Our Guest Today: Christopher Littlefield
Christopher Littlefield is an International and TEDx Speaker specializing in Employee Appreciation, Recognition, and Workplace Culture, and the founder of Beyond Thank You. He has trained thousands of leaders, across six continents, on how to understand what their people want and need to be at their best. His clients include Accenture, Lebanese Postal Service, Boston Medical Center, Reserve Bank of Australia, Salesforce, the U.S. Army & Air Force, the United Nations, and more. His work has been featured in New York, Mindful, and British Psychologies Magazines, and profiled in Harvard Business Review. Chris is a regular contributor to Forbes and Harvard Business Review and the author of the bestselling book, 75+Team Building Activities for Remote Teams.
Watch Our Interview
Chris Littlefield: The Art of Acknowledgment and Employee Engagement (Virtual and In-Person) – powered by Happy Scribe
For all the media. And today, on the Tuesday morning kind of cloudy here at 11:30 a.m., I’m going live with my friend Chris Littlefield from Beyondthanky.com. So glad that you’re here, Chris. I’m going to briefly introduce you and we’re going to dive into today’s discussion and chat.
Really happy to be with you today, Faye.
Oh, likewise, Chris. So, for those of you who are not as familiar with Chris’s work, he is an international and TEDx speaker specializing in employee appreciation, recognition and workplace culture and the founder of beyond. Thank you. And I know this was not part of his bio, but I will mention that because he is such an expert when it comes to virtual leadership, how to lead from anywhere in person and virtually that’s definitely going to be a main topic I want to cover today. He has trained thousands of leaders across six continents on how to understand whether people want and need to be other best. His clients include Accenture, Lebanese Portal Service, Boston Medical Center, Reserve Bank of Australia, sales force, the US. Army and Air Force, and the United Nations, and many more. His work has been featured in New York Mindful and British Psychologies magazines and profiles in Harvard Business Review. He is a regular contributor to Forbes and Harvard Business Review, and the author of the best selling book 75 Plus Team Building Activities for Remote Teams. And with that said, all right, Chris, you are here with me.
I am. And it’s funny. So my book was a bestseller when I first launched it about, I don’t know, back in 2020 in the Heart of the Pandemic. And it just hit the bestseller list again this week on Amazon. I don’t know why, but it’s very strange. So the whole time throughout the Pandemic or anything like that, had all these sales and now it’s back on the list again, which is very strange just this week, but it’s exciting.
I love it. But why do you think that is? I believe that I’m kind of hearing these, like, mixed feedback and review about people absolutely wanting and needing to be back in the office, especially when it comes to creators. They can just come together and talk to one another. But at the same time, some people are really trying to understand that there’s just truly a lot of opportunities to be you, to remain virtually like, could you maybe talk about that?
Yeah. So something that’s really interesting is I love data and having a book on remote team billing activities has been an interesting data point that I would have not expected. But when I see spikes in sales, right, each day or something like that, something’s going on. So every time there was a new wave of COVID, then all of a sudden sales would go up. If people would extend, if there was a big announcement there was an extension of work from home, sales would go up. But they were oftentimes individual sales over a couple of days instead of there being like one book, that would be like ten books. But then what happened last month, which was really interesting, is I had the highest single month sales that I had had. And what I noticed though, it was all bulk sales, where before was individual sales, it was managers most likely going out and saying, hey, I’m running out ideas. What can I do with my team? And so I would be selling individual books. But last month, what changed is I had multiple days where I had like two $300 in book sales and revenues because it was bulk sales, which tells me that a company is buying 30 copies for their managers or 50 copies for their manager.
I had one company reach out to me and said, hey, can we get 200 copies? We have this virtual event going on and we want to send these to all our people. And so I saw last month was the biggest bulk sales. And I think what’s happened is that the idea of either we’re either going to work on returning the majority of the time in our office or we’re going to make the commitment to be fully virtual or hybrid more long term. And so I think what’s happening now is that as we start to return to some sort of sense of normal, which is not normal still because of what we’ve lived through, people are starting to settle into the idea that we are going to be hybrid for the foreseeable future. The pandemic is kind of it’s not over and the impact is clearly not over, but our life is starting to feel more normal. And if we are going to be in this hybrid world, how do we learn to be successful given this is our new reality moving forward for the foreseeable future?
I love it. It’s so exciting to know that there are bulk sales and companies are taking advantage of these exercises that you’re putting forward. That’s amazing. And I know that you’re so much more than that too. This morning. Before our livestream. I was just thinking this topic of employee appreciation seems so foreign and so familiar at the same time because I think many people who work in different settings. For me personally. Spending a decade in marketing and consulting. You hear all the time that people feel very much underappreciated that’s kind of a regular theme. Yet it’s like nobody really wants to talk about it openly. The long hours you can bring work, you can bring, you know, work to your home, but you’re not really encouraged to bring home to work. So there’s always a challenge, a struggle, frankly, other than HR, there’s nobody really in charge or really like, understand what’s involved. So for people who are new to this whole, the art of recognition and employee appreciation, could you educate us on what it is and what it isn’t?
Well, I think that, like you shared, it’s a lived experience. And I think many people, when they think of appreciation, they often think of recognition. They often think of the act of expressing our appreciation or recognizing rewards and awards. And a big part of my mission in life is to blow up that conversation and shift how we think of it. Many times people think of recognition as compensation because many times within our organizations, if you work in an organization over maybe a couple of hundred people, then recognition in our organization, which is rewards and our words, tends to sit in comp and bends, which tends to sit in HR. So they’re talking about the financial component. But compensation is different. Being compensated is different than being valued for who we are, what we bring, what we contribute. And so feeling appreciated, like trust or feeling valued is the same as feeling the sense of trust. It’s not something that we do once, and then I trust faith, right? What it is, it’s a relationship that I’ve built over time. It’s a relationship that I built up, and I have to maintain, just like with a friend, if we earn trust and then they do something that has us think we can’t trust anymore, that status is gone.
And so building an experience at work, whether work is in the office or virtually, is all about us building. Maintain those relationships over time and thinking about what are we doing, whether we’re connecting. When I hop on the call and I go, hey, fate, the first thing you shared is something that your mother said about my eyes. I’m complimenting. I’m like letting up. So we’re connecting. And last time you and I were talking, you just got a pool installed in your backyard. You’ve been swimming, and you’re up in Boston. And every time I think about swimming in Boston this time of year, I’m like, you got to be insane. I have some sort of relationship that has me know that I know you more than just our exchange at work. And so we’re working on building and maintaining that. So when it comes to appreciation, when it comes to recognition, these are actions we take all with the goal of building maintain the experience or the status of feeling valued at work.
So it’s such a deepen relationship. I think, about what you just mentioned. It seems so trivial, like, oh, things would have just come up if we’re sitting one on one at Starbucks or something. But I remember still very vividly when we connected for the very first time how you discover me. And I love the fact you’re like, oh, you know, I saw you interview Mark Cuban. I was so grateful that you noticed that, because sometimes for me to go through these experiences getting really excited, really nervous, stressed, and then it’s all gone. And personally haven’t really done much reflections. And the second thing was the fact that you mentioned that you’re originally from maine, and I immediately had to tell you that I went to freiburg academy, which is a school that I’ve explained in great length to people who haven’t lived in maine. I just remember that on top of everything else we talked about yeah.
And the fact that you went there, I was like one. I mean, like freiburg, for anyone who’s watching this, has no clue. This is like, imagine driving an hour out into the woods from where you live in a city, and then this random farm town, and then there’s a school there, and faye ended up there, and that’s in your rural state of Maine. It’s just completely random. I completely forgot about fiberglass category in our first conversation from that. And I think that’s so much of how we build and maintain relationships, is that intentional remembering? It’s those details, it’s those things about each other, it’s that, you know, asking, and you know, somebody put the comment in is that, yeah, we’re encouraged to bring work home, but not our home to work. And during the pandemic, the managers who are really great about this realize that that boundary is blurred, and that boundary will forever be blurred, because what changed before is we are supposed to show up at work, do our job, and then go home and then continue it. If we had to get things done where because we were working in home and everybody was inside each other’s offices, we didn’t have the ability to do that anymore.
And so now I think the big shift for managers is understanding that the employee experience used to be just about what’s happening at work, where now our job as employers and as managers is to understand, what do our people want me to be at their best at work, and to make sure that work is supporting them to be at their best outside of work as well.
Could you elaborate more about that? Because I think when people don’t really work in your field, they haven’t spoken with so many different companies, you know, CEOs, VPs, what is that the employees want, or to the extent that managers and senior leaders actually want to better their lives both at home and at work? I feel like there’s a bit of a mystery. There are a lot of articles, shiny objects in front of us. But what is the essence of how we change our mindset? What else we need to learn?
Well, I think the mindset and so in the past, I do used to work for be part of the best place to work for ad age. And ad age is one of the biggest kind of marketing magazines, and I don’t know if that’s the right term. And so I think that when I was interviewing the CEOs of the top ten best place to work each year, and I did this for three years in a row, every CEO that I talk to at these top companies, whether they were a small 50 person or 10 person company, there was one commonality among all of them. If all of them adopted what I would refer to as a valued employee mindset and understanding that we as an organization will not be successful unless our employees feel successful at work and at home. And my job is to just remove barriers for people to be able to do that. I’ll never forget speaking to this one CEO, or actually it wasn’t even the CEO speaking to, it was reading the individual comments of employees at the organization. I will never forget this one woman says, my boyfriend got his dream job to be able to go on tour with a band.
But I just started this organization and so I reached out very hesitantly. The organization said I’d love to keep on working for you, but my boyfriend got this opportunity to go on tour in Europe and he wants to go and we’ve committed to being together. And what they said is one, you can work remotely if you want to do your job as long as you keep on doing it and if you want to leave, you will have a job when you return. And so that understanding that we are going to be able to make things work for our people. And of course in order for them to do that, that person had to be a great employee because we’re not going to move mountains for people who do just a crap job, right? We’re not going to do that but we are going to move mountains to people who add value to our organizations as well.
Love it. I love specific examples and there is so much to learn from. I see them as also little mini case studies for us to really understand people’s mindsets and how you can make something really concrete happen for employees. So we have a question now from Victoria Greco. Is there a monetary value associated with recognition, appreciation or do managers use it to offset a race or promotion?
Okay, so I would have to ask a follow up because the first thing I heard is there a monetary value associated with recognition? And so one, I’m actually going to answer two different questions here and I hope that they’re both helpful. The first one is their monetary value. Not necessarily. And this is because we’ve collapsed rewards and awards with recognition where rewards and awards aren’t recognition and of themselves through a delivery tool for a message. And the reason why many people think that is because we call our rewards program, our points system, our recognition program. And that’s problematic because many managers think that the only way to recognize somebody is through the rewards and awards platform. So we want to do that. And so in my workshops when I’m working with organizations, one of the first things that I’m doing is helping them decouple those terms. And so when I take recognition, I break it down to what I call an inverted pyramid of importance. So we always put things as like a hierarchy of needs. And up at the top, people put awards. But awards are the least important thing on there, and so I invert it.
And then on the top is appreciating the person. These are those day to day things that we do, like saying good morning, like saying, hey, I really love the question you asked in the meeting the other day. Or, I saw that you interviewed Mark Cuban. How the heck did you make that happen? What was that like? How did you even get into this? How did you end up from where you were born to Fryberg Academy to doing what you’re doing now? Those things that we do to signal to people now, then you have acknowledging the circumstances. That would be the next one. It’s those day to day things to, hey, I understand that you’re working. You’re doing all this while taking care of your parent well, taking care of your kids, while trying to understand you’re transitioning or you just moved or you’re going to school at the same time. We’re downstaffed for every single hospital in many pretty much every organization. You’re the pandemic. Thank you for showing up and doing work, but I know we’re downstaffing you to do it. I acknowledge my daughter’s teachers yesterday at Pickup because the new school building didn’t open.
And now they’re working in this kind of temporary school for almost like a month and a half, trying to do their job while they educate our kids, while parents are getting angry with them. So acknowledging the circumstances and then recognizing effort and progress, people don’t want to be recognized for the results. They want to be recognized for the process, the ups and downs that led to the results. And then every once in a while, we’re going to reward results with some sort of financial or something nice or a little something special and then award standout results. And all of those are about building, maintaining a culture where people feel valued. So that’s one side to answer your question. Then the other side is, is there a monetary value with recognition and appreciation? So if we were to remove recognition and appreciation back into the category, said yes. Just last week, there was an article published in Harvard Visit you and I can’t remember the exact name of it, but in the study they shared, it was from, I think, something like 5360 reviews. And managers who were rated by their employees at great at recognizing them were 40%.
Their employees were 40% more engaged than in people who were in the bottom tier, meaning that when people felt recognized, those employees were more engaged. They shared more ideas, they committed more discretionary time, like their time outside of work. They felt more empowered at work, and they stayed with the organizations longer. And if you look at Gallup stats for years and years and years and they’ve been studying this, organizations are more profitable when people feel recognized. People there’s lower absenteeism, which makes sense because when people feel valued, they show up to work. And I think the retention rate was in the high quartile versus the bottom quartile. People stayed 40% longer in their organizations when they felt recognized at work.
I love what a complete answer right there. And it’s true that sometimes I think for all the places I’ve worked at, there’s a direct tie in between recognition and promotion or raise. But there are so many different ways to do that. I’m kind of intrigued because I think about my very small phase world production team as well, like what I do on a daily on a regular basis to acknowledge the good work that they’re doing, not just when they’re making mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. So let me know if anybody’s watching here. Also run a remote team. But Chris, I love that there’s a 2022 program and services documents. I actually really enjoy reading it because there’s a lot of clarity to who you are, what you do, and all the handouts, all the stuff that people get that you leave behind so that they continue to practice. So you’re not I don’t see you as a trainer or a speaker who show up for a couple hours. Ideals like you’re out the door, but it’s very memorable. There’s one area that I want to explore for you to speak to is this idea with the training of hybrid leadership or virtual leadership.
Could you talk to us maybe a bit about that, what it is and how you go about your services to help them improve those skills?
Well, and you pointed out something that’s very important to me, which is one of my values, is that people need to always walk away with things that they can use. We go to trainings and that’s like, you know, it’s like you were saying, it’s like, hey, it’s great when people notice and they notice what I did. Right. The best acknowledgement for me is when people walk away from a program and said, I actually got something I can use. So every program I run, whether it’s my hybrid leadership playbook, my Art of Recognition program, is that every program is about first updating people’s mindset and then learning new methods. What can I use? How can I actually implement this thing based on this mindset and then leaving people with a means? Like when I run a workshop and I have some of them here, they’re just kind of scattered around. But it’s like everybody walks out with these little business cards with the key distinctions of the workshop on it. I was just sharing my model of the inverted pyramid of importance. It’s right there on the top. It’s not it’s going to be blurry. It’s right there on the top of the card with each one of the distinctions in what we can do.
And so when it comes to my hybrid Leadership Playbook program, which I think I ran 70 plus times during the Pandemic was, here we are, we have all these leaders, they are burnout, they’re fried themselves, and they barely have enough time to be able to take care of themselves. Little on their people, but yet they have seven backtoback zoom meetings each day. And you’re the expert when it comes to how do we engage and facilitate an audience and run webinars and all the rest. And how do we do that? Now what I bring to the conversation is, okay, now we’re in this meeting, what do we do? What do we do this time? There’s the technology we’re using, but what are the specific things we do? And so one of the ones in the book and this is what this was about. I didn’t plan to write a book on remote team building, but what I realized after, like, doing a couple videos on YouTube about team activities, writing a few articles and HvR, people kept on reaching out like, okay, what do I do here? And so here we are in these meetings. Now what do we do?
So the first one I have is what I call the One Six Rule, is that for every hour of meeting time, virtually, and this implies in person as well, 10 minutes of it or one six of it, should be used for relationship building, right? Like, even for us, when we got on, we talked for 5 minutes beforehand. We checked in, we talked about a few things, and then we jumped into the content. We always want to make time for connection before content and always make time for gratitude before goodbye. So the One Six Rule, so for every hour of meantime, 10 minutes to be used for relationship building for 2 hours, 20 minutes, 3 hours. No one should have a threehour virtual meeting. That’s inhumane. Okay? So we don’t actually want to do that and that’s in person as well. Now, during that One six, what do we use that time for? Now, many times when people are joining the call, we always want to start with a welcome question when people get on. And one of my favorite ones, I think should be in every single work virtual meeting is what were you doing 5 minutes before the call today?
What were you doing 5 minutes before the call? And the reason why specifically in the hybrid world is that when people answer this in the chat, maybe we got ten different people on our call is the whole reason why we’re asking this question is to remind ourselves that people are coming from something and they’re going to be going to something afterwards. Hey, I was just making lunch. I just was finishing up a record for so and so. I was trying to get this together. I just came back from a doctor’s appointment. What I was doing 5 minutes before for me, I was like cramming down a peanut butter and banana sandwich because I hadn’t eat anything from the previous meeting and then eating an apple afterwards. So I had some sort of sustenance in my body before I went into this meeting today. It gives us a reminder that people are living a life outside of our virtual call, that’s part of it. And then also using pulse check questions when we get on and especially if you have a multiple group of people and both of these activities are in my book, is asking people and saying, hey, let’s on a scale of one to 10 today, what’s your energy level?
And just using a pulse check question and then they put their answer into the chat and then people put the numbers up there like what was your energy level? Say how are you feeling about your ability to keep up with your work right now? And people put their answers and as a manager we can then ask anybody, does anyone want to explain why they picked the number they did and why? And then you can do that. Now many people say, kris, I can’t do these things. If I asked that question before the meeting, we’re going to spend 45 minutes answering these questions and we’ll never get to what we actually are in the meeting for now, this is where you have to make that understanding that we are going to do this for the first 10 minutes and that’s it. And you make that a standard thing. Now for many leaders when they’re coming into those meetings, I would say keep two cups on your desk and then put the names of all the people on your team into those cups. Okay? And then what you do is at each meeting I may go and say I asked the question.
People answer the question in the chat. Then I pick a name and I go, okay Fay, you answer the question out loud. You come on, you answer the question and then we wrap up. Everyone’s answered in the chat. Everybody listen to one person’s answers. I move your name to the other cup there and then I keep track of who’s participating or not. It’s also a great way to be able to pick people up and say, hey, so who has thoughts on such and such question that we’re working on? I grab a name and then everybody’s like oh crap. Attention. So it’s a great way to encourage participation but you can do that. You can use welcome questions. One of the handouts and I don’t know if I have it on my site right now, it’s like 35 welcome questions that you can use in your meetings. And these are like I said, they’re in the book. And this is one of the handouts in the book. So you keep those on your desk. And I need to come up with a question. I look down at the sheet and say, get to know your questions.
Are you the oldest, middle, or youngest child in your family? And then open up a conversation about that. So we’re learning about people. And one of the videos that I just recorded today that’s going to go on YouTube maybe this week or next week, is to stop organizing virtual happy hours. Stop putting people up there and asking them to say, hey, you know what? Let’s meet up after work to build relationships. Instead, build it into things we’re doing. Have those happy hours or have those meetings or those networking events during work hours. Not asking people to choose between spending time with their family and spending time with their coworkers outside of work. Build it into work time because what we commit time to signals to our people what we think is important.
Love it. Love it. These are very important, I think, adjustments many companies need to make. I just recalling so many times where there’s a team building events, whatever it may be, it’s always after hours, sometimes even beyond that weeknights, weekends, it’s endless because the work itself is so important. Worse yet, team building event is already set three to 04:00 p.m.. And boom, here’s a client call. Everything is canceled. And there’s always something else that takes priority. So thank you for calling that out, Chris. There’s one thing as all of us are quite intrigued by, all these tiny little cards. If you don’t mind holding them up again and showing me some of the details. Is there a way to purchase them or get digital copies of your card?
Right now, I don’t so these cards are actually just part of my inperson workshops. What I would recommend doing is go out, you can get a digital copy on Amazon or you can actually hard copy all the questions, not the stuff around. Recognition is not in the book, but I’m working on that right now. I do have an upcoming LinkedIn learning course where many of the things I talked about around recognition are going to be on the course and then sign up for my [email protected]. And then I send out every two weeks. Dropped something I send out. Links to many of these handouts are in my newsletter. And then another one that’s on there and I need to be better about where all my handouts are. But another one that’s in the book. And then also here is a team assessment to actually check in about how am I really doing about building emotional and physical safety on our team. And then there’s a quick assessment and then based on your answer, where you should start with your team of what things you should do next to build and maintain those relationships.
I love what you just said about emotional safety. Was it something else? Emotional.
And emotional and physical safety environment. Not the funny thing, but I don’t know about you is you end up reading the same message over and over and over again, just told in a different way. And that’s good. The link for Amazon, it’s 75 team activities, remote teams. I don’t have it handy right here, but maybe they can pull it up to the book on Amazon. And the iron of this is emotional and physical safety is created when people feel seen and hurt. When we’ve taken the time. And many leaders say, I don’t have time to build relationships. I don’t have time to do this, you don’t have time not to do it when you don’t take the time. And I was a mentor of mine, Chester Allen, he wrote New York Times book, The Carrot Principal has a line that he says in his workshops and trainings. He’s like, imagine if you got married and then the rest of your marriage is like, why said I love you when we got married at the wedding? Isn’t that enough? No. We’re building and maintaining relationships over time and we have to do those little things each day.
And that emotional safety comes when people feel like we value who they are, we value their time, we value their relationships in and outside of work. That’s when right people have that experience. And in the beginning of the book, sections of one of those things that we do, do people feel known? Do people feel like we appreciate and value their time in and outside of work? Do we care about their development? Do we care about do we express our appreciation? All of those things are what build the foundation of our relationships, the foundations of trust, the foundation of people feeling valued at work is based on the little things we do each day.
Absolutely, yes. It’s not enough. I absolutely agree that when it comes to relationship, whether it’s marriage or otherwise, the relationships all need nurturing. And some people say, well, that’s work. But ultimately I think it’s really worth the investment. Even with people who work with me, even if they don’t stay with me or with Face World forever, most of them do. I still want them to be able to carry what they have learned and to be able to impact other people and other projects in positive ways. So Chris, we look forward to being.
What you were saying two things there is one, you’re either going to do the work to keep that person there or you’re going to do the work to replace them. So which work do you want to do? And like you’re saying is that we are a stop on somebody’s journey in life and how long that stop is going to be and how long they’re going to stay with us and contribute to our mission. And what we’re up to is directly correlated with how much they feel that they’re getting on that stop on the journey. So if they feel like they’re learning and they’re growing and that they’re developing and they’re valued and fairly compensated for it, then they’re going to stick around for a long time. If not, they’re going to be out the door on to the next stop on their journey. So we can either invest the time now to build and maintain those relationships, or we’re going to invest the time training somebody else and upscaling somebody else to be able to do what we need them to do.
Beautiful. I look forward to a lot of the videos that are going to be published on your YouTube channel. For those of you who are not familiar with Chris’youtube channel, he’s there with his name Christopher Littlefield. So I recommend you that you subscribe because I think as a YouTuber, as a content creator, I can see the amount of work and energy, Chris, that you put into your work and it definitely comes through on your videos. And some of these tips and tactics that you’ve given here, I really can see very easy way, natural ways to repurpose them as well. And one of the videos, I don’t want to make you blush, it’s like I love your work. One of the topics that you will be talking about, first of all, there are 50 ways to show employee appreciation. I think you definitely touch upon a number of them. And there’s a second one. It’s called three questions to ask our people right now. And I’m not going to ask you to record the whole video, but I’m really interested in oh, God, you’re going.
To ask that question. But the truth is I don’t remember the three questions because I wrote that article so long ago, I haven’t reread that one in a long time. So I’ll go to ask what those three questions because those three questions were right in the heart of the pandemic when I published that article. So I actually don’t remember the exact three questions. You’d have to tell me what they were because it was so long ago. But in essence, my guess going back is those three questions are, how are you doing right now? Actually, you know what, I don’t remember. But everything in all of my work, the funny thing enough is the thing that gets repeated over and over again is we don’t see 98, 95, which is a made up statistic percent of what people are dealing with every day. And the only way we have access to what people are dealing with, what their needs are, is when we take time to ask and to make sure. And whether it’s those three questions that I asked in that article or another one. I just published an article maybe three, four months ago about how to run a state conversation.
That’s in Harvard Business Review, and the article is actually titled how to Understand If Your Employees Are Happy at Work but it’s really about having a state conversation. It’s about sitting down. And I actually outline in this book how to have a state conversation, which is the opposite of an exit interview. It’s me and I’m sitting down to check in. Hey, how are things going? Do you have the tools and resources you need to succeed right now? Do you feel like you’re growing at work and how can I best support you? And I’m guessing that that article is around those three questions right there.
Love it. And like you said, Chris, it’s about taking the time to ask the questions and maybe the questions will change over time and it can be refined. So look forward to that video. And meanwhile, we have another question. How valuable is emotional intelligence really in today’s workplace?
Emotional intelligence has always been valuable, right? And I don’t think it’s this workplace or the next workplace or in the future. It’s just a term that people are using. We see your emotional safety, we hear quiet quitting, right? You know, we hear all these buzzwords that get passed around. And when it comes to emotional intelligence, it’s really our ability to understand what’s going on for others and what’s going on for ourselves and our awareness. You know, one concept and I haven’t put an article or video together on this, is what I call impact awareness. And so impact awareness or circumstance awareness is another version, is aware of how external and internal circumstances are impacting us and others. And our emotional podintelligence reminds us, and I have it in three different tiers. There’s the impact on us. So if I send that email to Faye on Friday night at 06:00 P.m., being like, hey Faye, I need this in an hour. Well, it’s off my to do list, but what’s the impact? I just put it on to her Todo list on a Friday, maybe she was going out for dinner with her mom or meeting up with friends or something like that, or going for a swim.
And then all of a sudden, instead of it being offered to do list, it’s now added on to do list, right? And then there’s an impact on that person’s others. And so then it goes on to the other person there. And so we need to be thinking about so that emotional intelligence is that awareness of every action or lack of action I take has an impact on me, an impact on them, and the impact on their people as well. And so we have to be aware of ourselves and our impact on others. So when we’re taking those actions, how are they impacting others? And then when I say circumstance awareness is also being aware of how external circumstances are impacting people. And this is what happened during the pandemic a lot and often didn’t happen as well because many leaders weren’t aware. It’s like, what do you mean? Why are you struggling right now? Well, I’m struggling right now because I’ve got a five year old at home and not allowed to leave my apartment. Right. And that happened for me. That was for four months. Well, why can’t you get this done? Well, I can’t actually get out of the house right now to get this done or why can’t you do this?
It’s being aware of how the external circumstances or something that may happen in our life. My neighbor’s mother passed away the other day. Now, is their boss aware of that and aware of how that may impact their work and what I need to be doing. I had somebody offered to give feedback to somebody, and I’m not going to share that example, but I think it’s just being aware of before we go to do something, just pausing for a second and thinking about how is this going to impact me, how is it going to impact them and how is it going to impact the people in their lives? And then before we take that action, if we just ask that question, whether it’s about some action we’re going to ask them to do or whether it’s actually about some change we’re going to make at work, some new software, we’re going to roll out, some maybe we’re going to invite them to a virtual happy hour. And before we go and invite them to that virtual happy hour, think, hey, if we asked them to attend this, what are they not going to be able to attend?
If I ask this employee to work on this project, what are they not going to be able to do if they do? And it doesn’t mean we don’t invite them. It doesn’t mean we don’t ask them to do that. But we may think about how would this possibly impact them and the people in their life if we do.
Oh, I’m really seeing some of the dots connected here. And like you said, Chris, I was 24 years old, and my dad was critically ill. And I remember I was so aware because I’ve been trained to not bring home to work. So I remember always just putting in even longer hours, working nights and weekends. And I remember a colleague and a client asked me, you know, they seem to be a little low on energy these days, wondering why, but they were talking to each other without asking me, you know, and I think it was really interesting. I remember just feeling kind of confused and hurt and then didn’t really know if there’s going to be how to talk about it. And it was weird around my peers because being 24 and have a dad who’s stage four cancer, it was so unusual. I just didn’t know who to go to or to turn.
Yeah, and you’re not I mean, I lost my father at 20 years old and then went to a job a year later, and I hadn’t processed that. I hadn’t gone through that. That was a circumstance. It was having a huge impact. And the people understood me and what I was going through would check in from time to time, you know, like especially when a co worker is going through a loss or has gone through a loss. You know, I’ll always put a note in my calendar, check in with Faye one month from now because I don’t know about you, is those people who remembered. Cause when someone loses somebody because no one’s trained to support people who are grieving, but when somebody goes through a loss or maybe they said their spouse is pregnant or maybe said that they’re having their first baby or whatever may be going on, that intentional remembering is how we signal to people that we remember what’s going on in their lives. And so jotting that note down right in our calendar to follow up, to remember what’s going on in their lives is what signals people we value them.
I have a guy that I just met at a local pool, but I’m like, I like this guy. And I don’t mean it’s hard to meet friends as adults. Like it’s something we don’t talk about. And I’m like, I want to find this guy. And then he invited me to his dad’s funeral the other day and I couldn’t attend that, and I really wanted to, but that day I recorded a message and said, hey, I’m thinking about you today, thinking about your daughter. If you need anything, I’m here. And I put that note that I’m going to check in with him in a month just to see how he’s doing. And hey, do you want to go for a walk? Do you want to chat or do you want to just get together and not talk about losing your dad? Because sometimes I need as well. But if we don’t check in and ask what’s going on in people’s life, we have no opportunity to contribute or to let them know we’re there, even if they don’t need us to be there.
Yeah, you’re so right about this. Intentional checkins, intentional remembering. I remember those people for life. I remember being 22 and needed my wisdom teeth taken out and they’re impacted. And the client offered to drive me to the hospital when I was traveling in Arizona. Really? No friends, nobody around. And that client just said, oh, you know, my daughter just went through this. I’m going to bring you there. And she actually took a half day out of her own, like, you know, vacation time to bring me there. And never, I will always remember her. People remember you. And some of those opportunities because of these just intentional remembering, caring for one another, you remember a lot of those opportunities actually come back to you without you expecting anything in that moment. I think that’s what, in retrospect, made my entrepreneurship, starting my company so easy in 2016 because there were a lot of, like, babies and people in their early 20s. Well, you know, they kind of just returned to my life and trying to.
Help me out when people show they care. Right. We want to know that we’re valued for more than we are. And if you can hear the buzzing in the back, but the fire alarms going off in my house, any time you cook, anything that happens. So that means it’s lunchtime. Can you hear it in the back?
A little bit, but this is very real, right?
Okay. Yeah. So can a manager be seen as too sensitive and not be insane?
I love the question yes, of course.
Is that we are judging and assessing each other. All day long, you’ve been judging and assessing me while you’re watching this right now. I like him. I don’t like him. That was a good point. That wasn’t a good point. We were always going to do that, and our people are always going to be, you know, judging and assessing us. Too sensitive is an assessment of somebody right. Or too or to be taken seriously. And I think that we need to balance those two things. You know, it would not work. Many times people will miss interpret. What I’m saying is we need to be having heartfelt conversations all the time. Like, let me deeply express my appreciation for you for bagging my groceries today. The way that you put the eggs on top of everything else so they wouldn’t break is just made for found. No, that would be weird. Right? We need to have that balance of play and seriousness that, hey, you know what? That camaraderie of I love you, buddy, to like, hey, how are you doing? To sending a funny gift, to not being in this deep kind of what is it?
Breaking dawn or whatever those vampire movies were, where everything was like, 24 hours of just drama and kind of teenage no, we don’t want to be in that all the time. We need to have that play to which a great indicator as a manager or as a leader is that when we lose our sense of humor and our way to be able to play with each other, that’s usually an indicator that something is off for us or for others. So that’s a great indicator for us. When we lose that sense of humor, often something is out of check and that maybe we’re just tired or not rested or there’s something that hasn’t been communicated in a relationship that needs to be communicated. So can a manager be seen as too sensitive? That’s going to be someone’s judgment assessment of us. And I think the best way to find out is many times we have a perception that people think we’re too sensitive, and the best thing to do is to do a check of our perception with others by interviewing them and just saying, like, hey, you know, I have a concern that sometimes I’m seen as too sensitive on the team, or I have a perception of this.
What do you feel other people may be feeling about me as a leader? And the way that I worded, that was very intentional. What do you think that other people may be feeling about me as a leader? Because the reason I say, what do you think other people doesn’t ask that person to say what they feel. So if you have a high level of trust with that person, then they may openly share that with you. But if not asking the question, hey, how do you think I’m perceived as a leader by others allows that person to be able to share more openly what other people may see or other people may be thinking without saying what they see or feel? Because as a leader, if we want to get open, honest feedback, we always need to be aware of the power dynamic in our relationships that we’re not always aware of. It’s like, Well, I have an open door policy. No, you don’t. Right. The door is open, but anytime anyone walks in, you go, what? Right. My door is open. That’s the laziest thing a leader can say is, I have an open door policy.
If people aren’t walking through it, then the door is not open. If they’re coming in all the time, then that’s an invitation. But as leaders, we need to invite people into conversations and into giving feedback because we need to own the power that we have an impact on their status at work based on our level and our role. And so we need to account for that and then invite people into giving us feedback, into checking in about how.
We’Re doing on the power. I love that statement. We’re learning a lot here. Thank you for all the great questions of the Orio. I really appreciate it. And Chris, I’m so eager to ask you about your origin source, but before we go there, there’s a question that you brought up and you don’t have to recite what you’ve written, which is, are you virtually aware? I think these days there’s like a lot of hybrid meetings and in person, virtually on zoom elsewhere. What do you mean by virtual self.
Awareness is about, I had one person, I was in a meeting with somebody, and I’ll say it was a UN agency because there’s tons of them. And I had a whole conversation where the person was like this. And it’s just people tend to forget that we need to be aware of that. That little camera right there is what people see, and that microphone that we have is what people hear. And our job is to maintain that. And so virtual self awareness, many times people will be in long meetings and they’ll be like this. They forget that they’re showing up on somebody else’s screen. So if we want to if we also now need to be aware of in the office. We need to be aware of our clothes and do we have something in our teeth or not and things like that of our breath. But now we need to be aware of what are people seeing and experiencing through that camera, right? What’s coming through? Where are we positioned. If anyone ever did photography or composition courses, the rule of three, if you say there’s an imaginary line that goes like through here, the rule of three is that there are nine boxes and our eyes should be on that line right about here.
We don’t want to be down like this. We don’t want to be over here like this. Are we right in the middle of the camera where they can see us? Are we looking at the camera so their eyes look like we’re looking at them and we’re connecting with them? What is in the back? If I turn and I have a camera saying, this is what my office looks like. So I just took a whole bunch of things out of the boxes for something I just did a second ago. Right there’s. The mess over there. But what am I showing people? Are there distractions in the back? Are there distractions noise wise? And so being virtually selfaware is being aware of how we’re showing up on camera, other people’s experience of us. Do we have lighting that allows them to see us by buying a five dollar virtual ring light or something you put up there, by having a decent microphone, by making sure there aren’t distractions in the back. And I don’t mean distractions like a fire alarm going off, because that’s a random thing. But I mean like, hey, do I have something playing in the back or do I use earphones to block those things out?
But being aware of how we show up in other people’s worlds and remembering regularly throughout our meeting what we’re sharing, what sounds going on for us, is going to be going on for others. So that we show them that we’re present and more aware.
I love it. And one thing I also want to add to this as we’re going live stream is a lot of people don’t realize that when you go live with someone else, there are a lot of video interviews is I try to look at how Chris is positioned in his office in his chair and I try to mimic that. So I try not to have my camera pointed this way. You can see a side by side. It’s going to look awkward. I don’t want to be too close like this. I also don’t want to be fading into the background. So as you can see, our head level is kind of even and it’s kind of a beautiful thing. Like sometimes virtually, you never can imagine a picture exactly what a person looks like physically. And I’ve interviewed a lot of people. I’m 54. And I’ve interviewed people who are like, six, five, and I will position the camera. You can’t really see much difference, which I think is kind of cool.
And that is a perfect example of virtual self awareness. I think it’s also that you’re a creator of an experience and you’re managing both the visual, the content and the user experience at the same time, right. You’re managing what’s going on in the chat, and so people can see the question when it comes up. You’re managing how you look. And I love that, hey, I want to create this balanced aesthetic look that people are going to see on both screens, right? That I want to make sure that the sound experience, there’s nothing worse than having horrible sound, and you can’t hear the person in distractions. But I think that that’s what we are also being aware of. Just, hey, I am providing somebody a visual experience of me. And even though I have slippers on my feet right now and I’m wearing shorts, right, I am showing up in a way that hopefully is not a distraction from the conversation and topic that we’re talking about.
MMM. Yeah. Beautiful. And I love this. Another thing, speaking of appreciation and recognition, you know, I see questions come in, I want to display them on the screen. It gets people really excited to see that their questions and the responses, reflections are shown on the screen. And sometimes it happens really fast, and I always give them a shout out. And thank you, Richard, for tuning in and all that. And before we close, I realized I was like, I’m going to keep this live stream 45 minutes. But then now I realize that. Chris, how did you stumble upon this particular niche, the art of recognition, employee appreciation? I don’t know a lot of experts in this field. You have become very recognizable, successful. But have you always known that this is where you want to get into what were your career?
No, to not go into my full origin story, because it’s a long story, but I think the simplest version of it is that my background was conflict resolution. So I was facilitating dialogues between Israelis and Palestinians, indians, Pakistanis, Greek and Turkish Cypriots. And so I’d be the one, like I said, as you’re creating an experience on here, is that I had been running these cross border dialogue programs for years. And so when I was doing this but you can’t earn money in conflict resolutions. You always have to do something else. You can earn money in conflict and weapons and stuff like that, but not on the track two. It’s called track two diplomacy. Track one diplomacy is government to government. Track two is civilian to civilian. I may not be saying that 100% right, but civil society. And so I was running these programs. I’ve been doing it for years. And one of my programs that was funded through the state Department. Me and my two coworkers had a really successful program, but by the end of the program, we had a huge falling out. We could barely be in the room together. And we’re confident resolution specialists, and after a year of passive aggressive fighting, not being able to actually work out the dynamic, it was a 15 minutes recognition activity that transformed the relationship.
It was one question that we asked, which is a process that I call reflective recognition now, but it was how that one recognition activity transformed our whole relationship or began to transform our relationship, is what put me on this journey to explore the role of recognition and relationships. And then after that, I was living in Boston, and I was working at Children’s Hospital in Boston as a job coach, supporting people to go back to school. And that’s how I earned a living. Because like I said, you don’t make any money in comfort with solution. And so when I was doing that, I was interviewing one person a day on the subway to and from work. And so I did over 400 plus interviews. And what came out of that was this absolutely insane relationship to giving and receiving recognition at work. And many of those concepts and some of the insights and lessons that I learned, I’ve published in articles in HBR and in Forbes, and I’m working on a book in the next couple of years around the subject because our ability to give is largely contingent, our ability to receive. And our ability to receive recognition is based in our past experience with it.
And so whether somebody manipulate us with recognition. Whether they recognize us right before they ask for something. Or sandwich feedback between two criticisms. What I spend most of my time doing is unpacking the misunderstandings and misuse of recognition so that we can update our relationship to the modern world. To our modern life. And as an adult. So we can use this powerful tool that helps us build and maintain relationships every single day and think about how we can do that in the workplace. And that’s what I spend most of my time doing, is training people to update how they think of recognition and then update the relationship so they can first receive, and then after being better at receiving, getting better at giving it in a more authentic way.
My goodness, there is so much to unpack there. I’m hearing this for the first time, conducted 400 interviews. So literally, this episode on Face World is 322, for Chris. And I’ve been doing this since 2014. And yet you conducted over 400 interviews, if I heard you correctly, on the train to and back from work. Did you talk to random people like strangers on the train?
It was the most awkward and uncomfortable thing that I’ve ever done. And so my rule was and it was actually I shouldn’t have said on my way to work, i. Didn’t interview people in the morning. I interviewed them in the afternoon. And whoever I sat down next to on the train, no matter what they were doing, what was going on, I had to turn, interrupt them and interview them. And in 400 people that I went to, I had two people say no. Other than that, I mean, I had some extraordinary conversations. I interviewed Harvard professors, doctors, nurses, parking lot attendants, delta ground crew members. Being on the subway in a major US. City just opened me up to a whole world. It was a very interesting lab. And the stories that came out just kept on exposing. Just another dynamic and another dynamic of the role of our expression of and receiving of recognition is what came out in those conversations. It was absolutely fascinating.
Wow, this is fantastic. I mean, what are some of the stories that you still remember? I was just wondering. A lot of people, when I interviewed them, they’re like, wow, I’ve had this opportunity my whole life to actually share my story from beginning to end. I mean, it’s not the end yet. I love talking to like I don’t want to call them ordinary people, but everyday people, as opposed to people who are being interviewed all the time. I’m so sick of telling my story.
So what are some of the interviews often were quick because someone had to get off at the next stop, so some interviews would be 2 minutes long. And other times, I had one woman who is administrative assistant for somebody who got off the train and wouldn’t let go of my hand for like 10 minutes because she wanted to keep on talking. Because I realized I was one of the first people to listen and ask her what’s the best acknowledgement from a boss. And what most people told me was not what made a great acknowledgement of what was missing at work, that they didn’t feel valued, that they didn’t feel like anyone recognized them. That why is somebody recognizing them for just doing their job? And what it really exposed is our inability or our lack of training because many times we just assume that people know how to recognize others. That people this is a given skill that we’ve all been born with, to be polite and being effective at recognizing and expressing our appreciation. If we were naturally good at it, there would be like four isles of gift cards in every superstore or grocery store for birthdays and things like that, helping us say what we don’t know how to say.
So instead of standing on the aisle there figuring out which card represents what we want to say, if we actually pause and know how to do it, we know how to express it without having to have a card that says it for us. Right?
Yeah, that’s why.
But we haven’t been trained. And I posted a survey on LinkedIn. I don’t know, maybe a year ago or so about have you ever received training in how to effectively recognize people? And I was just curious, and 400 people responded. It’s a 400 thing right now. I don’t know, 400 interviews, 400 people fill it out. 400 people answered the survey, and 70% had little or no training ever in how to effectively recognize people at work. And the answers, I think, was yes, kind of, or never in the kind of was like it was one slide as part of another presentation. And the people who had out of the people that had about 30% of those people were people who had attended by workshops in the past that was connected to on LinkedIn. And so people don’t often train people in this because we assume it’s a given skill where it’s something like giving feedback, which praising is giving feedback, right? Giving feedback or project management. It’s a skill that we have to develop, and we just need to invest time and resources to do it. And I always encourage and this is self serving, of course, but instead of investing, you know, however much money in your point system, give your leaders the tools to have the day to day conversations that make the biggest impact, because it’s not about saying the right thing and saying it in this deep and meaningful way.
Many times the most powerful thing we can do is ask the person what they want to be acknowledged for. Right? A mentor of mine, Mark Wolstein, who actually just saw this morning, has one of my favorite lines ever. And it’s less important what we say to others it’s less important what we say to others than what we empower others to say to us. And that right there is one of the biggest gifts we give people by just asking them.
Lovely. One of my favorite projects, Chris, exactly as you said, for Ojo Interactive. Fantastic company here in Massachusetts. And originally I was hired to create standard operation procedures like documenting all the tools, and I ended up literally conducting interviews with 30, 35 people about their what they have done, what they’re proud of, collaboratively, making the documents better. And that was just so much fun. I still remember it was so worth it. Traveling to the office a few times a week and just talking to people, chat with people.
That’s fascinating. I did market research in a company up in Beverly, Mass. For a long time, and it was like getting out and interviewing somebody about why they have seven TVs in their house and how they cook. And it was something for Food Network and something for ESPN. And these interviews I loved because all of a sudden I got randomly paired with a stranger and I got to dig into their world and they got to be the expert because they’re the expert on them. And like you said, you are understanding people’s, users, experience. And it’s like we always forget that all the data we need is right across from us on that person. We just need to take the time to be able to stop thinking about ourselves for a minute and start thinking about the person across the table from us.
Oh, this is fantastic, Chris. I love it. What is the best way for people to connect with you?
Feel free to connect me on LinkedIn at Christopher Littlefield. I use Chris Littlefield because my name is really long, but you’ll find me online at Christopher Littlefield. You’ll find [email protected] I have a newsletter on there that goes out in theory every two weeks, sometimes more, sometimes less. You can find my YouTube channel, Christopher Littlefield, on YouTube. And thanks for Faye, who’s helping me grow and develop that even more. Please subscribe to the YouTube channel where I’ll be putting out even more content in the coming months. And like I said, you can find me at my website.
Fantastic. A lot of that information is in the description wherever you’re watching this, but please let us know. If you can find something, let us know. I do monitor all the comments beyond, but thank you so much for all the live audience who joined us today, for all great questions. I’m going to take us offline now. Bye, guys.
Thanks. Bye. Take care, everybody.
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