In the beginning, it feels manageable to connect with everyone on your team as a front-line manager.

You have weekly 1 on 1s with your engineers, talk shop in your daily standups, create moments for feedback like retrospectives, and run team events every once in a while. These interactions create trust in your leadership, enable hard conversations to happen with ease, and make the work more fun.

However, moving up can mean that you start managing managers, creating layers of separation between you and the people that you’re ultimately trying to support and influence. Interactions with engineers become more high stakes; your touch points may cover more high-level topics like market conditions, company strategy, and organizational change. Meanwhile, they know less about how you work and who you are as a person.

In this talk, we’ll discuss how to build trust and empathy with your team when your organizational lines and remote working setup don’t create those moments organically. We will go over tangible strategies for building rapport within a large and distributed team. For example, you may have heard about skip-level 1 on 1s, but what should you talk about, and how often should you do them? Outside of those, how do you build continual moments of connectivity and make space for difficult conversations when those moments feel sparse?

Having a strategy around connection not only creates levity in the day-to-day, but also clues you into focus areas for your organization. Engineers reveal information that can help find commonalities among projects, possibly leading to streamlined execution and mentorship moments. You may learn more about underrepresented folks on your team who might need more attention or opportunities. Either way, a little bit of effort in this area can go a long way towards strengthening your team.