with people you work with can be strengthened through asynchronous communication using slack & friends. Since it is a very infromal way to interact, I also find it a lot easier to say thank you or it is a pleasure to work with you or sending a “You rock” or “Thank you” widget and even show that to bigger groups in channels is something that strengthens a relationship. It also sometimes is to send a link to an article that is of the interest of my friend or a common interest. It means that you think and care about somebody. Or not in rare cases we started throwing ideas at each other or found out it’s time to have a coffee together.

Choosing the conversation

This is in very small conversations, I found myself tempted to read many conversations, jams, ideas conversations in a lot of channels, and starting conversations there. This can easily become a time sink for shallow entertainment with people that matter. And I had to stay away from trying to solve every problem, I always had to remind myself, Bodo: there are people around that have much better answers with much less effort – let them do it. I shouldn’t even be interrupted and read the ones that are in this category, but I can’t say I have the perfect strategy for that. And it should not be confused with building and strengthening relationships. But it also means – make an effort to answer it if you are the right one to answer.

Sensing the mood

And being the one looking at the devops help channel for the team, to me it is really important to listen to the needs of the users and the devops team make sure we get into a conversation and resolve a conflict when it arises given the limitations of written communications starts getting into building stories. That builds trust and strengthens relationships as well. After starting to listen and being aware of rising emotions, as a result, people feel heard understood and problems were addressed with the appropriate priority.

Being there in conversations that matter

Relationships is always something between two individuals. So the key is when you meet somebody is to be there. It starts with active listening, open conversations, maybe even non-work conversations. In case of meeting at a coffee bar or even in a office, there is always something going on. Now I find myself feeling a much more intensive conversation on a video connection just between the two. Yes there are less channels of perception, yet there is a lot to see, hear and feel in these conversations. It probably did help a lot to go through becoming a Blue Core Coach and start a education to become a NLP coach. I was able to experience both sides, empathize, listen, be heard. That raised my awareness to be in the conversation and be able to benefit from it. These are key aspects in any relation. But I’ll talk more about coaching in my next blog 🙂

I had numerous conversations with people where I really felt close in a 1:1 video conference. I would be really curious about your experience. A big part was to be open, transparent and vulnerable in these conversations.

Being open and transparent

I do think it is very important in the 1:1 conversations to be much more open and transparent of why you are doing something and what is going on. Everybody is missing this personal feeling and belonging when you meet in person. And the last thing I want to hear is some “offical communication”, I would like to know what is going on. And the only way is to hear it – I can’t feel it (and if I can I may feel my own thing and not what is really going on). So being very openm and honest in my communication is very important to build relationships especially in a remote world.

This reminds me what I told me kids years ago – you can do all kinds of things but the worst is if you pretend something and make me believe you think I am too stupid to figure it out. And that is exactly what I find very important in communications with everybody being at home. Everybody feels disconnected anyway and I appreciate even more a honest and open conversations. And I think everybody else appreciates that as much as I do.

And I have also made very great experience with showing vulnerability. Some things happen privately, stress to be able to be there for my kids – make sure lunch is on the table, feeling tired to be so long in front of the screen, cancelling meetings because I am too tired is something that resonates with others whether they are in the same situation or not and it also is an opportunity for my counterpart that it is completely ok to not always feel great.

Choosing who to personally interact with

Short, but most important! I want to deepen the relationship with people that allow me to grow as a person, that are making a difference for our company and our products and do or have the potential to make an impact. And not by the role that has been given to them. And not where I am asked to go and don’t be contribute.

My commitment moving into 2021

Now it doesn’t sound that paradox anymore, that 2020 was a year of deepen relationships. It is the return to real values, being mindful what is important. I do believe that everything I learned this year is useful for for the new Normal or the New Next. The net is that I will choose as conscious as possible on the criteria where and who I spend my time with and not being limited by whether somebody is local or not. One of the great learnings I did was that there is a great advantage that when everybody is remote, everybody has an equal seat at the table and that makes a huge difference to me and I will watch my bias and act accordingly.


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