Janet Livingstone Helps Us Create and Respect Culture in a Remote Work World

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In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with leadership development consultant Janet Livingstone on creating connection and culture with remote and hybrid teams.

A few reasons why she is awesome — she is the founder of Culture is Key, a consultancy devoted to leadership development, executive coaching, and team effectiveness – and part of that work is cultivating connection for remote/hybrid teams. She speaks multiple languages and has travelled and worked in countries all over the world, helping leaders be more effective. Some of her clients include -IBM, Boeing, and O2 Telefonica. She’s also the co-host of Original Syndrome podcast focusing on gender equality and women’s empowerment through humour.

Connect with, and learn more about Janet on…

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KEY TAKEAWAYS 

  • The challenges created by remote and hybrid work.
  • Is resistance to remote work generational?
  • The connection of mental health and remote work.
  • Where to start when learning to engage with remote workers.
  • Why connection is so key for remote teams.
  • How do you connect a remote team to the larger culture.

“So I think that the hybrid environment creates challenges for all of us. As humans, it makes us feel more distant from each other, it makes us feel disconnected. And if you compound that with talking with a variety of people from different cultures, who communicate differently, who even move differently, it just makes it even harder. And it’s all the more reason to really intentionally recognize it, and deal with it and practice being connected.”

Janet Livingstone

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW

Russel Lolacher
And on the show today we have Janet Livingstone. And here’s why she is awesome. She is the founder of culture is key, a consultancy devoted to leadership development, executive coaching and team effectiveness. And part of that work is cultivating connection for remote hybrid teams, which is really handy because that’s the topic today. Speaking of different cultures, she speaks multiple languages and has traveled and worked in countries all over the world, helping leaders be more effective. Some of her clients include IBM, Boeing Oh to Telefonica, and she’s also a fellow podcaster. She’s the co host of original syndrome podcast, focusing on gender equality, and women’s empowerment through humor. Hello, Janet.

Janet Livingstone
Hello. Nice to be here.

Russel Lolacher
Actually, quick question before we get into the first question, where are you right now?

Janet Livingstone
Ah, I am in former Czechoslovakia in the capital of Slovakia Bratislava. Or in Slovakia. Bratislava.

Russel Lolacher
Sounds good. Like the furthest away guests you may be I’ve had some Australians. So it’s like, pretty far away from Victoria. But

Janet Livingstone
I think the Australians have me beat. yeah, I picture a lot of people don’t know where this place is. Picture 60 kilometers east of Vienna, Austria.

Russel Lolacher
Now I want to travel there. So very bad. Yeah. So starting off, as I do every episode with the same question, which is Janet, what’s your best or worst employee experience?

Janet Livingstone
Hmm. Okay, I’m going to try to hit both of these stressful. Worst was probably when I started working in this country. And it was still Czechoslovakia at that time. In the early 90s. I worked for a nonprofit that did education stuff, we placed Western lecturers, sort of mostly PhD students from the US, in universities over here, because this part of the world post communism didn’t have a lot of professors who could handle non Marxist style social sciences. So they were teaching, you know, economics and political science under the umbrella of Marxist Leninist thought. So they didn’t have anybody to teach Western economics or, you know, political science, also for through democratic lens or that kind of stuff. So the reason that was bad job was because I was Country Director for Czechoslovakia. And that meant I had to take care of a bunch of PhD students, many of whom were not successful, who didn’t have their degrees and were mad about it and had brought their families over, and we’re pretty demanding. And we’re not mentally or emotionally prepared to live in a country that was post socialism, we’re gonna use the word socialism, because that’s what they use here. Post socialism, which means that the conditions weren’t terribly good, you still had to go to the supermarket, which was not a supermarket was a store and you had to stand at a counter and ask for every single item to be handed to you. And things are right, things were difficult. The trams drove at crazy speeds, there was, you know, no English language press to speak of, and it was just a different era. And I got a ton of complaining. And I had no support from the center, because it was a startup NGO, we ended up having a big impact, because it was funded by the Soros Foundation, and it became a big deal, but I was there kind of in the cowboy days. So that was not fun. And a good one is a job that I’ve been doing for a while, and especially as a facilitator, and that is helping Boeing build relationships with their customers in Asia, through delivery of leadership development programs. And in the beginning, I got to do a whole bunch of facilitation with Chinese airline folks who would come over to Seattle on mass, like 25 of them, right, that cohort would come for two weeks. And basically what we did was wine and dine them have really interesting learning, you know, leadership and learning programs during the day. And we I get to watch them learn. And then my colleagues would come with his guitar, and we would all sing together. And I got paid pretty well to do that. You know, for me, that’s like, you’re gonna pay me to do this? So yeah, pretty good.

Russel Lolacher
What a juxtaposition because I don’t get to use that word often. Between, you know, two environments, that one was very much supportive and nurturing in change, which is the learning and development versus no support during radical change of for a lot of employees and culture. So support matters, everybody, anybody listening. No matter what you’re going through, it can really help the change process.

Janet Livingstone
So well put Russel, you nailed it. It was ironic, you know, people didn’t truly understand what kind of change was happening, how monumental it was, that was part of the that’s part of the problem, right? As humans we don’t always understand what is happening to us in the moment, or how important it is how important it will be. And, you know, I think we should all strive to be more aware, look around, talk to people observe what is happening to us. Just general comment.

Russel Lolacher
No fair comment. I mean, if leadership can actually lead and provide some of that context support, during those times of change, it makes messy change a little less messier anyway.

Janet Livingstone
Exactly.

Russel Lolacher
Speaking of change, oh, my goodness, has one been a big one over the last couple of years more so than it ever has before, which is remote and hybrid work. Now. Generally, when I start every episode, I always feel it’s best to start with defining what we’re talking about. And for this one, I thought it was odd, because I’m like, isn’t it kind of straightforward? Because immediately I think remote is you don’t work in the office and hybrid is, is half in the office, sometimes out of the office? Am I missing a piece here? Is it more complex than that?

Janet Livingstone
For me, it has more complexity, because on top of that, I deal with multicultural hybrid work. So, you know, a lot of us don’t have the choice of, oh, we’re going to be at home today, or we’re going to be at the office today. Right? We have no choice. The team is, you know, people from who are in Singapore, people who are in China, people who are in India, people who are in Seattle, people who are in Washington, DC. Yeah, that’s, that’s the norm. And we all fight with time zones continually. You know, I got my sword out today, for triple timezones, I’m in Slovakia, which is kind of equidistant between Seattle, and Asia, most Asian countries, you know, India, China, etc. So that means that if I want to run a meeting with everybody, I have to be up between two and 4am, which is crap. It’s difficult. I was in bed on a meeting last night at 1:30. And I’m glad it was on because we got some kudos. But still, you know, it was not enough to make me feel well rested in the morning. So I think that the hybrid environment creates challenges for all of us. As humans, it makes us feel more distant from each other, it makes us feel disconnected, nothing new, right? We’ve all heard about how zoom and teams and all the you know, the two dimensional screen based communication that we do is a strain on our brains, because we’re all looking for cues, what is he wearing? How does he move? What is she doing? What is happening behind her? You know, yeah, we don’t get nearly as much information as we need. And if you compound that with talking with a variety of people from different cultures, who communicate differently, who even move differently, it just makes it even harder. And it’s all the more reason to really intentionally recognize it, and deal with it and practice being connected.

Russel Lolacher
I always found it funny when organizations would use words like innovation, or we only hire the best, okay, but only the best if they’re 15 kilometers from the office where they can drive in, or their innovation. But wait, there’s been a bunch of change. So we want to revert to the 1950s where everybody has to work in the office. So immigration only seems to work when it’s a buzzword, not when it’s a way of working. So there’s a lot of change that people seem to have a problem with. Is this a generational problem? Because leaders are having a huge issue, but most of the leaders that I see having issue are to be blunt, old white people at the top of the organization that are but that’s not how I became successful mentality. So they have to enforce this return to work or what they’re used to. But it just seems so generational.

Janet Livingstone
Yeah, that’s a really good point. It is generational to a large extent, I would say, I mean, obviously, Gen Z years and younger millennials are really, really comfortable running their lives online. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer from the same effects. Right. They may have a different attitude toward it. But their brains are still working hard to figure out what’s happening on the other end, they’re still stressed out, because there’s because there are so many communication channels that are all remote that they have to keep track of. Right. I mean, I have two kids who are Gen Zers. And they one of them said, No way, no more Instagram. The other one said, I’m not doing Facebook, and I’m not doing all those groups anymore, because it’s a lot. It’s a lot. And it’s a weird kind of stress because your phone, unlike your colleagues, comes with you wherever you go. Right. And so yeah, innovation is great, but we tend to underestimate the amount of energy and time that it takes to actually figure out what that innovation is going to mean over the next six to 12 months. What is going to mean for us in terms of productivity in terms of emotional state. ate? And, yeah, let me turn to mental health for just a second here. We’ve we know from all the headlines and all the research that’s being done, that there is a ton of anxiety and depression that’s happening post COVID. And one of the factors is that everyone was suddenly forced to be remote, including people who had never been remote and had to learn all the software. And yeah, I mean, it’s not fun for everybody to be stuck in their house all the time. So I do think that it has taken a toll on us, regardless of generation, it’s just that some have different expectations than others. How’s that?

Russel Lolacher
Splendid. I do a presentation on leadership, where it around the impacts of leadership, and one of the biggest things is the impacts or what they don’t control. And I list everything that people are going through right now. And I mean, everything from housing crisis, to interest rates to post COVID mental health challenges to working in an environment with their family right outside their door that they never had to work around before. And I’m like, and that’s just Tuesday. And this has nothing to do with the actual work that they’re going through. So even seeing somebody that you don’t see physically in an office, even when they’re remote as you speak to mental health, there are so many all these pressures that is impacting them even more so being remote as one more thing that leaders I don’t think embrace enough when it comes to the to what’s going on to read those social cues to read what read the room as it weren’t.

Janet Livingstone
Read the room, even if it’s a breakout room on Zoom, exactly. Read the Zoom Room. Um, so I think that for leaders to sound a little bit of an empathetic note here, I think that there are plenty of leaders who have not come up this way have come from a generation, if we’re gonna talk about old white men, there are plenty of old white men leaders who’ve never had to think about the mental health of their people ever. And it was it was, you know, discouraged when they started, right, it was discouraged to even talk about it or even think about everybody admit, oh, I’m not in a good mood today, ooh, oh, well, you must be weak as well, you know, whatever you are, right. So there’s a kind of generational ignorance, or cluelessness or just lack of awareness to put it more plainly, but also a kind of feeling like, well, I don’t know how to deal with it. I mean, I can’t deal with this person. How am I going to deal with this online? How am I going to find the time to ask every single one of my, you know, team? How are you today? I mean, really, how are you? What is happening in your life? What are you striving for? What is making you anxious today? How do you want to feel at the end of the day? Oh, there’s so many questions people could ask, but who has time to ask a bunch of open ended questions unless you’re a coach? Right? That is, that is the attitude often. And so it’s a whole new skill set that leaders are being asked to take on and being expected to take on. And that’s a challenge. And it’s much easier Believe me, as a coach, I can tell you, it’s way more powerful to coach someone in person, way more.

Russel Lolacher
And it’s funny, you ask, like I hear those questions, you need to ask those open, you have to have time to even not only ask, but listen to the answers that are being provided, but also all the pre work you need to do to create the psychological safety for people to actually answer those questions. Before you go through your checklist of how are you today? How are things? How’s the family? It’s so much to it. So can it let’s fix the world? How do you? How do you how do you address this remote world? Like, where do you start? If you’re not familiar, if you’re not comfortable? How do you start building that connection with a team? It’s always on the other side of the screen.

Janet Livingstone
Okay, so, first of all, leaders need to be in touch with themselves if they’re gonna get in touch with their people. So you know, and this is well known, every leader should find the courage and the time to do some work on themselves to become more self aware. There are plenty of consultants and coaches out there to help them with that, to understand what their kind of dominant communication styles are, how they prefer to run meetings, how they might be perceived by other people there plenty of you know, anxious, narcissistic people run around there with huge responsibility who have no idea that they put people off who have no idea why everyone just says yes, yes, yes, and then does something else. Right. And then there are people who are super worried who don’t show the kind of leadership that they could, even though they have the smarts. So we’re not going anywhere without leaders who have at least some modicum of self awareness, and we’re willing to do the work to get there. And some people don’t. Some people find that very threatening, right? If you, I mean, I’ve met people like this, they’re lost lots of folks who are affable in public, who are good at cracking jokes, who have natural charisma. But inside, they’re in pain, they’re in pain, for any reason, you know, any of the myriad reasons why humans are in pain, all of us have trauma, all of us, we just are taught not to talk about it and not to deal with it. So I’ve met people like that, who are even doing a little bit of self awareness work or admitting that, you know, they feel unsure or anxious, or that they don’t like with this habit, that brings up a ton of stuff. And then they get too emotional, and then they lose control. And they are terrified to show that side of themselves to anybody else. So you know, this work has to be done with somebody who can help them feel safe, and help them get to a point where they can talk to their team, while being themselves and I’ve watched this happen. So I do a ton of work with Boeing. So when COVID hit the reaction at Boeing, which I’m sure was just like the reaction at many other places, at least I’m my team was, how are we gonna pivot? How are we going to pivot? How are you going to pivot? Which way should we pivot? What what are we going to do here standing on end? Are we going to can we do this? Firstly, can we do that virtually? Can we do all our programs virtually, who’s going to do virtual? Who knows how to do it? And it was all about, how do we do this? What are the actions? Right? How do we change the process? And that went on for a good two and a half to three months? It was it was like, end of April 2020. We were all freaked out. All of us were terrified that we were going to be laid off because who gets laid off? First, the trainers and L&D Folks, we were very lucky. We were not laid off because we’re under sales and marketing. But anyway, I started to think about it. And I said, How about if we have a team meeting, where we actually process, what we’re going through together? Where we actually talk about what is happening to us? Now? Not? How can we do it tomorrow? But what is actually happening to people? What is their home situations look like? How are they feeling? What are they doing to stay sane? And wrestle, I explained this two or three times, to the people above me and to my peers, they were like, what, what kind of meeting Do you want to have? Again? What’s the purpose of this? And I’m like, we need some time together to actually process. And there was no, there was almost no understanding of that. And so I managed to push it through because everybody was freaked out truly. And we had two meetings. And I remember our big senior director saying, I am at home with my wife and my two children, and my in laws, and we’re stuck here. And I felt more empathy for him than I had ever. He’s, you know, not the kind of guy to come and tell you all about what’s happening. And, you know, he’s more like, here’s the flow down, guys, what are your questions? And that was very, very powerful. The whole team was like, wow, that was great. I feel better. And you know, I’m simplifying, but it was a fight to even get there. So that’s the first thing is that leaders are very often brought up in the system to sink only in terms of action, only in terms of results. And we all know this, this is classic for making the shift to not think like that making the shift to spend time not only doing an icebreaker but posing a prompt and putting people in breakout rooms, putting people from different cultures in breakout rooms, right? If they feel safe enough, and the way for them to feel safe enough is for the leader to get a little vulnerable themselves. Go slowly, intentionally recognize, hey, we have a countries represented here on this call. We don’t all have the same situation. Now during COVID or post COVID. We don’t all have the same situation. At home. Some of us are in the office in our home countries. Some of us are not. Some of us are online at nine o’clock at night. Some of us are on at seven in the morning, despite the fact that we’re not morning people. Let’s let’s talk about who we are and how we’re doing and let’s have dedicated time to get to know each other to connect this like and so this is the key word, connection. I can’t say it enough having moves to many cultures, and try to figure it out. I can’t say that enough.

Russel Lolacher
It’s so interesting that this problem organizations have with intentional humanity, versus reactive humanity. So for instance, pandemic happens, people are freaking out, that’s not about delivering a widget, that is a human reaction to a very scary thing. And then you come in and go, but let’s have a human solution of empathy and compassion. They’re like, what, but I’m trying to address the human reaction with intentional humanity. And it just seems like this foreign concept of trying to be an introduction of soft skills matter when things are scary, but it’s still so foreign to organizations.

Janet Livingstone
Yeah. And it’s about… so Russel, I listened to a couple of your other podcasts, and you had some, you know, very articulate people on Parnell. And then Ingrid Christiansen, and I think either both of them, or one of them touched on this, that we’re still and you you touched on it, too. We are still unfortunately, and, you know, probably worldwide, we are still functioning with the flawed assumption that we have a work persona, and a home persona, that there are things that are, you know, professional behaviour, versus however we behave, you know, after work is over or when we go to the bar, but yeah, we I think was Ingrid Christiansen said, you know, we’ve been our we bring ourselves with us, wherever we go, wherever you go, there you are, you can’t leave half yourself at the door, you can learn how to manage your emotions so that you don’t shout at somebody. Right? Or you don’t, you know, break down and leave the meeting without a word or whatever. But there’s no way you can deny a whole side of yourself. But we insist on making the distinction. Yet, we’re working a lot of us from home, where we generally don’t have that distinction, right? We’re physically in the home, we’re also wearing sweatpants, I, you know, guarantee you, right? So it’s a matter of normalizing this idea, like, hey, so I, you know, like to have a beer when I’m done. Or, you know, I can’t wait to have my kid get on my lap or you know, my cats doing something outrageous right now, but I can’t laugh because I’m on a meeting with all of you or whatever. Artificial.

Russel Lolacher
Communication is a lot of what we’re talking about here. It’s not in how we show up how we engage with others. Nonverbal communication. How does that fit into connection and relationship building, and we’re talking about remote and hybrid?

Janet Livingstone
So communication is absolutely key, both verbal and nonverbal. Anybody who’s been to South Asia will know or even to Greece will know that we have extremely strong cues in our brains as to what nonverbal communication means. So the head movements, when there difference to signify agreement, or disagreement that can throw one off a lot. Have you ever been to South Asia, Russel? India or Nepal or anywhere like that?

Russel Lolacher
I want to go so very badly, but no, I’ve never been.

Janet Livingstone
Okay, I recommend, right. So the first time I went, I was all in work mode, right? This is in the early 2000s. I was in work mode. I had an assignment, I was the, you know, consultant that they were sending around to us to deal with all the rats nests everywhere there was this was a giant nonprofit in Washington that did global health. I get to Nepal, I say to the head of research “Can you please… You know, I need to do some qualitative research. I’m going to do a bunch of discussions. Could you please help me get a small recorder?” This is back in the days when you had you know, little pocket recorders. And this is what happened. He’s, you know, he shook his head from right to left, which is absolutely normal for more than a 1.5 billion people right on the earth. But I went, What, wait, why is that? No, why not? And I got very anxious. And my Canadian colleague who’s standing next to me, was like, nudging me in the ribs with this level. That means yes, that means yes, it’s okay. So, like, I had a mini panic like, okay, this person is going to push back at me what is happening or in Greece and in Bulgaria, this is Yes, right. The what we would do for No, is yes to the listeners who cannot see me. And those things are deep. The queues we have are deep. You know, like, I have a big crease in my forehead, I find that sometimes if I’m intense and we’re talking like this, people think, oh, there’s something wrong, she’s intense. She’s angry. She’s just she’s, no, I’m just trying to think of my next word. Right. And so if we know ourselves, we can say, hey, this is what I do. Don’t be put off. This is when I say this. This is what I mean, you had a whole thing on definitions in one of your podcasts, which I love, because we all make outrageous assumptions. Outrageous, right?

Russel Lolacher
So here’s an extra wrinkle to add to that from a remote experience wise, what if the cameras off, because there’s a lot of people that do not feel comfortable putting cameras on others, are forcing their employees to have cameras on others. So you shouldn’t have to like there’s a very push and pull when it comes to cameras being on. And when it comes to different cultures, a lot, you’re you’re explaining our verbal and nonverbal cues that you have to see, to understand and pick up. So how do you address that in a non camera engagement?

Janet Livingstone
Yeah, that’s a great question. So I think that you have to be tolerant. And when there’s a meeting, for example, a “GET TO KNOW YOU meeting” like, get to know your colleagues meeting, where are you going to put people in breakout rooms, and you’re going to give them questions, or you’re going to ask them to do exercises together, where you warn them, give them a couple days, say, hey, we think that it would be a really much better experience for everybody, that you could connect faster and more deeply. If you come with your camera on, if you have a camera if you don’t have a camera. Okay, clearly, that’s fine. But just warn folks because yeah, I get it. I mean, I think that people who live in spaces that are small, that don’t allow them to have, you know, a separate office, or I mean, there are all kinds of circumstances, right? We have to be cognizant of that. So I don’t think it’s a good idea for leaders with global teams to insist on camera use, you know, all the time. The other thing is one can model like, you know, I know, folks at Boeing who model it mostly at Boeing 98% of meetings are without cameras. I meet people all the time, whose faces I don’t get to see. And it’s completely normal. But it’s annoying for me. But I’ve also seen a couple of leaders who model it, they turn their cameras on, they say, Hey, I’m in China, I’m so much I’m so happy to be back. I can’t believe I didn’t get to come here for three years during COVID. Um, in this hotel room, it’s nice, people not wearing masks. And you know, and he’s in his polo shirt with his hair most, you know, he probably got off the plane five hours before. And that makes us feel more comfortable. It really does. And so what I’ve noticed is that, the response to that is, then a lot of people do turn their cameras on when they see that he’s on live. And then after a while, people people turn their cameras off. So it’s there’s that sense of, oh, hi, we’re gonna greet each other. Yeah, hey, I, you know, hey, look at what you’re wearing? Or hey, you’re looking good or whatever. Where are you now? Or, you know, whose monkey is that over there? Right, whatever is going on, or parrot but then establish contact. Right? And let’s, you know, let’s not completely vilify remote, either, because, you know, I’ve been on I’ve been in breakout rooms, where we did that we had kind of the first 10 minutes of camera on and then another 10 minutes with the camera off because something was happening. But we were able to continue a deeper conversation without a problem. And we connected brilliantly. I mean, they’re all They’re all kinds of ways out there to connect not and not just the usual icebreaker, like, Okay, would you have for breakfast go around the room? Yeah, if you have an international team, it could be interesting. Like somebody had lentils for breakfast, somebody had waffles, somebody had meat, whatever, right? Doesn’t matter. It’s really a mix of intentional humanity, and tolerance, flexibility, agility.

Russel Lolacher
So let’s talk about intention. Because there’s a few things as leaders as managers, or supervisors that we have to do, or really, really should do, which is recognition and empowerment. What does that look like in a remote world?

Janet Livingstone
So I know teams who do regular weekly meetings where they start with recognition and that’s a nice practice. It’s so simple. You know, whoever’s leading the meeting says, Okay, who wants to recognize someone this week? And In the beginning, it’s awkward. You know, nobody wants to start. So usually the leader has to start. And then it becomes, you know, kind of run of the mill. And then it’s really nice. And people chime in, like somebody recognizes first an x. And then another person goes, Yeah, I echo that. Yeah, person X did an awesome job. Empowerment in terms of different personality types, or to behavioral tendencies and preferences. Introverts versus extroverts. That’s another thing, which I think is nice to prepare people for, right? Because the extroverts in the group are always going to be ready to speak up. But the introverts are going to wait, they’re going to hang back, or they’re going to stop the minute someone else makes a noise. Right? That happens a lot. I have a colleague who does that, and he’s the best. And I sometimes just say, Uh huh, and he stops. So if you prepare people, like, Hey, we’re going to ask everybody to give a five minute talk on X, give their status or give one slide on something, you know, please be prepared to talk. We’d love it. If you turn your camera on, please be prepared to share a slide or or you don’t need a slide. So that everybody kind of gets a chance. And that way, the people in the room who sometimes struggle with language, because of course, like you know, I work on a team, where English, of course, is the lingua franca, but we have lots and lots of people who, whose first language is Mandarin, or Thai, or you No, French. So by doing small bites, letting people talk or asking them to speak and to speak to each other, maybe, maybe get them ready by having to speak in small groups, and then at a later meeting, having them speak to the whole group. That way they get used to it, they don’t feel as unsafe, you know, people won’t ridicule them, and people will be used to hearing them, you know, some people are still still not able to stop themselves from ridiculing you, those people are farther and farther between, but are fewer and farther between. But you know, sometimes you get unpleasantly surprised.

Russel Lolacher
So you’re being an intentional leader, a leader who’s learning how to work with a remote team? How do you know it’s successful? How do you know you’re building a culture that’s working? And how do you know if it’s not?

Janet Livingstone
Great question? So there’s the old, you know, anonymous survey thing that can be done. That’s not always successful? What I find is, it’s much nicer to hold a meeting where you pick a couple of open ended questions that kind of gets at it in an indirect way. And get people to answer those in a way that feels safe for them. You could ask people to rate if you thought people were comfortable, you could ask people to rate their own feeling of comfort at meetings. That’s a fairly straightforward one. You know, if you could rate your comfort level, at meetings, when you started on this team versus now, what would those two scores look like from one to five or one to 10? Doesn’t matter? Right? Or, this is what I love. Here’s the kind of questions that I like as a coach, who were you being when you join the team, during meetings? And who are you being now? At meetings? How do you feel right? That’s another way of asking, How do you feel in your skin? When you’re with the rest of the team? Or when you’re with part of the team? Or how likely are you to bring an idea to somebody? How likely are you are you to volunteer to figure something out or start a new process or tweak an old process or whatever it is. There. There are some ways of measuring but it’s all intangible.

Russel Lolacher
So what’s intangible, as a perfect example of that? Because I will deal with or I’ll work with people that are extroverted. I have every idea of what’s going on with them and get them neuro-divergence. You get the introverts, and you’re like, I would be amazed if I heard from you at all, but you deliver amazing work. Yeah. How do you what’s what’s an intangible way that’s not just intentional, like a survey, which I fully support. But what is that as a leader knowing that the culture is working?

Janet Livingstone
I think the leader has to find the time and the courage to cultivate those introverts. Talk to them one on one, that’s tough, but leaders who do that have more success in my opinion, leaders who make time to do a one on one regularly whether it’s every two weeks, or not. Most introverts are introverts I know are deep, and they have plenty. They have plenty to say. Even in our culture sort of North America, I meet introverts who are just like, I don’t need to talk, everyone else is busy talking, I know how to do my job. Right? So they don’t feel that need. But if you sit with them, and you say, hey, you know, Greg, great results from you on the team. How you doing? What would you you know, what would you like to do more of what are your observations of as a team or, you know, figure out a way to connect with those people, it might not be as easy as it is with the extroverts. But sometimes the extroverts are just talking because they’re used to talking and you don’t necessarily get, you know, valuable information from them when they’re talking. And there’s so much information out there now available to educate yourself about working with so called neurodivergent. Folks, some of the psychotherapist that I know are, for example, they’ve stopped talking about an autism spectrum, because basically, we’re all on a spectrum. Right? And it’s kind of like, well, this person just as different behaviour for me, I have to figure out a way to connect with them in a way that gets them going, not because they need to be a talker. But because we need to feel connected so that when I come to them in a crisis, or with that, you know, the larger assignment, they’ll feel safe enough to respond in some way, like, Oh, I’m not comfortable doing that, or, okay, if you want me to do that, I need X, Y, and Z, right? I need somebody to assist me, I need this kind of resources, blah, blah.

Russel Lolacher
If you’re focused on what we’ve been talking very much about a leader with a team? How are you connecting a row remote team, to the larger values mission vision of an organization. So it’s not just about creating a subculture, but it’s create, it’s a matter of connecting it to the larger culture.

Janet Livingstone
With a remote team, I, first of all, they need to understand what the larger vision and values are. That has to be explained in a straightforward, simple way. With examples, right? So many times somebody puts up a list, these the corporate values, blah, blah, blah, blah, and blah, cool. Okay. And you asked me in two days, and I will have forgotten that there’s nothing better than an illustrative example, especially if it’s poignant if it comes with some emotion, right. And this is something that I’ve forgotten to say. But anytime you can get people to feel during a meeting, they will remember that meeting. So emotion is something that touches us. And it’s not a negative, like if we’re moved by something we’re going to remember. So bring examples, explain what’s happening, define things define terms, you and I are fans of that. And then do it again, a few months later, right, repetition is also good. But then the next time you do it, ask folks ahead of time to bring an example that they think illustrates one of the corporate values of their choice, ask them to come with how they would explain the vision of the company to a 10 year old, or to their grandmother. Right, stretch people a little bit, there’s nothing better to test your own understanding of something than trying to explain it to someone else. And then also, as a leader, if you can be aware of during a different sort of meeting, what you’re not presenting the vision values, if you’re aware of during a different sort of meeting with your peers with a larger group doesn’t matter. Right? If you’re aware that this is a moment that demonstrates the vision, or one of the values, bring it up, connect it connect the dots for people. I can’t you know, I do I work with learning experiences executive development, leadership development. There’s nothing better than a presenter who gets to the end and says, Okay, so what were we talking about at the beginning and everybody goes through, so connect it back. Right? Take the bubbles, and put them together. Make the Venn diagram, figure out what’s in the middle.

Russel Lolacher
So Janet, I have to wrap up the episode as I rip up all episodes which the final question which is what’s one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work remotely or not?

Janet Livingstone
Sit down with the peer or the boss that intimidates you the most or makes you the most nervous and have a one on one for 15 minutes and try to connect, push yourself out of your comfort zone. Everybody needs to connect.

Russel Lolacher
That is Janet Livingstone. She is the founder of culture is key and co host of the original syndrome podcast. Thanks so much for being here, Janet.

Janet Livingstone
Thank you Russel. It was a preasure. It was a pleasure. Not a pressure. Jesus. Okay.

Russel Lolacher
Such a pleasure the word got out of your mouth wrong.

Janet Livingstone
Yeah, this…. Right. These are things that they should be the easiest things right. And then you go it was. Yeah. Thanks, Russel.

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