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Grace And The Future Of Work

👉 By Forbes / Jill Griffin

Fourteen months ago the world was blindsided by a plague that came unannounced and changed everything. Businesses were shuttered. People were sent home from work and told not to come back until it was deemed safe. Managers were left to lead their teams remotely. Zoom replaced the conference room. People got sick and many died. It was all heartbreaking and unsettling.

But around me, most every day of the Pandemic, I’ve noticed people practicing grace…. As Webster defined it, “Disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.”

For example, utter strangers helped me land my covid vaccinations on a neighborhood app, NextDoor. For me, that was grace in action.

Here’s some bold (if not head-scratching) ideas to consider for helping build trust, morale and hopefulness in the “new normal” ahead.

1. Teach “Grace” as a New Leadership Tool

Grace is a leadership quality we don’t talk about very much but it just might be the most important one as we enter the newest unknown.

Dr. Scott Peck’s groundbreaking book, The Road Less Travelled introduced me to its presence in my world. I came to realize, what I had once chalked up to “luck” and “close calls” was really grace.

Fast forward to today, the smartest people in the world got together and created three effective vaccines in record time. Millions of people have already taken one of them and the ICU’s are dealing with less and less critically ill and dying patients. What force ignited this foundational work decades ago? I call it grace.

2. Be a Leader That Looks Forward With Empathy and Hope

For example, HSBC and JPMorgan are going to have thousands of employees working permanently from home, in the latest sign that some of the changes wrought by coronavirus could outlast the pandemic. In his letter to shareholders, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said 10% of the bank’s 255,000 employees may work from home full-time. Meanwhile, representatives for HSBC’s U.K. call center staff are in discussions with the bank concerning up to 1,200 workers making a permanent switch to remote working.

So, what are the psychological implications of a permanent switch like this? What about people who have great friends at work and were hoping to see them again on a regular basis? What is the impact of that kind of separation? A new survey finds that US workers rank mental and psychological wellbeing as one of their biggest wellness concerns, and for good reason. I suspect that many will grieve this loss of daily social interaction.

There is something about being able to quickly call a group of people into a room and address a sticky problem and solve it together. Zoom is great but it will be hard to replace the energy of a room full of bright and caring people working together, batting ideas around and solving a puzzle as one mind.

Many leaders are telling me they see a “hybrid” approach: Some days in the office and others remote.

There’s also a business case for this hybrid approach. For many years The Gallup Organization has conducted engagements studies in organizations using their Q12, twelve questions that correlate to business outcomes that leaders care most about- productivity, profitability, retention, safety and stock price. One of the questions that correlates most with retention is “I have a best friend at work.” A strong yes answer has proven to be important to cutting turnover and having engaged workers. The hybrid model would help salvage those deep friendships.

3. Apply Grace By Putting Your Teams First

My hope is that we do what humans have always done- take what is and figure out how to make it work and how to be successful. Look for where you can introduce the presence of grace into this transition.

Have you ever seen one of your team members struggle with something you really needed them to do? If you watched and then offered an encouraging word or a piece of gentle advice, then by this definition you have delivered grace. And note that grace doesn’t deny that there is a problem. It acknowledges it. Grace causes us to not assume anything but to take the time to sit down and ask the right questions to hopefully get to the right answers.

There are a lot of unknowns ahead. We will all stumble from time to time as we try and find our footing in this new normal. But that’s where grace comes in. Those you lead will appreciate it more than you know, and I’m betting, based on your lead, they will naturally pass it on.


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