A few weeks ago there was a TikTok video making the rounds that absolutely blew my mind.
Wait, let me just show you…
If you’re not in a spot where you can watch it right now, let me just lay it out for you.
After a year and a half of successful remote work during the pandemic, this TikTok-er’s company decided that everyone needed to be back in the office. But because it wasn’t really safe to have employees in close proximity, no one is allowed to meet face-to-face with their coworkers. So she’s at her desk, on Zoom with her coworkers, who are sitting ten feet away.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
The company required them to come back to the office, then told them the only way to collaborate with their coworkers was in the exact same way they’d been using when they’d worked from home.
Yep. That’s really happening.
But what really made my jaw drop was that this isn’t an isolated thing. When I posted this video, a ton of people commented and messaged me to tell me how real this is for them, too.
They have to come into the office every day, but they’re not allowed to interact face-to-face with any of their coworkers
Let me just lay it out there for you. That’s not about employees needing oversight. That’s not about different styles of leadership. That’s not about the power of collaboration.
That is just straight-up about power. It’s about having the power to tell people where they can and can’t be to do their jobs effectively, and then using that power just to exert control over other people.
That’s. Not. Leadership.
And then, the very next week, Simon Sinek posted this video where he talks about why he thinks The Great Resignation is happening right now...
You should absolutely go watch the whole video, but for now, here’s just a bit of what he said:
“I think it’s a shot across the bow for the standard corporate culture—which is people don’t feel included, needed, wanted, seen, heard, understood—and they’re looking at where they are, and they’re looking at the unknown, and the unknown is looking more appealing. So then one reason the The Great Resignation is happening is there are so many substandard corporate cultures. The great companies are losing a lot fewer people to the great resignation.”
I think both of these videos speak right to the heart of what people are trying to figure out in this moment.
In the past year and a half, we’ve had a chance to step back, to reevaluate lots of things we might’ve thought we just had to accept—long commutes eating into our time with our families, rigid policies that kept us tied to our desks 40+ hours every week, evaluation systems that focused on the volume of worked produced rather than the value their work brings to the company.
The lesson is that if leaders aren’t invested in creating a company culture that works for their teams, their teams can and will find new places to share their skills.
So how do you become the kind of boss people want to work for? How do you make sure you’re building a people-centered culture?
I think it starts with asking yourself three key questions on a regular basis:
1. What do my people need?
This sounds so simple, but it’s HUGE and is too easy to overlook. In the midst of change and upheaval, pausing to ask yourself if you’re considering the needs of your team members is incredibly important.
It is okay to be unsure. It’s okay to feel like you don’t really know what your team needs to bring their best to their jobs. You know the best way to figure it out?
Don’t guess. Don’t assume you know what your team needs because you remember what you needed when you were in their position. Don’t assume what they needed 6 months ago, 6 weeks ago, 6 days ago is what they still need.
We’ve all learned in the last year and a half that our lives, our work, our capacities, and our goals are constantly changing. I’m willing to bet what you needed to feel supported and valued in your job on April 1, 2020 was worlds apart from what you needed on April 30, 2020. The best companies are ready to flex and adjust to make sure they’re supporting their teams through every change.
So ASK THEM. Ask them regularly. Touch base with them consistently, and really listen to what they have to say.
If you’ve been building a relationship of mutual trust and respect, they will tell you what they need. And if you’re still working towards that goal, just the simple act of asking them what they need can go a long way toward shifting the dynamic.
2. Does our work environment meet their needs?
It’s not enough just to ask what your team needs. It’s not even enough to really listen to them. Once you know what they need, you need to ask yourself whether your current work environment is meeting their needs.
Do they need more flexibility in where they work?
Start putting together a home-first policy and ask your team for their input as you do. I know for a fact that a lot of companies that have required employees to come back to the office full time never stopped to ask what their people want or need to be successful.
Do they need more flexibility in their work hours so they can be more present in their kid's lives or drive aging parents to doctors’ appointments? By the way, flexibility is the number one factor that attracts top talent.
Do they want more support in developing their skills? Work with your team to create a culture of mentorship so that more experienced team members are recognized for their knowledge and skills and newer employees not only have a teammate they can trust to ask for help, they feel confident knowing your team is focused on cooperation rather than competition.
And if you can’t make the changes they’ve requested, be honest and transparent about why.
Maybe your team wants to work from home full time, but you work in a field where face-to-face collaboration is necessary, and even really energizing and productive, sometimes. So you might develop a schedule that allows people to work from home most days but brings everyone together in the office once a week. Bringing that to your team in direct, candid conversations goes a long way towards helping them feel heard.
Most of us just want to know we’re heard and respected by our bosses, even if they can’t fulfill every single request.
3. Is our team culture focused on growth?
Almost nothing will burn out a team faster than feeling like they’re walking into a pressure cooker every day when they get to the office or open their inboxes or log in to a Zoom meeting.
Create a culture where the stakes are not win or lose, they’re win or LEARN.
Support your people as they grow into the best version of themselves, and make it clear that you recognize that mistakes are inevitable but also incredible opportunities to learn. People who work in environments where growth, not perfection, is the focus will feel safe enough to take risks, innovate, and stretch their skills. That’s when your team will be at their most creative, their most engaged, and their most effective.
That starts with embodying a growth mindset in your own work. Seek out feedback from your team. Be honest with your team when sometime hasn’t gone to plan, and share the lessons you’ve learned.
By the way, if you’re interested in learning more about leading with a growth mindset, my LinkedIn course is a great place to get started!
When you lead as a 100% Human, you create a culture where your team can be comfortable and confident in admitting where they need support and what they want to learn, they will be able to see opportunities for growth, self-advocate, and innovate in ways that help them feel passionate about their job, their work, their team, and their company.
That’s how you become a leader people want to work for.