This month I’m going to start with a quote I read only the other day from Esther Perel: “The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives”.
As I think about coming into the second year of the pandemic, and the new year, we’ve seen an evolution where we have brought more of our humanity to the workplace.
We need to remind ourselves that this is about life, and then work: not work-life balance; work as a part of life. That’s a massive paradigm shift I feel like we all have been waiting for. We’ve all been waiting for someone to just say that in big, bright lights. Work as a part of life, family as a part of life, recreation as a part of life. But alongside that, the quality of relationships that we have in our life will further our enjoyment of that life, of work, of our family, all of those things.
Leading with humanity
So, taking this idea of bringing humanity into the workplace to an exponential level, we know that empathy, kindness and compassion are everything. Vulnerability is everything. We expect this from our leaders, and we are training our leaders on this.
But now I ask: how do you take that to the next level which is really about human connection and relationships? In my heart of hearts, I feel like we’ve just been waiting for someone to tell us; it’s okay, we can’t balance everything because we’re not supposed to balance everything.
Since COVID-19 hit in March of 2020, we’ve had a distributed workforce. People don’t need to be in New York City to say they work out of the New York City office or in London to say they work out of the London office.
Flexibility and agility are key for all of us and will continue to be. So how do we continue to build and sustain great culture? Relationships. Connecting with one another and making sure that we are building authentic connections that aren’t just cheap and cheerful.
So, how do we get better at connecting with each other and better at understanding our own wellbeing? How do we all become culture builders, not just relying on our leaders or the HR team? Culture is everyone’s responsibility, but we know that has been relegated to the back office for the most part.
So how do we all become culture carriers or culture champions? It’s by being good people. It’s by lending a hand. It’s by being kind. It’s by creating safety. It’s by being aware of D,E&I (diversity, equity and inclusion) and not having to have your HR team or your D,E&I team tell you that Black History Month is coming up. Being awake, being aware, these are things that are really important.
New year, new leadership ideas
We know what we did in the past doesn’t work in this paradigm and doesn’t work in this new world, and we don’t want it to work. Not only is it a fresh start, it’s a fresh year, and to theme it around people, you have to make sure your people know that they’re worthy of training and development and growth plans, and that we are all inspired to be in action together.
In terms of good, people-first communication, I think now we’re at that place where people need to rise up and be accountable for their own emotions, their teams, who they are, and who they bring to the office or to the screen every day.
We need to be aware and mindful of what we’re saying to our employees and how that might affect them. Accountability is such a big part of communication. Listening a big part of communication too. Being aware of how my words sound and land, being aware of my energy, before I even open my mouth.
And for leaders, I still believe that we are in the dark ages when it comes to thinking leadership means authority, or hierarchy. Leadership isn’t a badge of honor, it’s a real honor. To me, to be a leader, I want to create a place where people come to feel something great about themselves, that they’re learning about themselves that they’re growing, that – God forbid – they feel loved.
I’m a guide, I’m a coach, I’m a Sherpa; that’s what a leader is. My job is to co-create the best ‘you’ I possibly can. But, God knows, I don’t have all the answers; no one does.
Reward and recognition; they’re people-oriented areas of business strategy. The benefits I’m focused on right now continue to be the emotional health, the distressing, the destigmatizing, the five-minute meditations, journaling, things that people really have been asking for.
One of the small things I love doing is every time I see an email come in to myself, Gary (Vaynerchuk – VaynerMedia founder and CEO), or other leaders shouting out someone for doing an excellent job, I immediately write them. And I say, I am hearing great things about you from your leader, way to go, I can’t wait to connect with you. It takes me less than 30 seconds to write, and it goes a long way.
The biggest question is – what are your human needs? Yes, recognition is really important, but people also want bonuses, salary adjustments, promotions, and those are all things that we want to provide with merit and continue to work on internally; making sure that people know what is needed in order to get to that next level to get recognized.