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  • Writer's pictureBennett Bratt

Effective Leaders Restore Humanity in Teams

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Here’s a truth that may seem paradoxical yet likely resonates with your experience: our world is more "connected" (read: technologically) and yet more "disconnected" (read: relationally) than ever before. Despite the countless platforms and apps designed to facilitate connection, many of us feel increasingly isolated within our own teams. This irony is evident as, despite promises of seamless collaboration, our human connections have dwindled, leaving many feeling disengaged and alienated.

Yet, it's clear that leaders are keen to foster both personal fulfillment and heightened productivity. The starting point? Restoring the sense of humanity that imbues work with meaning.

Why Restoring Humanity Matters More Than Ever

Humanity in the workplace is about more than just team bonding activities or motivational speeches. It’s about fundamentally altering our interactions and our environment to better acknowledge and support our collective human spirit. When humanity is absent, people experience isolation, depersonalization, apathy, languishing, and even resentment, which manifest in decreased productivity, increased conflict, and tanking engagement. This is evident with recent trends like quiet quitting. 

Alternatively, when leaders focus on restoring the humanity that individuals on their team need to feel, then workplaces become hubs of energy, creativity, and joy—places where everyone feels safe and valued, contributing to a thriving organizational culture.

Simple Ways to Rekindle Humanity Today

While restoring humanity in teams might seem daunting, it’s actually more intuitive and actionable than you might think. We are inherently social beings, meant to live and thrive in communities. Our humanity is innate – having it stripped away is what’s unnatural. By focusing on reinstating human moments and interactions within your team, you align with the natural human way of functioning, utilizing our strengths rather than opposing them.

Here are a few straightforward steps to begin this transformation:

1. Open Conversation: Regularly create safe spaces for open communication where team members can express ideas and concerns without fear of judgment. This could be in large groups or one-on-one. The key to engaging people in openness lies in how you respond to their moments of vulnerability. Displaying judgment, denial, or defensiveness when a sensitive topic arises can shut down future openness. Conversely, responding with a calm and curious demeanor that encourages further discussion crafts a safe space where open dialogue can flourish.

2. Cultivate Rituals: Rituals are actions performed regularly following specific events. For example, if it's a norm in your team to get happy hour drinks after delivering a big project, that's a ritual. Similarly, if your team commonly uses back channels for communication following a major conflict, that, too, is a ritual. Being intentional about which rituals you establish and strengthen allows you to guide and reinforce the team’s experience of big and small moments. Leaders aiming to restore humanity might select meaningful rituals that reinforce the team's core values and mission, such as sharing success stories at the start of meetings or recognizing the team for handling a particularly challenging discussion with respect.

3. Positive Gossip: The term “gossip” often carries negative connotations, but it simply refers to casual or unconstrained conversation. Engaging in negative gossip—casually discussing someone's weaknesses or mistakes—can create a toxic environment, undermining safety and trust. On the other hand, if you engage in positive gossip, where team members casually share positive observations about each other, it fosters an environment where it's easier to assume good intentions among the team. If you fear that your peers are criticizing you, you may react defensively. But if you believe your peers are supportive, you're more likely to act openly. Think about your own experience: how nice is it to hear, “Oh, we were just talking about how well you handled those tough client questions during the presentation!” Try introducing prompts that inspire uplifting conversations about colleagues, creating a norm that becomes a natural part of everyone's daily interactions.

Let's Make It Happen—Are You With Me?

So, does this sound doable? Worthwhile? If you're nodding along, take a step today. Try integrating one of the humanity-restoring strategies into your team’s routine and watch how it transforms the dynamics. Remember, each small step towards restoring humanity in our teams is a leap toward creating more fulfilling and productive workplaces.

And you don’t have to do it alone. Engage a team member or two in trying one of these strategies.

I’d love to hear how it goes—share your stories or join me in further discussion on making our team experiences not just functional but exceptional. 

Let's humanize our teams together.

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