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InfoQ Homepage Podcasts Pavneet Saund on Practical Empathy

Pavneet Saund on Practical Empathy

This is the Engineering Culture Podcast, from the people behind and the QCon conferences.

In this podcast Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, Pavneet Saund about his ideas on making empathy a superpower and effective team leadership

Key Takeaways

  • Showing and receiving empathy is truly life-changing
  • The need to assume good intent when communicating using chat and written words
  • Leadership is a different set of skills from technology and these need to be learned
  • 0:25 Introductions
  • 0:55 Pavneet’s journey to discovering that empathy helps overcoming hard times and finding solutions which are not obvious
  • 1:35 Showing and receiving empathy is truly life-changing
  • 1:54 Defining empathy as a way to see the world as others see it and connect on a deeper level
  • 2:54 The importance and value of empathy in teamwork, especially in a distributed team
  • 3:40 The way collocated teams coalesce compared to distributed teams
  • 3:55 The need to assume good intent when communicating using chat and written words
  • 4:40 The way written communications lose context and intent
  • 5:20 There will be conflict in any team, having empathy reduces the disruption in that conflict
  • 6:05 Things that make a good team lead – empathy, clarity of vision, ability to share that vision and context, being OK not to be the smartest person in the room, humility
  • 7:35 The impact of taking the best technical person and putting them into a leadership role without adequate support and training
  • 7:55 Leadership is a different set of skills from technology and these need to be learned
  • 8:23 Not everyone wants to move into a team leadership role and that should be OK
  • 8:40 The value of existing team leads sharing experiences and knowledge with new leaders
  • 9:20 The need to accept that in a leadership role you cannot solve all the problems yourself – that’s why you have a team
  • 9:50 As a team lead you have to be available to others and your time is no longer your own – you will be interrupted frequently and that is the role
  • 10:20 Effective delegation is a key leadership skill and its hard
  • 11:10 Reflecting on his own experiences and the importance of thinking about how work is done as well as the end product
  • 12:10 Characteristics needed to create a safe workplace
  • 12:30 Things a team lead can do to create a safe culture
  • 13:05 The importance of being able to communicate effectively upwards in the organisation
  • 13:35 Ways to encourage craftsmanship and quality in the work.  Lots of pair programming and code reviews
  • 15:05 The value of formal and informal mentorship
  • 16:50 Describing a real example of how and why empathy made a difference for a team – bringing the QA process into the development activities.  Pairing development and QA resulted in better understanding of each other’s work and better product
  • 19:00 Empathy has great value in removing “us and them” barriers and improving team outcomes 


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