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In uncertain times, people look to leaders. Leadership coach and Founder of Human Leadership Jacqui Pollock explains how savvy companies are gaining the edge by creating inspiring leaders, inclusive cultures and engaged teams aligned with company vision – and how you can do the same.

With continued disruption and constant change one thing is for certain – different people will react differently. It’s a leader’s responsibility to bring out the best in all team members, equally, and understandably leaders can start to feel stuck, stressed and doubt their approach. They may feel frustrated by the lack of cohesion and engagement within their teams and agonize over how to motivate those who think and behave differently to them. 

Staggeringly, only 20 per cent of employees say they are engaged at work according to the Gallup State of the Global Workplace 2021 Report. Imagine the talent, hidden superpowers and potential that are not being harnessed.

What’s missing is human connection. What’s needed is human leadership.

When leaders are curious, respect differences and tune into the hearts and minds of others, they can change the world. As a leadership coach and parent of a young adult with a disability, my passion is to inspire people to understand themselves and others better so we unleash the innate talent of every single individual at work, in our families and communities. 

Organizations who commit to embracing the wide kaleidoscope of humans are building diverse teams with leaders skilled in motivating and inspiring those who are different to themselves. They remain connected to their vision and each other despite their differences and the challenges. 

How connected do you and your team feel right now? 

Take the quiz.

How are you connecting to your vision, to each other and to the best of yourselves? Take the Human Leadership Connection Quiz to better understand how well your team connects and discover some solutions to engaging and enriching everyone.  

Score yourself one point for each question with which you agree: 

  1. We take time to pause and remind ourselves of our strategic picture, so our managers can confidently repeat our vision and strategy and explain it in a few sentences. 
  2. As a team, we are generally good at managing our own reactions and emotions, and reading other people’s too.
  3. We trust each other and have each other’s backs – I feel there’s a high level of trust in our team. 
  4. We value and respect each other’s differences – we’re committed to not letting our unconscious bias get in the way.
  5. I feel people in my team are good at listening to me and they understand and respect my point of view.
  6. In meetings, we make a conscious effort not to interrupt or to talk over each other.
  7. We have game-changing conversations and challenge each other in respectful ways.
  8. We leave meetings and everyone is clear on why, how and what we are doing. 
  9. As a team, we regularly request feedback from each other and we feel confident in both giving and receiving it.
  10. Members of my team show high emotional intelligence and respond to challenges in a resourceful way. We bring out the best in each other.

How did you rate yourself? 

1–4 points

We respect your honesty! It looks like you’ve got some work to do.

Having a true sense of the current reality of connection/disconnection is a healthy starting point. At this level you might be experiencing low trust and engagement, hidden agendas and poor communication. In the tips section below, focus your attention on the first L – LOOK.

5–8 points

Seems like things are OK, but you can definitely improve.

You’re on your way to creating and nurturing high-performing and closely connected teams, but there are a few areas that need fine-tuning. Having a common language and tools to use throughout your organization will accelerate your journey. In the tips section below, focus your attention on the second L –  LISTEN.

9–10 points

Your team is highly aligned and displays very strong levels of trust and connectedness.

Your opportunity here is to cascade this even wider: across teams, throughout your organization and into your community. Continually learning and improving is vital. In the tips section below, focus your attention on the third and fourth Ls – LEAD and LEARN. 

The human leadership solution

When we communicate and connect at our best, we naturally follow the sequence of the four Ls of human leadership: LOOK, LISTEN, LEAD and LEARN. 

Think of the important relationships in your life. You are likely, maybe unconsciously, following this pattern, especially when you want to connect and inspire change for good. 

Leaders and teams who have mastered the art of human connection have game-changing conversations every day. They are authentic and empathetic, embrace difference, stay calm and confident, communicate with clarity and harness change for a new and better future.

Four ways to engage and enrich your team 

  1. LOOK honestly at yourself, the other person and the situation. 

This is your ability to be present and use high emotional intelligence.

  • Stop coming in at high speed and PAUSE. It’s impossible to be present and grounded with others if we’re rushing from one meeting to another. This is vital for family relationships too.
  • Increase your awareness on three things:  ME (my thoughts, feelings, behavior), WE (the other person) and THE (the situation or task in hand). Become like a radar and scan all three equally.
  • Hone your EQ and learn more about personality differences, your own habits and how others react. Our clients use our resilience model, ‘The Funnel’, to stay resourceful, calm and confident when they are triggered by others.
  1. LISTEN by standing in other people’s shoes to listen to understand versus listening to respond. 

This is your ability to fully connect.

  • Stop talking! Put your tongue to the roof of your mouth, shift your focus to open-ended questions. Stop the urge to interrupt or offer advice. Asking trumps telling. It’s a myth that it takes more time to do so. 
  • Stand in their shoes. Before you respond see the world through the other person’s eyes, imagine what the business problem/relationship would be like from their point of view – what might they be thinking, feeling? Listening to understand is the essential ingredient in communication. 
  • Paraphrase back what they say. Listen in for what’s important to them. Don’t assume anything, continually check in for understanding – it creates space for them to tell you more, which develops trust.  
  1. LEAD with conscious awareness around your behavior, actions and things you say. 

This is your ability to inspire hearts and minds and influence change.

  • Stop jumping straight to LEAD, before you’ve attended to LOOK and LISTEN. Leaders frequently underestimate the importance of the order. They don’t catch their unconscious bias before they start offering advice; others simply stop listening and disconnect.
  • Identify your personal, team and organization WHY. Keep coming back to it so everyone understands and is empowered to be part of the bigger picture. Cascade your strategy by linking it back to vision and WHY.  
  • Create an open feedback culture. Prepare for important conversations and don’t be silent about the hard things. Choose a model and language that everyone in your organization can use naturally to provide positive feedback as well as areas for improvement. 
  1. LEARN through a continual cycle of noticing insights, experimenting and changing habits. 

This is your ability to embed new behaviors.  

  • Stop falling back into old habits. We continually learn about ourselves and others but in our busy worlds, we quickly forget. Make a commitment to partner with a leadership coach, or a trusted adviser, to reflect on how you are growing and changing. Make it a conscious commitment.
  • Practice by setting yourself experiments for what you can try to do differently. Spot the positive impact it creates (remember ME, WE, THE). 
  • Ask for feedback. What do your team and colleagues want you to do more of, less of, the same? Have an insatiable curiosity around how you connect; it will foster conversations that shift perspectives and move your organization forward.

Cultivating human connection at work is no longer a soft skill; it’s a hard necessity. Dedicate energy to connecting and you’ll create an environment where all your diverse team members feel seen, heard and valued. You’ll have game-changing conversations and, ultimately, generate higher engagement, innovation and collaboration. 

Practice makes perfect

“Vulnerability creates connections”

“Being a catalyst for positive change is part of Audible’s DNA – it’s what our People Principles of Activate Caring seek to articulate. It guides the work we do, how we respect and celebrate the glories of the human spectrum and encourages us all to show up authentically. In our How We Connect workshops with Human Leadership, we use their resilience model The Funnel. This framework provides us with a common language to talk openly about our individual emotional states and triggers. Being able to identify, name and discuss this with colleagues has empowered our team to engage with empathy and navigate these unprecedented times. There’s a vulnerability in this, but as we know, vulnerability also creates connections.”

Leanne Cartwright-Bradford, Head of Operations, APAC, Audible


“Trust is at the heart of all that we do”

“These are tumultuous times, with many challenges, and so it is more important than ever that we connect and lead. We started working with the leadership team as I needed them to understand that they were responsible for creating an environment where each and every person could bring their authentic self to work each day, regardless of cultural or personal differences. Human Leadership has helped us on our journey to create an environment where trust is at the heart of all that we do and we are producing leaders who listen, provide feedback and inspire, while building deeper connections with each other and with our shared purpose.”

Simone Anderson, Vice President and General Manager Oceania, Lamb Weston 

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