In our constant push for convenience, optimization, and productivity gains, it's easy to lose sight of one of the most important factors in workplace success: being human. Sure, it may be faster to assign a task in Asana than it is to talk to someone, and knocking back a protein shake may be more convenient than having lunch with coworkers. Still, both of those choices mean missing out on an opportunity to interact, share, and empathize with others.
If all of those Lifehacker articles, self-optimization apps, and endless workplace metrics have left you're struggling to get in touch with your human side, here's how to get back to basics.
Why Being Human Matters
All too often, we think of workplace success in terms of the "hard" skills and outcomes - the ones that we can measure and quantify. But all organizations are inherently human. They're built by humans for humans, after all. And the companies and individuals who acknowledge and value this are all the more likely to succeed.
Sure, business processes, systems, and analytics matter. But so do foster relationships, motivating employees, and finding a throughline during difficult situations. These "soft" skills are the ones that good leaders and workers use every day, but especially when work takes a turn and times get tough. Remember, people may follow processes, but they're inspired by empathetic leaders. And that's a great source of strength and value when change, challenge, or upheaval arrives - as they always do.
So what makes an empathetic, inspiring leader? These are the people who embrace their inner human by thinking in terms of others, challenge the status quo when need be, and who listen in order to learn.
Embracing Your Inner Human
Being human in the workplace requires valuing human relationships and outcomes as much as you do your stats, spreadsheets, and analytics. Depending on your industry, this may require some stepping out of your comfort zone - but the end result will be worth it.
Here's how you can find those human moments in the 9-5.
- Get face-to-face. Email, texts, and slack are convenient but impersonal, and they're not ideal for complex conversations or broad brush planning. Book a face-to-face meeting with the person in question, and you'll find that you can devote your full energy to the situation at hand. If face-to-face is out of the question, at least pick up the phone or video call instead of resorting to IMing.
- Think beyond the job role. Your colleagues, employees, and clients are interesting people with rich, deep lives outside the workplace. Make a point to learn about their interests, goals, and passions, and you'll find you have a new-found appreciation for who they are and what they do - which is the bedrock for empathy.
- Get involved. Being a good leader or employee is similar to being a good citizen. It's not just about keeping to your lane and tending to your own responsibilities - it's about contributing to the greater good. Find ways to give back, pay it forward, and get involved, and you'll find you feel all the more human for it.
- Challenge what needs to be challenged. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn't mean it can't change. Similarly, new processes, technologies, and features aren't always a good thing. Part of being human is calling out what doesn't make sense and finding a solution that works for your team.
- Be open to growth. It's easy to develop a particular opinion, process, or approach - and then stubbornly refuse to budge on it. But part of being human is understanding that the world around us is always changing, which means we have to as well. Be flexible, try new things, and put yourself in new and challenging situations. And don't be afraid to have fun!
- Find a mentor. No matter how great you are at what you do, you can always learn from other people. Find a mentor (or mentors) to help you level up in your "soft" skills - communication, leadership, conflict resolution, and negotiation, just to name a few.
It's Time to Become Human
Being human should come naturally to us all. But what makes us human is at odds with the hyper productivity-focused workplaces of today. Now is the time to reprioritize some of those "hard" skills in favor of giving your people skills a boost. Whether it's building relationships, booking meetings, or working with a mentor, you'll find that these skills will help unlock your inner human - and your inner leader.