How Great Leaders Encourage Connection in the Age of Isolation

The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. Needless to say, our jobs can have a huge impact on our quality of life. If you have a bad day at the office, those negative feelings will spill over into your personal life. It will affect your personal relationships with your spouse, family, etc. Conversely, what’s happening at home will affect how you feel at work.

As a leader in the workplace, you are setting the tone for how your team members will experience life at work. By tapping into your sense of empathy, you can make a dramatic difference on the quality of life at work for your team members.

Dan Schwabel, Millennial Career & Workplace Expert and author of upcoming book, Back to Human: How Great Leaders Encourage Connection in the Age of Isolation, led a panel discussion on the subject of empathetic leadership at our 2018 Compference.

The panelists, all millennial HR leaders, included: Vivek Raval, Head of Performance Management at ‎Facebook; Bradford Wilkins, Vice President Human Resources at Altisource; and Ilona Jurkiewicz, Senior People Partner, Technology at AppNexus. Here’s how they broke down the “how” of becoming an empathetic leader.

On Workplace Friendships

Bradford Wilkins explained the four Cs of why people come to work: 1) Career, 2) Compensation, 3) Community and 4) Contentment.

Building a career and getting a paycheck are often the most obvious reasons people come to work. Community and contentment, on the other hand, may not be what people think of first. However, we all need to be loved and to have human relationships. We all seek out shared experiences — festivals, dinners, group outings, etc. — because we need to feel like we are a part of a community and we belong.

Bradford points out that workplace friendships matter more than we think. Becoming friends with coworkers builds empathy and empathy is important to have if we want to work well with others.

On Being an Authentic Leader

Five to 10 years ago, it was unheard of to talk about your personal life in the workplace. But, if you want people to be productive, it’s important to allow people to be their authentic selves at work. Think about how much time and energy it takes when people have to mask information about the holidays they celebrate, or the gender of a person they went out with, or perhaps even a mental health issue. Having to self-edit all the time drains away people’s energy.

Ilona Jurkiewicz divulged that when she started being herself at work, she instantly became a better leader. She shared her epiphany moment, when a supervisor delivered some bad feedback about her management skills. She acknowledged that she was a terrible manager at first. Instead of stewing in it, her manager encouraged her to learn from the experience. She added, “You can cry about being the worst part of someone’s day. Or you can make a choice about the kind of manager you want to be.”

On Using Technology for Good

Technology can be a double-edged sword. Used properly, technology can enhance workplace relationships. However, it can also become a crutch.

Bradford Wilkins made a point about being present in face to face meetings: “How often in a meeting do you pick up your cell phone and respond to a text? What message is that sending to the other people in the meeting?”

In today’s increasingly global society, remote workers are becoming an even larger part of the workforce. Sure, it takes effort to make remote workers feel included. Ilona Jurkiewicz makes it a point to think about the needs of remote workers first whenever planning a meeting or an event.

At the end of the panel, an audience member and PayScale customer Archie Ford of L’Occitane asked the panel a question that tied it all together: “Has anyone used technology to create diversity and inclusion initiatives?”

Ilona Jurkiewicz believes that social technology like Slack can be a great tool for discussing topics that are controversial in nature. Often times, conversations on controversial topics can be too curated. However, providing an online forum (e.g. Slack) can help people open up and provide honest input.

Additional Resources

Want to learn more about how to encourage your team members to have more meaningful, face-to-face conversations? Sign up for our upcoming webinar featuring Dan Schawbel. The first 50 people to register will receive a free copy of his soon to be released book Back to Human: How Great Leaders Encourage Connection in the Age of Isolation.