Dr. Shirley Davis is the president and CEO of SDS Global Enterprises, and has over three decades of experience helping leaders build inclusive environments. Now that a lot of companies have shifted their work environments to video calls and remote or hybrid work, it’s harder to do those quick check-ins with employees. In this interview, Shirley addresses the topic of helping leaders foster connections and true inclusion today.
(dramatic music) - When employees feel connected, or feel like they belong at work, then studies show that they tend to be more engaged, happier, and overall have higher performance. But the problem is that a lot of the activities that really help people feel connected, in the past have happened in-person. And now that people are working more remotely or flexibly, there's a lot more video calls, we really have to be more intentional about that connection. Hi, I'm Kelly Ruda with LinkedIn Learning, and Dr. Shirley Davis is here, to help us and talk to us today. She is the CEO and president of her own company, and she has over three decades of experience, really helping leaders, build those inclusive environments. Dr. Davis, welcome. - Hi Kelly, always great to be here, thank you for having me. - But absolutely, thank you for being here. So when we think about how work has changed, now we're remote, we're hybrid, we're not able to do that quick check in, when we see somebody in the office or in the break room. So how do we foster that connection and the true inclusion now? - Yeah, it's very important, and hopefully you'll continue to practice the same things you were doing in the workplace, when we're talking about inclusion. So part of this is about thinking about the fact that people are now working in their own personal spaces, and you want to give them the opportunity to tell you, what's the best way to engage? How can I support you? What do you need in order to continue to be productive or to be successful? Because the reality is, is that now, everyone is working in a very different environment, right? And they were caught off guard a bit because, when this pandemic hit or when any disruption hits it sometimes can come and catch us really by surprise. And so we have to all pivot, right? We all have to kind of reinvent ourselves and shift as quickly as possible. And we have to do it together. So I encourage people, ask questions and ask, "What does it mean to support you? "How can I make sure that you're set up for success? "What's the best way to connect with you "while we're in this hybrid working "or remote working environment?" - So really being intentional about the people that we're working with and thinking about what they need? - Absolutely. - So do you have any experiences from your own work or from clients that you've been working with that are working through this right now? - For me, I had a team, I have a team of about 12 people, but I have my executive assistant, who would come into the office every day, work with me. We're really closely, but obviously we distanced ourselves, but kids have to come home from school and school shut down. So here she is working a very demanding job supporting me, but then she immediately found herself having to be a full-time mom now at home with the kids, as well as being a full-time teacher and a tutor. And so I asked her, "What can I do to support you? "And what's your stress level? "How are you feeling with everything now that's happened?" She's like, "I really believe that I to have some time away. "I need to, if I can reduce my hours, "so that I can support them until school is out." Which fortunately was about 30 to 45 days, it was absolutely not a problem. I said, "Look, I can accommodate that, "I know how important it is "for you to try to get all of these things, "aligned and try to get things working correctly." And it did, it helped her a lot, and we still were able to get some work done, and now she's back full-time. But I know that she'll never forget that, the fact that I cared enough to make the accommodation. Because I truly believe that an inclusive culture, is a caring culture. And you have to demonstrate empathy, you've got to demonstrate emotional intelligence, and you've got to do a lot of flexing, in order to ensure that your staff, that they are set up for success and they feel supported. - So you mentioned a lot of things that you've done as a leader, your empathy, making sure they feel supported, really keeping an eye on them, how do you build those relationships as a leader, so that you can recognize, hey, this is what my employee needs, and then also, for your employee to feel safe enough, how do you build that sense of belonging between you and your employees, so that they feel like, hey, I can speak up and really ask for what I need. - Yeah, that is so important, and it's a very underutilized skill. So some of the things that you can do is, keep checking in, and don't just be so focused on work and results and the output, ask them how they're doing, "How are you feeling today?" Because it was because I asked my executive assistant, "How are you feeling today?" And I could sense it, right? If you work with the person long enough, emotional intelligence kicks in and you have to be able to gauge other people and how they're feeling and their mood, and think about it, we were all caught off guard, so surely we were stressed too, and if we were stressed, I'm sure that our staff was stressed as well too. So as leaders, we have to be attuned to that, ask questions, be willing to listen, and then be willing to make the accommodations that they need. They're probably very reasonable, but at the end of the day, we want to ensure that we're giving them that safety, and that sense of security, because at the end of the day, they're going to remember how you treated them during tough times and during times of disruption, versus when things are going great. So, it's important to be willing to listen, to ask the questions, to not judge, to suspend, that kind of stereotype or prejudice or bias. The other thing too, that's really important Kelly is to know, that we are now inviting people into our homes, and your staffs are inviting you into their homes too. So everyone is now seeing a personal part of you that they may not have ever seen before. And when they feel like you are accommodating to that, they will be too. They will appreciate that. - They certainly will, I think that's such a huge component that we're seeing, is like you said, that personal space, there are no longer those divides, so we really are bringing our full selves. And I think it'll be neat to see how, how that kind of transitions as we move back into the workplaces. Now, this also gets me thinking about the people that never left the office, people who are in shipping, people who were in different retail jobs, people who are working in hospitals, what can we do as leaders when we think about them, and what they're experiencing? And how can we support them? - Yeah, and they're probably the ones that can't Zoom in, right? Because they're out like you say, on the front lines, and many of them are essential workers. So it's important for us that whenever we are engaging with our team, that we not forget those who are on the front lines, who are getting the work done. And so what is important is to let's then, allow their schedules to be flexible. Find out from them, what is the best time to check in? I do think it's important to communicate often, so check in a couple of times a week, and again, as I said, not checking in only on, "Hey, how's the work getting done? "Hey, how are you doing? "How are you feeling? "How can I support you? "What do you need?" So I think those are important. I've also seen other companies do certain things like virtual coffees, I love that, right? Just set up some time to where you know it works for their schedules to have virtual coffee and check in with each other. Or I've been saying happy hours, virtual happy hours, and allowing people to, again, check in that way. You don't have to always Zoom in, so just pick up the phone, and have a conversation and check in. I've also seen companies have, they leveraged their employee resource groups or their affinity groups, and they are sort of kind of like the peer coaches, and then in network, they all kind of check in with each other as well. So those are some of the things that we want to make sure that we continue to do, but those are ways that we can certainly accommodate those that are on the front line. And most importantly, thank them for the work that they're doing and the sacrifices that they're making every day, while we're here at home, they're out there, and that's something to really, really celebrate. - Certainly is, it sounds like everything that you're saying comes back to relationships and valuing people over product, which I think is an amazing perspective to have. So with that, when we're considering moving forward, and looking back at what's happened in the past, we've gone through recessions before, we've gone through crises, nothing quite like this, such a global impact. But what are some things that we can do to really keep inclusion and belonging, top of mind as we move forward? - One of the things that we know about research is, and the Gardner research puts this out there too. And they talk about how inclusion is a key driver for productivity and engagement. So I think this is something that you look at as a competency, as a way of life, it's something that should be tied to your values and your culture, as the way that you should walk and talk every day. So when you get back to work that shouldn't change. Continue to check in on each other, continue to have virtual coffees, because everyone probably won't be coming back all at the same time and in same way working the same hours, especially if you're still trying to social distance. And we know that this is going to be a transition over the long haul. So continue to provide those resources, those opportunities, continue to communicate, continue to ask, "How can I support you? "How are you doing?" Those things are just a part of people feeling included and connected on a daily basis. And it shouldn't stop now that you see them, and in the workplace, and now that we're starting to try to get back to some semblance of a new reality. - Definitely, well Dr. Davis, if people want to get more resources or ask you some different questions, how can they be in touch? - Yeah, this is my life's work, Kelly, and I would love it if people would stay connected with me, I put blogs out, and lots of research out, I'm always putting out great tips and best practices. So link in with me at LinkedIn, as well as on Twitter, I'm on Instagram as well, and check out my website, my YouTube channel, I put out a lot of great videos about inclusion and belonging and equity, and leadership, excellence, so I would love to stay connected with you. - Definitely, well, Dr. Davis, thanks so much for being here with us today and sharing your ideas and your insights. We really, really appreciate it. - Awesome, thank you Kelly, it has been a pleasure to be here. - You can check out Dr. Davis' courses, right here on LinkedIn Learning for more on really fostering that inclusion in your own environment. Thank you for joining us today, as we look at reinventing work together.
- Pivoting with limited resources
- Building your new vision
- Stepping into the leadership gap
- Supporting your employees through training
- Onboarding your employees virtually
- Onboarding virtually as an employee
- Managing flexibly with remote/hybrid teams
- Managing performance when workers are remote
- Fostering inclusion and belonging in the new normal
- Talking about race at work