Building Better Virtual Connections with Dr. Amy Mednick and Dr. Diane Lennard (Ep. #66)

Published on
December 13, 2022
No items found.
Follow Our Podcast

Building Better Managers Podcast Episode #66: Building Better Virtual Connections with Dr. Amy Mednick and Dr. Diane Lennard

Remote and hybrid working environments, in some form, are here to stay. Understanding how to maintain well-being, increase employee engagement, and strengthen connections in professional contexts as our interactions become more and more remote can be a game changer for managers and leaders at any organization.

Today’s guests, Dr. Amy Mednick and Dr. Diane Lennard are the authors of the deeply-researched new book, Humanizing the Remote Experience through Leadership and Coaching: Strategies for Better Virtual Connections. They’re here to share the findings of their research, case studies, and practical strategies you can start using right away in your workplace.

In this episode:

Meet Dr. Amy Mednick & Dr. Diane Lennard

Psychological Safety In the Remote/Hybrid Workplace

  • Safety is really one of the most most basics of human needs, so that's where they started their exploration of the remote/hybrid experience. Anytime you enter any environment, your brain's first priority is to find safety.
  • When you don't feel safe, your body has a natural stress response, our fight or flight reaction, and there's a strong tendency for it react the same regardless of the actual danger to us.
  • In some virtual settings your body may not feel like you're in a safe place. And attention, paying attention to a meeting, is actually a more complex task than you might think. So if you find yourself really struggling to hold focus on tasks throughout the day, if you're really just kind of it's a struggle to pay attention to stay on task, this could be a warning sign that the stress of interacting like this all the time is not is not fully under control for you.

Managing the Team's Energy

  • It may seem obvious that taking breaks is important, but it is scientifically proven.
  • If you work intensely, at high focus, high energy, for 90 minutes, then you really need a break of around 15 minutes.
  • But it's the kind of break you take that's important!
  • Research has shown that if you go out in nature (even in New York City nature is outside the apartment) it refreshes your brain so that when you go back to high focused energy, and high focus brain work, you're much clearer and it's easier to be engaged.
  • You can also try an "End of Workday Ritual." That is something that you do every day, the same set of actions, it can be as simple as making a to-do list or turning off your tabs, changing your shoes, whatever. But it tells the brain "Okay, now you can refuel. Now you can rest."
  • Another thing is to stay connected with other people. And this is also something that happens in burnout. You feel detached from people when you're exhausted. Little acts of kindness, like paying for somebody's coffee or giving a compliment to somebody can make you feel more connected.
  • Exhaustion, detachment, and feeling inefficient are all symptoms of burnout. To counter that and to stay engaged, when you're not doing work tasks, try manual tasks, doing things with your hands, because you're not taxing your brain.
  • So these are not complicated things, but if we're aware of what we need to do - to manage our high focus energy and our more downtime - that's really, really helpful.


  1. One of the main things to remember is to really keep a focus on prioritizing people - staying connected on a human level by recognizing people, accepting them for who they are, by not being strictly "transactional."
  2. Focus on asking questions, listening and soliciting input. There are simple, effective ways that leaders can do this, making sure to get to know the team and that everyone has a chance to get to know each other. Make the most of the opportunities to show interest to demonstrate skills and strengths.
  3. Make sure always to solicit input, show concern and support for team members, and gather different perspectives. It's often not going to come on its own, especially in zoom when it might be a little bit harder to share.
  4. Respect people's time and model the kind of interpersonal behaviors that are going to benefit their team - set the example!
  5. Their research also shows that cultivating a shared purpose goes very far. This can be done in different ways, going from the macro to the micro:
    - it could be an organization's purpose to the whole world, it's mission statement
    - it could be defining what the team is doing for the organization.
    - it could be what is the individual is doing for the team
  6. The point is, when people have a shared purpose, their work is more meaningful. It really does drive people. It's not just a bonus (although that's nice!), but the reason for working every day makes a really big difference.

Downloads & Resources

Follow Dr. Mednick on Twitter and Dr. Lennard on LinkedIn, and get more info on their book at htre-book.com.

Subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast platform!

Check out our blog articles on Leadership here.

Dr. Amy Mednick & Dr. Diane Lennard

Dr. Amy Mednick is a psychiatrist working in her own private practice who specializes in the overlap between the humanities and neuroscience. Dr. Diane Lennard is a professor of management communication at NYU Stern School of Business and a communication coach for executives, teams, educators, and other professionals. Their new book is Humanizing the Remote Experience through Leadership and Coaching: Strategies for Better Virtual Connections

View the episode transcript

Wendy Hanson  0:24  

Well, Greetings everyone. I know on this podcast, we have many conversations about hybrid remote world of business, it comes into almost every conversation because that's what the world is about right now. How do we support our remote workforce. And as you've all talked about, and I'm sure you all feel zoom, fatigue is real, it's actually very real, and we have to be able to figure out ways to address it. As leaders, we know that sharing the why is so important. My guest today have done extensive research, understanding the neuroscience behind the challenges of remote virtual interactions. I have really not seen a book that had this much good research and was practical at the same time, so that they not only give you the research, but then they say, here's how we can do something about this. And I have just found it truly compelling. Their findings and suggestions are stellar. I've not seen this depth until I saw their book, unionizing, the remote experience through leadership and coaching strategies for better virtual connections. So I'm very excited to talk with them today. And I know I'm going to learn a lot from this conversation. So let me tell you a little bit of a very short bio that they gave me for the two of them to very humble, accomplished women. Dr. Amy Mednick is a psychiatrist working on her own private practice who specializes in the overlap between the humanities and neuroscience. Dr. Diane Leonard is a professor of management and communication at NYU Stern School of Business, and a Communication Coach for executives, teams, educators and other professionals. As I said, their new book is unionizing the remote experience through leadership and coaching strategies for better virtual communications. So I want to welcome you both. Amy, welcome to you, Diane. Welcome to you. Ah, well, Diane, I'll start with you. What remote experiences led you to write this book? You know, what was it that brought you to this place that this was an important issue.

Dr. Diane Lennard  2:46  

As a teacher and coach who always worked with people in person, when COVID happened, I immediately had to change to online. And working remotely. In that process, I became very aware of the benefits, how wonderful it is to have instant access, how efficient it was, we could all come together from different locations, and convenient. But at the same time, there were some human costs, and mostly the quality of their connections with one another really puzzled me. So the combination of there are some really good things about being remote, wonderful benefits, but they're also costs. And that was something that I really wanted to explore. And that's why I work with me on this book.

Wendy Hanson  3:41  

And can I ask you a side question to it? How much have you worked together? Like, where did you first meet? Because it's a big thing to come up together and decide to write a book?

Dr. Diane Lennard  3:52  

That's such a wonderful question. Actually, Amy and I have not worked together before we know each other. And we have very different skill sets, different disciplines. The combination was truly exciting. Because I work with a lot of people, as does Amy minor clients and graduate students, Amy's her patients. But Amy comes from a science background. And I come from a business communication background. So we, as you mentioned, we really wanted to look at things from a scientific point of view, and then a very practical point of view. And we did the whole book remotely.

Wendy Hanson  4:38  

Wow. That is amazing in itself. Yes. Having collaborated on one with two partners. I can't imagine doing it all remote. Kudos to you both for that and

Dr. Diane Lennard  4:49  

thank you.

Wendy Hanson  4:50  

Anything you want to add to that about you know, what led you to see this was a really important book to write.

Dr. Amy Mednick  4:56  

Yeah, I mean, I was I was having a similar experience. I'm, of course, as everyone else in the world and COVID moving everything that I was doing online, luckily, I'm in a, I'm in a medical profession that works well enough online, in psychiatry. So, you know, I shifted everything, I had already been doing a little bit of online telehealth. And for me, it was, you know, I have such a, it's interesting for me, because I have a wide slice of the population, because I just have, you know, a lot of different patients and I was kind of peering into everyone's living room during COVID, which was interesting change, you know, the treatment relationship a little bit, a little different context, different than being in my office, but I was just seeing a really wide range of reactions to, to transferring all of life, on to, on to zoom. You know, I work with a lot of I work with leaders, I work with people in business, I work with parents, so just kind of seeing how everyone was, was handling this in different ways, and seeing the effects play out in real time. That was the other interesting thing, the big interesting about the way we wrote this book remotely together, we started pretty early in the pandemic times. So when, when we started to work on this topic, we did not know, any, we didn't know the answers, we didn't know what we were doing with our own experiences out, you know, we knew we were having the problems also. And so we really lived this, we researched and wrote this remotely, you know, together over the course of the year and, and really delved into the research and our own experiences, and our, our clients and patient experiences, to figure out what was happening and what we could do with what we could do about it. So it was really like a living project, because we were figuring it out as we were doing it, and then trying to trying to put it into practice for ourselves as well as you know, those around us. Yeah.

Wendy Hanson  7:04  

I love it. Because it sounds like so many books like this start with a hypothesis. But you started so early on, you really didn't. You know, it's like hard to have a hypothesis of what is it? We just have to learn and figure out how to deal with this. Yeah,

Dr. Diane Lennard  7:19  

we really started with a paradox. A paradox, it's, there's some good things and some difficult things. So you're right.

Wendy Hanson  7:27  

Yeah. So you're right about the need for feeling safe and comfortable with others when we work remotely. Because that is, you know, and we just mentioned about being in people's living rooms. And, you know, people learn a lot more about you. What happens when people don't feel safe when this this is a very basic human need, when that's not met?

Dr. Amy Mednick  7:48  

Yeah, so it's, it's really like the most one of the most most basics of human needs, right? And so that's where we started our exploration of this remote experience. Because anytime you enter any environment, your brain's first priority is to find safety. That's true for humans. That's true for all animals, really, that's the first step is, is is it safe here, and then and then move on and do the next step. When you don't feel safe, your body has a stress response, it's there to protect us, that's our fight or flight reaction. It's there to keep us safe, it's there to look for danger and run or do whatever we need to do if it's if if we if we see a threat. from a social perspective, for most humans, being safe requires other people's prisons, that's just the way we're hardwired. It comes from the fact that we, you know, from day one, as infants were helpless, we can't survive without other people. So we're hardwired at that point to need other people around. And that just never, we never really grow out of that it never really fully goes away. In order to feel safe, we need there needs to be other people for most of us. Now on Zoom is a big question mark. Are we with people? Are we not right? I mean, we're talking to people it's wonderful. But sometimes everyone can probably identify with going through a day of of meetings all day you're with people you're talking to people and then you shut your laptop and we're you know, it's it can be a little hard to tell sometimes a little hard to feel where were you social, where you're around other people, especially if you're going days like that without face to face interaction. And so if that is the case that your that need of yours is not being met, the the warning sign that we've identified that's going to show you that has to do with your ability to pay attention. The reason being that when you're stressed responses going when you're hyper vigilant when you're waiting for you and you're you're kind of a threat monitor Buying place, all your attention is going to that it doesn't go to higher level things like reading complex materials or paying attention to meetings, it's kind of all the resources go to go to threat monitoring, if if your body doesn't feel like you're in a safe place. So attention, paying attention to a meeting, it seems easy, it seems like you're just kind of there. But it's very complex task, we go into all the many, many steps of paying attention in our book. So if that's hard, if you find yourself really struggling to, to hold focus on tasks throughout the day, if you're really just kind of it's a struggle to pay attention to stay on task. This could be why that this is a warning sign that the stress of interacting like this all the time is not is not fully under control for you. Yeah, wow.

Wendy Hanson  10:57  

Because I know there are times when back in the old days, when we were meeting in person, and you were in a conference room, you may not always feel safe, but you could read the energy a little Yes. And, and and that made a difference, you know, then then what you're seeing here. Yeah, anything you'd add to that thing?

Dr. Diane Lennard  11:16  

I think Amy said it really well. It's it's basic, we have to meet that need. Otherwise, the stress interferes with our task. Achievement. Yeah.

Wendy Hanson  11:29  

And how do we control this stress? Okay, so we're feeling the stress, where we're, we're pulling back from things because we really just had too much zoom, when we're not connecting with people, what are some of the things that we can do there?

Dr. Diane Lennard  11:43  

Well, there are actually some really basic things we can do. We don't, we don't want to eliminate stress, because stress is basically a call to action, what we want to make sure is that we don't have chronic stress that we're stressed all the time. So simple things like taking a breath, you know, doing simple breathing, to come oneself down, or a physical activity during break time, something using your body because that uses up some of that excess energy. So there are physical things that need to be done body based strategies, simple ones, but they're also mind based strategies to control stress, like taking a moment or two to focus on something. So otherwise known as mindfulness practices, those are really helpful because it puts your attention into present time, also reframing situations looking at them from a different perspective. So these are more like mental mind based strategies to help with managing the stress, simple things also like journaling or practicing gratitude. Those things make the day's stress more controllable. You want to be able to control the stress so that stress doesn't control you, basically.

Wendy Hanson  13:16  

And we we know that stress is good, it keeps us going. But what is what some of the How would you know, if you're really in chronic stress, like you're feeling stressed all the time? What happens there to the body in the mind, so that people know, oh, if I'm not doing some of these mindfulness practices, I better these are going to be some of the ramifications. Amy?

Dr. Amy Mednick  13:38  

Yes. You know, stress, like Diane said, stress is, it's there, it has a point it's there for a reason. It's it's supposed to be helpful. It's supposed to give you that initial drive that burst of energy to face the problem. And it's not supposed to be there forever. We're not supposed to have this cortisol running through our veins all day long. So if you're, we have some kind of basic questions, we outline in the book to ask yourself to decide if you're, if you're in that action oriented part of stress, we call it the Drive Phase. Or if you're in what we call the drain phase, where it's not serving you anymore. And it's just just draining. So just questions like that seem very simple. But questions like What are you stressed about? In the dry phase? It's obvious. So it seems like a silly question in the drain phase, if you can't even quite put your finger on what it is anymore on what the stressful thing is, on what you need to do next on on, you know, even if even if you don't know the full plan, like what are the steps if it's all just muddy, that's a that's a pretty clear sign that you're drained and that it's not helping you and pushing and pushing and pushing. It's not going to myth not gonna get any better. So those are kind of the signs that you need to just stop it For now, yeah, look at some of these strategies.

Wendy Hanson  15:03  

I was talking to somebody the other day and I had a memory it's a pretty distant memory years ago, a mind body specialist and comedian in Boston Loretta, La Roche used to talk about catastrophizing, when you spend your day catastrophizing, you know, it is just not good. And yes, what comes to mind when, when we think about this kind of stress. So we have that human need, and we need the drive to be able to keep going. But another human need that you write about is is about our need to understand each other. And what are some of the reasons that this can be so challenging, when we are interacting remotely?

Dr. Amy Mednick  15:46  

Yeah, so the the need for understanding another basic need that we have, and it comes from the fact that we are complex creatures, the world is a very complex place, there's a lot to like, take in at every single moment. It's hard to figure out, you know, people, it's not always obvious what, what people want, and tensions, it's all very complicated at this point. And so if we had to kind of figure all of that out fresh every single day, every single interaction, every single, you know, menu that we were looking at, we would burn, we would burn through all the energy we had allotted to our brain and like an hour. So to be more energy efficient,


our brains have evolved with a lot of shortcuts that help serve this need to understand the world around us.


A lot of things that help us to predict the brain is loves prediction, really, we have these ways to predict what what might happen, what should happen next, what's probably going to happen next, what we can probably expect from this particular queue or input.


The big problem is these shortcuts were not built for zoom, not in any way zoom, as you know, we've been here for a few years. And these, these, the rest of this stuff evolved a very long time ago. So they're not built for it, they don't quite work the way we the way we navigate the 3d world does not quite translate to a 2d world. And what we find is that the cues and the signals that we need to understand the world and make predictions about what's going on and what people are going to do, or sometimes missing.


For example, we, you know, can't see our bodies. So we have this whole, all the information and body language is out the window, not all of it, but you know, a lot of it. So sometimes the information is missing.


And then sometimes, often even worse, the information is distorted. So we're still getting it, but our brains are doing not exactly the right things with it, I'm going to give an example of that, based on some scientific studies where well, one of the things we look at a lot in the book is sound, you know, and

we get a lot of information, usually from sound and where people are in the room and all kinds of things. And that is that in itself is a totally different experience on Zoom, because it's all coming in through one, one speaker, all these people from all different places. So so this one study looked at what we do with sound delays. What happens when there's a sound delay when when people are communicating? Now, from a lifetime of communicating with people or brands have learned to associate a long pause with certain meanings, you know, it means something to us when we when we hear that. So they looked at people communicating with each other, and they looked at these sound delays from technology, they found that if the sound delay was under 1.2 seconds, no problem, everything was fine. But if the sound delay was more than 1.2 seconds, they found that people would tend to attribute it to not the technology but the speaker's character, they would rate speakers as being less attentive, less extroverted, and less conscientious.


You know, consciously or not, they would, they would attribute it to the person. So you know, so that's an example of something being completely distorted. But we just think of our poor brands working all day long either. Either working extra hard to make meaning where it's not there or filling in the blanks, or you know, untwisting from these things that are distorted and not quite right. It's just a ton of work. It's a lot more work than they would be doing in a conference room. And so that's comes to our next warning sign if you're finding yourself, zoom, fatigued, you know, exhausted much, much more tired much more quickly than you used to be. Or just overload, cognitively overloaded. Just can't get one more thing in your brain and you're forgetting things or stuff like that. that can be a warning sign that your that your need for understanding is not exactly being met the way in the right way.

Wendy Hanson  20:07  

Yeah. Wow. Because there, yeah, and we do need to take action on this. And some people, we, we have a challenge at BetterManager when we do group training that sometimes people will want to have their cameras off for this reason, yet, we don't want that in an engaged training session. Oh, and I've I've coached some folks who said, yes, we've decided now for like my one on one conversations, we're going to have some of them on the phone. And let's go out for a walk and have this conversation on the phone. So there are strategies that we really need to bring in to make sure because we don't we don't know what's going on in other people's lives. And that's another thing. I don't think we when we were in the office, at least you would have more chit chat, you'd know about somebody's family, and all those things don't always come up now. And I think that's another challenge. Anything you'd add to that, Diane?

Dr. Diane Lennard  21:03  

I think Amy said it quite well. I mean, there, it's now you have stress and exhaustion.

Wendy Hanson  21:10  

Yes, yes. Right.

Dr. Diane Lennard  21:15  

But I think that you actually hit on some of the strategies to deal with engagement, because our brains need to rest. So

Wendy Hanson  21:28  

have to give us ways Yes, yeah. And so Diane, how can we improve some of these virtual interactions, you know, there's a couple I get on the phone when it's appropriate. And, and I love the suggestions of just get up after a meeting and walk around and do something. But what else can we do to improve this.

Dr. Diane Lennard  21:47  

So there's a way to manage our own energy. That is not completely obvious, but it's scientifically proven. And that is to alternate activity with rest. Meaning for approximately, if you work intensely, at a high focus high energy for 90 minutes, then you really need a break, perhaps 15 minutes. I know, when I teach graduate classes, every 90 minutes, we have a 15 minute break, because the brain needs to rest and recover. When we're on Zoom even more. So because our brains are working so hard to understand one another, we really need to refuel and re Energize. And you can do that in different ways. One of the ways is get up, walk around, or even better. Research has shown that if you go out in nature, even in New York City nature is outside the apartment. But if you take a walk, it refreshes your brand so that when you go back to high focused energy, and high focus brain work, you're much clearer, and it's easier to be engaged, and to have your brain do all that work it needs to do to understand very complex interactions. Also, there are some wonderful strategies that Amy and I discovered, one of my favorites, is what's called an end of Workday ritual. And that is something that you do every day, the same set of actions, it can be as simple as making a to do list or turning off your tabs, changing your shoes, whatever. But it tells the brain Okay, now you can refuel. Now you can rest. So burnout actually one of the symptoms of burnout is exhaustion, but making sure that there's an end of the work day, and you can let your brain think about other things is a very important way to manage because it's so easy to work day and night, especially when we're remote. And it's easy to just keep going and going and going the computers right there and you have access to everyone all the time. Another thing is to to feel to stay connected with other people. And this is also something that happens in burnout. You feel detached from people when you're exhausted. So, uh, so just doing little acts of kindness, like paying for somebody's coffee or well if you see them, or it's just really simple things, giving a compliment to somebody, those little acts of kindness, make you feel more connected, it facilitates connection with other people. And that actually energizes both the receiver and the giver, which is a wonderful thing. And then also we can tend to feel like we're not being efficient, which is the third symptom of burnout. So there's exhaustion, detachment, and feeling inefficient. To counter that, and to stay engaged. When you're not doing work tasks, you might want to do manual tasks, things with your hands, even as simple as washing the dishes, because you're not taxing your brain. Or you could learn a new language or learn a new skill and feel good about something other than work. So these are not complicated things. But if we're aware of what we need to do, to manage our high focus energy and our more downtime, that's really, really helpful.

Wendy Hanson  25:50  

Yeah, oh, so many great points you made there, you know, one, I think is there, you have a 90 minute class, and then you have a 15 minute break, when you're teaching. Oftentimes, what I see and what I experienced in our own company, is meetings are back to back to back, yes, and you don't have that, you don't have a functional chance to even write down your notes from the last meeting. And you don't have that chance to, let me just go out and walk around the block for 15 minutes. Because if you sit in front of your computer, you're going to be doing email during your break. And that's from what you're saying, that's not going to give your brain a break. Okay?

Dr. Amy Mednick  26:29  

I'll tell you a funny thing. When we, when we were when we, you know, read about this research, it actually came from people studying athletic performance, and then applying it to, to also the way we all work. But we, me and Diane, were reading about it, we were talking about it, we were writing about it. And we just we weren't doing it. And I remember the day where I was sitting there. And I was literally writing about how every time I was I was typing that when you work for 90 minutes, you need to take a break. And I was trying to get the paragraph done. And I couldn't get it quite right. And I and I really in the moment couldn't figure out why I was having trouble writing it. And then I looked glanced at the clock, I realized how much time it had been. And that day i i started to do it, I started to just be more aware of the clock. And, you know, it gives you it gives you permission to you, you look at you're starting to slow down, you look at the clock, you realize how much time it's been and then you give yourself permission to take a pause and it makes a big difference.

Dr. Diane Lennard  27:33  

We had to remind each other to do this, and then we did it.

Wendy Hanson  27:38  

Oh, I think that's a great strategy. And I think as team members, we should all do that.

Dr. Diane Lennard  27:42  

I will Well, one way is to consider making the Zoom meetings a little shorter. And that's a way to respect people's time. And also building in short breaks between meetings if possible,

Wendy Hanson  27:58  

right. And I also loved the concept of a real end of the day. Because I think you know, everything that we hear from people, you know that the day just goes on now, it doesn't mean so having a ritual that ends the day, you know, oftentimes I feel personally for myself, I need to have an alternate activity, you know, oh, if I'm gonna go out and go to this class or something, then I really have to have an end to the day. Yes. Otherwise, it's like, well, I'm sitting here. My computer's here, I might as well keep going. So we need to be mindful, because I think what we don't realize this so much, the more time that we spend doesn't mean we're going to get more done. If you if you follow your strategies and pull back, take that break, go walk out nature have an end to the day, you'll actually be more productive. And I would assume you learned some of that when writing the book too.

Dr. Diane Lennard  28:55  

Yes, we actually so many people, including us tend to plow through until we get it done. And keep going and going and going and focusing and after a while it just backfires.

Wendy Hanson  29:10  

Right? Yeah. Another important thing is to focus on people need to have a sense of belonging to a group or a team. And what's what's some of the warning signals that this need is not being met, you know, because of our virtual environments.

Dr. Amy Mednick  29:26  

Yeah, so we looked at this one, which is sometimes a little easier to put your finger on the this need for belonging right to feel part of a group to just another human need can kind of leave us feeling unsettled or discontent if we don't have it. And it's, it's Mondays we know it's easier to miss out on that and virtual interactions. There's a lot less of just the natural physical stuff that's happening in a room when you're with people. There's there's chemical bonding chemicals that circulate oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine These are things that come apart in a large part from being near each other. And, you know, looking at the same things and looking directly into each other's eyes, there's even ways that it's been shown that brains synchronize with each other, they they join the work on the same brainwaves. This has been studied, especially in classrooms where you know, when students are very engaged, that their brains are kind of joining in this way. And that has to do also with looking in the same at the same thing and making eye contact. So all these things are definitely missing. And the warning sign, maybe just a feeling of being unheard or unseen, or feeling rejected feeling burned out. You know, we think that's obvious. But it's not always and your brain can perceive exclusion, even if you know that you're not being excluded. What I mean by that, I'll give you an example. Say your your sound is being funky that day. So you're you tell everyone at the beginning of the meeting, I'm just going to listen, I'm not going to participate, because I have a problem. And everyone says fine, and and you go through this whole meeting, and no one is talking to you, or asking you any questions. And you know exactly why you're deep down in your brain, your brain may not really know. And in these in these studies, that they've done a vix collusion, it didn't matter if the subject knew why they were being excluded, their brain still responded to the exclusion in the same way. And actually, in a very similar way to the way that the brain responds to actual pain. So same part of the brain with social rejection and an actual pain. So it really matters. And it, you know, it may not be obvious, the ways that you could be getting left out. So if you're feeling if you're just feeling maybe you are feeling rejected, or maybe you're just feeling cranky and disconnected, and you don't really know why. It could be could because of this.

Wendy Hanson  32:07  

Yeah. And I, I love, I really hadn't thought about this about the eye contact, because I think like, I've got eye contact all day with people, it's not the same as in person you don't really have I cannot look into your eyes, I'm looking at something much broader.

Dr. Amy Mednick  32:23  

Yeah, if you do it the way you're supposed to do and you stare directly into the camera, so that I have the impression of you looking at me, then you're not looking at me, you're looking at your at your camera and at that little light. So and if I'm looking directly into your eyes, right now, it's slightly downturned, because my camera is about it's just at this point that technology is not there for us to have the real actual stuff where you are holding someone's gaze and mutually looking into each other's eyes. We just, we can't even do that

Wendy Hanson  32:55  

now. And we can't wire together like that, either, when we don't have that opportunity. Yeah. Diane, anything you would add to that before we try to pull together some of like, what's the absolute takeaways we want you to think about? Yeah.

Dr. Diane Lennard  33:11  

So I think that there, there are a couple of things we can do about it. But I also want to say that in the book, Amy has a found and unearthed some really fascinating research studies on what happens to the brain when we do make eye contact, and how that really affects our interactions. So a lot of people, a lot of the people that I work with who are very much in their heads, you know, these are business students, and they're solving problems all the time. If you're not making that eye contact, many, many things change. Also, working in teams, this whole sense of belonging becomes really important because when you feel disconnected from your team, that's a real challenge for the team leader, or for the manager. So I can talk about some things that are important to deal with this. So there's something called psychological safety, which I'm sure you're aware of it has to do with being trusting and respecting other people basically. And in a virtual setting. It's it's really important to have this psychological safety. And the ways to do that are include making sure that everyone has a voice. So it's sometimes called conversational turn taking. If there are many, many people there. It's hard to have everyone speaking but you want to engage as many people as possible, solicit their ideas. Listen, don't judge. And especially because we're not reading body language, we need to hear explicit verbal communication. Also being sensitive to how other people might be feeling that makes a big difference. So empathy is important, when it's always important. But it's especially important when we're remote. Because you want to share the feelings of other people use, you also want to understand feelings. And empathy comes in two varieties. There's affective empathy, where you feel what someone else is feeling like I feel your pain. But there's also cognitive empathy, which is I understand what you're feeling. And if we can promote more empathy, with the people we work with, it's going to go a long way to making them feel understood and include it. So So empathy is is key.

Wendy Hanson  36:07  

It is it is, and I love, you know, you, you understand this, Diane, because you teach business, you know, businesses like we're moving fast, we're going ahead, and a lot of meetings end up to be like downloads rather than conversational turn taking. Yes. And that, really, I'm going to pass all this information on, but the more that you can get people engaged, but it slows down the action. And we don't always again, it slows down the action. When you take that 15 minute break. It slows down the action when you do this on a call. But the benefits far outweigh

Dr. Diane Lennard  36:45  

Yes. And ultimately, it speeds it up, because you don't get burned out, and you don't get stressed out and you don't get distracted. So if we can promote the wellness and the engagement and the connection, if it's just pure transaction, and we forget about people, that's going to make people feel excluded. Yeah.

Wendy Hanson  37:07  

And I love our listeners to understand the difference between the affective empathy, you know, which some of us I being one that has empathy in spades, I feel pain for other people's pain terribly. But to know that you don't need if that's not one of your strengths. You can have that cognitive empathy, and really just try to understand and be mindful and be curious and not have to, doesn't have to be part of your strengths and your personality.

Dr. Diane Lennard  37:36  

Yes, that's so important. Yeah.

Wendy Hanson  37:39  

So gosh, I could talk to you for another two hours. But getting our listeners are kind of used to slip shorter podcast, we might have to do another one of these again, yes. But why don't you each give a few pieces of like, what's the what's the advice that you would give so that we have a more human centered approach for remote work for connecting with our clients? What are some of the top things you want people to take away?

Dr. Amy Mednick  38:05  

So, you know, we read a lot we took, we pulled together a lot of research a lot. Also the that came out of COVID. And what people discovered during that, and what were the most important things, and so we we do a few takeaways from all of that. One of the one of the main ones was really keeping a focus on prioritizing people. by which we mean staying connected on a human level by really, really recognizing people really accepting them for who they are, like Diane said, not not being transactional. There's there's pretty simple ways that leaders can do this without, you know, small things that go really far, making sure to get to know the team that everyone has a chance to get to know each other opportunities to show interest to demonstrate skills and strengths. Making sure always to solicit input, showing concern and support for team members and gathering different perspectives. It needs sometimes to be solicited, it's not going to come on its own, especially in zoom when it might be a little bit harder to share. Always, always respecting people's time and really just for leaders to model the kind of interpersonal behaviors that are going to benefit their team setting example, respecting other people caring about them really explicitly showing that you are listening and just always having that mind towards prioritizing people and in the actions that you choose. That can be very powerful.

Dr. Diane Lennard  39:39  

I might add to that, in addition to communicating to connect as as Amy was describing, asking questions and listening and soliciting input. We've found and research shows that cultivating a shared purpose goes a very far way and that can be done Then in different ways, so it could be an organization's purpose to the whole world, you know, what's your purpose for the world, it could be what is the organization, or the team doing for the organization. And defining that, or it could be what is the individual doing for the team. So going from the micro to the macro, but when people have a shared purpose, there's more meaning their work is more meaningful. And that's what drives people. It's not just a bonus, although that's nice. But also, sharing. The reason for working every day makes a really big difference. And these are humanizing things prioritizing people communicating to connect and cultivating shared purpose.

Wendy Hanson  40:59  

Well, I love the shared purpose. And I feel very fortunate in our organization BetterManager. Our shared purpose is that everybody deserves to thrive at work. And all of our coaches all around the globe, and facilitators, like they're drawn to that, you know, and our leadership team. So companies that don't have something that is that important, like we're really trying to change the world so that everybody thrives at work that keeps people together and keeps people feeling belonging.

Dr. Amy Mednick  41:32  

I would add that that's a beautiful purpose. Even a company that doesn't have a gigantic world changing purpose still has a purpose, right, even if it's building a widget. And so the importance is really, really knowing and appreciating and understanding what that purpose is. That's really something that people can join behind. And studies show that purpose driven organizations have have far more engaged employees, no matter what the purpose is.

Wendy Hanson  42:01  

Yeah. And to understand the why no matter what piece of software you're developing, why is it going to make someone's life easier? So that you know that yeah, my day to day was good. I did make a difference. Yes. So I know that people are going to want to know more about the both of you and how to get in touch with you. So what's the best way for them to reach out?

Dr. Amy Mednick  42:24  

So we have a nice website for our book. To get more information about that. It's h t r e hyphen, book.com. acronym for humanizing the remote experience. H tre book.com. And that has links to both of our pages with more information about about us. I'm on Instagram and Amy Mendick MD and LinkedIn. Amy Mednick. Okay,

Wendy Hanson  42:49  

and I am,

Dr. Diane Lennard  42:50  

my website is Leonard and company at one word.com. And the information about the book and even some excerpts from the book are in there.

Wendy Hanson  43:02  

Okay. And that's Leonard L E. N N ARD. Right? And company and company. Well, thank you both today so much. This was so informative. Yes, I just loved it. And I love the book, I really recommend to everybody. And I don't always recommend all the books that we interview people, you know that, that it's because I want people to get a lot out of this, you know, I don't want them to just be selling a book and the two of you clearly are, you're so into this, you have so many great strategies, and you're putting it in different corners of the world. The business coroner, being a psychiatrist, they me helping people. I just love your perspective. So thank you so much for taking the time. And thank you all for listening. Please go on to go on where you get your podcasts and put some comments on there rate rate rate the podcast because it would really help to get all this out there in the world because we want people to be hearing Diane and Amy all over the world. So thank you both for your time. Thank you everybody for listening and have a have a not just a productive day. Have a day that's filled with connection and belonging and gratitude. Take care.

The future of work has arrived. It's time to thrive.