Networking: How to Think of It as Fun When You Think It’s Not

Networking 5You probably read the title of this article and don’t necessarily agree that networking is fun, but you were intrigued enough to read more. If you don’t think networking is fun, we probably have a different definition or approach.

I know plenty of people who are highly networked and consider it a necessity of doing business, yet I know far more who say they need to start networking in case they lose their job. Sadly, many people don’t practice networking until they need something such as a job lead, referral, or recommendation. Networking then becomes a fearful activity as they live in a tight time frame to secure a job while managing the risk of rejection.

I propose that the definition of networking extends beyond a job and the industry connections where one earns a living. Networking is a life skill and a fun one to practice across all life relationships. Why? Because networking is not about asking for anything but about giving to others.

People were designed for networking, because people were designed to be in relationship with one another. Networking is about building and sustaining relationships. People get off track when they approach networking as a give and take or a score to be kept. Ninety-nine percent of networking should be giving and blessing others without the expectation of receiving anything in return. When we give, how can we be rejected? If you approach every contact as an opportunity to help, you will be surprised how your relationships strengthen.

So how do you start networking with sincerity? Ask powerful questions to learn more about people, where they are from, and their interests. You might find some interesting common ground off which to build. You might deepen the conversation by asking “-est” (extreme) type questions such as: 1) What is the biggest challenge you have faced? (2) What accomplishment are you proudest? and (3) What is your best piece of advice?  You may then ask, “How can I help you?” You’ll be surprised how easy and fun it is to have a conversation when you only have a desire to connect and serve. When you do eventually find yourself in a position of need, you may find that your network turns around and asks you, “How can I help you?”


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in leadership and business development.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops that address her clients’ business needs.  She has a passion to help organizations fully engage all its employees.  Reach out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

What’s Your Primary Work Love Language?

coworkers1As an entrepreneurial business person, I have always pursued opportunities to transfer technology or share best practices across industries.  When I was leading a liquid polymer business at Mobil Chemical in the early 2000’s, I worked with Procter & Gamble’s haircare division to reformulate its Pert Plus 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner with the synthetic base stocks in Mobil 1 engine oil.  Who would have thought that the lubricants in motor oil technology could serve as the conditioning chaise in haircare?

Fast forward to 2017.  Instead of heading a polymer business, I am now a professional coach, who looks to share best practices with individuals to increase their productivity and connectedness at work.  My clients routinely ask me how they can better communicate and develop stronger relationships with their colleagues.  Studies consistently show that when employees have positive working relationships, their increased happiness correlates with greater work success and outcomes (Foster & Auerbach, 2015).

When I coach and mentor couples on their relationships and marriages, I discuss the concept of the five love languages (Chapman, 2015).  Conjuring up thoughts of technology transfer, I find this model as applicable in the workplace as it is in personal relationships. For those who may not be familiar with the five love languages or for those who have difficulty thinking of this concept applied in the work environment, I will explain how the love languages can help build stronger relationships by increasing understanding and likeability among colleagues.

Chapman (2015) proposes there are five primary love languages: (1) gifts, (2) words of affirmation, (3) acts of service, (4) physical touch, and (5) quality time.  These words or phrases are relatively self-explanatory, but I encourage you to read the book for greater understanding and application.  The premise is that people need at least some level of all five languages to feel loved, but everyone has 1-2 primary languages through which they feel the most loved.  Although Chapman describes love languages in the context of personal relationships, I have personally found these concepts build connection and strengthen partnerships in the workplace.

How do you apply the love languages concept? Most likely it would be inappropriate or make coworkers uncomfortable to ask them to complete and share the results of the languages survey.  However, someone who is educated in love languages, can usually figure out others’ primary languages through observation and experimentation. For example, if you observe a coworker beam when they are given a compliment or a recognition for a job well done, you might conclude that one of their top love languages is words of affirmation.

On the other hand, I know people who could care less to be privately or publicly recognized and prefer to receive money, physical rewards, or taken out for lunch.  These people typically value gifts higher than words of affirmation.  Coworkers, who appreciate acts of service, may feel more connected to you when you bring them a cup of coffee before initiating a conversation or offer to grab and bring them back lunch while they work on a project deadline.  The gesture of serving drives likability and connection.

My primary languages are quality time and physical touch, so I naturally want to give a hug when I greet someone, touch a shoulder as I walk away, and schedule time to sit and talk without phone and social media interruption.  However, I always adjust my behavior to honor others and company policies.  For those who may be uncomfortable with physical touch in the workplace, a handshake suffices.  Since my gift language is near zero, I would not suggest giving me a small birthday or holiday gift but ask me whether I can break free from my busy schedule to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on life.

Without the knowledge of love languages, people try to connect with others through the languages that primarily speak to them.  Those who want to strengthen their connections will strive to understand their colleagues primary love languages and then intentionally act in ways that make them feel valued and comfortable.  What are your primary love languages?

INSIGHT: When communicating with colleagues responsive to words of affirmation, words hold significant power.  As much as words have the power to uplift, they can also more easily wound in the form of negativity and criticism.

References

Chapman, G. (2015). The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.

Foster, S., & Auerbach, J. (2015). Positive Psychology in Coaching: Applying Science to Executive and Personal Coaching. Pismo Beach, CA: Executive College Press.


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates specific workshops that address her clients’ business needs.  Reach out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

What is Your Primary Love Language?

Couple under umbrella

Love is a verb, not a feeling

As a marriage coach and mentor, couples ask me what one book I would recommend that would help them have a strong and lasting marriage.  Without a doubt, my answer is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. From my perspective, this book is a must-read for any couple who is seriously dating, engaged, or even married.  People who are single and will begin dating or are dating can also greatly benefit by investing the time to understand the key principles that satisfy their needs and build love in connection.

The concept of the love languages is incredibly powerful in its simplicity. What are these 5 love languages? Chapman (2015) lists them as (1) quality time, (2) acts of service, (3) words of affirmation, (4) gifts, and (5) physical touch.  He proposes that everyone needs to receive a least a little of each language but that one has at least one or two primary languages.  When people do not receive the bulk of their love through their primary love languages, they will not feel truly loved or connected with their partner.

Without understanding the concept of these five love languages, people love others in the languages that predominately speak to them.  For example, if a man has the primary love languages of quality time and physical touch, he will feel love and connection by holding hands, hugging, and kissing while enjoying a festival without the distraction of phones and social media.  If his partner feels love primarily through gifts and acts of service, she will likely enjoy spending time with him but will feel more loved by receiving a bouquet of flowers while he offers to take out her trash before they head out on their date.

There is no better or worse love language, and none of the love languages have a gender bias. Communicating your primary languages and purposefully acting in ways that align with his or hers will grow and deepen the relationship. Love is not necessarily a feeling but a verb, the act of loving your partner in the ways that speak love to him or her.

Some couples ask me whether you should partner with someone who has the same primary love languages.  The truth?  Plenty of people, who do not have the same primary love languages, have wildly successful marriages.  For those who overlap in their top languages, loving each other is easy as love is given and received in the same way.  Naturally effortless!  If your primary love languages are different, it will likely take more conscious thought, energy, and effort, but hopefully after practice, it becomes second nature.  I encourage you to buy the book, take the quiz at the end, tell your partner of your primary languages, and start loving your partner in their desired love languages.

Reference

Chapman, G. (2015). The five love languages: The secret to love that lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741.

Where Does Leadership Start?

Leadership LeadAlthough everyone has their own perspective on what leadership entails and the key characteristics embodied by leaders, few would disagree that leadership involves the ability to influence people.  Many people struggle with how to increase their leadership capacity within their families, work, and communities.  I propose that the first step in expanding your leadership capacity is learning to lead yourself better.  What are your emotional intelligence, attitudes, and behaviors reflecting into the world? How are you preparing and working on yourself to be a better leader, so you have greater influence with your skills, competencies, creativity, and knowledge?  Although self-reflection might be the start in developing self-awareness, an objective self-evaluation may prove difficult.  You may receive more useful feedback, when you ask trusted friends and colleagues.  Although family can be a source of leadership feedback, the closer the emotional connection, typically the more biased the feedback.   The following general questions are examples that should solicit concrete feedback for self-reflection.

  • Would you provide an example where you believed I could have had more influence?  What could I have done more or less of that would have affected a better outcome?
  • What changes should I consider in my general behaviors to achieve greater influence?  Would you provide an example where this change might have led to a different outcome?
  • When you observe me leading at my best, what am I doing or not doing?

Some people only provide congratulatory remarks and refrain from feedback that could result in “shooting the messenger.”  Other people will be caught off guard when you ask such questions and may need time to process and think of specific examples.  In this case, schedule a second meeting to receive that feedback.  I find if you appear sincere in wanting the feedback for self-improvement, people are likely to provide an honest evaluation.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  Email: sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com

Are You Listening? What Did You Hear?

Attentively ListeningEffective listening is one of the most demanding components of any communication exchange, because it involves a mental process that requires self-discipline and demands tremendous amounts of focused energy.  As a life coach, my profession requires that I demonstrate a high proficiency in effective listening, and I must admit, I have to continually work at maintaining this skill.  Without continued practice, it is easy to slip into old and more comfortable listening habits.  The good news?  Effective listening is not an innate skill but one that everyone can learn and master.

What is effective listening?  Burley-Allen (1995) defines specific elements of effective listening which include (1) taking in information while remaining empathetic and nonjudgmental, (2) acknowledging the speaker in a way that invites the conversation to continue, and (3) providing encouraging feedback that carries the other person’s idea one step further.   Effective listening is harder than you might think to practice, because it involves not just tuning into the other person but tuning into oneself.  Have you had the chance to listen carefully to what you said and how you said it?  Have you ever recorded one of your serious or passionate conversations?  If you have, were you surprised in how you came across in the conversation?  Try it!  Next time you plan to have an important discussion, consider using effective listening techniques, record your conversation, and review the recording.  The feedback may surprise you, while providing you with valuable information in self-awareness and self-reflection.

Reference

Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The Forgotten Skill (2nd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  Email: sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com

 

Marriage: Uncomplicated

Mr and MrsToday’s marriages are more complicated than ever before.  A half century ago, the American marriage was simpler in its expectations and roles.  It was a male-female union to which the overwhelming majority of adults committed.  Divorce was not a chosen option, because it was penalized with societal ostracism.  Young adults would routinely marry their high school sweethearts, or those who were university bound would marry their college steady.  Marriage was the assumed relationship institution which led to the saying that girls went to college primarily to get their MRS degree—signified by a marriage proposal from a well-educated gentleman before graduation.

A successful marriage was defined by key behaviors and milestones such as a husband securing a well-paying job, buying a new family car, taking a home mortgage in the burbs, having children and grandchildren.  Both husband and wife had predetermined roles to play.  Husbands strived to work for the big company, measured success by promotions, brought home a paycheck to support his stay-at-home wife who cooked, tended to the children, and volunteered at the PTA.  Women could be teachers and nurses but were expected to give up their careers when their first child was born.

Fast forward to today, where the definition of marriage and its gender composition have challenged the mid-twentieth century design.  Marriage today is more complex and requires increased skills in communication, conflict management, and negotiation (Markman, Stanley, & Blumberg, 2010).  Why?  Because less is automatically assumed and accepted, and more needs to be decided.

Spouses are entering marriage with higher expectations of what marriage should be and what their partner will provide toward their happiness. Many couples expect their spouse to be both best friend and soul mate.  For those couples who can successfully fulfill those roles for each other, they should consider volunteering as marriage mentors to other couples who are struggling to achieve that status.

What can couples do to improve the strength and vitality of their marriage?  My initial answer would be to consider marriage coaching!  Ideally a couple should seek coaching before they say, “I do,” although it is never too late to invest in your marriage.  Marriage coaching can help with managing expectations as well as developing strategies for building and maintaining friendship, commitment, fun, and intimacy.  Although coaching can provide tools, success will be mostly influenced by the motivation to apply them.

In my marriage coaching practice, I had several couples who came with an expectation that if they could only learn some tools and skills, their marriage would improve.  What happened?  One couple voluntarily dropped coaching after 3-4 sessions, because as the husband said, “Although the tools are really useful, we just aren’t committed to put them to work in our marriage.”  I applauded his honest answer.  If either spouse is not willing to do the hard work to achieve the vision for the marriage, success will be limited or elude them all together.

Marriage is a partnership, requiring spouses to die to their selfishness in order to uplift their spouse and marriage. As I like to ask,” What are you doing that is contributing to a marriage issue?”  Many spouses are surprised by the question, and as they consider their answer, they usually come to the realization that they try to argue their position with the hope of convincing their spouse to their way of thinking. When my husband and I disagree, if I do not remind myself, we remind each other of a powerful Scripture: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye” (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV).  When you take the time to think about how you contributed or are contributing to an issue, you may surprise yourself how much more humble you engage in conflict resolution.

In marriage coaching, I work with couples to develop a vision, mission, and goals for their marriage that excited them.  Couples who bring optimism, a willingness to develop a plan, and commitment to take action usually see their marriages thrive.  Marriage coaching holds a couple accountable to develop the goals they want to work on together and move forward.  It is that simple!  Although the definition of marriage has been redefined in this modern age, it does not have to be complicated.  Skills, tools, and coaching can take what appears complicated and make it uncomplicated.

Reference

Markham, H., Stanley, S., & Blumberg, S. (2010). Fighting for your marriage. (3rd. ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  Contact: sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com

Live, Love, and Laugh a Lot!

Couple-LaughingThey say, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  I believe laughter is not only the best medicine for what ails you but is part of the required maintenance for a healthy and satisfying marriage.  This concept was driven home during one of my coaching sessions, where a couple was trying to figure out whether they should take their dating relationship to the next level—engagement.   Based on their survey, they were highly compatible in their emotional intelligence, communication, conflict resolution, spiritual views, financial stewardship, and interests.  What was missing?

Although they had differences in daily lifestyle habits and personality traits, theirs was not any more divergent than most couples.  Frankly, I had seen couples with greater differences that were extremely happy in their relationship.  As we dug deep, trying to understand why Peggy* was hesitating when her mind could justify why they were a good fit, she blurted out that she never belly-laughed with Mark*.   Peggy loved going new places and doing fun activities with Mark, but their conversations never evoked the silliness and laughter that usually comes from experiencing life together.  Peggy was known to see humor in many situations and did frequently laugh with her family and other friends.  She could never figure out why she did not laugh with Mark, and disappointingly, Mark never did get to put a ring on her finger.  Regardless of how compatible this couple appeared on paper, Peggy did not feel connected to her partner, and lack of laughter was a significant contributor.

Why is laughter so important in a relationship?  For an individual laughter helps to release stress.  People who have a sense of humor tend to have less physical ailments and find greater joy in their lives. Humor and laughter shared within a marriage helps a couple cope with daily stresses.  Laughter bonds and makes a couple feel like they are in it together.  When you reflect on the times your marriage was most vibrant, I bet you and your spouse were laughing a lot—seeing humor in the small situations.  I pray you are and continue to be in that stage.  On a personal front, my husband represents the classic duck, where water just rolls off his back.  On the other hand, I am the worrier in the couple.  I convincingly tell myself, someone in the relationship needs to worry.  Many times, I will be verbally expressing my worries to my husband, and when I do, he always makes me laugh.  How?  Because he just gives me his look and says “Hakuna matata!”  I usually smile in response and continue with my rationale, and he says again, “Hakuna matata.”  I then respond, “but…,” and he says again, “Hakuna matata!”  I finally give up and just laugh!  “Hakuna matata” is a joke that keeps us together.  What stories or shared experiences keep you living, loving, and laughing together?

*Names have been changed to protect identities


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  Contact: sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com

Good Listening Leads to Greater Leadership

listening

As a coach and consultant, I have clients ask me, “How can I learn to be a better communicator?”  My response is usually not what they anticipate when I reply, “By being a better listener!” They probably expected a response along the lines of “speak up and share more,” “use fewer words to get your point across,” “use language your audience will understand,” “tell a compelling story,” or “get to your point quickly.”

American culture is predominately individualistic, where “I” is valued over “we”, “extrovert” is thought more highly of than “introvert”, and where direct language is practiced in lieu of high-context communication in which pauses and gestures convey more meaning than the words themselves. Although most people would agree that communication is a skill that can be improved upon, most training tends to focus on how to speak more intentionally, powerfully, and persuasively, so the message is clearly heard, accurately understood, and elicits action. The reality? Although people spend more time listening than talking, surprisingly, they are on average about 25% effective at listening (Burley-Allen, 1995).

Your first thought is probably, “that sounds low,” and your next thought may be, “I’m a much better listener than average.” Whether that second thought is true, everyone can benefit from learning how to listen better. What are the benefits of good listening? Good listening leads to greater leadership, because good listeners forge strong relationships built on respect, trust, rapport, and validation, which in turn enables these leaders to influence others.

Good listening is not about hearing!  Listening is a sophisticated process that has not only multiple levels but also requires different skills and energy to achieve the highest level.  Burley-Allen (1995) describes three distinctive levels of listening:

  • Level 1: tuning in/out; follows conversation only to talk; not responsive; judgmental
  • Level 2: hearing content but not the feelings; not focused on the intent
  • Level 3: empathetic listening; nonjudgmental; acknowledging; responsive

Most people routinely practice either Level 1 and 2 listening in their daily lives; whereas, great leaders are adept at Level 3 listening. Good listeners have strong abilities to accurately receive and retain information, sustain their full attention through dialogue, attend to their own words, and encourage the other person to continue the conversation (Zhafir, 2000). As an empathetic listener, common skills you could practice include:

  • Paraphrase back the major ideas of the message and the underlying feelings of the speaker, so s/he can confirm you understood them accurately. You can say, “I hear the excitement in your voice when…” or “I can see the pain in your face when…”
  • Be attentive. Eliminate physical distractions (phone calls, internet surfing) and clear your mind of internal distractions.
  • Do not interrupt. Allow the speaker the space and time to fully express her/himself.
  • Listen without judgment. Empathetic listening does not require you to agree with statements or opinions but only to validate the speaker and his/her feelings.  Refrain from personal comments.  Ask questions for clarification.
  • Do not give advice. Instead, ask the speaker questions so s/he can figure out the problem and its solution.
  • Encourage by giving feedback. A speaker will know you are listening when you briefly respond with noncommittal acknowledgements (uh-huh, hum, I see) and head-nodding.
  • Affirm by using your body language. Appropriate facial expressions, leaning towards the person, and eye contact provide feedback to the speaker that you are interested.

Empathetic listening is not only a core coaching tool but also a powerful leadership tool. When people believe their leaders are listening to them, they develop a conscious desire to listen in return. When leaders listen, people are open to influence, which is where change begins to happen. I can’t recall a great leader who wasn’t also a great listener.  Leaders are not great because of what they say, but in how they make you feel. Empathetic listening makes you feel validated, respected, and open to being enthusiastically led.

My brief story demonstrates how a great leader can even impactfully use the word “listen.” In 1989, I was a young engineer working on a strategic project with a director within my division at Mobil Chemical. We were to evaluate and recommend whether the company should invest capital to manufacture the components of passenger car engine oils to sell to our parent company, Mobil Oil. Tony Kam and I were to present the findings to Phil Matos, President of Mobil Chemical. As I waited nervously for Phil and his team to join us in the conference room, I wondered about his demeanor and temperament. When Phil entered, he walked towards me, introduced himself, and extended his hand, which I firmly clasped. He then surprised me by cupping his other hand over mine and said, “I’m looking forward in listening to what you have to share with us today.” Most people usually say,” I look forward in hearing what you have to say.” His handshake and choice of the word “listen” versus “hear” were powerful and remain etched in my memory. Regardless of the vast difference in our salary grades, I can honestly say, that I would have followed him in any direction he wanted to take me.

I am sure everyone has a personal reflection involving a person they would emphatically follow. What characteristics does that leader have that draws you into being led? Although leaders typically have several powerful attributes, I would guess that one of those characteristics would likely be in how s/he made you feel, which probably came through empathetic listening. Empathetic listening is one of the greatest gifts one person can give to another. The good news? Great listening is a skill that can be learned.

References

Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The forgotten skill: A self-teaching guide (2nd ed.).  New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Zhafir, R. (2000). The zen of listening: Mindful communication in the age of distraction. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, and leadership which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement. She coaches in a variety of areas including leadership, life purpose/plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.

What Backlashes Should Leaders Be Aware of with Flexible Working?

working from home signWorkplace environments and their cultures continue to evolve as globalization, technology advancements, and the footprint of the Millennials continue to widen and influence work structure, processes, and the office design.  How are these events changing the way companies internally do business?  What are the potential backlashes from moving fast into the future? How can leaders keep their teams cohesive, productive, and moving in one direction?

Korn Ferry (2017) issued a series of reports on talent recruitment and what employees are demanding when they select an employer.  In 2016, company culture (employee focus and inclusiveness) and career progression were top considerations for new talent as compared to just five years before when benefits and a company’s reputation were top contenders.  By 2022, talent acquisition professionals believe company culture will remain high and flexible working (remote, cloud offices) will be the number one consideration.  Millennial preferences are influencing work design based on their numbers.  In 2015, Millennials accounted for ~ 30% of the working population with forecasts estimating their growth to more than 50% by 2025 (Woods, 2016).

Will companies have a hill to climb in maintaining a company culture with a reputation of being inclusive and employee-focused while integrating cloud offices, remote working, and flexible working schedules?  At one end of the continuum you have the full team, each with an office or cubical, who works together between 8 am – 5 pm.  On the other end of the spectrum, the office is virtual, with employees working remotely through cloud based connection and occasionally meeting in groups at temporary facilities or informal settings. How far down this continuum will businesses move to accommodate their workforce preferences?  Can a virtual company realistically maintain an inclusive culture?

Most people would agree that greater work flexibility is inevitable, because it will be demanded and technology can enable virtual communication.  Despite employees’ favor in having more work-life balance, what are some of its potential backlashes that leaders should be aware of and prepared to mitigate?  Direct costs may be a factor?  Although savings can come from reducing the office footprint, there will likely be increased costs in Cyber security, technology hardware/software, and temporary facilities.  What side of the balance sheet those costs land on will depend on the company, but leaders should also be identifying and evaluating the not-so-obvious costs?

What about productivity?  Can job responsibilities be redesign in a way that allows for remote access without sacrificing productivity?  Some companies may benefit on the bottom line from salaried employees who will voluntarily give back a portion of their 2-3 hours of daily commute time, as they feel more refreshed and focused at the home office.  However, do all employees have the discipline to work remotely?  Some employees, whose jobs can be performed remotely, still do best in a structured environment away from the home.  They may have a difficult time staying focused and making the transition back and forth between work and personal responsibilities. These are all questions and issues employers will have to wrestle with and decide how to accommodate without sacrificing productivity.

I believe a high-risk backlash is the erosion of organizational cohesiveness and having employees feel they are part of the team.  Lack of face-to-face interaction can result in employees feeling alienated, lonely, and disconnected from their colleagues.  Although video conferencing and social media can bring team members together, they cannot substitute for the natural relationship building that is co-constructed in conversation shared over a cup of coffee, lunch, or a hallway chat.  These naturally occurring interactions make people feel valued, affirmed, and more accountable to the team.  These unplanned or casual interactions provide opportunities to form personal bonds, mentor, discuss impromptu business ideas, and consider creative solutions.  Strong co-worker relationships create a shared sense of purpose that goes beyond performing for a paycheck.

Another potential backlash is the concern, anxiety, and wasted energy that employees have about their performance and future opportunities when they work remotely.  Working in an office environment allows employees to receive daily spoken and unspoken feedback on how they are contributing and presenting themselves.  With employees fearing “out of sight, out of mind,” they wonder what implication that remote and flexible working will have on their performance appraisal, future promotions, and general opportunities.

Communication may be another area that becomes more challenging in a working environment where employees routinely call in, video conference, or read an email summary. People have always struggled with accurately giving and receiving communication.  The workstyle of the future may put additional stress on the frequency and accuracy of messaging.  Burley-Allen (1995) has broken down communication into three messaging parts: the words (7%), tone of voice (38%), and facial/body expressions (55%).  Content and intent can easily be lost in translation through a conference call or email.   Do you remember a personal texting incident where you initiated a hailstorm that left you baffled and thinking, “That’s not what I meant?”   The fact that we all probably have at least one story along those lines is not surprising, when you consider that 7% of communication is held in the words and leaves the remaining 93% up for interpretation.  Whoever designed and launched Emojis was a godsend to the texting community.  At least now the receiver can infer some “tone of voice” and “facial expression.”

Changing work structure and processes will naturally change co-worker relationships.  Change is inevitable, so how can a company and its employees navigate this change well?  As is usually the case, there is no silver bullet or one thing that companies should focus on.  Success is usually built by doing several things well, and I believe companies inherently have the knowledge to set a vision for their future, create goals to get there, understand and overcome obstacles, and hold themselves accountable.  Sometimes leadership needs a partner.  Coaches are change experts, and I believe organizational and leadership coaches will be called to work more frequently beside leaders to help them move their teams from where they stand to where they want to be.

References

Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The forgotten skill: A self-teaching guide (2nd ed.).  New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN: 9780471015871.

Korn Ferry Institute. (2017). The talent forecast, part 1: Adapting today’s candidate priorities for tomorrow’s organizational success. Retrieved from  http://www.kornferry.com/the-talent-forecast/the-talent-forecast

Woods, K. (2016). Organizational ambidexterity and the multi-generational workforce. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 20(1), 95-111.


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  Contact: sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com