If I could do my last corporate job over again, I would focus so much more on building human connection with the people I worked with. For lots of reasons, at that point in my life I just couldn't connect with folks at a very authentic level - mostly because I didn't know myself anymore.
But if I could go back in time as who I am now, that's what I would do: ditch the pressure to be "professional," show up as my real self, and see people for who they really were. I would be honest with them about how I was doing, I would laugh a lot more, and I would ask the deeper questions that I wanted to speak but kept inside because it felt safer.
Every human being is desperate for connection with other human beings.
In today's disconnected (or "misconnected") world, many of us feel unseen, unheard, and unknown. Without being seen, heard, or known, we feel empty and lost, grasping for a sense of context in which to put ourselves.
For many of us in the United States, we're especially disconnected, because unless we're part of the Native American heritage, this land isn't even where we come from. Sure, you might have been born here, but it wasn't that long ago that your lineage was deeply rooted in another land, a place where your people may have been for centuries, cultivating knowing and community with the Earth and each other.
So here we are, today, on land we don't know, surrounded by strangers, each trying to find our own small tribe in which to make sense of things.
This sense of disconnection follows us and pervades our workplaces, and people are growing weary of it.
Without community elsewhere, many people are looking to their organizations or teams for that sense of camaraderie, understanding, and being seen. It's why things like "culture,""the coaching mindset," and "employee engagement" have become such popular topics.
These days, my work is focused almost entirely on connection, because without it, the people I serve won't feel supported enough to look at the deep, dark questions that brought them to me in the first place.
They won't feel comfortable crying, or yelling, or wrestling with the fact that birthing their gifts and creating a worklife they love is hard fucking work.
So we have to connect.
They have to feel seen, and heard, and understood. They have to see me as human, not as an automaton who just takes notes and repeats their words.
Developing deeper connection was pretty uncomfortable for me in the first few months of my coaching practice. That "be professional" mindset was deeply entrenched within me, and in many ways, it still shows up - but only when I need it to.
As I've relaxed my need to feel like I'm "doing it right" or being "the expert," I've been able to really see my clients in their fullness as complex human beings, and that allows for such deeper work to happen.
Before I start the 12-week process with a client and for each of the women in A Wild New Work, I do something that always feels pretty scary:
I prepare a gift for them.
I'm not sure why I do this, I just really like it, and I think it builds that connection right from the beginning. And it's an intimate gift - I choose aromatherapies and stones that I believe support what they really need at a deep level. I meditate and pull a card for them that has a message on it that is very personal. And I tell them all of this, even though I haven't necessarily met them in person before.
But I do it because I want them to know how strongly I support what they're about to create, even though it makes me feel really vulnerable.
How would things change if instead of getting a company notebook or ID badge when you started a job, you got a gift from your hiring manager that was about you, as a human, and was designed to support you succeeding in the next phase of your journey?
What if you got a long handwritten card with it that explained how grateful they are for your presence there, and how excited they are to see you grow and contribute your unique strengths to their team?
When we connect in a "high touch, low tech" way, which is more and more what people are demanding in today's economy, we transform ourselves and the other person that we're reaching out to.
It shifts things.
It makes them more real, and colorful, and it enables us to do the hard work that we've set out to do.
There are always opportunities for connection, no matter what you do for work. You can get someone a coffee, be honest about how your weekend really was, or be fully present with your co-worker as she tells you her father passed away.
Connecting requires us to be brave, but without it, we're doomed to numbness, loneliness, and a life without much beauty in it.
Choose connection, always.