Welcome to blog post #1 on my new website! The website has been a long time in the making, and it represents some major shifts I’ve been making in my work. These shifts have been taking place slowly and quietly for a long time – and then, as for so many other people, accelerated dramatically during the pandemic.
I don’t know about you, but a lot of folks I know told me their priorities changed significantly during the long months of lockdown. Things that had felt important, even urgent, in the “BC” (Before Covid) time just didn’t seem to matter so much anymore – and things they had ignored or suppressed started moving to the fore. A lot of us started re-evaluating: what did we really want to do? What no longer felt purposeful or relevant? I suspect many of us had been asking those questions for a long time. I know I had. But now we had more time on our hands to think about them. And the questions demanded answers.
The word that kept coming up for me was relationships. Not that this was something new: Relationships have always been hugely important to me, so I’ve always made a priority of building, tending, and nurturing them. And not just my own relationships. I’m a bit of a matchmaker* at heart, and there are few things that delight me more than connecting people I know with people I think they’d like and watching new friendships blossom from those connections. (*Disclaimer: do not come to me for romantic matchmaking – that’s way beyond my pay grade!) And beyond my personal life, I recognized that I did better work when I had good relationships with my colleagues – and saw how badly things could fall apart when workplace relationships were dysfunctional. (We all have those stories, right?)
All of this came to the fore during the pandemic. What did we all rush to do in the early days when we hardly dared go out? We reached out to each other online, or across balconies and front porches. We convened impromptu Zoom get-togethers for whoever wanted to join in, and we talked to each other – strangers as well as friends – straight from our hearts. We joined online choruses, singing alone together across the miles, and convened online workshops to share our skills with each other. Closer to home, we joined help groups to bring food and supplies to people who were quarantining, and opened our doors every evening to make a joyful noise in appreciation of first responders and essential workers.
And as the pandemic wore on (and on), what did my working friends tell me they were missing? Human contact. Just being in the same physical space as their colleagues, walking over and talking to another human being in person, bumping into co-workers in the coffee room and chatting about, y’know, whatever. We started hearing the word “languishing”. And mostly, people were languishing because they were missing each other. Humans are built for connection, and when we can’t connect, we languish. So that’s what I’m focusing on now: helping people build and strengthen relationships in their workplace so they can understand each other better, communicate better, have fun together, and ultimately work better together. And that’s what I hope you see in my revamped website.
But enough about me: let’s talk about you! What’s important to you in your relationships (whether at work or at play)? What do you do to keep them strong? How do you deal with bumps in the road? And what would help strengthen your team’s relationships at work? I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can write your comments below, or drop me a line directly. Who knows? This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
Spot on Avril! A wonderful and succinct encapsulation of what so many of us have felt in these last three years and counting! Human connection is in many ways an antonym to STEM. It’s interesting that Google, which for years only hired the top performers from the best STEM schools later discovered the the most effective managers were those who had mastered the “soft skills” of being a good coach, communicating and listening well, possessing insights into others, and having empathy towards others, all rated far higher than the “hard skills” of coding.
High functioning relationships are indeed the key to both success and satisfaction at work and in life. So glad to have counted you among my friends for close to two decades now!
I look forward to your next post!
Thank you so much, Ken! It’s nice to hear that my instincts are being corroborated by empirical evidence in the field. And so great to have friends like you. Here’s to our next two decades of friendship!
This is wonderful Avril and such important work at this time. “coming back from Covid and re-connecting, I have found myself being and feeling awkward with people, even friends. It is almost as if I have to re-learn social skills and just breath.
I agree with Ken in that in any managerial or leadership opportunities, the “soft skills” are essential.
Have fun with this needed endeavor.
Thank you, Mary! I think we’re all having to relearn our social skills as we awkwardly navigate this confusing time. The past 3 years have really taken their toll. Regarding the different categories of skills: one of my friends has actually renamed the so-called “soft” skills as “essential” skills or “permanent” skills. I think that’s more accurate, don’t you?
This!!! I did my first big live Graphic Recording gig last week after 3 years of digital. I’d forgotten how much I missed that contact – especially with people I wouldn’t normally meet in my normal day to day. I feel like I’ve been sleepwalking for three years!
Right?? I hear this from so many people. It’s like we got used to living life in monochrome for the past 3 years and are now being reminded how much more brilliant things are in full colour!