You are listening to the HumAIn Podcast. HumAIn is your first look at the startups and industry titans that are leading and disrupting artificial intelligence, data science, future of work and developer education. I am your host, David Yakobovitch, and you are listening to HumAIn. If you like this episode, remember to subscribe and leave a review. Now onto the show.
Welcome back listeners to HumAin today’s guest speaker is Mike Robbins¹ and author of five books, including his new release: We’re all in this together. It’s an honor to have him here on the show. I’ve connected through a few of his colleagues in the industry he said, Mike is the man and working on some great things in the time of COVID Mike.
Thanks for joining us.
Hey David. Thanks for having me. Good to be here.
I’m holding up in New York City in the past couple of weeks we have the USS comfort docs. We have a new field hospital coming out in Manhattan in Central Park. The Java Center went online in the last couple of weeks. It’s a whole new world order.
It really is that I’m here in the San Francisco Area and we’ve been sheltering in place for a number of weeks, now in our thoughts and our hearts are with everyone in New York and everyone everywhere who’s dealing with this whole thing. It’s a new world we’re in.
It’s more than just being safe and staying healthy, but we’ve seen also in the last few weeks, how the living room concept for America came online with Elton John and all these musicians I saw from New York and you got to see from The Bay Area, what was your take on that concert?
I thought it was great and I’ve been really appreciating a number of artists and comedians and people just putting their work out into the world in unique ways that concert itself was great we have teenage daughters at our house, had their big Billie Eilish fans and Sean Mendez and can be like a Beyoncé and a lot of Pop/Stars so they were very interested, but it’s definitely called upon a lot of us, myself included to sort of dig deep and think, what can I contribute to the world? What can I contribute to others? and now that most of us are confined to our own living spaces slash working spaces we’re not only having to get creative on how we do it, but I do think there’s a desire for us to connect, even though we’re all separated by time and space more than ever these days.
I thought it was so amazing to see some of these artists like Green Day and not just having flashbacks to them and Backstreet boys, but you would think that some of these celebrities were living in mansions and they’re not, some of them are living in homes just like us and totally and they have families we even saw Tim McGraw when he, in his presentation his wife was recording the video so well.
And it has been interesting and I’ve been watching like Seth Meyers or Jimmy Fallon or some of these late night hosts, like Jimmy Fallon had Lin-Manuel Miranda on a few weeks ago and Lin was just sitting in his apartment in New York City playing on his piano one of the songs from Hamilton and again, it just there’s something cathartic about it, there’s something unifying about it as here are these famous people who we may admire and love their art and their work and realizing they’re just human beings dealing with their family on the concert for America you were mentioning.
Sierra is married to a Russell Wilson, who’s the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks and he was throwing footballs around with his sons and just seeing the humanity of it all even I’ve been seeing this with a lot of our clients we work with a lot of big tech companies and big corporations and everybody working from home and being on Zoom, or on Skype, or on BlueJeans, or whatever video platform they happen to use is we’re just there’s three year olds in meetings and dogs barking in the background and in some ways the rules have changed very quickly through this, that we’re all getting a chance to connect with and see each other’s humanity as people are trying to do work from the dining room table and their kids are off to the side, trying to get their schoolwork done online and all these things that just a month or two ago would have seemed unfathomable.
It’s now the world that we’re in and granted we’re in this period that hopefully is only gonna last a finite amount of time and we move through it but it’s probably gonna change so many ways of how we work and how we live moving forward and without being overly pollyanna or naive about it, my hope is that it can really make some changes for the better in how we work and how we connect with each other authentically.
Both of us is being people in the space of online and in real life I saw there was this photo in the last couple of weeks of iGlass who’s from this American life and they had him recording a new podcast episode in this closet with clothes around him for the sound acoustics. I thought that was just absolutely fascinating that he’s in Manhattan and it’s just like the rest of us.
Again, it’s can we adjust to what’s needed? One of the things that I’ve been saying a lot as people have been talking to me and a lot of our clients are struggling with how do we engage teams, and companies working from home and while that’s important, and I’ve written a bunch about it just in the last few weeks, and I’ve been talking a lot about it.
It’s also important for a lot of us to acknowledge if we have the ability to work from home, what a huge blessing that is and what a privilege that is because I just think my heart goes out to people who work in movie theaters and restaurants and shopping malls and places that are shut and closed indefinitely and not only are a lot of people who work in those places and in many cases living sort of hand to mouth, they’re also now the most vulnerable with the economic impact of all of this and no ability you can’t sell clothes at the gap while you’re at your house on Zoom like that, it doesn’t work that way as everybody knows but in the midst of the frustration and the challenge and the fear, that’s real for all of us, however, this is impacting us. It’s also important to try to have some perspective.
So looking at the future of work, we’re not sure where it’s going to be but what we do know is that there’s been an acceleration of this digital transformation of this online communication and it can be very complex. I know in New York City, we have all students now learning on iPads and internet connections, as you mentioned, maybe someone’s throwing a football in the background they’re playing with the dog. What do you think the future of work looking like either during COVID or post COVID?
There’s a lot of companies, especially tech companies who global companies who’ve been needing to embrace video and other platforms in order to communicate there are a number of companies that we work with that like that’s the primary way they communicate anyway, prior to COVID now what’s happening is we’re seeing so many people forced to have to embrace some of these technologies and learn different aspects all of us in a lot of ways.
Even those of us who really embrace it or having to learn different skills and practice even you were talking about iGlass recording his podcast from a closet he’s probably not going to have to do that in the future, but I do think that this is going to fundamentally change the way we work it, things have been changing pretty rapidly in the last number of years with respect to technology but imagine if we were going through this in 1975, like we would literally just be sitting at home, reading the newspaper and sending letters to each other and talking on the telephone. Like those were the only ways we could communicate.
So again, on the one hand, how beautiful that we do have all of these ways that we can communicate with each other and it’s important for us as individuals and for companies to really look at how do we not only get through this time, but what can we learn from this experience? That’s going to allow us to work in a more effective and productive way, but also humanize the technology if you will because that’s been one of the challenges over the years and continues to be as much as I love Zoom and Skype and everything else it’s not the same even you and I doing this podcast is great as it is and we can see each other on video, even though we’re just recording it on audio, it’s a different experience if you and I are sitting in the same room.
It definitely is a different experience and I know you just shared about both non traditional and traditional industries, if you’re a tech worker in big tech and you work with a lot of these clients, it might be much of the same, just not in your buildings in S.F or New York City, but a lot of traditional industries are getting disrupted during the times of the COVID era, sports, baseball, basketball professional services, hospitality, in your books, you’ve talked about that. You’ve had a long history with a lot of these sports industries. What are you seeing with some of your peers and colleagues who are still in sports?
Both been a huge sports fans. My whole life I actually played baseball growing up and I got drafted out of high school by the New York Yankees didn’t end up signing cause I got a chance to play baseball in college at Stanford went to Stanford then got drafted by the Kansas City Royals out of Stanford and signed a contract, unfortunately for me, I ended up injuring my pitching arm when I was still in the minor leagues but my baseball career, basically I started at seven, got hurt at 23 and finally retired at 25 so I played for many years and then we’ve worked with the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics and the Atlanta Braves and a bunch of teams in the major leagues, as well as the NBA and others.
And so what I’m seeing inside the sports world right now is first of all, everybody is panicked because they don’t know what’s going to happen the NBA season got suspended the major league baseball season is postponed until indefinitely we’re hoping by the time we get to football season, American Football Season here in the fall that things will be relatively back to normal but the truth of the matter is for live events, concerts, and sporting events and even in the work that I do, when I go speak at lots of big sales conferences and leadership conferences, those things will eventually come back we don’t know when, and we don’t know how, but part of what a lot of these sports leagues and entertainment properties are trying to figure out is how can we deliver the entertainment and the content that we have to people in a way that they want it and can use it the thing about sports, a lot of the sports leagues are making some of their properties available for free, or you can access and watch old basketball games or old baseball games.
And it’s weird because we don’t normally think about watching games that have already happened we want to see something new in life and the only thing that we really watch live in our world today, or sports and news, maybe the Oscars or some other thing, but for the most part in the entertainment world, it’s turning things upside down. I don’t know that they know exactly what to do, and they’re just hoping and waiting for things to get back to normal, but it’s impacting a lot of people’s lives and a lot of people’s jobs in the short term.
Now you mentioned a very big phrase here that we talk about in education a lot, which is upside down or flipping the classroom and flipping the classroom often is getting into that digital experience and having assessments where students get to discover their learning but now in the online learning, I’ve been following some of my former high school teachers back in Florida and they’ve told me now we’re all doing Zoom and one of the big things they said cause as well I was going to give a keynote at a conference this summer and the teacher said, look now is it’s a great time to accelerate online learning, but students and parents need to have patience with the teachers and patients with employees because it’s a whole new learning curve.
It really is well, and it’s interesting. So our girls are 14 and 11 and they’ve actually grown up going to Rudolf Steiner, inspired Waldorf schools which for the philosophy of Waldorf education for the kids, especially when they’re young is to try to actually keep them away from media and technology as much as possible while their brains are developing, which is a different philosophy than a lot of more standard traditional education but what’s interesting so here, our girls are now at a charter school they’re 14 and 11, eighth grade and fifth grade and the school has some technological capabilities, but not a lot and so just trying to figure out how to make that work and when we think about this it’s also as we know whether you’re in New York City or San Francisco, or somewhere in the middle of the country or somewhere else in the world that the technological capabilities of schools are often dependent upon the socioeconomics of that school or that community and the challenge that we face is both the practical part of it is like having patients to what you’re saying but also realizing that not everybody has access to the same technology and so just as that exists in school in person, it also exists online and one of the things we also have to factor in right now for our kids in school and just education in general is that everybody, including all the adults and teachers and educators, as well as the kids people are freaked out because this is really scary time
And it’s uncertain so I do think there’s going to be some good stuff that comes out of this, of how can we embrace digital learning and online learning in our schools in a way that’s going to benefit students and then where do we see where the limitations of that are? and remember that the education experience just like the meeting experience or the conversation experience is different when it’s done virtually than when it’s done in person.
That’s right and whether it’s synchronous or asynchronous myself, I’ve been in the education industry for a few years and actually our parent company is K-12 they’re one of the leaders of the online charter school system in the US and over 35 States and they’re one of the industries that has been having to adapt as in scaling up so much because there’s never been so much demand for charter schools we’ve seen a lot of public school students and parents say: I don’t want to be in public school anymore, let’s go to the charter school.
Part of it is also just the way in which when you think about how we’re thinking differently so much of your work in this podcast is about thinking differently, it’s about design thinking, it’s about breaking the mold of how we go about things and so the nice thing about charter schools and look, there are people that love charter schools, and then there’s people who are very anti-charter schools I understand the arguments on either side, but in general what we’re wanting an education just like in business, just like in our culture is how can we be innovative and creative? How can we adapt and adjust to the moment? And again, at school what’s necessary for a school and how we educate our children in a certain community is different than another community is different than another time and place and so we have to just be open and continue to adjust and adapt one of the things about the business world, particularly the tech world, and there are a lot of issues in the business world there are a lot of issues in the tech world but the way that the tech world has been able to be nimble, to innovate, to change with what’s needed with what’s being demanded by the marketplace is often what drives a lot of innovation.
Now, again, in something like education where there’s no profit in it in the same way for better or worse, and the goals are different sometimes again, in other things that happen inside the government services for people, there’s not as much innovation that happens because it’s not driven by the same market conditions so right now what’s happening is we have this big thing that we’re all impacted by in COVID and it’s forcing a lot of change and again, it’s a cliche, but we say it’s like necessity is the mother of invention.
We’ve all had to innovate in certain ways and education is a place where that’s definitely the case I feel for not only my kids, but all these kids and imagine being a senior in high school or a senior in college, and all of a sudden your whole educational the end of this big moment in life has been disrupted significantly but again, how do we embrace the disruption? Get through this time and then learn what we can from it to be better on the other side.
Mike, some of that embracing the disruption is by innovating as both individuals and as teams and you shared the right word design thinking in my experience as an educator, I work a lot with product managers and data scientists and customer success managers and all these teams have their standard roles and responsibilities but now is the time where you need to think about every single person on your team. What is their perspective, how you adapt, how do you work together there? And I know a lot of the work you’ve written about and spoken about in your books and series is about human centered design. Can you tell us more about where you think we’re going with that?
There’s a lot of really smart people like you and others who are have expertise in design thinking and about the D School at Stanford where I was an undergrad, but wasn’t involved specifically there in a lot of times when we think about design thinking, we’re often thinking about it’s sort of human centered and how do we think about the design of a product or what we’re doing and how this impacts with human beings? When about design thinking, or I’m working with teams, it’s often to your point in how you set this up, how do the teams internally working on a project, working on something new on anything, think about. How do we shift our mindset in how we’re going to go about creating this thing? So it’s done in a way that’s as collaborative as possible. My background in sports taught me many things, David.
One of the things that I learned early on the end became fascinated by and ultimately it’s what inspired me to start doing the work I’ve been doing for the last two decades was I always thought as an athlete, like if you had the best players you would have the best team if you have the most talented players, you should have the best team and that was not the case at all and I learned it many times in sports.
I was on teams where we had really good talent, but the team wasn’t nearly as good as the talent and then I was on other teams where the talent was decent, not great and the team was even better like we would beat other teams that had better players than we did and I never could quite understand what it was but by the time I got to college and when I was playing professionally, we would talk about it we called it chemistry, team chemistry, and it’s like, well, what the heck is that? I don’t know we really couldn’t define it.
But you knew when you had it and you knew when you didn’t have it and it was basically the intangible qualities that allowed us somehow some way to like put our little egos aside and be interested in each other’s success, wanting to win as a team more than simply just succeed as an individual and while that sounds very personal and it is, and almost a little bit touchy feely, and it is it’s actually an element of design thinking and thinking about how do we take this group of individuals who all have talent and skills, but I’ll have their own egos in their ambitions and try to sort of cultivate an environment where people can work together in a way that actually brings out the best in everybody and I thought erroneously, this was a sports thing cause I was an athlete and had been spent so much of my life focused on sports when I got hurt and then I moved home here to the San Francisco Bay Area in the late nineties I got a job working for a internet company based in New York, but we had a San Francisco sales office and I’m on this sales team and I’m thinking this whole thing is going to be way different than sports and it was.
But immediately I realized that whole team chemistry thing that I erroneously thought had something to do with sports that has nothing to do with sports that has to do with humans and how we come together or not and after just a couple of years working for a few different internet companies in the nineties, I started my consulting business, basically with this question of what does it take to bring a group of talented, smart, ambitious human beings together and create that environment that allows not only the individuals, but the team as a whole to really thrive and that’s basically been my fascination my curiosity for the last 20 years.
And the books that I write and the work that I do has been continually trying to unlock that and quite frankly, on the surface, it seems relatively simple but when we dig down into it, it’s super complex because as human beings we’re just complicated and trying to get a group of humans together to really row in the same direction or whatever cliche we want to use.
The two sports that I spend most of my time enjoying both tennis and basketball and they’re both polar opposites one is a team, but and you still have that star player MVP and the other one that’s tennis. It’s all independent on yourself but as you’re sharing. It’s still unlocking teams because even tennis, you could play doubles or the team might not be another person but it could be your mind and your physical body at the same time.
Totally, I’m an individual sport and I didn’t I never played tennis competitively, I played it for fun, but the two sports I played baseball a lot I actually played basketball it wasn’t nearly as good but one of the things on an individual basis because in baseball there’s a ton of like I was a pitcher there’s a ton of like standing on the mound, dealing with my own emotions and thoughts.
And that was actually the hardest part so I can empathize with what tennis must be like, that you have all the skill and all the ability and all the things you’ve learned technically to do but you have another competitor on the other side and you have to compete with yourself and often the hardest part of life whether it’s sports or anything else is dealing with ourselves so like the mindset that we take can we take that design thinking approach and turn it within and think like, what do I need to do? Or how do I need to operate? Or how can so that I can set myself up for success?
And that’s a really tricky thing I was talking to a few years ago, I was talking to a sports psychologist friend of mine named Michael Turvey and he said, this really interesting thing he said in our culture, what gets celebrated is the mastery of task or the mastery of skill if you’re really good at something, whether it’s tennis or it’s business or it’s technology, or it’s the arts or music ready, you master that task, that skill you get attention, you get recognized, you get compensated, you write you can be successful in our culture he said we don’t focus a lot on thought as mastery of self and he said to be good at anything and ultimately sustain that success and grow you got to master yourself and that’s not something that we spend a ton of time on there’s more awareness around this in the last say decade.
We’re talking a lot more about mindfulness, both in our schools and in businesses, we’re looking at wellbeing and different things and even right now in the midst of COVID and all of what’s going on, the hardest part of dealing with all of this, there’s so many things outside of our control. What’s the government doing or what’s happening with the virus or how it’s impacting our work or all these things? How do I show up every day for work? How do I engage with my family, with my coworkers, with my stress, with everything?
Cause we’re all dealing with similar macro experiences, even though we have our own little world that we’re in, but the difference is we’re not all responding the same and that’s one of the things that I’m really grateful for David that I learned as an athlete was like, so much of success or failure has to do with mindset and approach we need some talent, but the same is true in business the same is true you got to have some skills if I don’t know anything if I can’t communicate at all, I’m probably not going to be very effective as a writer, as a speaker, but the skills are just sort of the baseline and then we take that growth mindset approach to how do I adjust my mindset? How do I approach the work and other people in a way that’s going to allow me to be effective and ultimately have some sense of joy and fulfillment in what I’m doing if I can.
Everyone today is remote, and this is going to go back into a world that’s split with remote and in-person experiences, but I’ve been reading a lot and following a lot of thinkers today and some things that I’ve seen as takeaways is some people will come out better prepared and better ahead as a result of COVID and others will form bad habits and fall to the wayside and the challenge is what you’re sharing is about competing with yourself and mastery is no longer are we in this structured environment of having the boss right next to you or having your team there the support you mentally lift you up but now it’s like, Hey David, Mike, you guys got to do it we got to push ourselves to the new limit. What do you think people can do so that they can come out successful after everything?
First and foremost, as we’re going through this, what’s really important is to have some compassion for ourselves and even as we come out of it like this is hard, this is scary, this is different some of us are responding better than others, just based on our skill set our personality again, if you’re someone who’s been working remote your life might not have changed all that significantly if you haven’t done a lot of remote working and, or leading it’s like, those secondarily what we can think about doing right now, taking a growth mindset approach, which is okay, there’s a bunch of stuff maybe I’m learning right now some of which is uncomfortable, some of which I can’t wait to not have to do when I don’t have to do this anymore.
But can I come out of this with some new, to use a golf analogy and I don’t even golf, but new clubs in my bag, so to speak some new tricks that are some new skills that the nice part what’s going to happen, hopefully after this and again, I’ve been saying a lot to people recently, anyone who says they know what’s going to happen, or how it’s going to happen is either lying or they’re crazy because I don’t think any of us know but let’s assume we fast forward to a point in time where this is behind us then it’s going to be more, a matter of choice for years it’s always been like a privilege or a benefit to be able to work from home even people who enjoy working from home right now being forced to work from home is a different thing.
But when we’re back in a place where we get to choose it’s like how can I integrate some of these skills that I learned through that experience, as well as some of the stress management techniques maybe that I had to focus on and bring those into my daily life, because they can benefit me and our team and the work that we do and not being in the same sort of intense crisis but then taking those skills forward I often think of this time right now recently, and it’s an intense example.
But I’ve had quite a bit of experience of loss and of grief in my life and a friend of mine years ago said to me, when I was grieving lost both my parents, my sister passed away a few years ago and a friend of mine said when you go through loss, you always come out different on the other side, the question is, are you going to come out better and stronger? Or are you going to come out weaker?
And it and she wasn’t saying it in a harsh way but are you going to be able to use this, even this really painful experience it’s going to impact you and it’s going to change you, but you could actually have it change you for the better and without getting too philosophical about it most of us, if we’ve had loss the people that we’ve lost, they would much prefer that we come out the other side of grieving their death better and stronger than grief stricken and sort of impacted in a negative way for the rest of our lives.
I don’t think that’s actually the best way for us to honor the experience and our love for them and similarly while this is really different I’ve been trying to take that mindset and approach for myself personally, and for my own team this is hard I don’t know where it’s going I don’t know how we’re going to get all the way through it. I trust that we can and I also trusted on the other side of this, we can be better and stronger but that doesn’t mean we’re all super human and this isn’t going to impact us.
And so we’re not all superhuman, but we’ve seen the national hashtag that’s been going around that we’re alone together which is this dichotomy and it’s very powerful because you can feel that tension right when you hear the hashtag alone together and again, you are a book author with numerous books out there, Mike and your new book: We’re all in this together, has just recently dropped on the shelves, both digitally and in person you’ve accelerated your book launch. Well, tell us about this new book, why it’s so important right now?
I wrote this book last year and as I was thinking about writing it the focus of the book it’s called: We’re all in this together, the subtitle is creating a team culture of high-performance trust and belonging, so it’s really a culmination of the 20 years of work and research that I’ve done. What a lot of what we’ve been talking about, how do you create that environment? The second reason though David, that I wrote it and wanted it to come out in 2020 was given how divisive things are here in the United States and around the world.
I just felt like I wanted to make a statement about not a political statement per se, but just like that we actually have a lot more common ground with each other, then we think we do and that to me has always been a tenant of great teams is really moving away from us versus them and like, who’s the them like isn’t it all us? And what’s interesting is of course, when I wrote this book, I didn’t think it was going to come out in the midst of a global pandemic but the interesting part has been, at least from this perspective, is this phrase: We’re all in this together, is being uttered by everybody all the time, because this experience more than almost anything else in our lifetimes on a global scale, we’re all in this experience together and so this notion of being alone together, which is paradoxical.
I’m in my home office, you’re in your home office people are listening to us probably not commuting to work unless they’re listening to this much later when it gets released sitting somewhere at home or walking around their neighborhood or staying that we’re separated in a way we’ve never been forced to be physically separated before and we’re simultaneously connected to each other in this global experience all at the same time so it’s bizarre and challenging, but also there’s a part of it that I’m finding again, not to diminish the significance of people who were sick and people who are losing their lives but I’m finding it oddly, like there’s this solidarity with each other as human beings and one of the things that great teams do.
And I talk about this in the book is again, and I was talking about this earlier with respect to my sports experience is figure out a way with all of the competing agendas and ambitions and goals and challenges and everything find a way to move beyond that and to connect both with each other as human beings and what’s the larger goal? What’s the larger purpose? What’s the why? Like why are we doing this?
If we’re really just doing it because we want to make some money, like there’s nothing wrong with that we all got to feed ourselves and our families, but if there’s something and over the last 10 years as the economy has been as good as it’s been, and now we’re in a different phase of that, seeing where that’s going to play out many of us have been privileged enough to choose to do work that really speaks to us and inspires us or there’s some larger purpose to it because we’ve had lots of options but being able to tap into that larger purpose is really what fuels great teams and innovative thinking and doing something new and different if we’re just simply there to try to make a paycheck or get promoted or be better than the person next to us again, that’s not evil, it’s just probably not going to inspire us to anything great
I love how you’ve been shaping this conversation, Mike, about that we’re in this together in essence we’re separated but together and that’s what we saw in the living room concept for America the call to action that Elton John brought on is even if it’s just a little bit, how can you contribute to feeding America? How can you contribute? So the first responders children’s foundation, which is helping the first responders and paramedics who are helping everyone stay healthy, have their children have an education and have meals at the table while we’re all coming together as a country, whether it’s from loss and grief or even for inclusion and belonging.
Absolutely and one of the pillars in my book, I talk about focusing on inclusion and belonging, and what’s interesting I started to look at this from the perspective of diversity and inclusion, which is an interesting thing for me as a straight white man not that I don’t pay attention to these things
I do actually got my degree in college in American studies with a specialization in race and ethnicity grew up in Oakland as a white kid but was often, especially by the time I got to high school a minority, not a minority in the culture, but just the minority in on my sports teams, I was the only white kid on my basketball team in the entire league when I played on the varsity basketball team at skyline high school in Oakland and so I had a lot of experiences as a kid and I go to Stanford and it was like, my friends would say what’s it like at Stanford?
And I’d say I’ve never been around this many white people in my life, which was true and so I had this unique experience as a kid and as an adolescent and then as a young adult and then as I got into my work, David, I was a little afraid to engage in issues of diversity because it felt to me like, well I’m going to leave that to the experts I’m going to leave that to people who have lived experience people who are female or people of color from different self identified minority groups and in the last few years as the world and the country has changed.
It’s felt more important for me to utilize some of the privilege that I have to talk about these things and engage in some of these discussions, even though they can be scary and uncomfortable and what I found though as I was researching this, not to minimize any of the importance of focusing on diversity and even inclusion, what came up in my research was this fascinating, but very simple and profound idea that if we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy the third place on the pyramid once we get past the sort of physiological and safety needs the first two the next need that we have as human beings is a need to belong.
So it’s not a nice to have it’s not a warm, fuzzy thing it’s not a politically correct statement, it’s actually a human need that we all have this need to belong and so if we can frame some of the discussion, even around diversity and inclusion, as important as it is but when we focus on inclusion, there’s still this notion that there’s in-groups and out-groups, and the ingroup is going to include the out-group, which is important and necessary but the goal ultimately is to get to a place where you create an environment where everyone irrespective of their background, their race, their seniority, their age, their gender, their all of that everyone feels like they belong and that’s not easy.
Like a lot of things we’ve been talking about simple concept not super easy to do and there are things though that we can, and when can focus on that have, and create more of a sense of belonging because all of us know what it feels like to belong and we also know what it feels like to not belong so we have some insight and some awareness around this and if we can focus on creating environments where people really feel like they belong, then so many great things can happen and when people don’t feel like they belong, It’s not a non-starter, but it creates all kinds of ancillary problems that the greatest mission and vision and values in the world can’t make up for the fact of a lack of belonging.
In the remote environment that we’re in right now, Mike whether some of the things we could do to help our team members and individuals feel like they belong.
A couple of things and I just actually wrote a piece for business insider about this. That what can teams do to help each other thrive in the midst of this and have people feel like they belong? One simple thing we can do is just share a bit about how we’re actually feeling and check in with other people that’s important all the time but especially right now because people are stressed and they’re scared and they’re isolated and again, on the one hand you might be a person who’s like, Hey I’m home and my kids are going crazy and they’re trying to go to school and my spouse in this, and you might be someone who works in Lemon, you live alone and those are two very different experiences, but both challenging for different reasons so can we check in with each other, human to human the metaphor that I use in my work, when I’m talking about this, we talking about authenticity and vulnerability is the iceberg
And it’s about lowering the waterline on the iceberg so that we share a little more authentically and vulnerably how we’re feeling and we really ask other people how are you and not just the corny hey, how are you? How’s it going? What’s up?, which is how we say hello, especially here in America, but really asking and just that little bit like a number of the teams I’m working with now, building into their meetings on video is to spend five minutes with everyone just checking in not necessarily whining and complaining, and we don’t have to just fix each other but just here’s, what’s going on for me, what’s going on for you and that sort of human connection, which I’ve advocated for years with teams, whether we’re in person or remote is even more important, now the second thing that we can do is most of us are busy, but also happy to help others.
But we’re not very good at asking for help and support from other people so if we can actually start to reach out a little bit yes to offer some support, but where could we use some support and help practically speaking sometimes just saying, Hey, could you help me with this thing? like, I’m not used to using this technology, or I’m really struggling with this I don’t know about you, but for me, other people’s challenges and problems are always way easier to handle than my own so if you come to me, David, with a challenge and say, ‘Hey Mike, could you help me with this’? I’m happy to do it even if I’m busy, cause like you trust me enough to ask me and give me the opportunity to do something that most of us love to do, which is help so being real, checking in with others and then offering support when we can, our three really simple human things that we can do but then that has people feel more connected and more like they belong.
And it sounds like that’s similar to one of the chapters in your book, we’re all in this together about embracing these sweaty palm conversations. .
Those are about conflict and feedback a lot of times, but sometimes the sweaty pump conversation can be asking for help. Sometimes the sweaty palm conversation is being admitting that I’m struggling with something.
It’s just I had a mentor of mine years ago say Mike, what stands between you and the relationships you really want to have with people is usually a 10 minute sweaty palm conversation you’re too afraid to have and right now more than ever, we need to be having those sweaty palm conversations with not only our co-workers, but our family members, our friends, our kids, whatever their age is we’ve had to have some really important conversations with our daughters in the last number of weeks just to try to reassure them, but also modeling for people, whether it’s our kids or our coworkers or our friends, what does it look like for a human being to go through a stressful, challenging situation? Again, we’re not superhuman, you don’t have to act like I have it all together I know how this is going to go like none of us do and that’s okay.
It’s amazing to see how technology continues to bridge the gap, to help us be more human we’ve seen in the last few weeks, how even apps from Napster Shindig is back and House Party, which is owned by Epic Games is back and, HQ Trivia is back from the graveyard and these other apps are coming out it’s as if they’re bridging the gap of humans and machines and a lot of those topics are what you talk about and we’re all in this together. What call to action do you have for our listeners here on HumAIn today?
I’ve been saying it in different ways, but have some compassion for ourselves in the midst of all this, and also have some grace and compassion for other people the truth is to your point, there are a bunch of companies and apps and piece of technology that maybe we didn’t realize were super important that are now becoming very important in a different way because of what’s going on.
And then there’s many of us, myself included who the product, the service, what we do has been significantly disrupted to the point where not only is it not able, we’re not able to do it in the way that we did it, but it may or may not be useful or relevant in the short term or in the longer term and that’s super scary for all of us in different ways, but if we can have some compassion for ourselves and for each other, and again a lot of these things are more personal and human, but sort of give people the benefit of the doubt.
I’ve always believed in tried to operate from a place of most people are trying to do the best they can all the time. Nobody’s out to really get me and screw me over or whatever they’re just trying to deal with themselves or their lives as best as they can and as we navigate our way through this both technologically, but also personally and from a human standpoint just remembering that us and everyone around us doing the best we can that’s an important thing for us to remember
Mike Robbins², author of: We’re all in this together, creating a team culture of high performance, trust and belonging. Thanks for being with us on HumAIn.
Thanks for having me.
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