Creating real connections and supporting work-life balance are two of the biggest challenges facing the workplace today. Two culture and leadership experts tell how to navigate these tricky waters.
This story appears in the January 2016 digital edition of SmartReport on Leadership. Click here to access this free magazine.
Dan Rockwell, CEO, Leadership Freak
Foster real connections
In a hyperconnected world, connecting with people is the biggest workforce challenge of 2016 and beyond. It’s one thing to interact. It’s quite another to connect.
Distaste for command-and-control leadership requires leaders to leverage influence rather than position. Distance adds mystery and power to positional leaders, but influence requires connection.
Let yourself be seen in ways that enhance connection, but don’t allow interactions to become all about you. Speak in welcoming tones, rather than critical ones. Smile more. The sad reality is that as leaders climb the corporate ladder, they frown more and enjoy work less.
Reveal your journey in ways that encourage. Reveal lessons learned from mistakes, for example. Positional leaders fear the not-knowing. Influential leaders learn. Talk about the joy of learning. You’re glad you learned but don’t want to repeat the experience.
Find ways to connect over distance. I married my high-school sweetheart. We met before the Internet and e-mail. It was a long-distance call to talk, so we stayed connected with love letters. It’s time to bring pen and paper back into the workforce. I’m not suggesting you write love notes, just notes.
Susan LaMotte, CEO, exaqueo
Prioritize work-life balance
Maintaining a work-life balance is more challenging today than ever. Everyone from shift workers to senior executives is overworked, overscheduled and overstimulated. And while these tensions have been bubbling up for many years, 2016 will see them boil over. Here’s why:
- Women are still declining leadership roles. Women earn 60% of college degrees but hold less than 15% of Fortune 500 leadership roles. While society has tried to get them to lean in, and many well-known female executives have championed for more women in leadership roles, many are saying no to the demands that come with being a leader. This will present a huge problem for workforces that need more of a gender balance.
- Families are struggling. There are still too few options to care for newborn babies and sick family members for most American families. According to the Department of Labor, only 12% of companiesoffer some form of paid leave. As workers struggle to balance these challenges at home, they become less engaged and productive at work—understandably so. It won’t be long before executives come to their senses about the effect this has on the bottom line.
- Time off has become a rarity. With work now accessible 24/7, workers struggle with stepping away to recoup and revive. About 75% of workers say they are stressed at work, and one in four report they are either very or extremely stressed, according to Project: Time Off. Its recent study found that 41% of workers won’t use all their vacation, and 46% of bosses will stay connected during their vacations. While the reasons are many, the effects are the same: increased stress and reduced productivity.
Companies can no longer afford to ignore these issues. In 2016, with unemployment down and workers having more choices and freedom to leave their jobs than they’ve had in a long time, I predict companies will begin to feel the effect of these issues on their bottom line, their employer brand and their consciences. And they’ll finally start taking action.