How to Build Human Connections at Work With Jason Lauritsen

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Podcast

Companies are struggling these days. They need to improve performance, but they can’t do that without helping employees rediscover meaningful connections at work. After all, when employees feel disconnected, they perform worse, which makes them more disconnected and … well, you get the picture.

That’s why I’m so excited to share this conversation with Jason Lauritsen, a keynote speaker, author, co-founder of Check-In To Thrive and returning guest to the podcast. He’s a passionate advocate for creating workplaces where genuine human connections can thrive. And he wants to give leaders practical advice for improving their relationships — and helping their employees do the same.

“Better relationship skills at work translate to better relationship skills at home,” he says. “We make people better employees. They produce better, but they also become better partners, friends, spouses, parents, neighbors, community members at large.”

Read on for more of Jason’s insights into building real human connections at work, the power of check-ins, and how leaders can create the change we need.

The Power of Intentionality and Presence

Quality relationships have two ingredients, Jason says. The first is the time you invest in the other person. 

Relationships require intentionality and being present. Intentionally putting time into relationships and being present Why is time so important for relationships? Because we need to build trust, we need to see how you are in your words and deeds. Every successful relationship depends on people spending time with each other.

This concept isn’t just about work. One of Jason’s inspirations for this view comes from asking his 7-year-old daughter this question: “How do you know if someone loves you?” One of her responses was, “They spend time with me.”

“If you want a better relationship with other human beings, you have to invest time in being with them — no shortcut, no hack, no way around it, no nothing,” Jason says. If the relationship is a priority, then make it a priority and be intentional about your time. 

The other ingredient for good relationships is “overlap,” or the ways in which you and the other person intersect. 

“If we want quality relationships, you have to think about, how do you build overlap in that relationship? And overlap can be any number of things,” Jason says. “It can be shared experiences. It can be familiarity with one another. It can be common interests or hobbies. It can be shared values.”

Why Regular Check-Ins Can Spark Connection

The first step to better relationships is realizing the importance of time spent and finding overlap, Jason says. “Then the trick is really just what tactics can I use, or what steps do I need to take to do that? How do I make more time to create more overlap?”

Jason is a fan of check-ins, which many of us know as a powerful way to ensure regular, meaningful communication between managers and employees. And he has a simple four-step formula for improving check-ins: “Ask a great question, ask the follow-up, really listen, and then provide support or encouragement.” 

Too many check-ins lose steam immediately. Asking “How are you doing?” is polite, but it stops the conversation. “A great question, and the way I define it,” Jason says, “is a question that invites a response, that demands a follow-up, because the whole purpose of it is to get into a conversation.” Jason suggests trying a new question at your next checkin, “how are you doing on a scale of 1-10?” When your colleague replies, dive deeper into their reasoning for that rating. 

The other area where check-ins can go wrong, Jason says, is when people ask the question and then keep talking. Stop, listen, pay attention. Only after you get “the good stuff” do you offer encouragement or support, depending on the context. 

How Leaders Can Go First With Connection

The old-line performance management models are broken, Jason argues, in part because we can no longer depend on the false security of the office. “You look like you’re working. I’m managing you, because I can see you’re working, right?” Jason says. “That was sort of the model that we’d been stuck in, and that’s gone. There are no fake signals anymore.”

Add to this the fact that, as Americans, we’re spending less time than ever with people, according to a recent article in The Atlantic. We’re increasingly lonely, polarized and separated. And, Jason points out, these trends predate the pandemic — so marching people back to offices won’t fix the problem. 

Leaders can’t solve societal challenges on their own. But they can make a deliberate investment of time and effort. “When you bring people together, it has to be with intention. It has to be to explicitly invest in connection,” he says. “You have to be really intentional about it all the time.”

And by being the change in your organization, by making time for one-on-ones and other small moments of connection, you might just spark bigger changes. 

“I think we can solve this divide if business leaders, if organizational leaders have the courage to prioritize connection and relationship,” Jason says, “if they’re willing to be it, to model it, to lean into it, to understand the true power to both propel their business but also to profoundly impact and elevate the happiness, health, and well-being of their people and their communities.”

People in This Episode

Jason Lauritsen: LinkedIn, Check-In To Thrive

Transcript

Jason Lauritsen:

If we want quality relationships, you have to think about how do you build overlap in that relationship, and overlap can be any number of things. It can be shared experiences. It can be familiarity with one another. It can be common interests or hobbies. It can be shared values. Right? Anything that we now have in common as a shared thing, whether any number of those things, creates overlap.

You think about a Venn diagram. Right? The two circles are overlapping, and the more overlap in that Venn diagram, the more it looks solid, and there’s more room for value to move back and forth. That’s how you build social capital in a relationship, and social capital is that value that lives in relationships with others. And so, the more overlap you have, the more value you have access to. The stronger the relationship is, the more sustaining.

Tegan Trovato:

Hey there, welcome to the Life + Leadership podcast. I’m your host, Tegan Trovato, founder and CEO of Bright Arrow Coaching. In this show, we dive deep into how leaders like you can turn business challenges into personal growth opportunities. Whether you’re a seasoned executive or an aspiring leader, this podcast is your go-to resource for unlocking your full potential in both your professional and personal life.

Join me as we hear from executives, experts, and innovators about their leadership journeys, and learn how to develop better strategies and activate them for success. So if you’re ready to fuel your journey to becoming an extraordinary leader who makes a lasting impact, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive in. In this episode, we’re talking about something super important, how to build real human connections at work. My guest today is Jason Lauritsen, cofounder and leadership trainer at Check-In To Thrive.

He’s also a fantastic speaker and author dedicated to making our workplaces more connected and human. Jason and I chat about how being intentional and present can really change the way we relate to each other at work. He shares why regular check-ins are key, and how time and shared experiences, what he calls overlap, are essential for strong relationships. We also touch on the impact of AI and how it fits into maintaining those personal connections.

Jason’s perspective is all about leaders stepping up to create a sense of belonging and well-being. He’s got some great tips on how leaders can make a big difference and how connected and supported their teams feel. So join us as we explore ways to boost performance through connection, tackle the growing issue of loneliness, and understand the powerful role of leadership in making both work and life better. Jason Lauritsen, welcome to the Life + Leadership podcast.

Jason Lauritsen:

I am delighted to be here. Thanks for having me.

Tegan Trovato:

Yeah. And actually, we have to say, welcome back. I looked back in our archive. It was 2019. You and I were trying to figure out when you were last on the show. It was 2019.

Jason Lauritsen:

It feels like 20 years ago.

Tegan Trovato:

I was going to say it seems like a lot longer ago. But what I love is, for anyone listening, you could certainly go back and listen to that episode. It was a similar topic in terms of just being human at work and relationshipping at work. And today, we’re going to talk about how to leverage work as a place to build human connection.

What’s wild to me, Jason, is that between 2019 and 2024, there is a lot more to this story than there was back then. So for those of you who don’t know about the Workhuman conference, and Jason, please jump in to correct me if I get any of this wrong, but at a macro level, the conference is for leaders who really want to take a human-centric approach to their leadership and to how they care for the humans who comprise the organization. Fair summary?

Jason Lauritsen:

That’s pretty good.

Tegan Trovato:

OK. And you gave a talk on — the technical title was “Performance is Cultivated, Not Managed: Unleashing the Power of the Check-In Conversation.” And as my friend, I’m going to brag on you a little bit. For those of you listening, his section filled up quickly. There was a wait list that became so extensive that they created a second session on the same topic so that everyone could get to listen. And so, congrats on that.

I know companies are seeking you out to come talk about this more. But the reason I bring that up is, I’m curious what that means to you, Jason. Why were people so drawn to that topic? And it’s not often that a conference will say, “OK. Well, we’ll just add another session.” That’s a big deal for those of you who don’t know. So what does it mean to you that this was in such high demand this year?

Jason Lauritsen:

That’s a great question, and I have been asking myself that question, and I’ve been asking, actually, a lot of the folks that were there that I had the opportunity to talk to, sort of what it was about this session, and just about in general, what was on their mind, what they’re wrestling with. 

Ultimately, I think that the sort of intersection that I hit somewhat, I mean, certainly intentionally, because it’s my work and it’s what I do, but I think the way we positioned it and the timing maybe was just right to kind of have this intersection of — most of the folks were talking about how they’re wrestling with keeping people connected, right? They’re terrified by what can happen or is happening as the workplace is more distributed, as hybrid has kind of thrown everything into disarray, or remote. And they’re not sure if managers and leaders are connecting to people the way they should, and people are leaving or they’re not feeling as engaged or connected to the organization and the people. And so, they’re really worried about that.

And they’re also worried about performance, because we’re in a new era of performance, and we’re finding out — I mean, we’ve lived in an era where a lot of our performance management practices have been broken for a long time, but we had sort of the artificial and false signals of being together in the office, where I could sort of look across and see you at your cubicle, and that was good enough for me. You look like you’re working. I’m managing you, because I can see you’re working. Right? That was sort of the model that we’d been stuck in, and that’s gone. There are no fake signals anymore.

And so, we have to get a lot more serious about what it means to actually support and cultivate performance at work. And I think those two things were very top of mind for leaders, for HR leaders in particular. And my session happened to kind of bring those two together, and say, “Actually, those two issues are interlinked. They are two sides of the same coin.”

And so, I think that was sort of what was there, and I think what’s underlying that is a bigger issue about disconnection and connection and people feeling a sense of belonging, and all of those things. And I think that was sort of the undercurrent that I feel is probably the bigger issue, but that’s why I think my session was so popular.

Tegan Trovato:

Awesome. And so, two big things I’m taking away from what you shared. One, connection and belonging equal performance. And we know that to be true, because Gallup has been measuring this for, is it fair to say decades now? And then the other point that you made, togetherness does not equal intimacy.

Jason Lauritsen:

Correct.

Tegan Trovato:

So what’s interesting here, and so you call those false signals, and I just recapped it slightly differently. But what’s interesting then is, now we have something even less human in the workplace, which is AI. And I’m curious what your take is on — I guess we’ll talk threats, but also opportunities — when we think about that technology and the use of that in the workplace, especially related to the lack of intimacy we’ve just discussed.

Jason Lauritsen:

I mean, AI is amazing. Right? The generative AI that we’re experiencing and what it’s capable of, I think, is mind-blowing for a lot of people, because the capabilities have such a wow factor. It, I think, put a lot of us on our heels. Right? We’re not sure what to do with it or what to make of it. And so, when that happens, people approach that very differently.

Some people approach it from sort of a scarcity kind of perspective, which I think is what you see in the organizations that are like, “OK. Great. This is going to eliminate jobs. It’s going to disrupt our business. It’s going to destroy our industry,” whatever it is. Right? There’s a scarcity perspective, and then there’s an abundance perspective, which I think is more interesting, which is, “Can this do? What are the possibilities to actually amplify to help us grow, to help us actually make the workplace and the work we do potentially more human? How can we use this to do that?”

When I am talking about this with leaders or managers and we’re talking about connection or social connectedness or how to build relationships, there’s basically two fundamental ingredients that are required. And one is a table stakes, and the other is more about the “What are we trying to do?” And so, I’ll start with the table stakes first, and I think this is actually the barrier that we have.

And this is a lesson that — and I’ve shared this story a lot, but it’s a short story, and it was how I came to really understand this. It’s a lesson taught to me by my daughter when she was 7 years old. So I was working on something, some projects I’m writing. I think I was thinking about,  “What role does love play at work?” or something. As I do, I have these questions, and I’ll chase them.

I was thinking about this, and my daughter happened to be walking through. I think I was probably sitting on the couch with my laptop, and she was walking through the living room, and I said, “Hey, Bailey.” She stopped. I said, “How do you know if someone loves you?” And she stopped for a second and she thought, and she said two things. First thing she said was very 7-year-old-appropriate. She said, “They give me lots of hugs and kisses,” which is what —

Tegan Trovato:

A healthy 7-year-old can say.

Jason Lauritsen:

Right.

Tegan Trovato:

Yup.

Jason Lauritsen:

Right. It was the second one that stopped me in my tracks, and I’ve never forgotten. She said, very simply, “They spend time with me.” So at 7 years old, she had this intuition or understanding that we all have the same amount of time every day, and if you want to know what really matters to someone, you watch how they spend their time.

And that was this crystallization moment for me where I realized, “OK. Time is the currency of relationships.” Just is. There’s no way around it. If you want a better relationship with other human beings, you have to invest time in being with them. No shortcut, no hack, no way around it, no nothing. And this is why I think we are in the predicament we are often where we don’t have the relationships we want, is because of what we’re doing with our time.

And so, fundamentally, that’s ingredient one, is time. You have to make time. You don’t find it. You don’t stumble into it. You don’t whatever. You make time. You prioritize time for relationships. If you’re not willing to do that, if you don’t have the fortitude to do that, then none of what we’re going to talk about after this is probably going to make much sense to you. You have to start there.

The second ingredient or second perspective is a concept that Joe and I wrote about when we wrote our first book, or I guess our only book together, but my first book called Social Gravity, which is about the power of relationships and how relationships form. But we came to understand this thing, we called it overlap, is that it’s a very simple way of thinking about that. If we want quality relationships, you have to think about how do you build overlap in that relationship, and overlap can be any number of things.

It can be shared experiences. It can be familiarity with one another. It can be common interests or hobbies. It can be shared values. Right? Anything that we now have in common as a shared thing, whether any number of those things, creates overlap. You think about a Venn diagram. Right? The two circles are overlapping, and the more overlap in that Venn diagram, the more it looks solid, and there’s more room for value to move back and forth.

That’s how you build social capital in a relationship, and social capital is that value that lives in relationships with others. And so, the more overlap you have, the more value you have access to. The stronger the relationship is, the more sustaining. So the two ingredients: time and overlap. Once you understand those two things, then the trick is really just what tactics can I use, or what steps do I need to take to do that? How do I make more time to create more overlap?

And this is why I talk so much about this simple check-in conversation, how to get into better conversations with people. And that really boils down to just asking a better question, being curious, and then really listening. Right? Those are kind of the three big super tools you need. And if you can remember time and overlap and do those three things, you’re well on your way.

Tegan Trovato:

A couple things. I’m going to pull that thread a little bit. When you said “time,” love that you called out. We don’t find it. We make it. It’s intentional. And there’s a couple of personal lessons in my own life right now that I think complement this really well, and one is that you can have time. You can make the time. But if you’re not present during that time, it doesn’t count.

And that is certainly something I’ve learned from my 4-year-old, as she’s coming up. But also, Jason, I think back to my years in earlier leadership as a manager, when I so needed the attention of my exec that I reported to for advice or guidance or approval of whatever it was we were doing. And I can’t tell you how many of those check-ins I just looked at the side of their face while they were on the computer multitasking and sort of answering my questions, but never present.

That wasn’t everyone I reported to, but I think that’s more in the norm than we would like to say it is. And then even with our families and our children, the propensity to pick up our phone or to be multitasking is high, even for someone like me, who I consider myself a pretty conscious parent. I try to be really intentional about my presence. In fact, my word for this year is “presence,” so I’m spending the whole year studying that.

And it’s unveiling truth to me as I really think about my relationship to my phone, and my relationship, even in my mind, to thinking about what’s happening outside of the moment I’m in, and how much it is a time-robber. So I may have a ton of time with my kid because I’ve created it, but if I’m not really devout about being present in it, I might as well not be there. She’s still playing by herself then. So, I don’t know. That just kind of resonated for me when you mentioned time.

Jason Lauritsen:

Completely agree. It’s a first step. And I guess that’s why I say this is where most people get tripped up, is they either don’t, won’t or can’t even make the time. Once you make the time, the activities that are required to build overlap in a real way require presence. They require engagement. They require investment. Sure. The way you show up in that time is really important. It’s not just the time, but the time is usually the first big obstacle that, at least in my experience most leaders face, is, “I’m so busy, too busy.” I’m like, “Well, you will always be busy till you’re dead, unless you interrupt that cycle.”

Tegan Trovato:

Thank you for that, Jason. Something you shared with me in anticipation of this conversation was an article from The Atlantic. I want to go into some of this, the points that it made, and talk a little bit about how it ended up underpinning your current thinking about the value of the check-in and the value of really high-quality time with people at work.

And the title of the article was Why Americans Suddenly Stopped Hanging Out, and the subtext is, Too much aloneness is creating a crisis of social fitness. We’ll be sure to link to this in the show notes for listeners, but tell us a little about your experience in reading that, what it illuminated for you.

Jason Lauritsen:

For me, it was one of those situations where — I think the closest sort of proxy, I suspect, because I’ve seen this moment many times, is when I’m working or have worked in the past with an organization that’s maybe doing their first employee survey, and I’m sharing back the results of the employee survey with the executives. And they had a sense that there were some things wrong, but then you show them what’s actually going on, and you go, “Oh, no.” It is real, and it’s actually maybe worse than I thought.

That’s what I get from this, because I’ve known, this has been an issue I’ve been talking about for a long time. Right? I published a book about relationships back in 2012. I’ve been focused on this topic, and I’ve been seeing us head in the wrong direction for years. And I’ve been concerned about it, and I’ve been trying to send a signal up to leaders, and particularly HR leaders, that they need to really be thinking about themselves as social architects within the organization, and really sort of fostering that connectedness, and then COVID came and made everything even more complicated.

And so, when I read this, it was one of those moments where I was like, “OK. I’ve been around this issue, but I have to level up. I have to commit in a different way at a different level, because the consequences of not doing this work successfully, of not helping others do this work successfully are really, really dire.” And so, that’s kind of what it did for me, is it really sent off some alarm bells, because some of the data in here is absolutely startling.

Tegan Trovato:

It is, and it’s correlative and well-done research. So I’m just emphatically encouraging people to read it. I read it as you sent it to me, and was just like, “Wow, this is striking.” And I appreciate how well and clearly it correlated the rise of particular types of technology, and the increase then of certain mental health concerns, and the disintegration of relationshipping.

Jason Lauritsen:

This sounds like hyperbole, that we’re saying like, “Oh, it’s so wild.” But just as a sampling of what’s in this thing, some data. And like I said, you can go see, this is well-researched and well-cited data, so you can go find it, but this one jumped out at me. From 2003 to 2022, American men reduced their average hours of face-to-face socializing by about 30%. For unmarried Americans, the decline was even bigger, more than 35%. For teenagers, it was more than 45%.

And there are serious consequences to that. There was another stat in here, 2003. Tegan, I don’t know if this one got you, but this one hit me right between the eyes, and it makes perfect sense. In 2003, a typical female pet owner spent more time socializing with humans than playing with her cat or dog. One would hope, right? That’s what you would hope.

By 2022, this flipped. The average woman with a pet now spends more time actively engaged with her pet than she spends hanging out face-to-face with fellow humans on any given day. There’s so much tied to mental health and suicide rates and all of these things that are terrifying. But I think on a bigger scale, they mentioned that teenage depression and hopelessness are setting new annual records every year. Share of young people who say they have a close friend has plummeted.

But I think the thing that jumped at me was this. It was, Americans have become so depressed about the state of the nation for so many consecutive years that by 2023, NBC pollsters said, “We have never before seen this level of sustained pessimism in the 30-year history of the poll.” And that was the thing for me that really — we’re all concerned about polarization and dehumanization of other humans, and disconnection, and all the things. And the answer is that we’ve been, or it seems, that the root cause is we’ve allowed ourselves to pull away from each other.

And there’s also some pretty strong evidence that the solution is coming back together. And I believe the workplace can play a huge role, maybe the leading role in making that happen. And so, this article just kind of was like dropping a stick of dynamite into my work, and not in the way of blowing it apart, but sort of like propelling it forward and saying, “It’s time. We have got to get really serious about this.”

And one of the things I want to say, too, that I think is really important for leaders to hear is that this issue was not caused by COVID. Right? The pandemic did not start this, did not cause it. All it did was it made some things more complicated. It changed the game. It made it worse in some cases for some people. It made it more visible to us. But there’s a huge study that Cigna did pre-pandemic, I think the last — it’s called the Loneliness in the Workplace study. They published it in 2020. It was data from 2019, so before we knew what COVID was, broadly. And in that study, they found that 61% of employees reported feeling lonely at work. And this is when everybody was going to the office. 61% were lonely at work, sitting five feet away from people in cubicles. So I don’t want to hear anything about how distributed work and hybrid is what’s causing this.

And also, by the way, forcing people back into the office is not going to solve this for you, because if you’re going to bring people together, you got to bring people with — just like what we’ve been talking about one-on-one, it’s also the same with groups. When you bring people together, it has to be with intention. It has to be to explicitly invest in connection. You have to be really intentional about it all the time.

And so, that’s one of the things I worry about, is that people are conflating some of the things that are happening more broadly around what’s going on with where we work and how we work, and then blaming that for this loneliness epidemic or some of these issues we’re talking about today. Those are not the same thing. This is an issue that’s been ongoing for decades. It’s been building, and then the pandemic just threw a little gasoline on the fire.

Tegan Trovato:

Thanks for not letting anyone scapegoat some of the nearer-term things we’ve been through. This has been going on a while, and I appreciate the emphasis on that. So, Jason, it’s really, I’m reflecting back and thinking, number one, the individual listener could afford to check in on the quality of their connections. I’m struck by the question of are we even aware of our loneliness or fulfillment levels, or are we so distracted, we wouldn’t really know how to qualify where we are on that spectrum?

Assuming that the individuals have their own moments of wake-up call and want to come to work, and then use the workplace as a place to connect, where should they start? Or you’re welcome even to answer that question by thinking employer first. But I’m curious, as you’re talking and counseling HR leaders, executives, organizations, what are we finding are the ways to help foster human connection at work?

Jason Lauritsen:

So much of it starts with, as is always the case, is be the change. So if you’re a leader or if you have the power to influence, first off, be the change. So go back to, you’ve got to make time to be with your people. And so, I know this is well-worn advice, but I’m shocked by how many organizations and leaders still aren’t doing it. You should be having regular one-on-one meetings with your people that are intentional, that make space for real connection and real conversation. That has to be happening.

And if you aren’t willing to make time for that, then no one else in the organization will either, because they don’t believe you when you tell them it’s important. So you have to be the solution first. The other thing I would say is, I’m going to give you just a quick bit of very tactical advice to take back. And so, this process that I teach, in short, has four steps. And the four steps are: Ask a great question, ask the follow-up, really listen, and then provide support or encouragement.

Those are the four steps of any successful check-in conversation. Now, the most important, well, there’s two places where we tend to screw it up. The first one is the very first step — is that most check-ins start with a really bad question. Tegan, what do most people ask when they start a check-in? What’s the most common?

Tegan Trovato:

“How are you? How are you?”

Jason Lauritsen:

And what do people say?

Tegan Trovato:

Yeah. “Fine. You?”

Jason Lauritsen:

Where do you go with that? Right?

Tegan Trovato:

We would not call that a high-quality question.

Jason Lauritsen:

Right. Or our favorite response is, “Busy,” because it’s just a deflection, like, “I’ve got too much to do. You don’t care. Can we just avoid this? Let’s just not do this.” And so, that is not a great question, terrible question, because there’s no conversation that opens. A great question, and the way I define it, is a question that invites a response that demands a follow-up, because the whole purpose of it is to get into a conversation.

And so, it needs to be a question that you can’t walk away from if you ask a question. And so, the simplest way I teach people to do this is you can take any question that’s not a good question and make it a great question by adding a scale to it. So it’s, “How are you today, Tegan, on a scale from one to 10?” Then you say whatever you say now.

Tegan Trovato:

I’m going to tell you I’m a nine today, Jason. Nine.

Jason Lauritsen:

That’s awesome. So then I’d be like, “Well, that’s fantastic. What’s going on? Tell me what’s good in your life, because, obviously, there’s some good things going on.” And then out comes a spilling of interesting stuff that you should want to know as a leader. If I say I’m a five, that’s an interesting conversation. So you have to ask them the follow-up question. It requires it. It demands it if you ask a great question.

And so, that’s really the key. And then once you get that follow-up question, this is the second place we screw it up, back to your point about presence, is shut up, shut your mouth, and listen. Right? And because this is where if you go to the work of actually asking a great question, asking the follow-up, you are now in the space of about 15 seconds. You’ve got someone in front of you who’s actually going to tell you something. If they believe you’re actually listening and that you want to hear, they will tell you some of the stuff, and this is the good stuff, and it happens that fast.

And this is what I do in these sessions I was talking about earlier. This is the technique. I talked to these executives, right? These are executives who have been leading people for decades, but this is just a little technique, and they use it with each other, and suddenly they’re having a conversation they’ve never had before.

So it just takes asking better questions and then really listening and paying attention, and then closing out the conversation by either offering encouragement based on what you heard. So if they talked all about their kids and how their kids are crushing it in their new pickleball league in the neighborhood, you’re like, “That’s amazing. Keep me posted on how they’re doing,” or whatever, or support, if your job as a leader is to provide support, remove obstacles they’re facing, get them what they need to succeed.

So if they’ve said, “I’m really struggling,” it’s like, “How can I help? What does support from me look like for you right now? What can I do to make things easier or make them work?” — whatever the response is for you. But that’s it. Simple. And oftentimes, those check-ins take 10, 15 minutes, but just check in with greater intention. When you start asking better questions, you don’t have to — the time requirement actually goes down, and the quality of the interactions goes way up, and that will change everything. So those are the two things I would recommend.

Tegan Trovato:

Oh, thank you. Listeners always write back to us in appreciation of real, actionable things they can go and do, and that one was rich. So I appreciate that, Jason. As we’re concluding, is there anything else you would like to share? Anything else that has come up for you we didn’t get to go deep enough on, just to make sure our listeners get every bit of you today?

Jason Lauritsen:

I would implore people to — especially those in leadership roles, I think we’ve overcomplicated a lot of things. Right? There’s this sort of political holy war going on over DEI in all kinds of different places. And at the end of the day, DEI, at its heart, for at least in a lot of cases, is about belonging. It’s about helping people feel connected to other people, feeling connected truly and accepted truly for who they are, and feeling safe in spaces.

This is the same work we’re talking about building relationships, fostering connectedness. One of the things I’ll share, and Tegan, I shared this story with you. One of the reasons that I am increasingly called to this work is that anytime I go out and I talk about this topic, I talk about building better relationships. I teach a different technique. I teach different ways to think about relationships or build relationships through work.

The thing is, relationships are not unique to work. Right? We’re talking about core relationship skills. I always have people walk up and will tell me how “this is going to change my relationship with my teenager, my spouse,” or whatever. And I had a specific example. You mentioned Workhuman. After the Workhuman presentation I made, I got a text from a woman who, the next day, actually said she called her husband that night, and she thought, “What the hell, I’m going to try this check-in question that Jason was talking about.”

And she said that led to a conversation that they have been trying to have for about eight years that’s been a real problem in their marriage. And it completely broke through, and she’s like, “I feel like my marriage transformed, like changed for the better. It’s something we couldn’t fix for eight years. And we finally, 1,200 miles apart, had the conversation we needed to have, because of this little door getting cracked open.”

And so, what I would say is, as leaders, I want you to understand the incredible both power and responsibility that you hold in your hands, that if you start to model better relationship skills, you start to teach this, and then you start to make it something you teach across your organization. Better relationship skills at work translate to better relationship skills at home. We make people better employees. They produce better, but they also become better partners, friends, spouses, parents, neighbors, community members at large.

And so, I am really bullish that I think we can solve this polarization thing. I think we can solve this divide if business leaders, if organizational leaders have the courage to prioritize connection and relationship, if they’re willing to be it, to model it, to lean into it, to understand the true power to both propel their business, but also to profoundly, profoundly impact and elevate the happiness, health, and well-being of their people and their communities. 

So I just implore them to take up the torch with us, Tegan.

Tegan Trovato:

Yes.

Jason Lauritsen:

I feel like I’ve recruited you to this cause. I know you were already almost all the way there, but pick up the torch with us. This is work we can do.

Tegan Trovato:

It’s work we have to do together.

Jason Lauritsen:

Yes.

Tegan Trovato:

For sure. One of the things I have appreciated about knowing you over the years is that you walk the talk. You’re willing to be vulnerable about how you’re personalizing the experience and how it shows up in your own life, and then you translate it into meaningful action, and you embody leadership by calling people forward, just like you did now. So a privilege to know you. Thanks for the great work you’re doing, and thank you again for joining us as a return guest on the podcast.

Jason Lauritsen:

Oh, all of the feelings that you just expressed are mutual. So I feel honored to be here, and I appreciate the invitation.

Tegan Trovato:

Building real connections at work is more important than ever, and today’s chat with Jason really drove that home. By being intentional and present and making time for regular check-ins, we can create workplaces where everyone feels connected and valued. Jason gave us some great tips on how using time and shared experiences or overlap can strengthen our relationships. He also emphasizes the importance of asking meaningful questions and really listening to the answers.

These simple steps can boost performance and foster a sense of belonging. As a leader, you have the power to make a big difference. By prioritizing connections and relationship building, you can transform your workplace into a more engaging and supportive environment. Plus, these practices can enhance your personal relationships, making you a better partner, a better friend, and a better community leader.

So take these insights and put them into action. Make time for genuine connections. Be present and invest in the relationships that matter. It’ll not only improve your workplace, but also lead to a happier, healthier life, and science tells us that is true. Thanks for joining us on the Life + Leadership podcast. Make sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube Music so you don’t miss our next episode. If you enjoyed today’s conversation, share it with your friends and colleagues. See you next time.

Life + Leadership with Tegan Trovato podcast cover

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