How Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation

human footprint

Create Connection

Though we live in an ever-connected, always-on world, we somehow seem less connected to actual, real people than ever before. Is it possible that the very technology that connects us is contributing to a sense of loneliness and isolation?

In Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation, Dan Schawbel answers that question. Based on research spanning thousands of managers and employees, Dan’s new book is a fascinating look at the impact technology is having at work and at home. Dan is a best-selling author, a partner and research director at Future Workplace and the founder of Millennial Branding and WorkplaceTrends.com.

I recently asked Dan to share a little more about his research.

 

“Our hyperconnectedness is the snake lurking in our digital Garden of Eden.” -Arianna Huffington

 

Workplace Loneliness

Tell us more about your research into workplace loneliness and its connection to technology.

There is a loneliness epidemic spreading across the entire world. An Aetna study shows that almost half of Americans are lonely. In the UK, nine million people are lonely and over 200,000 haven’t spoken to a close friend or relative in the past month. In Japan, 30,000 people die from loneliness each year. I’ve read about the impact of loneliness and have felt lonely myself as an only child and someone who lives alone in New York City. For my book Back to Human, I conducted a global study with Virgin Pulse of over 2,000 managers and employees from ten different countries. Overall, I found that 39 percent say they at least sometimes feel lonely at work. I spoke to the former U.S. Surgeon General, and he said that loneliness has the same health risk and reduction of life as smoking fifteen cigarettes each day. In the workplace, technology has created the illusion that we are all hyper connected, yet in reality we feel disconnected, isolated and lonely over the overuse and misuse of it.

 

“It is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.” -Ed Catmull

 

Share a little about personal fulfillment and how we can enhance it on the job. 

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, after we meet our physiological and safety needs, we need to focus on belongingness and love if we want to be self-actualized, reaching our full potential at work. We spend one-third of our lives working, so if we have weak relationships with our teammates, we feel unfulfilled. We are less productive, happy and committed to the team and organization’s long-term success as a result of not having close ties. In order to best serve the needs of our teammates, we have to first focus on our own fulfillment. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing the most, what do your past accomplishments say about your strengths, what your core values are, what brings out your positive emotions and where you envision yourself in the future. Once you’re fulfilled, it’s important to get to know your teammates on a personal level, understand their needs and then service those needs. You can do this through on-the-job training, coaching, mentoring and regular meetings where you show you’re committed to their success.

 

“Given how much time you’ll be spending in your life making a living, loving your work is a big part of loving your life.” -Michael Bloomberg

 

Create a Culture of Engagement

Why How We Do Anything Means Everything

How

How

How we think, how we behave, how we lead, and how we govern are some of the “hows” that are the subject of Dov Seidman’s book, How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything.

It’s a thoughtful book, not the type to read in one sitting, but one filled with experience and perspective that will change the way you think about the world and your role in it.

Dov Seidman is the founder and CEO of LRN, an organization that helps companies navigate complex legal and regulatory environments and build ethical corporate cultures. He was also named one of the “Top 60 Global Thinkers of the Last Decade” by Economic Times.

 

What inspired you to update and release this new version of How? 

When HOW first appeared, I argued that we were entering what I called the Era of Behavior. I felt compelled to update and enhance HOW because since then, it has become clear that we haven’t just entered the Era of Behavior. We’re way deep in it. Our behavior matters even more than I thought when I wrote the book, and in ways I never imagined.

Our world is not just rapidly changing, it has been dramatically reshaped. We’ve gone from being connected to interconnected to globally interdependent. Technology is bringing strangers into intimate proximity at an accelerated pace, affording us richer experiences, but also demanding new levels of empathy and understanding. These same technologies are granting us MRI vision into the innermost workings of traditionally opaque organizations and even into the mindsets and attitudes of their leaders. We’re now living in a no-distance world where our moral imagination has exploded.

To thrive in this reshaped world, how we behave, lead, govern, operate, consume, engender trust in our relationships, and relate to others matter more than ever and in ways they never have before.

 

“Leadership is about how we get people to act and join us.” -Dov Seidman

 

Leadership Lessons from the Wave

What leadership lessons can be drawn from “The Wave?”

An act like The Wave is such a perfect metaphor for the style of leadership we need today. At its core, leadership is about how we get people to act and to join us. When you think about it, there are really only three ways to do this. You can Coerce, Motivate or Inspire. Coercion and motivation, threatening with sticks or bribing with carrots, come from without and happen to you. Inspiration, however, comes from within. When people make a wave in a stadium, what makes them express themselves by standing up out there is what comes from inside. In business, what inspires others to join in waves is the sense that they are on a journey worthy of their loyalty that embodies their deeply held beliefs and ideals.

Further, if you consider the Wave as a process of human endeavor, you realize immediately that anyone can start one—an enthusiastic soccer mom, four drunken guys with jellyroll bellies, or eight adolescents who idolize the team’s star player. You don’t have to be the owner of the stadium, the richest or most powerful person there, or even a paid professional like Krazy George Henderson, the Oakland Athletics cheerleader who invented the Wave in 1981. No one takes out their business card and says, “My title is the biggest; let the Wave start with me.” Anyone can start a Wave; it is a truly democratic act.

 

“Anyone can start a wave.” -Dov Seidman

 

The Quiet Power that Elevates People and Organizations

Awakening Compassion at Work

 

Someone once told me that if you treat everyone as if they are suffering in some way, you will be right most of the time.

Throughout my life, I’ve remembered the wisdom in this advice. Some leaders have told me that work is a place where you focus on business results and anything else is a waste of time. How short-sighted and wrong.

Suffering in the workplace is a reality and a natural part of life. It’s an unquantified drain on productivity. It can prevent people from doing their best.

Monica C. Worline, Ph.D., is founder and CEO of EnlivenWork, an innovation organization that teaches compassionate leadership. She is a research scientist at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, and she is the executive director of CompassionLab, the world’s leading research collaboratory focused on compassion at work. Monica holds a lectureship at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, and is an affiliate faculty member at the Center for Positive Organizations. She and her colleague Jane E. Dutton, Ph.D., are co-authors of the new book Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power that Elevates People and Organizations. 

I recently spoke with her about compassion at work.

 

“The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.” –Albert Schweitzer

 

Compassion at work isn’t something we typically think about, but we should. Tell us more about your research and findings about compassion at work.

It’s true, Skip, we do need to think more about compassion at work—especially if we care about generating great business results—because over the past fifteen years, my co-author Jane Dutton and I have been doing research that demonstrates that compassion is central to human-based capabilities in organizations. As a CEO yourself, I’m sure you are aware that there is an epidemic of disengagement and despair at work. By some measures, up to 70 percent of people don’t feel like anyone cares about them when they go to work every day. That leaves them emotionally out in the cold. They may physically show up, but psychologically they’re checked out.  Compassion is an overlooked, undervalued essential asset in today’s workplace.

 


Up to 70% of people don’t feel anyone cares about them at work.

 

Why is compassion at work so important?

In our bookAwakening Compassion at Work, we offer a full business case for compassion as a source of strategic advantage for organizations. This is something many business leaders haven’t considered, but there is now reliable evidence from a variety of disciplines of research to support that compassion fuels the capability for high-quality service delivery, better innovation, collaboration, and adaptation to change. Compassion at work helps an organization retain its most talented people and its most valuable clients—that’s why it is so important for leaders like yourself. But on the human side of work, let me be quick to add that many people still carry around the myth that suffering should be kept outside of the workplace, and it’s really important to challenge that myth. The reality is that work is suffused with suffering—both brought in from home and created within the workplace—and compassion is the answer to helping to heal this suffering. But left unacknowledged and unaddressed, suffering robs workplaces of humanity, dignity, and motivation.

 

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” –Dalai Lama

 

How to Respond to Suffering

Be A Spark: Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success

Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success

 

Leadership is not a position. It’s not a title. It’s not a job. Leaders are people who make an impact, influencing others to action.

That’s why I was intrigued to read a new book by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, and Sean Lynch. Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success recognizes that leaders are found almost anywhere in the organization. I recently spoke to Sean about their new book. He is a senior consultant at Lead Star and specializes in designing and delivering leadership programming. He holds a BA from Yale University and served as a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force.

 

“A leader is someone who influences outcomes and inspires others.”

 

Create Your Own Opportunities

What’s the definition of a Spark?

A Spark is someone who doesn’t just accept what is given to them. Sparks realize that they can do things differently to create the change they’d like to see. Sparks understand that they have both the ability to influence and inspire, and they look to influence and inspire those around them. Sparks create their own opportunities and are identified by their actions, commitment, and will, not by a job title. Sparks choose to lead.

 

“Credibility is the foundation of your leadership style.”

 

Why and How to Increase Trust

Why is trust so vitally important?

At times, we place leaders on a pedestal. We think they are larger than life or different from us. But leaders are people. We have relationships with people, and trust is a foundational component of all relationships.

We can all be better leaders in the various roles we fill. Leaders influence and inspire others to work together toward a common goal. In order to be influenced and inspired, we must trust the leader’s competency, character, and intentions.

 

“Leaders influence and inspire others to work together toward a common goal.” -Sean Lynch

 

How does a leader increase trust?

Character and credibility are two keys to creating trust.

Character is important because, before we can lead others, we must lead ourselves. We must get in touch with our most deeply held values and intentionally act in accordance with those values. If we talk about work-life balance, and then regularly call co-workers after hours and email them on weekends, others will see that our actions are at odds with what we say we value. People will question who we are, how we might act in the future, or how we might act under pressure. They will lose trust in us.

Determine your most closely held values and what matters most. Honestly assess where you have compromised your values, and identify ways to lead more consistently with your values.

 

“Character and credibility are two keys to creating trust.” -Sean Lynch

 

What’s the link between trust and credibility?

You can’t force people to trust you. You have to earn trust in ways that are meaningful to others. Credible performance builds trust. Here are some examples.

Spark: Lead Yourself and OthersStart by understanding and meeting the standards of others. We usually strive to meet standards that we think are important. Yet, every time we interact with others, we are being judged. And the standards others judge us against may be very different from our own standards. If timeliness is important in your organization and you are constantly late for meetings, you are not meeting the standards of others and demonstrating credible performance.

Maintain a narrow “Say-Do” gap. Keep the difference between what you say you’re going to do (or what you are supposed to do) and what you actually do as narrow as possible. Be consistent. When you promise the report by Thursday, do you follow through? Or do you let it slide and hope no one will notice?

Clearly communicate intent and expectations and ensure people understand. Often we assume that people know what they are supposed to do. Don’t assume. Communicate what to do along with expectations and intentions. Bring clarity and focus by constantly, continuously communicating expectations and intent. Ensure everyone is on the same page so that people can act in ways that are consistent with intent even when you’re not around.

Finally, hold people accountable to those clearly communicated and well understood standards, intent, and expectations. Holding others accountable isn’t personal. With clear, well-communicated standards, intent, and expectations, holding people accountable is merely comparing their performance to the standard, intent, or expectation.

 

“Credible performance builds trust.” -Sean Lynch

 

If an organization lacks accountability, what results?

Creating a High-Trust Culture for High Performance

 

How to Increase Trust

 

Why is culture so difficult to change?

Why are so many employees disengaged?

What should a leader do when she arrives at a company that is struggling?

 

The founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies recently wrote a book, Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies to answer these and other questions. Paul J. Zak, PhD, is also a professor at Claremont Graduate University. He recently answered some of my questions about his extensive research into trust. His book is fascinating and contributes to the body of work on trust and organizational culture.

 

Survey of 200,000 employees: 71% of companies have mediocre to poor cultures.

 

Spot the Signs of a Low-Trust Culture

In one part of the book, you tell a story of walking into an office full of cobwebs, old furniture, and a struggling culture. What are some of the signs of a low-trust culture?

Distrust drains employees’ energy, so people move slow, think slow, and lack a passion for their jobs.  Organizations with low trust also have lower profits, so offices often look out-of-date, even while new employees show up as turnover tends to be high.  We have also shown that people take more sick days when they work at low-trust companies, so one sees empty desks.  All these factors are signs of a low-trust syndrome and a downward cycle of productivity, innovation, and profits.

 

“High-trust companies invest in employee health and productivity.” –Paul J. Zak

 

Why Healthy Cultures are Based on Trust

trust factorWhy is a healthy culture based on trust so vitally important to its success?

Companies are, first and foremost, people. As social creatures, we naturally form teams to accomplish goals together.  Extensive research shows that teams are more effective when they have a clear objective and when team members are trustworthy. Trust reduces the frictions that can arise in teams so getting things done takes less effort and as a result more and better work is done.  By measuring brain activity while people work, we’ve shown that people are more relaxed when they trust their colleagues. They innovate more and shed the stress from work faster than those in low-trust companies.  Creating a culture of trust provides powerful leverage on performance because it harnesses what our brains are designed to do: cooperate with others in teams.  And the neuroscience I’ve done shows how to create a culture of trust in a system so it has the maximum effect on brain and behavior.

 

Workers in high trust organizations are paid an average of $6,450 more.

 

I love the biological explanation of the Golden Rule. Explain the connection between oxytocin and trust.