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Guest opinion: Deepening virtual connections

By Kate Juelfs | Chief operations and chief compliance officer, Foster Group

As we continue to work from home, many have found a rhythm. And chances are, it’s also renewed your commitment to finding ways to stay close to colleagues. For me, this means engaging the teams I work directly with and supporting people I care about.

I was recently reminded of an article I read early on in the pandemic called “How to Keep Your Team Motivated, Remotely.” During the initial read, my takeaways were about the cadence of the week.

While that’s worthwhile, the challenge facing many leaders today is staying connected. Upon a reread, I was impacted by the outlined motivators, and it caused me to evaluate my methods for connecting with colleagues.

Laughter is an easy way for us to stay connected — it makes us remember why we like working with our colleagues and inspires us to think kindly about the past while looking forward to the future.

Joy can be very hard to curate, so I’ve shifted my focus to creating space for play. When meetings veer off course because laughter has hijacked the topic at hand, I’m finding myself more inclined to participate rather than attempt to reel it back in. Play that happens ad hoc can be hard on an agenda but good for connectedness.

Connection isn’t just about the team. It’s also about pointing individuals to the way their individual work supports the broader organization. I’m hearing from colleagues that remote work has caused them to lose sight of their purpose. I’m being more intentional about initiating dialogue about the importance of an individual’s work and validating their contribution to the organization as a whole.

When working remotely, it’s difficult to see the cascading impact of your individual contribution and it’s easy to miss communication that might acknowledge it. Being reminded of purpose leads to engagement and connection.

Leaders are obligated to point their team toward the future. I sincerely believe it won’t stay like this forever. The negative emotional and economic pressures are present and persistent for many.

At this point, I find that authenticity matters more than ever. Genuine interest, along with the willingness to be personally vulnerable and candid, opens doors for deeper connections. While two people might share the sentiment that their family is struggling, they’re likely struggling in very different ways.

I’m working to acknowledge the uniqueness and step into that with my colleagues. It’s very difficult to engage someone with the idea of potential without fully acknowledging the reality of today.

Just as we overcame the transition to working from home and discovering some of its benefits, we now have the opportunity to thoughtfully examine the methods we’re using to connect. I know I’m not alone in loving my new (very casual) dress code or cherishing the time I’ve regained from the commute to my home office. It’s time for us to move past those things and on to a new phase of operating in the pandemic. To come out on the other side of this thing as better businesses with strong engagement, we should shift our focus to connecting through play, purpose and potential.

In her role as chief operations and chief compliance officer, Kate Juelfs works to align business systems with the strategies of the company. Kate splits her time between regulatory compliance and business operations and oversees the Human Capital function. She is passionate about employee engagement and sustaining the culture of the firm. Please see important disclosure information at www.fostergrp.com/disclosures.

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