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LET’S GET PERSONAL: HOW TO HUMANIZE WORK RELATIONSHIPS

Special thanks to Catherine Ducharme from Fluency Leadership for authoring this insightful blog post to share with our Smart Savvy network. 

 

Okay, I’m calling it! For those who still hang onto the notion that being personal at work is unprofessional, think emotions don’t belong at work, or believe in the split personality of work self and home selfI’m reminded of the wise lyrical words of Queen Elsa in Frozen: “Let it go, let it go!”  

When I look back on my career and the work experiences where I felt most energized, productive and engaged, the common denominator has always been the people I worked with and the quality of our relationships. In fact, many of those people have become lifelong friendsI’m sure that’s the case for many of you as well.   

Why Are Positive Work Relationships Important?       

We are literally wired to connect with people. Neuroscience tells us that the brain releases oxytocin (the hormone linked to trustworthiness and motivation) in response to social contact. Noted leadership expert, psychologist and author, Dr. Henry Cloud, says for our brains to function properly and for people to thrive, we need connection. Relationships not only root and ground us, but they also fuel higher performance.   

And, according to an article on PositivePsychology.com, there’s further evidence that positive social relationships increase employee satisfaction, engagement, productivity, and motivation. They even boost our physical health.   

Most importantly, positive relationships allow us to build trust with each other. Trust is foundational to high-performing teams. If you can’t trust one another, you simply cannot deliver results.    

 

But Isn't It About The Work?

The counterargument goes like this: “At work we should be focused on the work. And while the work is always important, relationships are built on connections that usually happen in non-work moments. And relationships are how the work gets done.   

As Marc Brackett, author of Permission to Feel, says, “The professional friendships born of personal moments make our work easier and more pleasant.” 

One upside of 2020 is the reminder of the importance of relationships and connection.  In our locked-down and distributed world, where spontaneous connection did not happen, we became hyper-aware we need more connection, more empathy and more real human moments.  

Now is the time to humanize those work relationships. Here are four ways you can do that:    

 

1. STORYTELLING…SO YOU WERE BORN, THEN WHAT?  

Guy Raz, creator of the popular podcast How I Built This, says, “You don’t know someone until you know their story.”  

As part of their recruitment process, our friends at Smart, Savvy + Associates, a marketing and communications recruitment company where I used to work, invites all candidates to complete an exercise called “So you were born, then what?”. It asks them to list 6-8 milestone moments that shaped who they are today. The instructions are deliberately vague so people can take it where they want. Some keep it strictly professional. Others go deep and personal, sharing triumphs, hardships, stories of resilience, heartache, and equal amounts of heartwarming and tough life lessons.  

Stories humanize us and allow us to see the whole person (tweet this) 

Want to get to know each other better? Sharing stories is an enlightening exercise for teams to do. Make it voluntary and set a 2-3 minute time limitDownload the “So you were born, then what?” template here.   

What would it do for you and your team to share your stories?  

 

2. LET’S GET PERSONAL BREAKOUT  

As part of Fluency’s Trust Building Workshop, we break teams into groups of 3-4 people and provide them with list of questions, some of which are more vulnerable than others. In their groups, everyone is invited to pick a question and share their answer.  

It is a simple but profound exercise to build trust. In under 10 minutes, teams learn things about their colleagues they never knew. It creates connection by helping team members see each other on a deeper, more human level.   

How would getting personal connect your team?  

 

3. CREATING NON-WORK MOMENTS AT WORK  

Many leaders in our network have been intentional about forging positive work relationships.  

Some build human moments into their daily huddles, like asking people to express how they are feeling that day in two words. Others invite people to share headlines about whatever is on their minds, such as accomplishments, family updates, or personal news.  Some schedule a weekly 30-minute team Zoom meet up with a no-work-talk rule, and still others connect one-to-one for coffee chats.  

One company we know hired a comedy troupe to deliver some online laughter. Whether it is happy hour, team trivia or special events, positive social interactions and laughter connect us.   

When was the last time you and your team really laughed out loud together? 

 

4. MAINTAIN YOUR RITUALS  

This was the sage advice that Erica Keswin, an expert on working human and author of Bring Your Human to Work, shared with our community in a webinar last year. 

According to Erica, rituals give us a sense of psychological safety, belonging, and a connection to purpose. If rituals are part of your culture, Erica suggests finding ways to keep them alive.   

She shared how Knotch, a digital media company, kept their ritual of a weekly showandtell, which can be anything from introducing a new employee, highlighting a new strategy, or having a team member recap a recent adventure.   

Rituals keep us connected.  

What positive rituals can you re-invent or create to help your team stay connected? 

What’s one thing you can put into motion this week to help you and your team get to know each other more personally?  

For more on this topic, watch for Erica’s next book: Rituals Roadmap: The Human Way to Transform Everyday Routines into Workplace Magic, which is now available.   

 

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Special thanks to Catherine Ducharme from Fluency Leadership for authoring this insightful blog post to share with our Smart Savvy network. 


Catherine Ducharme

Catherine Ducharme ACC, CLC

Co-Founder of Fluency Leadership

Catherine is a career communicator, entrepreneur and speaker who brings 25+ years communications and leadership experience in a range of industries. Learn more about Catherine at fluencyleadership.com.

 

 

 


Fluency Leadership

As a leadership + team development and coaching company, Fluency builds future-ready, human-centric leaders who forge high performing teams, fuel positive cultures, and deliver extraordinary results.

 

Catherine Ducharme

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