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Building Better Virtual Connections with Dr. Amy Mednick and Dr. Diane Lennard (Ep. #66)

The BetterManager Team
Building Better Managers Podcast Episode 66 - Dr. Amy Mednick and Dr. Diane Lennard

Building Better Managers Podcast Episode #66: Building Better Virtual Connections with Dr. Amy Mednick and Dr. Diane Lennard

Remote and hybrid working environments, in some form, are here to stay. Understanding how to maintain well-being, increase employee engagement, and strengthen connections in professional contexts as our interactions become more and more remote can be a game changer for managers and leaders at any organization.

Today’s guests, Dr. Amy Mednick and Dr. Diane Lennard are the authors of the deeply-researched new book, Humanizing the Remote Experience through Leadership and Coaching: Strategies for Better Virtual Connections. They’re here to share the findings of their research, case studies, and practical strategies you can start using right away in your workplace.

In this episode:

Meet Dr. Amy Mednick & Dr. Diane Lennard

Psychological Safety In the Remote/Hybrid Workplace

  • Safety is really one of the most most basics of human needs, so that's where they started their exploration of the remote/hybrid experience. Anytime you enter any environment, your brain's first priority is to find safety.
  • When you don't feel safe, your body has a natural stress response, our fight or flight reaction, and there's a strong tendency for it react the same regardless of the actual danger to us.
  • In some virtual settings your body may not feel like you're in a safe place. And attention, paying attention to a meeting, is actually a more complex task than you might think. So if you find yourself really struggling to hold focus on tasks throughout the day, if you're really just kind of it's a struggle to pay attention to stay on task, this could be a warning sign that the stress of interacting like this all the time is not is not fully under control for you.

Managing the Team's Energy

  • It may seem obvious that taking breaks is important, but it is scientifically proven.
  • If you work intensely, at high focus, high energy, for 90 minutes, then you really need a break of around 15 minutes.
  • But it's the kind of break you take that's important!
  • Research has shown that if you go out in nature (even in New York City nature is outside the apartment) it refreshes your brain so that when you go back to high focused energy, and high focus brain work, you're much clearer and it's easier to be engaged.
  • You can also try an "End of Workday Ritual." That is something that you do every day, the same set of actions, it can be as simple as making a to-do list or turning off your tabs, changing your shoes, whatever. But it tells the brain "Okay, now you can refuel. Now you can rest."
  • Another thing is to stay connected with other people. And this is also something that happens in burnout. You feel detached from people when you're exhausted. Little acts of kindness, like paying for somebody's coffee or giving a compliment to somebody can make you feel more connected.
  • Exhaustion, detachment, and feeling inefficient are all symptoms of burnout. To counter that and to stay engaged, when you're not doing work tasks, try manual tasks, doing things with your hands, because you're not taxing your brain.
  • So these are not complicated things, but if we're aware of what we need to do - to manage our high focus energy and our more downtime - that's really, really helpful.

Takeaways

  1. One of the main things to remember is to really keep a focus on prioritizing people - staying connected on a human level by recognizing people, accepting them for who they are, by not being strictly "transactional."
  2. Focus on asking questions, listening and soliciting input. There are simple, effective ways that leaders can do this, making sure to get to know the team and that everyone has a chance to get to know each other. Make the most of the opportunities to show interest to demonstrate skills and strengths.
  3. Make sure always to solicit input, show concern and support for team members, and gather different perspectives. It's often not going to come on its own, especially in zoom when it might be a little bit harder to share.
  4. Respect people's time and model the kind of interpersonal behaviors that are going to benefit their team - set the example!
  5. Their research also shows that cultivating a shared purpose goes very far. This can be done in different ways, going from the macro to the micro:
    - it could be an organization's purpose to the whole world, it's mission statement
    - it could be defining what the team is doing for the organization.
    - it could be what is the individual is doing for the team
  6. The point is, when people have a shared purpose, their work is more meaningful. It really does drive people. It's not just a bonus (although that's nice!), but the reason for working every day makes a really big difference.

Downloads & Resources

Follow Dr. Mednick on Twitter and Dr. Lennard on LinkedIn, and get more info on their book at htre-book.com.

Subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast platform!

Check out our blog articles on Leadership here.

Dr. Amy Mednick & Dr. Diane Lennard

Dr. Amy Mednick is a psychiatrist working in her own private practice who specializes in the overlap between the humanities and neuroscience. Dr. Diane Lennard is a professor of management communication at NYU Stern School of Business and a communication coach for executives, teams, educators, and other professionals. Their new book is Humanizing the Remote Experience through Leadership and Coaching: Strategies for Better Virtual Connections

Episode Transcript
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