Human beings are hard-wired for connection and community

Business owners frequently underutilize the value of a successful team. As The M&A Coach, I encourage owners to empower leaders within their organizations to create value. As business that is totally dependent on the owner for leadership, is a business that will not sell easily, or for the highest multiple. So, let’s spend some time considering how those owners might guide those leaders.

Since we spend a lot of time at work, we have a hardwired need to develop connections and communities in our workplaces. Leaders have the power to influence the kind of relationships people have at work, the quality of those relationships and the structure of those relationships to increase productivity, engagement and retention.

Leaders face a super labor crisis, a VUCA world, and the challenges to create community with up to five generations in the workplace. Let’s look at this from the leaders’ perspectives. What do you and your colleagues need to succeed in such a cohort?

Most leaders (and let me be clear- you can be a leader without a formal title) are stressed. Everyone is distracted. Yet, we are called to be more productive, increase engagement and deliver greater profits in the midst of market disruptions, technological innovations and natural disasters.

Let’s not forget, too, that we also live in a world where we are closely watching our government, #BlackLivesMatter, Lean In, and the #MeToo Movements. Leadership isn’t always clearly defined, and certainly doesn’t have a clear “How To” manual. What to do?

Many decide the best approach is to ignore the outside world, separate professional from the personal, and avoid any workplace drama. The problem is that all of us are hard-wired for connection and community. We also spend a lot of our lives living among other people in our workplace communities.

How would your organization change if you knew that each person there cared about you? I am not talking about an intrusive, enmeshed, relationship without boundaries. What would it take to create the sense that every person in the ecosystem understood and appreciated everyone else for the person they were created to be?

This year INC’s best companies to work for offered the following:

49% offered unlimited paid leave, 13 offered on-site health care, 3 offered onsite child care, 159 offered paid company trips, 35 offered concierge services, 75% paid paternity leave, 56 paid for transportation to and from work. How many owners of small to mid-size companies can even begin to compete with those perks? As it turns out, the highest correlation between productivity and engagement is purpose, not salary or perks.

Where did the idea come from that personal relationships have no place in our offices?How realistic is that?Knowing what we know about how our brains are wired, we can do so much better than this! Do you know how to be “Human At Work”?

Leah Weiss, PhD Mindfulnes at Work Professor at Stanford offers a checklist entitled, “The Human at Work” Checklist. Dr. Weiss recommends reading through this checklist at the beginning and the end of each day to create create greater awareness in three areas:

  1. Purpose
  2. Compassion
  3. Self-compassion

Dr. Weiss recognizes that when we do the work, as leaders, of connecting the organization’s goals & purpose to the personal goals and purpose of the people in the organization, engagement & productivity increase, as well as well-being & overall health.

Let me share a client story with you.

Ethan is a person who has a great deal to offer. His ability to mentally visualize the links in a project from start to finish is extraordinary. However, Ethan is someone who is easily distracted. He knows that he must have freedom from meetings, emails and interruptions during this type of work. Interestingly, his superiors are great about acknowledging these needs.

Until, Ethan’s needs impact that person’s agenda. Ethan sees the goal. He has committed to diving deep and finding solutions. So, he has purpose that aligns with the stated purpose of the organization. However, each time his needs to succeed are ignored. He is considered a problem and that is communicated to him without compassion. Ethan has developed a great deal of anxiety that results in rumination, isolation and a lack of self-compassion.

How would you choose to lead this person? How would you set him up to succeed within your company? We know that distractions are deadly to deep work. Ethan was hired to do this kind of work. Yet time and again he is not setup to succeed. Is this his problem? I submit to you that it is yours!

How many here have been touched by divorce, death/loss, moving/relocating, addiction, illness….the list goes on? Those are some of the greatest stressors known to humanity.

Leadership calls for 3 types of focus: self, others, the world at large. Each of these components are of value and increase the value of your people and your organization. If you are an owner who has built your organization around you, if you are immersed in the day to day operations, decision-making and don’t have a team empowered to act on your behalf, you are missing a great opportunity to build a community of value within your company.

Wendy Dickinson

About the Author

Wendy Dickinson is the founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions LLC, a coaching firm that specializes in working with business owners and executives who plan to expand their leadership capacity as their business grows.

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