Over my career in large businesses as well as small ones, it seems that more and more people are feeling unhappy and unfulfilled in their job. I’m convinced that technology is making this problem worse, rather than better since it often causes to a sense of isolation working remotely, or even in the same office. Isolation leads to a lack of relationship or connection with others.
For example, while social media exchanges are now quick and simple, they miss all the body language and emotion that many believe constitute more than fifty percent of human relations and communication. The result is that even highly engaged workers can get results without a sense of fulfillment or satisfaction. This leads to a spiral downhill in productivity and happiness.
Your challenge as an entrepreneur and business leader is to discover ways to improve the fulfillment of your team, without turning back the clock on technology. I found these issues outlined well in a new book, “Back to Human,” by Dan Schawbel. I like his research and experience on what it takes to improve connection and fulfillment in this age of isolation at work.
Here are some key actions for improved fulfillment that we both believe every leader and executive needs to adopt:
- Build stronger team connections to make work fun. Lack of connection makes work feel like a chore and creates the silos that minimize creativity and innovation. The first step to fulfillment is ensuring that you have face-to-face conversations and joint social activities so that you get to know one another better outside of social media and email.
The more you and other team members understand others’ unique situations, life goals, passions, fears, and obstacles, the more you can help everyone feel more fulfilled, and the more they will help your business.
- Show how your work contributes to shared values. Make it evident that values from you and your team drive your business goals, rather than goals driving values. Fulfillment is a function of doing the right thing. Define and enforce a high bar for ethical behavior, product quality, employee communication, social responsibilities, and customer service.
You have to engage the hearts and minds of your team members. To foster team fulfillment, breed optimism, promote resilience, and renew faith and confidence, real leaders look for opportunities to reward adherence to values as well as results.
- Define and foster a higher purpose for the business. In my experience, both you and your team will have the most satisfaction and fulfillment if you can combine a strong sense of purpose with a quantifiable business opportunity. In other words, profit and a focus on repeatable processes need to be offset by social and environmental benefits.
In every business, the first higher purpose should be a focus on your customer needs, rather than internal challenges. Without customers, there is no business, and no higher purpose can be satisfied. Beyond that, seek active team participation in outside efforts.
- Create and support a culture of trust in your team. Be open to sharing personal information and summaries of conversations you’ve had with senior executives. Provide the opportunity and encouragement for all team members to do the same. This will demonstrate team member authenticity and help build trust. Be the openness role model.
Listen to what your team members are saying, without interrupting. This shows respect and will help you better give them the feedback they need for fulfillment and trust. It also demonstrates that you are willing to engage with their ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
- Focus on accomplishments rather than time at work. To improve team members’ sense of fulfillment, you have to make sure things get finished, and results are measured. Set goals and make sure they are attainable. Smaller goals can lead to bigger ones, which will give you different levels of achievement at different times.
Your job is to remove obstacles that get in the way of employees’ fulfillment. One often-overlooked obstacle to a team’s success is having a teammate who isn’t performing well or has a bad attitude. Don’t keep them around and let them poison the rest of the team.
Sometimes tech devices trick you into thinking that they are helping you and your team to stay better connected. But technically connected and unhappy or unfulfilled team members won’t lead to success for you or them. We are all still humans, so personal relationships and the interpersonal skills of the team are still essential. Don’t forget that critical side of your business.