Episode 1: Leadership & Empathy
Helping your employees feel connected has never been so important, and your leadership and empathy can foster employee connectedness. As we take the new remote work reality driven by covid-19 one day at a time, organizations are looking for ways to improve their employee connectedness. The remote work tools are in place and your employees are adjusting to their home offices, so now it’s time to ensure your team feels emotionally supported during this crisis. Your leadership and empathy are key to establishing and reaffirming that support.
In this inaugural episode of Employee Connectedness, Unitonomy founder Charley Miller discusses the ideal responses companies should be having with UofL researcher Dr. Brad Shuck and OnPlane consultant Martin Low
In this discussion, they will address how the pandemic is leaving employees feeling scared and how leaders should respond. This is about empathy. This is also about how crisis defines character, both of leaders and of brands.
Employee Connectedness is live-streamed every weekday at 10:15am EST on the Unitonomy YouTube channel. You can join there and ask questions in the chat. You can also find previous episodes posted there and on the Unitonomy blog.
Employee Connectedness: Leadership & Empathy
Charley Miller 0:50
Hello Hello Hello. Hey guys. Good morning. Morning. Come on everybody so I’m Charley Miller with the Unitonomy, we’ve got Brad Shuck here from the University of Louisville, we’ve got Martin Low from OnPlane Consulting. Thanks guys for joining here and excited to be doing this every day with you for a while talking employee connectedness, in this time where we all need to feel connected.
Martin Low 1:15
Charley Miller 1:18
So everybody hear me okay? That’s always the first question for you: can you guys hear me?
So, we’re all new at this so bear with us but we wanted to start this first conversation where we’re inviting the general public in really to think about things like, safety, and what leadership should be doing in different organizations, as they help their employees, just figure out this crazy time with the pandemic. So maybe the right place to start this morning is just to say, if you were the leader of a company right now, what is the one thing that should be on your mind or should be doing? I’m gonna start with you, Martin.
Martin Low 2:02
Oh man, just you just get one. Haha, well, what’s the most critical place to start, you know, I, I think that I’ve had a number of conversations on this, and I think the one thing that really resonates with me is how much of your actions today are going to be remembered and part of your brand for a very long time. This is kind of almost a once in a lifetime experience I hope, and we’ve never, at least in my lifetime, experienced that in my business, and probably for quite a while. And because of the amazing times that we’re in people are gonna remember what you did with your business and with your brand and so a lot of these owners are trying to figure out how do I just keep the wheels on, which is a tough question in itself, but I think it’s so important to say inside the context of this, what is my brand? How is it defined? What is the purpose of what I’m doing? And how do I best reflect this in this time? Knowing that like your financial impact is like a piece of it, but it’s a bigger question than just the just the dollars and cents thing and say, How do I want to be remembered?
I think it’s so important to say inside the context of this, what is my brand? How is it defined? What is the purpose of what I’m doing? And how do I best reflect this in this time? Knowing that like your financial impact is like a piece of it, but it’s a bigger question than just the just the dollars and cents thing and say, How do I want to be remembered?Martin Low, OnPlane Consulting
I was talking with a friend of mine who was in Hawaii when they had the false alarm go out for the nuclear warning system, three or four years ago, and he remembers being in a strip mall, and one large well-known organization, forced everyone out of the stores, one large, not as well known organization was telling everybody to come in and seek shelter. And he’s like, I don’t even know what this other brand was. It’s a brand that everybody’s kind of heard of but he’s like, I’ll never forget that you a specific company was trying to protect themselves and not really worried about everybody else one company was trying to worry about everybody else. And this is years ago was something that, you know, at the time for him felt like a big deal but isn’t going to be anywhere near as well remembered as this so you know how you have your brand right now, means so much to so many people, and it’s gonna stick with you for a very long time. Being kind, being good to your community into your employees and to yourself is super important right now. And then also, don’t forget if you’re going to do all the hard work like, get some good press for it, make sure that people know what you’re doing, don’t, don’t brag, but don’t sell yourself short. Well, maybe a good way of kind of packaging that up the idea is not maybe selling, what you’re doing but, providing leadership externally. Look, here’s what we’re doing that’s working, learn from this. Everyone has a way to lead within their own companies but I think thought sharing right now is really, really smart and that’s one reason why we’re doing this live stream.
Charley Miller 4:56
Right, Brad over to you you will get all this through a different lens right you’re a researcher you’ve always focused on employee engagement how employee experience can be measured inside companies the leadership can understand how to improve matters, make sure employees feel good about all the things you’ve probably never prepared for a pandemic and understanding how employees might feel and an episode like this but what are you doing right now so you sort of help guide other companies right now think about how to understand employees emotional.
Brad Shuck 5:26
Yeah, so, um, you’re right on having or being involved in a pandemic is something that I haven’t prepared for as a researcher as a social scientist. But I’m gonna, I’m gonna piggyback on what Martin is saying here and I think now’s the time to really double down on how people are feeling about work, are they feeling connected are they feeling safe, do they feel like there’s a sense of belonging, with their, their team. You know what I find is when people feel unsafe they have a tendency to focus in on themselves, which is understandable.
I look I’m just trying to figure out alright what’s going on with me, my home situation, what’s going on with my home school now I, I tell folks we open the Shuck School for Arts here at our home. We have an enrollment of one of the assistant principal and the charge of the principal. So we’re just trying to like figure out this disruption that’s occurred and I think people want at least for me, when my life is disrupted. I’m looking for anything that can help me feel grounded. And for many of us, that is work before. This is a marker. This is a life marker for, for many folks, there’s going to be pre covid 19, there’s going to be post covid, and I think our work realities are gonna look incredibly different as a result of that, and we’re gonna. We are now looking for things that ground us, and before that was worked for many folks we worked a tremendous amount. There was a lot of capacity, there was many things going on. It’s natural for us to look back at that.
And Martin’s absolutely right. People are not gonna forget how they felt in this moment so a kind word goes a really long way, compassionate communication that is not overwhelming, it’s transparent, it’s honest, it’s, it’s open is going to go a long way in helping people feel very connected to the organization. But also, one of the goals that we think about with engagement is is not just about how do people perform better and work hard, but how do people live better lives through their work and this is a real opportunity to seize that moment where we can have the opportunity and the potential to help people live better lives by the way in which we go about structuring communicating and leading through our work.
Charley Miller 8:09
So, love what you just said. I was talking to someone yesterday was interviewing me because you know autonomy and building tools for people to help people work remotely, of course, there’s a tidal wave now people trying to work remotely. And in the last few weeks it’s really been the conversation is really been about the tools like how just Can we do this, literally, setting up our home office and getting our video conferencing working and maybe you need a VPN or whatever it might be. No, oh yeah all right let’s let’s get Microsoft Teams or slack working down. What does that mean the conversation also, I think, is shifting this week now past that sort of technical pieces and we’re starting to get to. Okay, our feet are under us now.
But there’s all this news coming about the pandemic, and we’re all just sort of really uneasy about all the unknowns that are gonna be happening next weeks and months. Yeah. And in the conversation with the interviewer yesterday. I was talking about, maybe this isn’t a time to think about productivity, maybe we should start by just making sure everyone’s emotionally supported. And that I think is a really important lens for any leader in any organization to say, let’s understand the fabric of our collaborations and let’s build up the sense of safety right now. We’ll worry about really our emotion and our nurture with all-things productivity and performance and time.
Maybe this isn’t a time to think about productivity, maybe we should start by just making sure everyone’s emotionally supported. And that I think is a really important lens for any leader in any organization to say, let’s understand the fabric of our collaborations and let’s build up the sense of safety right now.Charley Miller, Founder of Unitonomy
But back to the point you guys are just making what you do now as a leader is going to be your brand and your company for a very long time you know crisis really defines character. And this is an opportunity to say hey, we’re not gonna worry about productivity right now, we’re going to worry about each other. And I think if you lead with that you’re starting with the right piece of empathy that every employee needs right now is with you know basically the video conferencing yay we can see each other we can read body language we can each other’s voice that’s obviously the first piece of connectedness, but the next piece of connectedness to your all’s point about the nice word, the nice outreach that goes even further right now to making people feel like the bonds are there to support each other when things get really bad or really hard in the outside world.
Brad Shuck 10:16
Well, I’ll say this and I want to toss it over to Martin to talk a little bit about how crisis might define character kind of in this, in this particular moment. Um, one of the things. Truly, to your point is I see a lot of things about tools and tricks and all right how do I put structure in place and that’s all I think really is well-intentioned and positive. What I don’t see a lot of is: alright, how do I process this? How do I feel? What are the ways in which I can think about this in a way that helps me come out of this on the backside of it, not only as a, as a leader but also as a part of an organization?
So I love that we’re talking about alright how do we process this information, how do we think about this, emotionally, because our research shows that emotion is the tipping point to behavior. So how we feel really does drive the outcomes.
…our research shows that emotion is the tipping point to behavior. So how we feel really does drive the outcomes.Prof. Brad Shuck
Martin Low 11:22
Yeah. Well, Brad, you know, probably one of the things I don’t know enough people are talking about this like, it’s out there in the world. And you guys just saw this right so you know I just had a social distance between my work life and my family life because I would go to the office and my kids, to school, yet now suddenly you’re doing a live stream, and we got a cameo. And a little bit of jokes as well. It’s totally and I was gonna joke that we should have like a about who gets the first cameo.
Charley Miller 12:01
Get in. But, I get that.
Brad Shuck 12:05
Martin Low 12:24
The reality about not having that distance anymore. has changed things a lot and just as much as you want to be productive. So many people are dealing with the ramifications of disease, massive changes in the home life, whether they’re worried about a future in their financial state, or, you know, parents versus someone won’t be extra susceptible to this, or they’re just trying to adjust to being a homeschooling teacher.
Charley Miller 13:50
The point I was gonna try to make is that you guys remember the BBC video that went viral a few years ago the kids coming in the room as the guys being interviewed in his home office, like we’re all that guy now right and i think that needs to be embraced, we actually need to have cameos it you know this is real life families come first. And I think as we get used to this whether it’s temporary or more long term, but anyone working remote should be able to embrace the fact that they have that flexibility. And it’s not something where you have to pretend the family doesn’t exist beyond the walls.
Brad Shuck 14:56
Right, so I think this is the new reality right now where this is where their greatest compassion is, there’s an understanding things don’t go the right way. And, and yet there is there’s a time associated with that and we’re still be able to get that work done but this is a small piece of what I think people are experiencing organizationally on a, on a large level, where we’re figuring these things out, and knowing and believing and as a leader coming from a place of my folks are that we have the best of intentions, right, and the people around us have the best of intentions, and that is going to be a really important perspective that we’re going to need as employees as leaders, and as folks who are kind of defining the new norm of work is gosh, How do I maybe shift my perspective of “man, this isn’t going very well” or “this isn’t going right to the people that I’m working with” I have the best of intentions to do this with me in with this with other people. This is a community and I’m connected to them.
Martin Low 16:08
Well, you know, I think it’s I think it’s interesting, what you’re talking about on two different fronts one is the fact that people want to work right so there’s often been this perception of “If I don’t manage people if I don’t watch them closely then they’re just going to go” and, “you know, with some of the folks that we’ve worked with where they’ve said hey, we can’t have you in right now, but we know this puts you in a bad place wouldn’t take care of your comp for the next week or two weeks or a month or whatever and basically set them off for a little bit not giving them anything, they’re all saying hey, I really appreciate what you did I’m never going to forget it by the way I really want some work to do. Did Netflix is great but like. After that day people are kind of like I’d like to have something to do, and, and, you know, the idea around, purpose, and really, not just framing up that purpose but the fact that people really need that as a part of their mentality I think that’s what people have this is why we work so much, right, is it gives us a reason for being. And, you know, we can’t lose sight, even when times are hard that people really need that, that, that purpose in that reason to get up in the morning and then even if they’re getting paid to sit at home, they’re looking for that, and that says a lot and I think you’re gonna see that, hopefully work on some of that mindset that like you have to, you know, basically beat people up to get them to work, I don’t think that’s ever really been true.
And then the second thing in this process is it magnifies the places that weren’t working well to start with, right so public communications has always been a challenge in every organization I’ve been a part of big small great early late, whatever it might be, they’ve all had a problem with that. And this starts to really show it because now you have this extra stress on the system. And it’s really kind of pulled apart and what a great time to say, All right, now maybe I’m not running my operation as hard as I was a week or two ago now maybe a little bit longer, so that will come out as we were it was a lot last week.
Charley Miller 18:36
I think corporate communications is a great place to conclude today. What I’ve been thinking about is really two elements that I think leadership should be putting out there, whether it’s through the emails or maybe even run a town hall in your company, but there’s two real elements there, one is. Allow yourself being vulnerable. Right. You can, you need to show that side of yourself as a leader, because that’s what builds some sort of trust within all your messaging, and then you kind of balance that then with the right amount of optimism of what is going to be working and that we are going to come out of this to, to make sure everyone feels safe within what’s happened. Don’t forget to spice on a little humor, right, any kind of survival always requires keeping a little humor as things, hit the fan. And that doesn’t change right now. I think it’s hard to give you any technical advice on how to be funny, but just kind of try to keep things light as best as you can and and roll with it.
Brad Shuck 19:40
Charley Miller 19:44
All right guys, this was awesome. We’re gonna keep doing this every day. We’d love feedback in the YouTube comments, and everyone, have a great day, as we take this one day at a time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Unitonomy: Let’s Connect Together Better