Working that Works In Our Interconnected World

We live at a time when we are interconnected in so many ways.  At any time we can access information from the internet, check our email or video connect with a person on the other side of the world.  Amazing isn’t it?  This hyper-connectivity can elevate us or overwhelm us.  How do we make it work best for us?  How can we be our best self in this 24/7 anytime interconnected world?  There are 3 areas to seriously think about:

  • Clear objectives and real need
  • Respectful, collaborative and clear communications
  • Boundaries for best self

Clear Objectives and Real Need

With 24/7 information access and connectivity, we can imagine that unless we’re plugged into every piece of relevant news or read every email in our inbox, we’ll lose our edge, become ineffective and worst of all, become irrelevant and unwanted. We can be on this chasing game and never feel fully okay.  In fact, I coach individuals who believe they have to be responsive to emails in minutes, however late it may be, so they would perceived as being fully committed. That’s a pursuit with no happy ending.  An important strategy to employ is clarification.  What are your true objectives?  What are your objectives for work and your life?  What needs are real versus fantasized?  If your boss expects that you email back immediately, at all times, you may need to exert courage to discuss if this is a real need with him/her.  Discuss your shared objectives and determine what is critical in your activities, including email response times, that will make a true difference to your outcomes.  This level of discussion is lacking in many offices, as we are all trying to be all things at all times.  Most professionals are overtired and actually lack focus as a result.  Sit back and consider this. When you look at your day, how much are your day’s demands dictating your actions versus your objectives dictating your activities?  They are strikingly different ways of living and I guarantee you your effectiveness soars when your objectives dictate your actions.

Respectful, Collaborative and Clear Communications

Diverse people.  These two words describe the context in which we are working. This context will become only more diverse as the years progress.  When interacting with different people, we can only connect with them if we find ways to bond, beyond what is natural and easy for each of us.  We can open ourselves to the person on the other side of the table and seek to understand what that person cares about, even if it’s not explicit.  Hence the importance of reading people. Daniel Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind, talks about how the intuitive aspects of us, which exercises understanding and empathy, will be critical to success in the future.  So if you’re a European-American male and your new partner is a Chinese woman in China, before engaging in the task of the work, it may be extremely helpful to understand each other first.  For example, the Chinese culture puts a premium on personal relationship and trust when working.  Thus, spend the time to talk about you, your experience and your family.  Take the time to understand her background and infer what is important to her.  When we tell our stories, we tell a lot about what we really care about.  Then, ask her what her preferences are – does she like phone calls or emails?  Does she tend to want to call you during her morning hours or evening hours?  What kind of information is important to her?  Taking the time to understand her is practically helpful.  As important, you are establishing a person-to-person connection that builds trust and respect.  Each one of us, regardless of our country of origin, ethnicity, gender or race, seeks respect and trust.  How we get to it may be different.  But our need is the same.  With respect, understanding and trust come a much easier path to collaboration and communication.  However, because communication styles can differ greatly, seeking clarity is key.  An effective strategy is to always confirm understanding of what the other person just said, “I want to make sure I’ve captured your thoughts correctly.  You mentioned that…is that right?  Regarding x,y,z, this is your preference….is that right?”  And make sure you get an affirmative response from your partner.  Finally, all human interaction will encounter disagreement and conflict.  Seek to understand how your partner deals with conflict, directly or indirectly.  How does his/her culture look at conflict resolution?  If you don’t know, you needn’t hire a consultant.  Basic information is available on the internet (of course you can hire an expert for consultation!).  Address it appropriately and respectfully.  But the only way you will know if your collaboration is going well is by checking in – not only by explicitly communicating but by intuitively understanding through non-verbal communications.  If working with different people is new to you, acknowledge to yourself that you will need to practice at this.  Get feedback and be ready to live in your discomfort zone. It’s the only way we can adapt to new contexts.

Boundaries for Best Self

As we work and engage in our hyper-connected world, creating boundaries is key to our success and sanity.  None of us can be on all the time and expect to think clearly or be truly present.  The worst in us will always surface when we’re stressed.  As I’ve worked with professionals across various industries, their craving is for more time to think clearly.  Unsaid, is a deep craving for quiet space, to re-engage with their best self.  What I mean by that is this: When each of us has space to just be, and not be on high alert, we tap into an expanse of our knowledge and wisdom that becomes available only when we are in a relaxed state.  This is real.  It’s been verified by testing of the effects of meditation, as an example.  Boundary setting is more important than ever and it can show up differently for each of us.  Here are some ideas:

  • Reserve quiet think time during office hours (leave the office, find a conference room)
  • Set times for you to plan and strategize versus do
  • If you have family, set family rules for “no screen” times where all screens and devices are turned off, so you can truly enjoy each other’s company
  • If you need space, let people know that you will be unavailable.  “Today, I will be booked from x time to z time”.  You’re not lying.  You’ll be booked with yourself.
  • Take a mental health day to recharge.  Go to your favorite park; go golfing, biking; go to a day spa; check into a hotel for a day.  And if you’re brave, turn off all your devices and leave your smartphone at home.

Our interconnected world offers such amazing opportunities for learning, growing and experiencing, unlike any time before in human history.  And because this context is so different from just 10 years ago, each of us needs to create new habits (personally and interpersonally) to take full advantage of this new interconnected context.  Our best self is always within us.  Creating new habits will allow us to leverage all that our best self has to offer and hence, work and contribute that much more effectively.