Jeffrey Hull is the CEO of LeaderShift, a leadership development consultancy, and is the author of the bestselling book, Flex, The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World. Jeff and I had a chat about this book in a previous episode! It was an absolute pleasure speaking with him again and having him back on PeopleFirst!
Jeff's a highly sought after speaker, consultant, and executive coach with more than 25 years working with C-suite leaders around the world. He's a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School, an adjunct professor of leadership at New York University and the director of education at the Institute of Coaching at Harvard Medical School affiliate. He's been featured in many publications and is currently working on a new book, Leadership For A Vibrant Future.
The 2020 Shift
In several ways, 2020 saw many changes. The rise of millennials into leadership roles, the flattening of organizations, the acceleration of multiculturalism and globalism in organizations, the list goes on and on. On top of that, there was a massive global disruption and everyone had to figure out either how to work from home productively or how to be safe in their workspace. What Jeff found was that the difficulties brought by 2020 only heightened the importance of leadership and communication. The level of emotional intelligence, the level of vulnerability, the level of team cohesion and safety, all of those things became emphasized. As tough as the past can be, it makes you realize what’s truly important.
A safe environment absolutely extends beyond just physical safety. Specifically in a work environment, it’s imperative that employees feel cared for, nurtured, and supported all-around. In this post-2020 world, there has been a lot of discussion about how people should return to work. “Should we stay virtual? In-person? Hybrid?” The real question involves putting psychological safety at the forefront. In what context will an employee feel most comfortable sharing their ideas? Will those ideas be shut down and criticized or will they be uplifted and supported? Psychological safety is all about creating a safe space for people to show up, feel comfortable, and let their creative spirit come alive.
The Virtual Space
Believe it or not, the same kinds of non-verbal physiological reactions that we have with each other in-person happen in an accelerated way in virtual space (Wow!) That's one of the reasons why we get so tired! People say, "Oh, being on zoom calls is exhausting." Well, you know why? The reason it's exhausting is because we’re actually hypervigilant. Our parasympathetic system is actually working TWICE as hard to pay attention to facial expressions, gestures, tones, quality of eye contact, etc. Therefore, if you as a leader want to create a virtual safe space, you have to be very intentional about it. You can't just lean back on your chair, turn off your video, chit-chat in the background and expect people to be fully engaged. You must be INTENTIONAL.
Steps towards being INTENTIONAL
Steve shared three main ways leaders can orchestrate communication INTENTIONALLY.
Method #1: Use your hands. Even the slightest of gestures can communicate to your team that you're engaged, involved, and above all, committed. Point to something, stand up, move around, anything you can do to physically portray your dedication. Replicate the essence of physicality and show that we're not just from the neck up.
Method #2: Figure out a way to look at the camera. We often want to look at ourselves to see how we’re coming across, but looking at the camera allows for deep personal connection. It’s almost as if you’re making eye contact through the camera.
Method #3: Smile a lot. I know...it seems cheesy, but it’s absolutely impactful. You've got to smile in order for people to really feel they're connected and cared for.
Presence, Perspective, & Persona
As a leader, it’s important to step back and ask yourself, am I ready to do the listening? Am I present? Am I fully here? Or am I bringing the energy from something I did five minutes ago into my meeting? The first step in good listening is to be clear about your presence physically, emotionally, and cerebrally. Secondly, what is the perspective you're bringing in? Are you bringing in a judgment? Are you bringing in a question? Are you bringing in an opinion? We all judge all the time, but oftentimes, we aren’t aware of it. Finally, persona is the role that you need to play in a given listening situation. Are you playing the mentor? The coach? The director? These are all questions you need to ask in order to further define your leadership style. Make that definition today.
Listen to the rest of the conversation at the links below!
Watch away: Here!
Treat your earbuds: Here!