When you discuss a topic with one of your executives or team members, how often is that conversation face to face, rather than by email, phone or an online sharing platform?
Even people who sit just a few desks away from each other are likely to communicate via their screens or phones these days – and that’s not a healthy situation, according to business coach Alisa Cohn, writing for Forbes.
THE FIVE PRINCIPLES OF A MORE HUMAN WORKPLACE
As someone who works with executives to strengthen relationships in the workplace, Cohn has been tapping into the wisdom of Erica Keswin, author of the book Bring Your Human to Work.
Here are five elements of Keswin’s advice that will help you re-humanise your workplace:
1) Personal contact affects outcome. High performance is closely linked to feeling connected, according to Keswin’s research. People who genuinely feel part of a team enjoy their work more, even if they are working extra hours, and get better results.
“Firefighters who are most dedicated to the firehouse meal have higher performance and save more lives; the simple ritual of the surgery team introducing themselves before surgery saves more lives.” explains Cohn.
2) Expressing your values honestly gets your teams on side. Being your genuine self is something many bosses are reluctant to do. They believe they need to use a tone of authority with employees.
“Actually, it’s counterproductive, because it’s obviously inauthentic and feels ‘off’ to the people around them,” says Cohn. She adds that this vibe often spreads down through the whole organisation, discouraging real connections both internally and externally.
By contrast, leaders who share their values – and encourage employees to follow suit – attract like-minded people who can help boost the business.
3) Meetings need to be engaging. Everyone dreads a dull, unproductive meeting. Both Cohn and Keswin believe that’s how most meetings are, and that valuable opportunities are consistently missed.
To make meetings more engaging, decide what you want to get out of the meeting and whether that is likely to happen. If the answer is no, change tactics.
Insist on people’s full attention and participation during meetings and give clear guidance about what is acceptable behaviour – should all phones be put away, for example?
4) Everyone needs a technology etiquette. Set some parameters around when it’s acceptable to use texting, email or apps for communication. Generally speaking these should be kept for more simple thoughts and instructions.
“When something gets more nuanced or you are going back and forth a lot, walk down the hall or pick up the phone,” says Cohn.
5) Your work environment should be sociable and workable. Physical silos can form quite naturally as a company expands and departments start to specialise. But these aren’t conducive to collaborative working.
Cohn suggests you create a clear design for how you want your space to look and how you want people to interact. An open space is great as long as there are private areas where people can retreat to discuss or make calls in private.
The main thing to remember is that good communication pays dividends. If in doubt, take a walk down the corridor for an honest, face-to-face talk.