By Robyn Schein: Senior Director
For me, summer has always been about play and time for relationships. I enjoy the longer days by spending more time with friends. My kids go to sleepaway camp and shock me with how much they literally and figuratively grow in a few weeks. We take an annual 3 generation family vacation. Needless to say, Summer 2020 really put what I love most about the season to a serious test. Camp was cancelled. We were afraid to travel with our elderly parents. We feared a summer of loneliness and ongoing social isolation. Yet, creativity and adaptation set in and we found ways to stay connected with the people most important to us. Thanks to online camp, many backyard hang-outs and family day trips we managed to still find joy, play and time for relationships.
Likewise, at work my summer plans of family meetings, workshops and trainings also looked very different. Our in-person trainings became virtual, my speaking engagements went online and I learned a new set of Zoom facilitation skills. Through all of this, I began to wonder about the impact on our professional relationships and the time we are used to spending learning from our peers. I was curious to know how we adapt our virtual interactions to ensure we continue to learn from our networks to do our best work in the world?
- Commit to consistent time and know you’ll always want more: Our cohorts met weekly four times for 90 minutes. Initially people expressed the challenge of committing the hours to participate. However, we consistently heard from participants that they were just getting to know each other as the four sessions came to an end. It takes consistency of regular virtual meetings to develop trusted relationships.
- You need intentional sharing to move past awkward Zoom silence: Within those regular meetings, we created structure for conversation that elevated the work the participants had in common. Specifically, using the Peer Consultation model gave everyone roles and responsibilities in each conversation. This structure gave clarity for how to show up and contribute to the success of the cohort.
- Do not limit your network by titles or geography: Many individuals in our network serve in very unique roles – the only staff to a family, the only person of color on their team, the only philanthropy professional in a family office, or the only practitioner in a consulting practice. This time of virtual connectivity created an ideal opportunity to find unique counterparts from across the country and to learn from individuals in aligned or related fields.