Love and business go together like …Well, do they go together? Heather Hanson Wickman says they do.
An executive coach, consultant, speaker and author, her firm, Untethered, works with people and organizations: “Understanding their beliefs and values is critical to designing solutions and change approaches that create successful and lasting results.”
She has parlayed her experience into her book, “The Evolved Executive: The Future of Work Is Love in Action,” which explains why caring matters more than ever in the modern workplace.
“The way we work is leading to stressed-out employees, unfulfilled leaders and unhappy teams,” Biro said. “Heather is adamant that there is a better way.”
As Biro noted, “Many workplace practices are as harmful as secondhand smoke.”
“We work at a constant and digital pace,” she said. “We communicate nonstop. No one is taking breaks anymore. When we don’t have the chance to regroup, we don’t see the forest. We’re too busy dealing with the trees.”
Taking pauses yields great personal dividends.
“It’s so important to build reflection and connection into the workday,” Biro said. “Take time to reflect on your own priorities and share them with your team.”
Feedback in some workplaces comes with an air of apprehension. Not so for Hanson Wickman.
“I’d love to see feedback become an ongoing gift of human development and love,” she said. “I’d also love to see people openly talk about the silent fear that runs rampant in most organizations.”
“Let’s stop trying to change others,” Hanson Wickman said. “Change comes from within first.”
Among workplace sins, she ranks micromanaging as one of the biggest causes of toxic work environments. That bogs down the process.
“We need more ways to make quick decisions by those doing the work,” Hanson Wickman said. “I would love to see a major shift in the role of a manager or leader from control to coach — fear to love.
“The toxic politics of the workplace drag us all down and simply fuel the fear … and disengagement,” she said.
Company mergers are commonplace. Differences in management style when changes are made can cause resentment.
“Yes, and often leaders are put into a role with no prior training to help them understand how to lead,” Hanson Wickman said.
She explained how leaders can make small changes to build happier teams.
“How about creating time to simply ‘be’ with your teammates,” she said. “Find out what they care about. What makes them feel valued. Let’s stop telling others what to do. Let them drive their work. Autonomy, purpose, mastery.
“Have self-awareness,” Hanson Wickman said. “A little more knowledge about how we show up as leaders and impact those around us goes a long way.”
Even something as simple as saying “Good morning” using the person’s name, saying “Thank you” or remembering birthdays or special personal occasions helps people believe leaders actually care about the people who work with them.
“It’s amazing how these simple things can be overlooked so quickly in the mad race to get stuff done,” Hanson Wickman said.
“We are programmed to act in a hierarchical manner at work, and yes, our unconscious beliefs often drive behaviors that reinforce this way of being,” she said. “However, more leaders are choosing a new path, and it’s proving to work in practice.”
The most successful leaders start from a firm footing.
“Making work better all start with stronger leadership,” Biro said. “I’ve written before about how leaders can hold themselves accountable.
“I loved Heather’s advice: Find small ways to give power and control back to your team members,” she said. “Also, be human with your team. Even if you’re managing a remote team, you have the responsibility to check in and find out how people are really doing.”
There are many ways to connect on an authentic level with coworkers.
“I like to do frequent short check-ins,” Biro said. “We call, text, Zoom and — this is important — get together in person as often as we can.
“It’s important to me that we work as a team, including shared goals,” she said. “One of the most undervalued skills as a leader is listening. When you ask your team members how they’re doing, shut up and listen.”
This is the time to keep it real.
“Vulnerability opens the door to more authentic connection,” Hanson Wickman said. “Ask for help, share about our own hopes and fears.
“Do something simple,” she said. “Get out of the office and share a chat over a cup of coffee.”