How Emotion and Empathy Create Trust in Remote Work

Everyone—meet Jaki Clark! She’s a leader, learner, llama, and a member of our product team. Ben and Jaki kicked this interview off by chatting about the tools that Jaki uses to keep her team aligned and moving forward together in light of remote work. But, it quickly shifted into a discussion that felt more vulnerable and meaningful as it took a left turn and ended up being mostly about emotion, empathy, and relationships. Why? Because these are the things that we’re leaning on more than anything else these days. Relationships full of empathy and understanding of emotion are what we’ll look back on and cherish when we’re a year, five years, or even ten years removed from this season of remote work.

Here are the highlights from Jaki and Ben’s conversation.

Great managers focus on both operations and relations.

The role of “manager” has shifted. A month ago, a manager’s role was to lead their team in operational and relational success. Sure, this is still true right now, but it looks completely different. Maintaining both operational efficiency and relational excellence is a tricky balance, but it’s strike-able with open lines of communication, thoughtful questions that show compassion and trust, and boatloads of understanding for the needs of their direct reports. 

Leadership looks like honesty.

“Human emotion comes first. Thinking comes later.” Jaki couldn’t have put it any better. We’re humans before we’re employees, so acknowledging that everyone’s doing their best to work through a really weird, intense time is what the best kind of leadership looks like right now. Leadership and influence aren’t reserved for managers by any means, but often final decisions are. Right now is the perfect time for upper-level managers to make the decision to be honest about how they’re doing, encourage their teams to prioritize their mental health, and then model that themselves.

Double-down on personal connection.

We’re spending a lot of time focused on the operations of the business right now because deadlines, projects, and progress are still important. Work undeniably matters, but work has never and will never matter more than our health and the health of those we love. Jaki talked about how different personality types feel like this time is either hyper-productive (she literally said, “I feel like I could lift a car!” in this interview), or a bit de-energizing (Ben is more extroverted and really misses social interactions at work). So, what should our response be as leaders? Double-down on personal connections with our teammates to find out how they’re really doing and ask for ways to support them.


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