Pods: the radical act of supporting one another

Published on Better Work Together on 10 June 2022.

An introduction to what it means to be in a pod (sometimes also referred to as a crew, a coaching circle or a practice circle).

It feels so good to be supported with gentleness and care, in a challenge close to your heart, and to uncover what you hadn’t seen yet. And it is equally delightful to witness someone brighten up by offering your genuine presence and reflections. I cannot imagine my life any differently than with the rhythm of one or more pods going on. 

Closely together

Same as peas are held in their pod, the idea behind what’s often called pods is to bring a few human beings closely together. Let’s say 4 to 5 people, who meet regularly in 1 to 2 hour sessions, in person or online. Not for a random chat, but with the outspoken intention to support one another. 

Pods are spaces where vulnerability is welcome, where we invite each other to show up as our whole selves. From time to time, we get a glimpse of how the world might feel if only humans knew better how to relate to one another. Pods can be containers of a seldom-experienced trust and safety. They are like little oases in my calendar.

I remember a pod session in which I shared about my fear for big organisations. “Organisations are dangerous, they hurt me,” bounced around in my mind. Together we unraveled the pain, noticing that it could be split into six different parts, each of which could be reframed or softened. A world of opportunities opened up. 

Personal and organisational development

Whoever brings in a challenge, in my experience a pod session is meaningful to anyone who’s there, as we’re often struggling with similar things. Also, paying attention to each other’s challenges in an intentional way creates a precious quality of connection, almost by default. 

Pods aren’t easy. They invite us to walk the line between how we’re used to interacting and what we know is possible. To stretch a bit further, to have a bit more trust, and to become a bit more fluent in the practice of giving and receiving support, often at a deeper emotional level. 

While helping each other, we strengthen our intra- and interpersonal skills, such as empathic listening and authentic self-expression. This makes pods excellent practice spaces for personal development. 

Also the groups and organisations we are part of, benefit from the depth of relationships and friendships developed in pods. Creating connections on a ‘human scale’, outside of the scope of work to be done, increases our sense of safety, trust and creativity in the larger organisation. Especially in community organisations, this is crucial for long term success.

Co-create the outcomes you’re longing for

Anyone can start a pod. The Enspiral Handbook gives helpful guidance on what to think about. It’s up to you and your pod mates to create the space, to be intentional and to choose a format that serves. 

I like the Case Clinic process, based on the principles of Theory U, in which each session is devoted to a challenge of one of the members. It’s easy and accessible, and almost always does the magic.

A free-flowing conversation is also possible, responding to a guiding question, or even to what’s alive in the moment. Remember that listening is more important than speaking. Speak with intention, and welcome silence into the conversation. 

Anything is possible. What would you think of a pod that helps you to move forward on your professional path, giving you that boost of inspiration or action confidence you were longing for? 

W*RK what’s next pod, happening in Enspiral Europe, spring 2022.

So, who would you like to pod with? 

Find 3-4 others with shared aspirations, and share responsibilities with them, so that everyone learns and contributes. 

Here’s some help to get you started: 

  • The Enspiral Handbook gives guidance about forming a pod, running a pod and continuous improvement. It also suggests formats and rituals.
  • The Microsolidary website offers a list of formats for pods, in addition to wider context on how pods fit into community organising at different scales.
  • If you’d like a pod with a structured process, the Case Clinic method from Theory U is a nicely documented starting point.

It’s okay to start small. For instance, schedule 5 pod sessions to start a rhythm, and use the last session to evaluate how it went. Who knows, it might be that you don’t want to let go of your pod mates anymore, and that you’ll be accompanied by the heartbeat of the pod for some while. 

Enjoy the conversation.